Payer-development coaches are obsessed with finding new drills, but in reality, the greatest drill in the world has already been discovered. It is the only drill where players can practice every single shot in the game, every strategy, every footwork pattern and every mental skill. In addition, it is the only drill that truly prepares you for tournament play. Unfortunately, it is also the one drill that we are using less and less every day.
The drill is called: “Playing Sets.”
With the right attitude, set play allows anyone to target any area of the game in the exact setting that one will find in competition. What could be better?
Would it not be much better to work on consistency or on attacking the net or on shots variation or on angles or on returns, or, or, or, ….in actual game situations? Practices would be so much more intense and complete. Isn’t it much better to study the material that you will actually see on the test?
Unfortunately, tennis training has been “professionalized” to such an extent that drills have become the cornerstone of every practice session. Sometimes it seems to me that we are so busy working on specific segments of the game that we forget the big picture. Young players do not play matches outside the lesson and lessons are usually not set up to let players play sets, so when do players actually learn to play? Isn’t that the goal?
Of course, repetition of specific skills and situations has its place in modern training but it should complement actual play and not the other way around. The logical progression is to play, evaluate and practice weaknesses, then repeat. Instead, the normal progression seems to be practice, practice, practice, practice, play, evaluate, practice, practice, practice, etc.
I challenge you to take a look at your program and calculate the percentage of time spent playing sets. I can almost guarantee that it is not enough.
To learn to play…you have to play! Stop searching for the miracle drill, you already know it, you just have to use it.