Practice Doesn't Always Make Perfect

By Carl Danner
If you are like most players, your practice habits could be handicapping you in a subtle, but significant way.
All of us are used to hitting balls crosscourt, forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand. It’s almost a means of socializing with friends and new playing partners. Everyone can do this skill reasonably well, and it is not too physically demanding as little footwork may be required.

The problem is that having spent so much time aiming to those locations, you are likely to do so in matches, too. And having spent so much time returning from those locations, your opponents are likely to be comfortable against your shots. The best tactics usually involve hitting at your opponent’s body, or wide to either side. But if you haven’t trained for those placements, you may not be inclined (or able) to hit them when it counts.
Instead, try adjusting your practice to hit anywhere but simply crosscourt. For example, your practice partner can just move a couple of feet to one side to handle your balls up the middle, or to a corner. You can do the same for her, and also practice shots up the line at least as often as crosscourt. The new habits and skills you can build in this way will pay off later in match competition.

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