One ball at a time

On court. One ball at a time. One ball at a time. The repetition can kill you if you do not keep sight of what you are trying to achieve. In the gym. One repetition at a time. One repetition at a time. It can seem endless. The day after day, bring it everyday mentality can start to wear thin. 

Then there has been the weather, endless rain and rain and wind. 

Without warning, sunshine, calmness and warmth on the skin.  

Ha, ha! We had forgotten that the world could be like this and we would recall once more to apply sunscreen. It was only for one day. Inchingly one day at a time, we are getting there. 

Perfect timing for the first real road trip of the year. By definition, mine alone, feel free to challenge it. The road trip has to involve at least two people. Creates the shared anticipation, the banter, the disappointment, the surprises, the things that only happen when you travel with shared purpose. 

And so we are off to Leicester. A city in good spirits with its football team promoted back to the Premier league and maybe as champions.  

The end of April, spirits lifted. What can a dip into the April training diary tell me about what might be ahead? 

A Saturday evening in early April 

I am sat this evening with the little plastic trophy that validates my effort today and victory in two short set matches. How much meaning, validation, learning can a small plastic ornament carry? 

Sun 21st 

Urgency, where is the urgency. Where is the urgency in my improvement routine. What is the right balance between urgency and routine. Does urgency act against routine? How much should urgency and routine be intertwined. 

Is it better to be positive and improving or negative and injecting urgency due to dissatisfaction at the slowness of progress into my routine. I don’t know the answer. 

If I were looking on a map at a ‘you are here’ arrow then I would be seeing a long way to go. I have in my mind now though a clearer idea of where I can improve. The video of the serve this week showed me that. 

Tues 23rd

You can’t outsource your own game to someone else. You have to take control of it yourself. Your coach may coach you, how to do things right. They cannot provide the inner flywheel that keeps you moving forwards. 

As much as my inner flywheel has kept me moving forwards, I am impatient with it, I want it to spin faster. I want the improvement to come now. 

Yesterday was a case in point. After watching my serving video and something from youtube online, I hit the court impatatiently. I wanted extra zip in my serve and groundstrokes ripping deep into the court. 

Of course the outcome was even more mistakes than usual. It felt like something I needed to do. It gave me a real purpose on court. Amongst the litter of miscued shots and poor technique I sensed on  a few occasions what good feels like. Now to build on this, perhaps not in the extreme sense of yesterday, just pull it back a little while keeping the essence of my ambitions on serve and groundstrokes.  

The more positive into the court attitude feels a whole lot better than the previous more passive approach. 

Thurs 24th

Without gym pre lesson I speculate that the movements are not as smooth as I might like. A small flock of tennis balls quickly gather at the base of the net. Presented as the evidence of a poor connection between racket and ball and everything that goes to make sure the racket travels on its consistent and smooth trajectory. 

I explain to coach what I had been trying to achieve yesterday, he had seen enough to offer further thought. That front leg gets ahead of itself and is on the move before I have hit the ball. If I understand correctly the effect is that often I am moving past the ball before contact. 

Practicing hitting first and then moving brings big rewards, everything is more solid. Add in extending the arm further forwards in the direction I want the ball to travel. Result, greater consistency, accuracy and power. Remember also to create the space between self and the ball to allow the racket to swing. Still many things to improve.

Serve has been improving of late. Better percentage and a little more power. Last week’s video of serve practice remains as a visual of the need to extend the arm upwards and keep it there as well as to follow the ball.  Today we add the need to be striking the ball with arm fully extended, throwing the racket at the ball. It works and there is a bit more pop on the serve. I note the balls to still be rising as they hit the back wall instead of usually dipping to just clip the wall before the ground. 

When hit well on groundstrokes or serve the racket does the work and less need for me to revert to my natural instinct to muscle the ball. A whole lot less effort. 

You work for weeks and months and the improvements are miniscule it seems if indeed visible at all. Today, a leap forwards. It could not be more welcome or more timely. Why? It’s not one thing it’s an accumulation of small things, including gym work and improving upper body rotational ability from nothing to a little bit, add in the ankle flexibility work etc, etc. It is hard to pinpoint one thing, it’s all of those little things, getting together and each making a little contribution.  

Maybe the difference is not upfront with the superstar, the racket on ball, drawing all the praise. As important deep down in the engine room, there’s  a little more being given by the intangibles, unsung heroes, that nobody will notice. Whoever heard that an extra inch of flex in an ankle or rotational ability of the upper body, or even a bit more mobility in the hips, or flex and strength in the shoulders. These guys never draw the praise. The engine room guys, turning out morning after morning to see if there’s a bit more something to contribute. Let’s hear it for the little guys, you’re doing a great job! 

Played in the rain. I started to play a little like I practice and the set turned in my favour from 2-3 down. I hit one backhand so sweetly and effortlessly deep into his backhand beyond his outstretched racket that I even thought, wow!  Even in the wet the serve had something extra. 

A rare day indeed, a glimpse of something more. It would be wrong to expect it to be there tomorrow on tap, but a glimpse of something more is all it takes to spur me on. 

And so bags packed we have a road trip to look forward to.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *