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Provoking errors in your opponent

There seems to be a trend in junior tennis that suggests players are only satisfied in winning a point with an untouchable winner, but 'provoking' your opponent into an error can be just as satisfying and effective and demonstrates that you're not only a 'hitter of the ball' but a 'player of the game'.

Here are 5 key ways to provoke an error out of your opponent.
1.  Chase every single ball down no matter how lost the cause might be.  Hold onto the value that 'if I touch it I make it'.  This way your opponent knows the ball is always coming back.  More often than not over the length of a match, this will force them to go for a little bit more, play closer to the lines, provoking the error. Murray is the master of this.
2.  Consistent rally quality.  How consistent are you from the back of the court?  Sending out the signal that you're going to maintain a ferocious commitment to playing with 'rising ball quality' (when ball rises onto your opponent when they are in a neutral rallying position behind their baseline).  This 'aggressive patience' will entice your opponent into an early error by pulling the trigger too soon.  Did you see Cibulkova play over the last week? Yes there were winners, but her commitment to the 'rally' ball was terrifying.
3.  Challenge your opponent's movement.  Can you get them to hit on the run twice in a row?  You are far more likely to provoke the error whilst your opponent is on the move and their control is compromised.  Radwanska is a fine example of a player who moves the ball well.
4.  Be a rhythm wrecker.  Most players like to develop a rhythm.  Are you guilty of playing with the same tempo, height and spin again and again feeding into this?  Change it up from time to time, play with a slice, a heavier/slower ball, or with a bit of extra acceleration. I come back to Murray on this one as role model.
5.  Bring your opponent into net and 'make them volley'.  Many junior players (and seniors) are not so comfortable at net.  So often we think that we have to hit the ball past a player at net when testing their volleys more than often will provoke the error.  Make them play!  Federer role models this well using his short cross-court slice to entice opponents in and then rips a low pass at them to break down their volley.
Remember to mentally reward yourself for provoking your opponent into an error and learn to take as much satisfaction from this as hitting that clean winner!

This blog post was first published at The never-ending discussion that is 'coaching'



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