Undoubtedly, the most emphasis is on technique and certainly good technique will allow you to hit the ball with the most efficient use of the body, which will ultimately maximize the power and consistency of your swing.
However, there is another component to your swing in the real world of competition that is equally, if not more important than technique and that is the rhythm of your swing.
This is especially true of club players, who, even with less than perfect technique can still become competent players with a good rhythm to their swing, which will allow them consistency. And all competitive tennis players know the value of consistency.
For advanced players with excellent technique, the pressure of competition will result in a breakdown of rhythm before technique. The lack of consistency for these players and errors at the most inopportune times will be the result of a lack of rhythm and not a breakdown of technique.
So what is rhythm?
If technique is getting one’s racket from point A to point B, rhythm is how this is achieved. Rhythm is the relationship between your hand (and therefore your racket) and the ball. Rhythm will allow for a smooth and continuously flowing swing. It is a very natural relationship, consequently, it may be easier to talk about what disrupts rhythm, rather that how to get it.
What disrupts rhythm more than anything else is fear and anxiety? The lack of rhythm will show in your body through the hands and its lack of coordination with the ball. The hands will either freeze when the opponent hits the ball or will move too quickly at the beginning of the swing.
The lack of rhythm will inevitably result in being too close or too far from the ball at contact; or too late or too early. Usually when this happens, players will complain to the tennis gods that they are ‘not watching the ball’. This is rarely the case, but it is a convenient go-to excuse that satisfies our need to ‘know’, but rarely gets any results as can be evidenced by how often these words continue to be uttered.
When there is fear or desire in the competitor, technique and rhythm can be affected. However, even while we are in the throes of fear, if we can bring attention to the rhythm of our swing we will be able to maintain our level of tennis. Rhythm is moving the hands immediately but slowly at the beginning and then more rapidly before contact.
So, the next time you have any inclination to say to yourself ‘watch the ball’, instead move your hands slowly and smoothly to the side as soon as your opponent hits the ball and see what happens.