I have stated many times on my site that there are two types of tennis players, in fact there are probably many types of tennis players but two spring to mind; There are tennis players who can play tennis and there are tennis players who can't, pretty simple stuff, so what's the catch ?
Anyone can hit a tennis ball, some do it to almost perfection especially when up against a ball machine or a practice opponent yet that's where the form stays. So what about the other type ?
Well the other type of tennis player is the one who perhaps doesn't even train as hard as the ball machine player yet this person knows how to play tennis.
The game of tennis has long been known for being one that produces players who are technically gifted yet their claim to fame may be simply the occasional good win or smaller tournament victory. Look at the American Ryan Harrison, this guy is an enigma. He was a top ten player in the World Junior rankings in 2008 but he has not been able to replicate that sort of ability into the senior ranks. He is currently ranked 197.
That's not to say Harrison can't play tennis but it seems that unless he finds a way soon to match it with the big boys then he may just be another in a long list of wasted talents. If you aren't sure who this guy even is well to get an indication of how he hits a tennis ball I would recommend looking him up on You Tube. There is no doubt about the fact that Ryan Harrison owns every shot to succeed at the game of tennis but he can't find that one thing to lift him out of the pack of 'good players' to the next pack of great players.
Now to a totally different class of player altogether and this guy was brilliant, David Nalbandian of Argentina, without a doubt an enigma of World Tennis. In fact while I think of it I may share a you tube highlight package of this guy's backhand on this site as I believe it may just have been the best of his time.
Nalbandian reached the semi finals of every Grand Slam and won the year ending Tennis Masters Cup in 2005 over Federer in the final, from memory 7-6 in the fifth. How he never won a Grand Slam I suppose will remain a mystery however he was in an era of brilliant tennis players and not every great player has won a Slam.
Was the only thing lacking in Nalbandian's repertoire a mind as brilliant as his backhand ? Who knows ? Maybe only David knows the answer.
I do believe though that if ever a kid would like to learn how to strike a double handed backhand to perfection then Nalbandian's should be studied closely, it was remarkable to say the least.
So back to the original chapter headline, how do you go from being someone who can hit a tennis ball well to being someone who can 'play' tennis ? As I have written many times it may just be in the way our mind has been programmed and it's tough to reprogram the grey matter, fact of life. There are so many brilliant ball strikers in tennis, not just at the elite level but at the Challenger level and even College level yet only a handful of players break through.
You can hit a tennis ball all you like , it may get you to a certain stage with your tennis but chances are it will not take you to a high level of competition. Some players I believe are born with a gift of 'no fear' when playing and a mind that can almost see the game tactically before it even happens. These players have something that the rest of us can only dream of.
What goes into winning a tennis match is far more than a cracking forehand and a huge serve, it's what the mind can deliver in a split second or even less in a series of decision making.
I don't believe in 'over coaching' players as far as court time is concerned and endless hitting sessions with no substance are pointless. It's what can be instilled into the mind in a session that will ultimately define a player and bring out their best........