Tennis is no different to any other sport, in that it is made up of four, distinctive elements. These are technical, tactical, physical and mental. In the case of tennis, each of these elements can easily be put forward as being the most important for success. However, perhaps the most difficult to control and manage during a match, is the mental aspect of the game. Will a tennis coach help? Definitely a yes.
The mental aspect of tennis is so important, because it can influence a huge number of things during a match, good and bad. It can influence your own performance, your opponents performance, the next point, the crowd and your state of mind when you leave the tennis court.
There a number of things which need to be done, in order to have the best mentality for a tennis match. Obviously, off the court problems can come in to play and have a negative or positive effect on your game. Take Andy Murray for example, he has claimed that his game has shown signs of improvement since he got married. Why would Andy’s tennis improve because of something that happened in his private life? Perhaps he feels more relaxed off the court and takes that on to the tennis court, allowing him to open up and play his natural game.
Even events off the court, which would be considered negative, can be turned to the advantage of a player. Stan Wawrinka separated from his wife, a major life event, not long before the French Open and then went on to win the tournament.
Other mental issues that can affect your game include, when you are waiting for something to happen, instead of taking control, feeling over-whelmed by the situation and doubting yourself during the course of a match.
It’s clear, that each person will mentally react differently to different events and circumstances, both on and off the court. However, there are a number of mental strategies available for you to follow, which will immediately up your tennis game. Three simple one’s, which you can incorporate in to your game right now, are Focusing on Set-up Points, Keeping Your Cool and Controlling Body Language. Mastering each of these, will have a very positive impact on your game.
Focus on Set-up Points
Many tennis players, especially those at the lower levels of the professional game and amateurs, make the mistake of focusing too much, on the wrong point. It seems as though, once a game has reached the stage where you can win a point to take the game, such as at 40-30, 40-15 or during an advantage, this point takes on much more significance, than any other point during the game. Before that, make sure you know how to count score in tennis.
However, this can often lead to a careless approach, on what is actually the most important point during a game, the set-up point.
A set-up point, is any point, which if won, will lead to the opportunity to win the game during the following point. Examples of which are 30-30, 30-15 or deuce. Psychologically, this is a huge point because by winning it, you put yourself in a position to win the game and also place your opponent under pressure. The more often you win a set-up point, the more often your opponent will be under pressure and it’s that continued built up of pressure, which can make them crack.
At club level, it can be surprising how many extra games you can win, by focusing on set-up points. Chances are, your opponent is not aware of their significance, all they will feel is the pressure of having to stay in the game on the next point.
The main things to concentrate on when playing a set-up point are:
- Ensure you at least get the ball in on your first shot
- Remain sensible during the point and do not take any unnecessary risks
By following these guidelines and focusing on the set-up point, you can win more of them and really pile the pressure on your opponent throughout a match.
Keep Your Cool
Depending on your age, you may remember when Greg Rusedski really lost his cool during a second round match at Wimbledon. At the time, he was winning the match against Andy Roddick but after his outburst, his performance deteriorated and he went on to lose.
So what happened for Greg, that caused him to lose the match? Well, he lost control of himself and his focus shifted from the actual match, to something which was actually out of his control. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening to you on court. Granted, it’s not always easy to keep calm during a match, but these points are sure to help.
Try focusing on what you are doing right. Even if you are spraying the ball out of play regularly and getting worked up about it, there must be something you are doing on the court, which is right. It could be your serve, your movement or even your stance. Whatever it is, think about it and this will help take your mind off the things that troubling you can keep your cool.
Immediately take a few deep breaths following a bad shot. Focus on what it was you did that resulted in the shot, rather than the outcome. By doing this, not only will you remain calm, you may also figure out a resolution, which will stop you from repeating the bad shot in the future.
If you are feeling angry and it does start to surface, try and channel it through your next shot, rather than an aggressive act against your equipment. Sure, this is easier said than done but by mastering it, you will become a better player.
Control Body Language
Have you ever noticed, how your opponent throws their racquet down in frustration or their head drops during a match and you think ‘Great, I’ve got them here’? Well, it’s their body language which has given you that signal, one which has added to your confidence levels of getting a positive result from the match.
Everything you do with your body during a tennis match, is giving off signals to your opponent. For example, pumping your fist after you have played a good point, giving the impression you have plenty of energy left by moving quickly between points and keeping your head and shoulders up at all times, will each send out the signal to your opponent, that you are on top and in control.
If you force your body to behave in this way, whether you are actually feeling it or not, it will act as a pick-me-up and also provide food-for-thought for your opponent. Never show signs of frustration, lack of confidence or tiredness during a match, fake it if you have to!
The three mental strategies above, are straight forward and can easily be implemented in to your tennis game today. Perhaps take one at a time, use it until it becomes second nature and then move on to the next. Before you know it, you will be mentally attuned to outperform even the toughest opponents on the court.
Now, go on court and put into practice what you learnt. Given enough time and practice, you will be much stronger mentally to give your opponent a good run.
Stay Tuned! We are giving away more tennis tips along the way, to help you get play better. All for the love of the sport 🙂
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