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Steps to Become Better

Relax and play better tennis or play better tennis and relax - which comes first? The answer may be in your breathing. Yes, we may have to learn how to breathe to perform at a higher level because if we bold our breath we tighten our muscles and that prevents us from being loose and performing at our best. Never hold your breath. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your month. And by becoming a nose breather, you breathe much more efficiently.

Here's why: the nose heats up the air and prepares it for the body. And your nose hairs filter the air of pollution and dirt and create a turbine effect causing the air to circulate and go deeper into the lungs. By exhaling through your mouth, you empty the lungs more completely and therefore can take in more oxygen. So relax, have fun, play better and blow away the competition with better breathing habits.

Have you ever noticed how swimmers will "shake out" their arms and legs before they compete? The same with a baseball pitcher. These athletes know the importance of being relaxed when they perform. In tennis, you can relax by putting your racquet in your non-hitting hand between points and "shaking out" your hitting arm. Also, on your serve try to relax your wrist and hand by resting your racquet on your tossing arm before you start your motion. Finally, in between shots, relax your grip, by letting your opposite hand support the racquet. Learn to relax on the court, it will help you enjoy and play better tennis.

Having developed your ground strokes, it is now time to begin stroking the ball with purpose. You should be able to direct all of your shots so that you can exploit the weaknesses of your opponents.

By getting your racquet back early, finding an ideal point of contact, and using your follow through to direct the ball, you can now apply pressure to your opponent. Try slowing down. You'll be surprised as to how much control you will have.

Develop consistency by trying to hit more than one or two shots in a row. In practice, rally with you partner for four or five shots before you are allowed to go for a winner. Try to always be one shot better than your opponent.

You don't have to hit the ball hard to have a big game. Consistency is a weapon just like a big forehand or serve. The difference is it begins with the proper mindset.

I used to lose to more consistent players because I felt they were weak players that I should beat. It took me years to recognize that they didn't have a larger forehand or serve than me so all they had to fall back on was consistency. Once they started pushing the ball- I would get frustrated and lose because my thought process was all wrong.

To increase your consistency you must first value every shot. If points are easy to come by, you'll tend give them away. Make up your mind you will not miss a single shot. Start this attitude in warm up and continue it into each match.

Depth is the name of the game. By hitting higher over the net, you will minimize your net errors. You will apply a lot of pressure to your opponent who will be faced with a high forehand or a high backhand. We all know how difficult these shots are.

Finally, begin to hit with power. If you develop your game around power, it is always at the expense of control, consistency, and depth. However, if you will follow these steps, you will become a controlled, consistent, and deep hard hitting player. Wow! That's tough to beat.