You want to get better and move up to the next level? Learn to read your opponent’s racquet and be ready for the ball to come back.

Each time I’ve moved up to a new level, from 3.0 to 4.5, I’ve had to re-learn this simple concept – more balls are going to come back and I better be ready for them. And nearly each time I play someone who is perhaps a level below me in ability I notice they tend not to be ready for me to return a shot they expected to be a winner.

Of course, this isn’t a ground-breaking revelation. But I still wanted to address the topic because it’s one of those things that’s easy to forget in the heat of battle and needs to be reinforced from time to time.

The next time you play a match, try paying particular attention to the shots your opponent likes to hit and the way his/her racquet looks when he/she hits those shots. And tell yourself before each point that you’re going to keep moving until the point is over. You’ll likely get to a few more balls, return several more shots, and surprise even yourself.

And here’s the thing; don’t consider it a waste if you run your butt off and still lose the point. You’ll win some and lose some (and you’ll probably be surprised that sometimes you’ll win some off not-so-good shots – your opponent likely has issues with being ready all the time as well), but more importantly you’ll put it into your opponents head that he/she better hit a great shot or else it’s coming back.

And we all know what happens when your opponent begins to feel pressure to hit better shots.

Have fun and see you on the courts.

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