What can a 20-year-old teach you about playing tennis? Quite a lot, when she’s as savvy as this young talent. Belinda Bencic won the 2015 Rogers Cup, with wins over Serena Williams and Simona Halep.
Think Position, Not Power
Bencic had been co-coached for years by Martina Hingis’ mother, Melanie Molitor. You can see the influence most clearly in Bencic’s “court sense.” Like Hingis, Bencic anticipates well, and, more crucially, she moves forward to meet the ball whenever possible, rather than waiting for it to come to her. That’s a safer way to take time away from your opponent rather than swinging for the fences.
Play In More Than One Gear
While Bencic can do pretty much anything with the ball, she doesn’t overdo it. Her variations are subtle, controlled and never done for show. She may wrong-foot her opponent or sneak in and take a ball inside the baseline, but she won’t try to make her own shot perfect. She will change the direction of the ball, but only when she’s in an offensive position. And when she can win simply by staying steady and making one more shot, she’s not above doing that.
Learn to Juggle
At the 2015 US Open, one of Bencic’s opponents took a long bathroom break before the start of the third set. Bencic spent her down time juggling two tennis balls at top speed. Was this one of her secrets to success? Possibly. Do drills to improve your hand-eye coordination. Try throwing a ball against a wall and catching it with one hand, and then the other. Don’t just watch the ball; try to focus on its seams. And try juggling: There’s no better way to make your eyes and hands work together.
Comparing Bencic to Hingis is understandable, but what about to Rafael Nadal? The Swiss and the Spaniard may not play the same way, but they share a common approach to the sport. Each keeps their energy level high at all times, and brings a youthful exuberance to the court—tennis is never just a job for them. By staying upbeat and invigorated between points, they’re less likely to let their emotional guard
down during them.
Forgive and Forget
“I get frustrated really fast,” Bencic says, “but I also calm down really fast.” Such is the curse and blessing of youth. The 20-year-old may slam her racquet or bat a ball away in anger, but she rarely lets one bad game turn into two. On her way to the title in Toronto in 2015, Bencic sat down angrily after squandering a second-set lead. As she listened to the music over the loudspeakers, though, she began to smile and nod her head to the rhythm. She won the third set. When it comes to letting go of our mistakes, we could all use a youngster’s attention span.