Why Lessons Hurt Doubles Game


Many adult, competitive tennis players have been led to believe that the only thing standing between them and great results in matches is that their strokes have to be better. A different grip, a better follow through, more spin, a two handed backhand, the list goes on and on and I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. The problem is that when you start with the paradigm that strokes and hitting the ball “perfectly” are the goal, you are likely to be disappointed for some, if not all, of the following reasons:

  1. The players with the best strokes don’t always win.
  2. Players will make changes to their technique that take a long time and come out with the same results. They’ve spent a lot of time and money learning a new way when the old way was automatic and yet had similar results.
  3. You’re only working on one aspect of the game and ignoring other important aspects (such as tactical, psychological and emotional).
  4. You never stop trying to “fix” your strokes. You’re thinking about something that should be automatic over time.

I’m sure you’ve seen these players. Every time they miss a ball they analyze what they did wrong as if that is somehow going to prevent the next mistake. People who play like this are head cases and no matter how long they play they never learn to let go and trust what they’ve learned. Let me give you two examples that might help you to understand where I’m going with this.

  1. When you’re first learning to drive a car, you’re nervous and unsure. You tense up and tend to think about everything you need to do. It’s not a pretty sight. The reason this changes over time is because you drive enough to make everything natural and comfortable. The fact that your father was screaming at you from the passenger seat wasn’t why you got better, it was time and repetition. When you get behind the wheel now, everything just flows and you don’t have to think at all. In fact, if you tried to think about the technical part of driving you would probably drive off the road because your conscious brain doesn’t control the technical part anymore. That’s what tennis should be like! The longer you do it, the less you need to think about how to do it! Now you can focus on things like avoiding traffic or pay attention to other drivers and anticipate their moves.
  2. When you first learn to play chess, the first thing you learn is the rules of how to move the pieces from square to square. This is important because you can’t play if you don’t know how the pieces are allowed to move based on the rules. Similarly, in tennis you can’t play if you can’t hit the ball on the court with some consistency. You learn and practice strokes so you can be proficient enough to play the game. However, no one ever became a chess master just by learning to move the pieces! A chess master has an understanding of the strategies and tactics of the game that goes beyond what most players can accomplish. In tennis, you won’t ever become a master unless you can stop thinking about how to hit the ball and start thinking about where to hit it, how to set up points, how to stay on an even keel emotionally and how to put pressure on your opponent.     

When you take lessons and are taught that every missed shot has its root in a technical mistake, you become less automatic and relaxed about hitting the ball because you’re always thinking. It would be like if your dad drove around with you every day and yelled at you for the way you drive. It is unproductive, stressful and does not promote growth.

In The Previdi System we understand that in order to be effective in tennis, and specifically in doubles, you need to play in an automatic, systematic way. Every situation should be practiced hundreds of times so that you and your partner both know where to be and what to do instinctively in all situations and you can easily make corrections on the fly. In doubles, as in all team sports, randomness is our enemy. Think about this: Tom Brady has a team of coaches who tell him what plays to run. These are predetermined plays that they’ve practiced thousands of times. Then consider that you and your partner go out to the tennis court and hit random shots in a doubles match and think this dynamic will lead to growth, improvement, and better results. You need someone to teach you the plays and to guide you through them in practice until they become ingrained. Then you will run the set plays, just as Tom Brady and his team do. It is equally important in tennis, as in any team sport, that all members of the team are on the same page at all times. If you work on situational tennis, learn the plays and play together, I guarantee you will have better results in matches, less frustration and it will all become automatic over time.

In The Previdi System, we make sure to work on shots for situations, not in a vacuum. We don’t just learn volleys, we learn touch volleys, angle volleys, mid court volleys and we work on them in the situation that we’re going to use them. This way, when we get to a match we instinctively know how to hit the shot we need in all points. We’ve rehearsed each piece of a point enough times to eliminate having to consciously think about what to do, where to hit or how to hit. In The Previdi System we build Instinct.