I have been a recreational tennis player for 6 or 7 years. Since fall 2020, I have started to play some matches. (You can see my statistics here.) After starting to play competitively, I have read a lot about tennis strategies because obviously it is more fun to win than to lose. I soon learned (both from theory and experience) that one of the easiest ways to improve your match results is to be more consistent, that is, to reduce unforced errors. So I have been paying attention to consistency and my games have improved.
My whole family also plays tennis competitively. Although tennis is fun, it has been at times frustrating that my son loses to apparently weaker opponents: his basic tennis skill such as serve, ground stroke, and volley seems better than some opponents, but he could still lose. The reason is because he is not so consistent. I have tried to preach him the importance of being consistent, but so far I have been unsuccessful, probably because for a boy of his age, it’s more fun to hit winners and tricky shots than to just get the ball in play.
So, after some trial and error, we came up with a drill to improve consistency that is actually fun. Here is how it works.
- You and your opponent play points in a singles court. (It can be just a rally, or a tiebreak style with serves.)
- You get 1 point if you hit a winner.
- You get 1 point if your opponent makes a forced error.
- You get -2 points if you make an unforced error.
- You win the game if you reach 10 points or your opponent reaches -10 points.
In competitive tennis, the quantity (your winners) + (opponent’s forced errors) - (your unforced errors) is known as the aggressive margin, and to win matches it is important that your aggresive margin stays positive. The goal of the drill described above is to improve the aggresive margin (except that unforced errors have twice as much weight). The nice thing about this drill is that it can be fun even if the skill level of you and your opponent is very different: the weaker player can win by trying to return everything, if the stronger player makes sufficiently many unforced errors. Try it!