Tennis is a game of repetition. The goal is to repeat the same swings and techniques over and over again.
The problem is, your opponent does not cooperate with this idea.
Each shot that is hit tends to be a little different than the previous one. Each point you play and each match you play is a little different. The best players are able to respond to this situation by reacting to the opponent's shot with their own shot, which they normally hit off of this specific type of ball. This sounds obvious but most of us do the opposite. If a ball is hit to us faster, or further away, or with more spin, our instincts are to figure out how to get the ball back on the court, often disregarding what the normal technique might be.
Sometimes we even try to hit a better shot or a winner off of the more difficult ball. Try practicing with the idea that you are going to hit your normal shot in response to a specific shot hit by your opponent. If you change anything, hit the ball more to the middle of the court to help provide more margin for error in case things don't go exactly as planned.
Get in the habit of automatically responding to a specific shot or situation and your results will be much better than when you try to improvise and come up with a "just get it in" response, or a "go for broke" idea.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com in East Hampton, NY . Steve is also a tennis professional at Ventana Golf and Country Club in Tucson, AZ. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org