Learn Tennis: How to Reduce Unforced Errors in 6 Easy Steps

by Scott Thyroff

Want to put a stop to those unforced errors?

Did you know that statistics show that if you can reduce your unforced errors by only 12%, that your odds of winning a game go up two times? That is just incredible.

What this means is.. just minor improvements in errors have a magnified impact on game score. In this no-nonsense article, I’m going to give you my top six ideas for immediately reducing unforced errors. Let’s get started…

#1 – Focus on the Power of 5 Shots

Last week I mentioned in this article the “5 Shots of Death Drill.” The premise is that if you can merely “hang in there” for five shots… more often than not, you will win that point.

There seems to be some sort of magic in 5 shots. Most recreational and even top level players rush to end points early. They often go for the hot shot winner – and I must admit I’m guilty of this as well – but when I turn my focus on “just hang in there for 5 shots” you’d be amazed how much you win.

This does not mean you have top be a “pusher.” It just means you must change your focus to CONSISTENCY instead of FANCY WINNERS. David Ferrer is the best example of this. The guy is called The Backboard for a reason. And despite many disadvantages, look how well he does on the pro tour against bigger, “stronger” players.

Think about it.

The lesson here: If you find yourself losing to guy who you shouldn’t be losing to, repeat to yourself during those rally’s “just five shots.”

#2 – Slow it D-O-W-N.

Slowing your game down will give you more control over your play. Playing slow in the beginning also helps to calm nerves. Build up your confidence to start, and transition into faster play as you get into the zone.

#3 – Keep Those Feet MOVING!

If I am focusing on the Power of 5 Shots and I am still finding myself missing shots – it is my “footwork” that is typically the culprit.

I immediately turn my focus to playing almost entirely on the balls of my feet. When my footwork is bad, I’m usually NOT in an athletic position, with knees bent, and playing on the balls of my feet. So I end up a bit late setting up for my shots.

Never stand still or flatfooted in a game of tennis. Be constantly on the move. Where is your opponent aiming next? Watch for clues, and don’t hesitate. Play on the balls of your feet and OVER-exaggerate the cure.

#4 – Change of Direction? Not.

Changing the direction of the ball almost always results in an error. Eliminate that chance by simply hitting the ball back to where it came from. It may not be the most groundbreaking strategy, but if the guy hits you a ball cross court… then hit the ball BACK to him/her cross court.

At the higher levels of tennis there is a concept known as Directionals. Directionals is about knowing when is the safest way to change the direction of the ball, eg. when should you go down the line vs. when you should not.

The point here is –> If you’re making too many errors, than shift your focus to NOT changing the direction of the ball. Hit the ball back to where it came from. Focus on 5 shots. Play on the balls of your feet. This will help you gain confidence and prepare you to make a more strategic move.

#5 – Higher Clearance over the Net.

This one sounds painfully obvious – but stick with me. If you are finding most of your errors are coming from the ball going into the net (rather than going long), change your focus to putting more spin on the ball.

Visualize the ball clearing the net by 3-4 feet!

This makes you put more spin on the ball during rallies and reduces your net errors. Again, sounds simple but this really works. Especially in the heat of a close match. (Now – the disadvantage is that if you put too MUCH spin on the ball, a smart player will start coming to net. But it’s amazing how unaware most players are and I find this is rare that they pick up on this adjustment.)

#6 – Stop Focusing on Your Technique – Focus on the Other Guys Core Weakness.

learn tennisOften when I am losing, it is because I am so focused on my own technique… instead of shifting my focus across the net to the players core weakness!

Case in point: I once played a three set match. I lost. Only later did I realize the opponent was left handed! I am embarrassed to admit this but it just goes to show how “in my own head” I was during this losing match.

To this day, I still have to repeat to myself – “What is this guys core weakness?” Then I attack it.


Everyone has a core weakness. Find it. And hammer on it. And you might just win even against a superior player.

Those are six ways you can reduce unforced errors. These work. Do me a favor and give these a try the next time you are finding yourself losing against someone that you should be beating – and watch the magic happen. Please post your comments below as I’d love to hear from you.

See you on the court,
Scott @ TennisBully.com
Home of the Tennis Serve

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