Not getting into the tournament in Felixstowe turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Having lost early in both Manchester and Ilkley, I was not in a good place both mentally and physically. Tennis is such a mental game and in difficult times it becomes a mental struggle. Thankfully, this free week came at just the right time and I’m glad I took full advantage of it.
I spent the week just outside of London. My dad and I stayed with a good family friend of ours, Nigel Sears, who also happens to be a world renowned coach who’s coached players such as Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova, and Amanda Coetzer. We worked hard and had a training session on court every morning, followed by gym work and/or a swim. We also managed to get in a few rounds of golf in the afternoons, which was a nice change up. I like to play golf whenever I can find the time. It’s a new challenge and great for getting my mind off of tennis for a few hours. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to hit a stationary ball, what’s game!
Back to the tennis. This week, my dad, Nigel, and I talked a lot about the importance of the shoulder turn on both the forehand and the backhand and lining up your shoulders and your feet with your target. In the last few months and possibly years I’ve got into the bad habit of opening up too early on my strokes, especially the backhand. So my primary objective this week was to exaggerate my shoulder turn and then let my racquet head lead the way through contact.
This simple tip brought back a bit of feel to my shots and gave me a lot more power and penetration through the court. We also worked on my serve a lot, as I felt my serve really let me down in the last few tournaments. We concentrated on my toss and keeping my left arm to the right of my head. I have a tendency to pull my left arm over to the left of my body before contact, which not only feels like it is destroying my left shoulder, but also causes me to pull my left shoulder down and therefore leads to power loss and a lot of serves ending up in the net.
I could not be more happy with the progress I’ve made this week. I have renewed confidence and more importantly belief in my strokes. Obviously the challenge now is to hit hundreds of balls in order to make these technique changes feel perfectly natural so that I can hit these shots under pressure without having to think too much.
I leave England on Wednesday morning. I’m heading back to LA for 2 weeks of hard work leading up to the Challenger in Aptos, Santa Cruz.