Most players train to hit the ball harder, or to run faster or become stronger. Power, strength and speed can take you far in tennis, but you can offset shortcomings in these areas by practicing control.
Most students define control as accuracy. But it’s only part of the definition. Control has many components and you’ll do well to practice all of them each time you play.
When most people think “placement” they don’t consider all of their options, including angles, short slices, deep slices, dinks and drop shots.
If you control more of the points, you’re going to win more of them. Point control is measured by comfort. Are you playing a match on your terms? Are you hitting the shots you like to hit and making your opponent hit shots that he or she doesn’t like to hit? Are you deciding the outcome of most points by either forcing your opponent into errors or hitting winners? Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to control a match. For instance, if your opponent can’t handle a high topspin forehand, you should hit more of those, even if you prefer to hit a flatter, harder ball.
During a match, do not overthink but never lose focus. A mental breakdown can give your opponents hope that they can beat you, and it will also sap your energy very quickly.
All players have some degree of physical limitations, but you can hide some of them by learning how to read the oncoming ball before it bounces. Try to recognize the height, speed, spin and direction of the ball as soon as possible.
For more of Nick's advice on total control, click here.