Tennis is a game where you cannot succeed if you are afraid to miss. When learning a new shot or tweaking your technique consistent success often will only follow a disappointing inconsistency. Even at the highest level of the game, players will miss shots; that being said, not all misses are “bad” misses. There is such a thing as a “good” miss. Though it may seem counterintuitive that a miss could ever be “good,” a miss that is closer to the ultimate goal is more productive than one that is further away.
Generally speaking, your goal in tennis is to hit most of your shots deep into the court, pushing your opponent back and making it more difficult for them to reply with an offensive shot. So, a miss that goes a small distance behind the baseline is much more productive than a miss into the net (an exception might be the drop shot, where the ultimate goal is a very short shot). If you find yourself frequently missing a little long taking a more aggressive swing with more topspin (swinging from low to high trying to hit the edge of the ball) should keep the ball in and increase the height of the bounce. It is important to remember that even at a pretty high level of tennis, the majority of points will end in errors as opposed to winners, so minimizing the amount of misses into the net will force your opponent to earn more points, rather than getting them for free.
Goldilocks is a story most people are familiar with, where a girl wandering into the home of a family of bears samples porridge that is too hot and too cold before coming across the porridge that is just right. The term “The Goldilocks Zone” is also used in astrophysics relating to the distance of an extraterrestrial planet from a star designating whether it conceivable could be inhabited by earthlike life. I strongly believe this term could be applied to tennis as well. I use it to refer to the height at which your shot clears the net. For me, “The Goldilocks Zone” for most shots is roughly two-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half ft. above the net. Too low and a small error will result in netting the ball, too high and you will likely hit the ball long. If you have read my article “Positioning Yourself for Victory”, then you know that this zone might vary with court positioning. The closer you are to the net, the lower you can aim over the net, and the further your are behind the baseline, the higher you can hit over the net while taking less risk.
If you attempt to hit the majority of your shots in “The Goldilocks Zone” you will minimize your bad misses while finding your range for effective depth in preventing your opponent from taking advantage of you.
<p>Daniel Kresh is a USPTA-certified tennis professional who recently accepted the positions of director of junior tennis and assistant tennis professional at the Three Village Tennis Club in Setauket, N.Y. He is also the assistant professional at The Port Jefferson Country Club at Harbor Hills. He may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.</p>