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Why Tennis is Cheap!

People often think of tennis as an expensive game but in many ways it can be more affordable for the average person than many other sports.  Here are some ways you can save money by playing tennis over other sports.

  • Tennis Rackets (0-30 dollars) 
    • Find old, used tennis rackets from a used sports store, website or from a friend.  
    • Remember to always buy a racket that has a one-piece frame.
  • Tennis Balls (0-6 dollars)
    • Buy higher quality tennis balls that are known to last longer, like Dunlop tennis balls whose rubber is praised as longer lasting than other brands.  
    • You can also collect used balls that advanced players leave on court or throw in the recycling bin at your local club.
  • Tennis Courts (0-$$$$$)
    • Many communities have public tennis courts.  You can use these courts for free to play with friends or challengers.
    • Play at a club as a guest to save money.
  • Shoes (0-200 dollars)
    • Like tennis rackets and balls, you can get used tennis shoes for cheap or free. 
    • You can do that too if you are willing to take the risk or are light hitting without quick movement.
  • Tennis Lessons (0-100 dollars per hour)
    • Free tennis tips are easy to find.  Follow this website, read library books, watch online videos, surf the net for tips, and ask experienced players for advice.  Then, make your own lessons to practice what you learned with a partner or alone against a backboard or wall.
    • I advise against taking lessons from an non-certified or untrained freelance coach.  I have witnessed some good unlicensed coaches, but mostly terrible unlicensed coaches.  If a freelance tennis coach has a history of being licensed or being a club or resort coach, its more likely that they will be able to provide quality lessons.  If you want to be safe, take lessons from a certified coach at a tennis club.  Or better yet, hire me 😉

Why Indoor Tennis is Cheap!

I calculated that there are plenty more advantages to playing indoor tennis as a guest than as a member at many clubs.  Memberships can be several hundreds of dollars for an indoor tennis club, and the benefit of indoor tennis club memberships is usually a nominal savings in court fees and priority booking.

As a guest, courts are often already booked by members for most evening times.  However, you can often book late evening times or take advantage of last minute cancellations by members to get a court during prime time.  The price for non-members is usually the court fee plus a nominal fee as a guest, but the savings from paying these guest fees over the course of the winter will likely be much cheaper than spending several hundreds of dollars for a winter membership.

Indoor tennis courts for guests often cost about $25-30 per hour, plus a guest fee of about 5 dollars.  Divided by two players, this ends up being about $15-20 per hour, which is very reasonable for an indoor sport.  Plus, in tennis there are no substitutions like there are in team sports, which means you get to be playing for the full hour.  Compared to team sports, you can end up paying a similar amount of money but only get a fraction of the playing time.  Its a great deal!

There are so many ways to play tennis for cheap, and in many ways tennis can be one of the cheapest sports you can play.  If you avoid a lot of the marketing hype and status, you can save money and feel great.

How to Meet Tennis Players

It can sometimes feel like nobody plays tennis, or that those who do are almost never at the same level as you.  Luckily, there are a few ways to meet tennis players and share your goals and passion.

  • Join a tennis club and attend club socials and events
  • Take group tennis lessons
  • Talk about tennis with friends and acquaintances.  Maybe some of them also like tennis.
  • Attend online tennis socials from reputable tennis groups
  • Play in tennis tournaments
  • Challenge players you witness at the court

If you are looking to meet new players, there are many ways to do so.  These methods can help you get exposed to more players and play more tennis.

Practice Rallies Should be a Passing Game, Not a Competition

Many tennis players go on court without a goal.  These players neither play a match, nor practice strokes correctly.  The result is usually mish-mash and mindless tennis where players do rallies without controlling the ball, without improving their strokes, and without gaining match experience.  In many ways, practice without goals and without concentration does not help you become as good a player as if you had them.  Any court time is obviously better than no court time, but if you bring goals with you on the court to help you improve, you can exercise those goals.

