How often have you played well in practice or the warm up only to see your game fall apart when it counts?
Have you ever found yourself holding the racket with what I call the ‘death grip’?, paralyzed by fear and unable to perform how you know you can in a relaxed and effortless way.
Ironically the more we try to relax and tell ourselves to calm down the worse it gets. So clearly giving ourselves this type of instruction doesn’t work.
There could be numerous reasons why this is happening. I will go on to address a few of these in later blogs but I’d like to concentrate on just one area that has helped me in the past, and I’m sure will help you once you become aware of it.
Grip pressure meaning how tightly you hold the racket during the stroke. In my opinion the vast majority of players I coach, at all levels, have a grip pressure that is too tight.
My scale for grip pressure is 1 = racket slips out of your hand on contact with ball (so too light) and 10 = vice like grip with whites of knuckles showing (far too tight). Most players are 5 and over and I have seen many up at 8/9. I like to see a grip pressure of no more than 4 for any shot with a service grip of 2.5!! Yes it’s possible. The reasons are as follows and in no particular order:-
- Lower grip pressure = more feel, particularly in touch shots.
- Injury prevention. An incorrect grip together with high grip pressure (7-10) is a major source of tennis elbow, rotator cuff problems.
- A loose grip promotes rhythm and timing and effortless speed in an easy fluid motion. Think of Roger Federer’s groundstrokes.
- Give up control to gain control. You can let go of trying to control the ball more than you probably think. All it takes is trust and belief.
So the next time you find yourself on court focus your attention on grip pressure. After each shot give yourself of score of 1-10, then gauge how it felt. You can play around with this and experiment with different shots and different grip pressures. You’ll soon discover that the effortless best-timed shots were a direct result of a lower grip pressure.