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Preparing For A Match

Q. I would like to know if listening to music while playing tennis would affect my game in any way.

A. Listening to music (for example, wearing an iPod while playing) is not legal in sanctioned competition. Listening to some “psych” songs prior to playing would probably help to get you in the mood to play your best.

My ten favorite “psych” songs (subject to change every week or so) are:

1. “Powderfinger” by Neil Young
2. “I Believe” by R.E.M.
3. “There’s a Story in Your Voice” by Elvis Costello
4. “Fast Train” by Solomon Burke
5. “Acadian Driftwood” by The Band
6. “Cocaine Blues” by Johnny Cash
7. “Looking at the World Through a Windshield” by Son Volt
8. “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen
9. “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion
10. “The Harder They Come” by Jimmy Cliff

Q. How should a player quickly analyze her opponent’s strengths and weaknesses?

A. The five-minute warm-up with your opponent should serve to get you loose and prepared, but you can also get a glimpse of what shots they do and don’t like to play. If you see that your opponent is less consistent on one side during warm-up, when there is no pressure, then it stands to reason that under duress the stroke might really break down.

During the first two games, try to probe further. Many players hit the ball well while stationery, but one secret to becoming a good player is the ability to hit just as well when moving. Given this, force your opponent to hit some shots on the run and see which shots hold up. Sometimes a steady backhand will break down when the player needs to hustle to the shot. Perhaps a player who shows good technique on volleys might become awkward when rushing the net during a match.

Once you assess a weak link or two in your opponent’s armor, look to exploit this during key moments. Avoid the temptation of hitting every ball toward a “weakness.” If you try this, your opponent might become grooved and more confident. Instead, hit toward their weakest shots on the most crucial points.

Q. I’ve been invited to play league tennis this year. I’ve never played organized USTA tennis before; only social tennis, and I’m feeling a little intimidated by all the rules and regulations, not to mention the specific tennis etiquette. What’s the best way to not-make-too-many mistakes and have fun playing while trying to improve my game, make new acquaintances and be a good team member?

A. Your apprehensions are normal, but don’t let them detract from your eagerness. Our sport does have certain rules and etiquette that make it unique. Not to worry though. Most of all, tennis is just a game- a great way to exercise and spend time with friends. From my perspective, the biggest problems in league tennis occur with people who tend to take things WAY too seriously. Your perspective is refreshing, and I hope you maintain it.

An easy way to learn the nuances of behavior and etiquette is to watch lots of tennis matches on television and listen to the commentators. You’ll quickly pick up on where to stand, how to act and react, etc. Aside from that, just get out there and enjoy yourself.

Good luck this “season”!

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