I’ve already mentioned that just mimicking “outer form” is not what I would EVER recommend, even if it is the style(s) of the best tennis players.

First of all, even though each professional player gets the job done, there are no same forehands, nor backhands, nor any other shot on tour. While everyone is trying to accomplish the same thing every player is still different. There are pretty close “copies” out there: Gregor looks like Roger who was his idol, Rajeev definitely liked Pete when he was young or at least his coach did. But who didn’t? I have no intentions for sarcasm, because both Gregor and Rajeev are tremendous players. Even though having external similarities to their heroes, internally they are obviously filled up with their own courage, drive and everything else.

Secondly, even for the same player, the shot that is closest to be somewhat the same is serve. Everything else is definitely not. Even if looks similar, all shots are played in the dynamic environment: from different positions on the court, with different amount of running and different set ups due to differently coming ball from opponent and, as a result, with different purpose, which includes direction, power, spin or net clearance. As a result pros shots don’t even look the same or ideal, because it is impossible and unnecessary to take same perfect swing when the ball is coming with such variety and most of the time at such speed.

So how do we practice and master the skills that are so NON-STANDARD!!?? Once gain, it boils down to the coach’s vision and knowledge, as well as coach’s ability to break down the skill into conceptual components and have a valid progression for teaching and developing it. For example: “finish your swing over the shoulder” is very dangerous, yet popular “outer form” instruction; “compete to make contact with every possible ball in front of the body” is fundamental technical concept. Real genius coaches can do even more: they feel what exactly would make the difference for each individual player and know how each player learns the best way. It is the art at its best, in my opinion.

Daniel Coyle in his great book “Talent Code” calls the master coaches’ knowledge system “grid”. He, also, refers to personal and social skills/abilities of those “mass producers” and leading coaches talent “hotbeds” that allow them to pick from the grid the exact elements that each student needs and convey them with the highest level of empathy. Once again, what is suggested by coaches to their students is absolutely important for the potential development, regardless of what the student’s final goals are. How far the students will take their games is up to them, what we teach them to improve is totally on us.