Tennis needs to be automatic, instinctive, and repetitive. Unfortunately, the thoughts going through your head when you are playing make it very difficult for any of those things to happen.
Keeping the most simple ideas in your head can help get your reactions to become less complicated from all the "noise" that naturally occurs, especially in a match.
My favorite go to idea is to always be ready for the ball to come back, decide if it is a forehand or a backhand, take a couple of steps to the ball, and use your regular swing (same speed and same swing) when hitting the shot. After you hit the ball, repeat the same idea on the next shot. Try not to make things more difficult by complicating what is going on during the point. The best players in the world are very instinctive and react similarly each time they see a certain shot.
Once in a while, you can change up what you are doing (direction, speed, type of shot you are hitting), but most of the time you are better off just keeping the same thoughts over and over again.
Ready, couple of steps, and swing, is as simple as it gets and will likely result in more consistent play and better shotmaking.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at email@example.com