We all know those days, when we are “on fire” – I play better than any other day, everything I touch goes in and the tennis courts seems as big as a football field. The next day I walk in onto the court with high expectations from the previous day and I find out that my level is not the same and actually with every point I play worse and worse. How is such a swing in playing level possible? How is it possible that one day I feel like Roger Federer and the next like my neighbor’s wife?
Tennis is from the most part a mental game, where the body does what the mind tells it and allows it to do. When the mind is not “cool” the body cannot function properly either. Every player in his/ her life experienced and hit the best possible forehand, but also the worst one. The body naturally knows how to perform this best forehand and also the worst forehand. The trick is, to direct the mind in a way so that it signals the body to play only the good shots, not the bad ones.
1. Stay in the game
A human mind is a funny thing. Just like the heart, the mind cannot voluntarily stop functioning. You can try it right now, stop reading this article and for 30 seconds try to turn off your mind and think about nothing. Difficult, eeeh? The mind just have to keep working and thinking. Sometimes it is handy, but other times this can have a negative effect. E.g. when a player between the points starts to think about what to cook for dinner. He doesn’t even realize it and suddenly he is 3 games behind. In a tennis match, it is important to stay focused and not to let the mind wander and think about unimportant things. For this, one can prepare through various concentration exercises. Among the more simple ones and for me the easier ones are breathing exercises (we can elaborate on these more in our future blog posts).
2. Don't be afraid of the result
Third set, tiebreak, 5:5 on points and I begin to think what will happen if I lose the match, what if I make a mistake now. With such thoughts I create mental pressure on me where the body will follow the fear of the mind and instead of an attacking forehand I suddenly play a soft safety ball in the middle of the court. In such cases it is important to eliminate these fearful thoughts from my mind, stay concentrated, not to think about anything and let the body do what it knows best and let it work on its own. But how to accomplish this? Again, probably the best method is to use the breathing. In a normal state, one must always keep breathing where the body knows how to do this unconsciously and automatically it performs it well. When I start to focus on how I breathe I don’t allow the mind to think of the score and I still stay focused.
3. Think positively
The worst what one can do during a tennis match, or generally in life, is to start thinking in a negative sense. I made a mistake again. I hope I will not double fault. I play terribly today. Remember, what the mind thinks, the body does. When I tell myself: “I play awful today,” the mind starts to recollect the days when I played bad and the body will follow suit. When I make a mistake it is better when I tell myself: “Next time I play it better, I play really good tennis today.” When you want to be a champion, you have to learn how to think like one. Before I go serve, I do not think: “Please do not double fault now,” but instead I think: “Now I hit an ace,” and even better is not only to say this, but also to believe it.