OK there is a Life Lesson to be learned in my tennis playing of the last 10 days. I can’t wait to benefit from it.

Basically I have been losing consistently, and with four different partners, so I can’t blame it on the other guy. There have been four days of playing plus two practice sessions, almost 12 hours on the court, and I can’t seem to do what I need to: make winners rather than unforced errors—I hit the ball long, and I can’t fall on it with my body the way I want to for extra power. I also find it difficult to keep watching the ball until it hits my racket—I look away just before impact to see where the ball is headed.

Lost all of the regular doubles games, a couple of singles games, and four out of five matches in a 4 ½ hour tournament with the age 50’s set (including three of those in tiebreakers). I am very frustrated, cursing out loud, grumpy, angry and real, real pissed at myself. Even though I was complimented by a couple of guys much better than I am who hadn’t seen me play in a while and couldn’t believe how much I had improved.

Not sure how to overcome this setback. Did realize that the new serve I was using (with more twist and foot parallel to the service line) is not giving me added power, so I am going back to starting with my foot at a 45 degree angle to the line. From this position, I can place the ball to the left or right of the service box. Previously the ball mostly went to the right side of the box. I will try to twist and coil to generate more speed.

But hitting a powerful ball low enough over the net to land in the court is the big big challenge. I think it is mental, because if someone is at the net during warm up practice, I can blast it just right. In the game, I either hit too many long balls or bloopers that are easy winners for the other guy.

Winning is not really the goal for me. I don’t mind when my partner screws up. But I can’t stand making the errors myself or returning shots that are so easy my team loses a point right away. I can say my game deteriorated since I hurt my ankle and was off the court for four weeks. I can say I am in a slump that will pass. I can say that I can’t improve or that I understand what I am doing wrong (which I do) or feel it’s just a game or that it shouldn’t matter or that we lost 7-5 or in a close tiebreaker. But I am still very disheartened by this poor phase of play.

Sounds like living a life to me. Clutching, tense, dissatisfied, bad breaks. How to get out of it?

Frank Adams who has given me advice and coached others for 50 years shows me the right way to hit the ball. I just am not able to do it in the game. For some reason I can’t now drop the racket, watch the ball as I pause, not reach out toward the ball, but simply fall forward on the ball with my body and the racket. How can it be such a challenge? How can I not make my body execute my mind’s instructions? This just can’t be happening over and over and over. But it is. I hate the failure. I love the challenge. I want to play all the time. I want to practice even more. I must get it right. Yet right now…I ain’t doing it.

And each time I fail, I focus on the bad shots and overlook all the good ones. There are many great gets and placements. Those winners and saves are what those better players observed at the tournament and praised me for. Yet the glass is half empty for me, not half full. Me…Mr. Positive, the realistic Optimist. Cursing myself for the bad shots and not giving enough credit for the great ones. A new mentality. I know it is harmful. I know I will pass through this phase. Yet I am very impatient.

I know I am capable of doing better. How do I speed up the process? Is the answer merely to practice more? Frank calls his tennis approach “Natural Tennis.” Just move the way you walk or throw a ball, catch keys and swing a shovel. Yet here I am thinking about the various steps and positions and swings and timing just as much as when I was taught the traditional way: split step, turn your body, move your feet, bring your racket back, eye on the ball, bend your knees, swing, follow through, racket back to your left shoulder (for a forehand), grab the throat of the racket with your left hand.

I couldn’t do all that stuff before. Now I can’t do fewer moves…yet. I will overcome. I have to. Stay tuned. As I make the effort, I am tested on how I behave, how calmly I can accept my errors, not be obnoxious, not upset enough to curse out loud, not focus on past mistakes but move on to the next shot. Just like I should handle all the set backs of one’s life.

Tennis is just a game. It’s not people going bankrupt, losing their homes, becoming sick, injured, dying, losing a loved one. Tennis can be a good warm up for a life. What do you think?

(note: you can search for Frank Adams on this site and youtube to learn more about his unique approach to tennis)