Goals can be anything from get the ball in play 10 times without missing, hit 10 backhands in a row, hit all shots deep cross-court, or whatever you feel needs improvement.  Better yet, if you share goals with your partner, you can practice passing the ball with control to each other so that you both benefit from predictable pace and targets, which helps you also hit more tennis balls and improve.  Passing, not winning, is the best way to hit the most tennis balls and improve your tennis.

If both players can pass to each other from roughly the same position without missing, it creates a patter, a pace, and a target.  Try exchanging passes and patterns with your partner with goals to meet the next time you go on court and see the results yourself.  If your partner doesn't like the idea, create your own goals and targets when adjusting to their unpredictable shots this way at least you improve your tennis more without your partner even knowing it.

Lastly, it's very important to always try to play with complete and proper strokes even if you lose or play sloppy.  Never sacrifice proper technique in a practice.  Poor technique, even if it's tempting, will never let you play as good  in the long run as you could if you master the proper technique.  It's almost always best to have the short term pain for long term gain, and non-competitive practices are the best place to do it.

How to Fix Your Tennis On Court

Being rusty, losing your momentum, or choking under pressure can often be the worst feeling in sports, especially because you can do so much better.  There are a few ways that I've learned you can use to help prevent this.  First, take a moment to identify the problem - is it you or them?  Next, try some of the solutions below to fix some common mistakes and play better tennis.

  • Performance Anxiety
    • Put your hand on your stomach between points and on breaks to check your breathing.  Make sure your breathing is rhythmic and relaxed.  Putting your hand on your stomach helps you focus on your breathing, and helps you calm your nerves.
    • Jump, skip, hop, or forcefully tense up and relax your muscles (shake it off) between points to loosen your body
    • Sing to yourself a song you know that brings you good energy
    • Dance and exaggerate your strokes during points
    • Replay great points and proud moments of your tennis in your mind to build confidence
    • If its social tennis at a friends house, have a shot to help relax (responsibly of course)
    • Chew gum.  Chewing signals to the brain that it is eating which is a relaxed action and tricks the brain into relaxing.  It also helps slow down your breathing.
    • Take your break between games/sets and don't rush back onto court.  Use the time to calm down.
    • Choose to be a version of yourself that is the high achiever, winner, and tactical and confident player.  Give that version of yourself a name and identity, like "Strong Matthew" and tell "Nervous Matthew" that he is replaced now.  
      • Be the teller and doer from "The Inner Game of Tennis".

  • Forgot Your Strokes  
    • Carry a notebook with your most common mistake and their solutions to refer back to when you need a reminder on how to correct your strokes. Have a highlight page for your most common mistakes and solutions.  Also have player profiles of your opponents so you can plan how to beat them based on their profile of strengths, weaknesses and style of play.
    • Try not to do shadow swings as that shows your opponent a lack of confidence in your shots.
    • Hit slower, higher and safer shots until your strokes start to correct themselves and you build confidence.
    • If you just cannot get a stroke back (its a weakness, you're playing while injured, etc.), avoid being targeted by change tactics to discover and exploit a weakness in your opponent.  
      • Maybe run around your weak backhand, or hit more soft floater backhands while waiting for a chance to hit your forehand
      • Try rushing the net more
      • Hit more shots to your opponent's weakness (usually a high and deep backhand, but sometimes a short ball, spin ball or volley)

  • Low Energy
    • Drink a quick digesting sports or caffeinated drink.  No milk products. 
      • Peppermint tea is a great choice as it has some caffeine but also is known to stimulate the brain and improve memory.
    • Eat a quick digesting high carbohydrate snack or low-acidic fruit.  Bananas, granola bars, and small candy are great choice.  No milk products and no citric fruits.
    • Jump, hop, or smash a tennis ball.  It can help your muscles wake up.
    • Pour cold water on your face

Losing your touch and feel for the game is never fun, but there are ways to correct your mistakes once you identity the problem and experiment with solutions.  Find what works for you and remember to use it.

