Finally, stage four is the most basic of all. Focus your attention on the spot while serving or the ball when returning. You may think you are doing this, but too often, players are internally distracted and are actually not focused on the ball. You need to get connected and absorbed into the ball. You need to track the ball in your opponent’s hand when he steps up to the line. The longer you track the ball and truly engage with it without thinking you will find that you are present and free. At this point, you don’t need any last second guidance from your worried/left-brain mind. You are done with your homework. The best thing you can do is focus on these external cues with intention and let it rip.
Research shows that amateur players do not track the ball as long as pro players when returning. Eyes wander. Thoughts and doubts emerge all of which interfere with stroke mechanics. The ball is your best friend. Be with it. Let your mind go neutral.
Please keep in mind that while I have organized these into stages to illustrate how the between point time is best spent, you may find that using a visual immediately after a mistake is most helpful to you. I make this caveat because dealing with errors can be very difficult for many players and having an action-oriented process to move on may be more effective than simply shifting attention and breathing. This is the one moment that I encourage you to experiment with. The fact is we sometimes need different things at different times depending on the match and how we feel.
Begin training yourself to use these stages as I’ve described and you can tweak things as you go….
Hope this helps! Sorry about the delay in finishing this series. My father in law passed away and it has been a challenging time.
Stay fearless and focused. Wishing you the best on and off the court!!