While all sports can be fun and good for your health, taking up tennis is a great choice for several reasons. For a start, it’s great fun to swing a racket and watch the ball go whizzing by. Running around a tennis court is also an excellent form of exercise; learning the rules is an ideal way to socialise with your fellow humans; and joining in competitions is good practice for the challenges that life has in store.
One of the great benefits of playing tennis is that you don’t need much in the way of equipment—just a tennis racket, a few tennis balls and access to a tennis court. As players become more involved with the sport, they invariably will want to purchase the shoes and apparel that make them feel like a real pro, but for beginners any loose clothing is fine.
The essentials for Tennis
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, it makes sense to choose good quality equipment. You will enjoy the game more and reduce the chances of injury.
Find the essentials to equip yourself and practice tennis:
The racket is obviously the key element when playing tennis. Choosing a racket that is suited to your level and style of play will improve your enjoyment of the game.
Several elements should be taken into consideration when making your selection:
- String pattern
- Stiffness of the racquet
- Thickness of the racquet
- Size of the handle
The stringing is also very important in tennis.
The string is the part of the racket that comes into direct contact with the ball. It affects touch, precision, power and spin on the ball, as well as the joints or muscles of the player's arm.
Ask your coach which kind of strings you should use related to your style of play, and consider when to change your strings as well.
In Thailand, we recommend you play with higher strings tension because of the humidity and high temperatures that tend to soften the strings.
The Tennis balls
The tennis ball is a piece of equipment not to be underestimated. Depending on the level (training vs competition) and the age of the player, the ball will have an influence on the player’s performance.
Balls for beginners (including the mini tennis ball) allow you to understand the different playing techniques without fear of a rebound that is too strong and difficult to control for a neophyte.
A seasoned player can choose normal pressure balls, to train themselves to be a better player and in preparation for playing matches.
When shopping for equipment players should also take into account that tennis balls play differently on clay, grass or hard-court surfaces. In Thailand specifically, most of the courts are hard-court surfaces to endure the tropical climate and for easy maintenance.
The Tennis shoes
Shoes have an essential role in playing comfortably and limiting the risk of injury. The game of tennis involves a lot of running across the court - with chasing, crossing, sliding and short or long strides are all techniques specific to the game.Choosing your tennis shoes should take the following into consideration:
- Training frequency
- Playing surface
- Style of play
- Player morphology
In addition, always pay attention to the stability and support of the ankle, the cushioning, the ventilation of the shoes and their weight. Of course, the price can be a factor. If you are an occasional player, choosing shoes that you can use for another sport or activity should be fine.
The apparel in tennis is not just about aesthetics. A good outfit should allow you to fully exploit your game and drive performance. Light clothing will ensure full range of motion. It is also recommended to choose clothing that is breathable and will help to avoid chafing. There are outfits suitable for everyone: men, women and children. They usually are shorts/skirt and a t-shirt/tank top or a sports crop top.
- The bag
The bag will protect your equipment, especially your racket. Depending on your practice and your needs, you can choose from a simple cover, a thermobag or a backpack. Roller bags can be a wise choice for advanced players.
- The overgrip
The overgrip guarantees a good grip on the racket handle, preventing any risk of spinning or falling out of the player's hands during the game. While this accessory may not always be the first that a player thinks about, it can make a difference during a match.
If you are playing in tropical climates like Thailand, changing overgrip should happen more frequently. With temperatures reaching 40°C and 65% humidity, some players could be changing overgrips after every single match.
- Equipment against perspiration
Tennis cuffs and towels are a must. Sweat can get in the eyes which will be particularly troublesome during a serve or rally, and it can also wet the racket handle and greatly interfere with playing technique.
How to play tennis
Despite the medieval scoring system (30-love, deuce, and so on), the rules are actually quite simple. Two players stand on opposite sides of the net. One player serves the ball onto the opponent’s side of the court. The opponent returns the ball and they continue hitting it back and forth until one player misses the ball or hits it outside the court markings, which results in a point to the rival. Four points win a game, six games win a set and two or three sets win a match, until the referee declares “Game, set and match!". Pretty easy, right?
While a strong serve is a good start to a tennis career, it requires a variety of tactics to beat experienced players. You need to know when to use a forehand and backhand, when to approach the net and when to remain behind the baseline.
In the first few games of a match, pay attention to your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. If they have a strong forehand shot, try to play the ball to their backhand. If they stand back deep in the court, surprise them with a gentle shot just over the net.
With practice you’ll develop a strong intuition about which shots to play at which stage of the match.
The 4 essential steps:
The most important step is to observe your opponent, understand what he or she is good at. For example if her forehand is way better than her backhand, then you should play most of the time on her weakness. Sometimes, it can take time to observe and understand how you should play your game.
Tennis is based on decisions. You have to be sure of what you want to do. Most of the time, your first decision is the right one because it is the one you are more comfortable with.
Once you have made your observations and decisions, you just have to execute what you are good at and do it as efficiently as possible during the match. Sometimes your opponent will also use these 4 steps to beat you, that is the reason why you should have some different game plans.
