Kim Clijsters is out of the 2011 French Open and it was a shocking upset. She lost in three sets to Aranxta Rus of The Netherlands with the scores of 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
The really amazing thing about the match is that Clijsters had 65 unforced errors. In tennis, an unforced error is a shot that the player simply messes up. This can be hitting it into the net, hitting it long or other things. The determining factor in an unforced error is that your opponent has done nothing to cause you to mishit or misplay a ball. At most levels of tennis, unforced errors can be the difference between winning and losing since it forces your opponent to make winning shots against you.
Unforced errors are injuries to a tennis player as much as a sprained ankle. They can pop up out of nowhere and if not treated properly can lead to disastrous results. Many times when I am playing I’ll find myself suffering from a run of unforced errors and it is so hard to shake it.
How do you know if you’re suffering from unforced errors? When your opponent begins winning games off your unforced errors, you’re suffering. Everyone who plays tennis will commit an unforced error, but only when your opponent begins winning games is it an issue.
What causes unforced errors? A number of factors including physical injury, environment and mental lapses. Clijsters isn’t suffering from a physical injury, but they play a huge factor. If you’ve pulled your shoulder muscle, for instance, you won’t be able to generate the angle needed to get the ball over the net. Environmental factors such as the sun can cause a huge amount of unforced errors, especially with lobs. Mental lapses, though, are the number one reason. Your attention drifts, you start to get down on yourself, you focus on your last hit, etc. The problem is that the mental lapses have a way of cascading once the unforced errors start.
How do you treat unforced errors? Much money awaits the person who finds the ultimate solution. Sometimes it is as easy as recognizing what you’re doing wrong and taking steps to fix it. When my serve isn’t getting in, I’ll change my foot placement. Most of the time, though, it becomes infectious. Your serve infects your return, which affects your baseline shot. Next thin you know, you can’t get a ball over, in or on to save break point.
Clijsters is too good of a player to let this affect her long-term. Everyone has a bad day. It just happens hers was during the 2011 French Open.