We all know that the mind has a tremendous effect on our tennis. Someone once said tennis is 80%
mental and 20% physical. I donâ€™t know if those figures are correct but I do know the way we think
about our tennis affects the way we play.
Visualization is the part of mental preparation we use to help us be better players. Visualization is
merely rehearsing certain shots or sequence of shots in our mind before we attempt them physically.
Picturing a certain shot in your mind before actually hitting it does several things. First the practice of
visually seeing yourself hit a shot in your mind will help relax the mind. We know that mental overload
during tennis can cripple our physical efforts, so having our mind relax and feel calm before actually
hitting the ball helps us to focus more on the ball.
The second thing visualization does is to give us confidence. Rehearsing a shot in our mind before
hitting gives our mind the feeling that we can make that shot. Attempting the shot in our mind before
physically hitting it tells our muscles how to hit accomplish the task.
I often use results of a test conducted many years ago that show how important visualization is. The
test took 3 groups of students and tested them in shooting free throws in basketball. For one month
each group had a task to perform. The first group did nothing, the second group practiced shooting 100
free throws a day and the third group practiced shooting 100 free throws a day in their mind. The results
showed the first group who did nothing improved 0% as expected. The second group who physically
shot 100 free throws a day improved 25%. The surprise was the third group who shot free throws in
their mind, improved 24% without ever setting foot onto a basketball court.
The practical application for using visualization is primarily two tennis shots, the serve and serve
return. Both of these shots allow for adequate time beforehand to use mental imagery to prepare for the
On the serve, we should see in our mind our toss, itâ€™s placement and position. We also should
be seeing our swing and spin put on the ball. Last and most importantly, we should visualize the ball
landing in the service box. Even better if we visualize where in the service box the ball should land.
On the serve return we should see in our mind how we are going to hit the return. Whether itâ€™s a
topspin forehand crosscourt or a slice backhand down the line. It doesnâ€™t even matter where our
opponent serves. It does matter that we can relax our mind and freely hit out on the return, not having to
worry about â€œhowâ€� or â€œwhereâ€� to hit the ball.
Using visualization in your tennis game could bring on big improvements in consistency and
placement. This will increase our confidence and with that confidence in our tennis game we can
Doug Hofer, USPTA & USRSA March 7, 2005