You should have several plans before your match, considering how you will play against the opponent, based on advice from your coach. Most tennis players have at least 3 or 4 game plans, for example, hit the ball lower in the opponent's backhand, play higher on the forehand, go to the net, etc. The more plans you have, the more you can surprise your opponent!
Advice for parents with a child who plays tennis
Tennis is a sport in which parents have great importance.
When the child practices with their coach, the coach can become the parents' coach too. It is important that the parents, the coach and the child are aligned on the intentions. Especially for parents who are new to tennis, communication is of the essence in the parent-player-coach triangle.
From the start of the collaboration, it is important that you, the parents, be aware of typical behaviours that could jeopardise your child's learning:
- If the parent is new to the world of tennis and does not master the concepts of the game, they may not prioritise the child’s development of important skills
- Some parents may interfere too much in the training of the child, placing too much importance on the game, which takes away from the fun of the sport
- The parent wants to replace the coach
- The parent feels that the coach is taking his place as the child's privileged adviser
- The parent models other parents who have managed to take their children to the top (Williams, Bartoli), and tries to reproduce the same
To avoid these abuses, good communication with the coach is essential.
Mistakes to avoid
- Thinking that tennis is the only way to be successful in life and forcing your child to bet everything on tennis
- On reacting and showing your disappointment when the child is defeated
- Reacting to a bad result or an error by punishing or criticising it
- Turning a blind eye to your child's bad behavior, when he cheats or has bad manners
- Giving him advice around the court or trying to take the place of the coach
- Intervening during the matches and calling on the referee
- Disregarding pain and injuries
- Forgetting that your child is still young and growing
Physical and mental preparation
To become a good tennis player, it is important to be in good shape when stepping onto the court. This means getting your body and mind in tune and ready for the game. The best way to do this is to eat nutritious food and to warm-up properly before a game. Another important factor is to be mentally prepared. Beginning a match with confidence and a positive attitude will greatly increase your chances of winning.
Feeling positive and confident about the outcome, your chances of winning are much better.
It’s only natural to feel excited and tense in anticipation of a game, but high levels of stress can be counter productive. While these heightened emotions can be helpful if channelled into good concentration, it’s wise to calm yourself down just before a match through deep breathing and clearing the mind.
But it's not just physical preparation that plays a key role in conditioning you properly and effectively before a match. It is also important to prepare yourself mentally with positive thoughts. Above all, this requires good self-confidence. Confidence is a feeling that your opponent will recognise immediately in your style of play on the court. Being confident and thinking positively can be the key to winning a game. You may have ideal physical fitness, but your mind will keep you going for three hours of the match.
Since tennis players need to run, jump and change direction quickly, there is always a high risk of getting injured. The most common injuries affect the ankles, knees, wrists, shoulders and elbows. ‘Tennis elbow’ is a condition in which the tendons in the forearm get swollen from overuse.
To avoid injuries, keep the body supple and relaxed. When the body is tense, it is much more likely that an injury will occur. If you do experience a sprained ankle or wrist, for example, rest the body for at least a week until the joints regain their flexibility. If an injury persists or is a serious problem, consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Choosing a tennis coach
To improve your tennis game, you should consider taking on a tennis coach, which you can find at any club or academy. For parents whose children are taking up the sport, it’s important to discuss the training methods of the prospective coach to make sure that you have similar goals. While parents should accept that the coach knows more about the game, the coach should also respect the parents’ wishes in terms of the regularity and physical demands of the training sessions.
When partnering with a tennis coach, you should be ready to listen to all advice and be prepared to talk about your strengths or your weaknesses and also to work hard during every training session. A tennis coach can help turn you into a better player.
In Thailand, no specific certification or diploma is required to become a tennis coach. Pay extra attention when choosing your coach here to select somebody who can offer technical and tactical tips over a buddy who will simply hit the ball during hours without helping you progress. Word of mouth and friends recommendations are usually the go-to methods to find the one.
Tennis clubs and academies
Joining a club or academy not only helps to improve your game but also brings you into contact with lots of like-minded people. It offers the opportunity to participate in different programs and training camps that are lots of fun. Though Bangkok has more tennis clubs and academies than anywhere else in Thailand, including the excellent facilities at Le Smash Club and Tennis Academy Bangkok, other locations such as Phuket and Chiang Mai also offer excellent tennis facilities. In Hua Hin you will find the Paradorn International Tennis Academy. Paradorn Srichaphan was the first men’s singles player from Asia to be ranked in the top 10 of the ATP rankings, reaching a career high world no. 9.
Besides giving you access to experienced tennis coaches, joining a tennis club or academy offers the opportunity to enter local and regional competitions.
Most of the Thai tennis clubs offer internal competitions with some rewards. If you're looking to play against the best players in Thailand, take a look at the TATP Singha Open Tournament.
This is a great way of checking your progress as a player, and who knows maybe one day you’ll be able to participate in one of the four tennis ‘Grand Slams’—the French Open, the Australian Open, the US Open, and the most prestigious tournament of all, Wimbledon.
Watching the world’s top tennis stars in action is a source of great admiration, for their amazing athleticism, for their determination to succeed and for their sportsmanship in acknowledging an opponent’s skill. Tennis is truly a global sport, an activity that allows individual talents to excel at the same time as generating a strong sense of community.
So are you still excited to play? GO!