I often draw analogies between tennis and golf, but today’s tip comes from football. I once heard a pro receiver say that they were coached to take a mental snapshot of catching the ball just before it arrived. The idea was to reinforce whether it was a hands or body catch, proper body position, keeping feet in bounds, etc. Once the mental snapshot was taken, they were supposed to duplicate the snapshot with an actual catch.
I’m just starting to hit right-handed again afer a few months layoff. One of the early challenges is getting my timing and sense of racquet control back. I’ve used this technique in practice in order to help reinforce proper racquet position at impact when working the ball. I try to think of the part of the ball I want to strike as being highlighted and how I want the racquet to look at impact. Then, I try to put the racquet in the exact position as my mental snapshot. In order to do so, I have to have good footwork and body preparation in addition to proper racquet motion.
Take advantage of practice time by not just hitting aimlessly. Try cross-court and down-the-line rallies. Try to keep the ball inside the doubles alley. Think about where you need to impact the ball and mentally higlight that part of the ball before impact. Mental visualizations are always a bit tricky at first. When I first tried this technique, it seemed a bit strange. After a couple practice sessions, I became comfortable with its application. Iv’e found it helps a lot in terms of proper setup and stroke motion. You may also find that it helps you in another important area which is focusing on the ball through impact in the first place. Yes, we all want to look up too quickly to see where that great shot went.
Directional control based on compensations translates into inconcistent play. Muscle memory never gets to work in your favor as the compensations are different every time you play. Practice proper technique and then muscle memory starts to work in your favor. Good luck with the game!