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Sample of Oscar Wegner's teachings on focusing in tennis
One of the highest capabilities in life is feel.
You might have been sold a bill of goods when you were told that thinking is paramount in tennis.
Most top tennis pros won't admit, perhaps under the idea that they would be considered "stupid", that they don't think much when they are playing.
But some very top professionals have admitted it, realizing that people like to know the truth. A few years ago, Pete Sampras, then at the height of his game, was asked what did he
think during a U.S. Open three hour match. His answer, "I think I had one thought", an answer dutifully recorded by the press.
How is this possible, when we were drilled from childhood: "think before you act"? (Althoug we probably didn't heed much until middle school or so).
The answer is very simple. A concert pianist could not play his best if he was thinking of his mechanics at all. He is totally absorbed on the feel of the sound.
A top professional tennis player, in his best days, acts the same. He is absorbed in the rythm of the play, focused completely on feeling the ball. He knows from experience, or
instinctively, that thinking, even while the ball is not in play, will somehow make this feel much more difficult.
You could say that he has slowed down his mind to a standstill. How does he do it? Focusing on feel, even while out of the point. He is perceiving everything around him, including his
own body, perhaps his own breath, but he isn't giving it "thought".
Abstaining from mentioning any names here, a favorite advice from one coach has been: "make love to the ball".
The reason behind all this is that the player's attention can be dispersed very easily. We are so used to think, to put that attention inward, thinking in words, almost like talking to
ourselves, that we lose sight of feeling and perceiving the outside world.
You can try this with a simple experiment. Touch an object for a few minutes while you focus on its color, its shape, its temperature, or any particular detail that you may like.
Next, touch it while you think of another object or how you should place your hands or your feet, or your body posture.
Did you feel the object as much in this second instance as in the first?
Of course, in tennis, I am assuming you already learned your strokes.
That could have happened, interestingly, just in the first hour you ever spent on a court, provided you learned:
1) to find the ball first, almost touching it, then hit it.
2) to feel the ball as you hit it, hopefully brushing it rather than hitting it totally square (brushing it increases your feel).
3) to take your time while playing, without ridiculous thinking such as how to place your feet in preparation for the shot, one of the most destructive tenets that have ever been taught..
The same goes for "racquet back early", "step into the ball", "follow thorugh towards the target", etc.
So, get on the court this weekend. Take your time. Find the ball well before you hit it. Brush up and across, as to get more feel.
(When watching those wonderful tournament telecasts, realize that the commentators are so stuck on this "early preparation" slogan or maxim, that they don't realize, even though it is plainly clear from the slow motions they are analizing and looking at, that the player is "stalking" the ball, with the racquet still somewhat in front)
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Copyright Oscar Wegner 2011. All rights reserved.