The goal when using mental imagery is to see and feel yourself playing tennis within your own mind, as if you were actually physically playing tennis—seeing yourself as if a real life experience was happening.
This is also called mental rehearsal or visualization. And the research shows that the use of mental imagery in this fashion has a demonstrable, positive impact in helping you hit your shots when you need them.
Types of Imagery
There are four commonly recognized types of mental imagery. These are visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and olfactory—seeing, feeling, hearing, and smelling. But the two most relevant to tennis are visual and kinesthetic.
Visual imagery means creating pictures in your mind, using your mind's mental camera. This can be done from two perspectives. The first is internal. The second is external. Internal visual imagery means you imagine being inside your own body. You are seeing images as through your own eyes. You see the ball leave the opponents racket and coming toward you. You visualize what you actually see when you play points. This is called first person perspective.
Archie Dan Smith, MD is a retired physician living in Austin, Texas. Here is how he describes his tennis journey, leading to the creation of his work on muscle memory:
"I played for 2 years at my small town high school. For the next 10 years I played a dozen times a year with friends. Then I did not play for decades. About 10 years ago I began to play again. I was a mid-level 3.5 player but I could tell over time my game was slipping.
During this period I came up with and started implementing my theories on muscle memory. I started getting better. Two years ago I won the 3.5 men’s singles division in the long running main City of Austin tournament. I beat a 26 year old in the finals. Now I am recruited by USTA teams that have won regionals, and I play #1 doubles for a team in the Austin Tennis League. I conclude that there may be something to my theory."
Muscle Memory and Imagery: Better Tennis
This book is based on the science of muscle memory. Most practice only reinforces the status quo of the shots we are trying to improve. If you want to win you need techniques to create permanent muscle memory improvements. By practicing differently than you have ever been instructed, you can substantially improve your game. This book tells how.