I have written about this before, and I am sure you have heard the term "play within yourself". But what exactly does this mean?
Basically, playing within yourself is using what you recognize as your strengths to give you a better chance of hitting the shot well, using the right strategy, and hopefully winning the point more often than not. The best players in the game are masters at this. I recall many Roger Federer matches ending with Roger gliding around the court and hitting his forehand and backhand medium speed (for him), making the opponent run and forcing them to hit an incredible shot to win the point. Most of the time, they were unable to do so. Roger uses his court position to put pressure on his rivals, moving forward when they are in trouble and going back when necessary to reply to their offensive shots.
Pete Sampras was the king of hitting a big serve when the situation got tight. However, he often did so by using placement and spin rather than trying to increase the speed. He knew he could hit his target and was able to prove it over and over again. Nadal tells himself to chase every ball down and use his heavy topspin to wear out the opponent. It feels like it is impossible to get the ball by him at times. Djokovic gets his first serve in or makes the return of serve, plays defense and eventually turns defense into offense as the point progresses. He does an incredible job of using the opponent's best shots against them by replying with an even better shot than was hit to him.
Try to figure out some of your best strategies, your favorite shots, and your most successful points. Remember to use these things when the match gets close or when you have an opportunity to put your opponent away. Resist the temptation to attempt to play even better than you have been playing. This is what playing within yourself is all about.
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 email@example.com