Just drop by an academy or a club, and you’ll very likely see a feeding drill or a playing drill where there is no isolated correction of technique, but there are a lot of repetitions.
PLEASE LOOK AT THIS VIDEO (Then read on)
So, just for the record, I agree that if the foundation of technique is really poor, repetitions make it even more habitual and harder to correct later.
But if the main foundations of the stroke are there, the player needs to hit a lot of balls into targets as that process will polish the little technical details by itself.
There are a few keys to good improvement with this approach:
1. No pressure. The player must perform a lot of repetitions (drills, games, patterns) without pressure first – meaning that there is no scoring.
This is important because that allows the player to be more relaxed, and ONLY in a relaxed state of mind and body can the body make the necessary adjustments.
If your body is stiff, it cannot adjust to a different ball at a different height, for example, because it’s simply stuck at a certain position.
You must work on your strokes in non-pressure situations where body is relaxed and allows adjusting to take place
So, it’s critical that through no-pressure situations you also consciously try to be looser and allow your joints to adjust to different types of shots.
I’d like to point out here that, in my opinion, the main reason for poor stroke technique of recreational tennis players is playing for points way too early before their basic technique has been established and ingrained.
If you haven’t yet read the Myth of the Tennis Technique, please do so in order to get more familiar with what you’re reading here.
2. Enough time and repetitions. It takes some time for the mind and body to adjust to a certain type of shot, so you must give them enough repetitions to start adjusting.
The minimum time period in my experience is 5 minutes, and usually the maximum is 20 minutesbefore taking a break.
It will be very difficult to keep high focus for more than 20 minutes. When you lose focus, you will also time the ball worse, see it worse and therefore hit many more inaccurate shots.
Unfortunately you will probably attribute those inaccurate shots to your stroke that you’ve been working on and again lose confidence in it.
In reality, it’s not your stroke that’s faulty and the cause for errors; instead, it’s your loss of focus.
But, as I said, there is this unfortunate association that keeps happening which is that players always blame their stroke technique for mistakes and rarely their mental skills.
3. Playing the same stroke with little variation. When you’re working on adjusting, you need to keep hitting the same stroke at the same target.
That’s because, with every shot you make, you get instant feedback on what went wrong (ball landing too short, for example) and what you need to aim for on your next shot (aiming deeper).
If you keep changing targets and strokes – for example hitting a baseline shot, then an approach shot, then a volley and then a smash – you are not really developing stroke technique through adjusting. You’re practicing something else.
You’re actually tying it all together which is the next step of training in tennis.
True, there is no clear line between all stages of training on the court in real life, but in theory there is.
So, at first you need to try to stick with a certain stroke or perhaps add just a little variation like sometimes hitting cross court and sometimes down the line.
There are many simple patterns of baseline strokes that combine cross court shots and down the line shots, and pros work on them daily.