Why Singles Tennis is the Toughest Sport in the World

There are no sports more difficult than singles tennis.  I stand by that bold statement.  Singles tennis combines the difficulty of endurance, skill, strategy, and mental strength all in one at a higher level than all other sports.  In the following essay, I will explain exactly how singles tennis compares to other sports in these areas to prove it is the most difficult sport in the world.

First off, tennis is a very physically taxing and exhausting endurance sport, especially when the level increases.  Tennis at the fast-paced professional level lasts several hours and includes hundreds of sprints, jumps, lunges, and pivots.  The record for the longest tennis match was a men's singles match at Wimbledon in 2015 lasted 11 hours, while most matches at the professional level last between one and three hours.  Since singles tennis does not have team mates, the player must run the entire time and cannot take a break in the middle of points and games.  Now, if tennis was just an endurance sport, then it would seem like that is normal.  But tennis is not just about endurance.  Going to the gym or exercising to build endurance alone will not make you a winning tennis player.  You must also have strong tennis strokes, strategy and mental strength.

In tennis, if you have stronger strokes, you will have a big advantage over your opponents.  You need to be able to hit more tennis balls in play to win, which requires the skill to hit the ball in play.  After the beginner level where you can get most points from playing safe tennis, you must be able to hit strokes in a way that forces your opponent to be unable to return the ball if you want to win points.  A professional player will have mastered almost all possible shots, and that list can be long.  It can include, but is not limited to: forehands, backhands, volleys, half-volleys, serves, lobs, drop shots, and slices.  A great player is also able to execute shots with different speed, spin, height, and placement, while being able to also return shots that have all these qualities.  Rafael Nadal, in his autobiography, said that (paraphrasing) "you never hit the same tennis ball twice" and therefore you need the skill to hit a winning shot from an infinite list of possible shots.  That requires a lot of skill to be able to do.

Since tennis has so many shot possibilities and combinations, strategically using shots and shot combinations to win means that tennis players must learn to think quickly and execute strokes strategically.  High level players must plan ahead and try to out-smart their opponents, much like in a chess match.  They must have a plan and execute it, but be flexible to revise the plan in less than a second if the opponent doesn't cooperate.  The combination of planning ahead while also being flexible poses a strategic challenge to tennis players that isn't very common in other sports.

Singles tennis players are also not allowed to have their coaches or team mates guide them during a match, which poses a distinct challenge to singles tennis players because they cannot rely on anyone else to help them, whereas in other sports the coach can guide them with their strategy and tactics.  Even racing teams have radio technology to communicate with drivers to help them win.  In singles tennis, nobody is there to help them when they are in trouble.  Singles tennis players must find their own solutions to their problems when their strokes and tactics are failing them.  They must also find ways to cope with the pressure and maintain a positive and focused mindset.  Many other sports have coaches provide motivation and strategy support, or even team mates to help pull the weight of struggling players.  Singles tennis players are not given any help, and are instead left to suffer alone when losing.

Finally, singles tennis is the most difficult sport because it doesn't have a clock.  In many sports, if you survive long enough to wind down the clock, you can come out with a tie, a lucky win, or a merciful loss.  There is no clock to depend on when you are losing in tennis or when you are facing an opponent who is far stronger than you.  This also means that you can't just gain small lead and waste time until you win.  You must prove you are worthy of winning by defending your lead over three or five sets.  If we were to pretend that one set is equal to a full sports match, then a tennis match is like a playoff series and you must win two or three matches before you are actually the winner.  Winning just once is not enough.  In tennis, lucky wins mostly happen when the stronger player suffers an injury or when the players are evenly matched and tied late in the deciding set when a lucky critical shot late determines the match.  If the weaker player is able to hold onto the match and win, he or she almost always earns the win without contest.  However in other sports without a clock and without sets, weaker players and teams can manage to squeeze a lucky win more easily.

For all these reasons, a singles tennis player deserves incredible respect and admiration for the quality they bring to each win they have in the most difficult sport in the world.