The mental side of consistency is all about focus and concentration. “Watch the ballâ€�
is a popular saying in tennis, but how do we do that. One way is to really focus and try to read
the label on the ball. Is it a Penn, Wilson or even better Dunlop? Trying to see the spin is very
difficult but it still helps focus in on the ball. Spin tracker balls or two-tone colored balls are
perfect for watching spin. My favorite is the Dunlop SpeedBall. The SpeedBall is much larger; it
has two colors and travels through the air slower. Many advanced players use this ball to
groove a particular stroke or swing. The slower speed require the player to move their feet
better to set up for each shot. They also force the player to watch the ball more closely.
Watching the ball helps take the focus off the opponent and onto the ball.
   Another popular method to improve consistency is to practice visualization. Basically it
means to view the stroke and its positive results in your mind before it takes place. This is
best done off the court when total focus can be on the visualization practice. Serving
visualization is great during a match. One can easily picture themselves hitting a particular
type of serve and seeing the positive results in the mind right before serving.
   To practice playing under pressure to improve consistency try playing shorter matches.
Practice playing 4 game sets, no-ad scoring, or start every game at 30-all. When you shorten
the games and sets it places an increased importance on each point or game. There is no
room for unforced errors and poor play when every point counts for more.
   The last area of mental consistency that I would like to address is “confidenceâ€�.
Confidence under pressure is acquired through all of the above and previous tips concepts.
Pressure tends to make all of us tighten up and miss normally routine shots. We can either
learn to shift the pressure into a more focused effort on the ball and a target or we can try to
eliminate the pressure and feel like it doesn’t exist.
   Take the focus of a match away from winning and losing (which we can’t control) and
place it on measurable goals. Before each match outline what goals will be looked at instead
of winning or losing. How many 1st serves went in? How many deep forehand cross courts?
Goals that take the focus away from the opponent and place them onto your performance will
take much of the pressure off.  At the end of a match, evaluate how well you achieved your
   Books have been written on mental training in sports. I have tried to only give a few practical
ideas to help focus one’s game on consistency.
Doug Hofer, USPTA       January 19, 2006