Month: May 2016

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How To Mentally Win Tough Matches

How To Mentally Win Tough Matches

The game of tennis is ultimately so complex, which makes it amazingly addictive. Not only do we need a proper technique and decent fitness level in order to compete and win matches, but we also need a “tennis mind”. It’s interesting that tennis players of all levels, from club gurus to pros, will share a similar story. The one about how the matches are won. They say that in tennis, it’s all in the head. Winning or losing – it is all up to us, the outcome that is determined in our mind. This does feel a bit far-fetched but winning against an opponent who is playing at the similar level of tennis as we are, or who plays a level above is just plain hard. Those are always tough matches which require those 101% from us, they require our best game and more. In those matches every shot and every point counts, and the outcome of those can make a difference between winning and loosing.

Let’s check out some of the tennis game mental aspects, that will help us improve our game and win more matches:

Don’t give up

This is a problem we see so often in recreational tennis. Heck, we see it on the tour as well with the example of Bernard Tomic who just gave up and played the match point with his racquet facing the wrong way.  Inevitably, some of us will give up the whole match, just because the set didn’t start so well for us. This is a huge mind barrier and we must never give up so easily. Just remember how hard it was for you to finish the set when you were 5:2 ahead of your opponent in some of your earlier matches, we’ve all been there. Why make it easy for your opponent to win? The outcome of a match in recreational tennis is so often determined by the first two or three games in the first set. Don’t be the one that gives up, rather make it hard for your opponent by fighting for each and every point. Losing a match in which you gave your best to stay in the match is much more satisfying in the end of the day, especially once the initial frustration wears off.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMxAjr_WbYg

Strategy

Winning tough matches means that you need to think about your strategy. It’s not advisable to play tennis on auto-pilot, as that often leads to wrong decisions in crucial points of the match. The warm-up at the very beginning of the tennis match is the perfect time to start thinking about the strategy. Hit different kinds of shots and see how your opponent reacts. The idea is to exploit his weaknesses and force him to always play the shots he is not comfortable with. Every tennis player has a weak spot. Once you’ve found it, exploit it to your benefit! You should also be prepared to change your strategy mid-match, in case it’s no longer working.

Mental game

Winning a tough match means that you are not only required to win on the court, but also to beat your opponent mentally. Some opponents are mentally stronger than others. Then we have opponents who do certain things that may annoy us, small things like grunting, gestures after winning a point, etc. In recreational tennis we have a lot of “mind games” during changeovers when players get a chance to chit-chat. Be strong and do not let these things get the best of you. Try not to get hooked as some opponents might just be looking for ways to put you off-balance mentally that way, especially if they are having a hard time beating you on the court.

Sportsmanship

Tennis matches against skilled opponents always drag a dose of competitiveness. Make it healthy and remain fair. Don’t cheat on the line calls and respect your opponent. Simple gestures like raising a hand or saying sorry when the ball hits the net and just barely lands on the opponent’s side of the court can go a long way towards making the match a more pleasant experience for both of the players.

Positivity

We all know how frustrating it can be to make the silliest of unforced errors. Still, we should always remain positive in the tough matches, as much as humanly possible of course. Positivity goes a long way, and this mental aspect will surely have an effect on our game on court. Remember, each and every point is a new opportunity for you to change the outcome of the match, no matter what the current score is!

Focus

How many times did you make a silly error just because you didn’t try hard enough? For example, you had a bad ball toss for a serve on a windy day, and yet you still decided to try to hit the ball, even though you knew it was going to end up hitting the net for sure. Focus is crucial, and we need to be prepared for each and every shot. Get ready for the return of serve, step into the ground shots and follow all the technique tips your tennis instructors have given you. Yes, you do need to perform all the necessary technique mechanics for each and every shot, in order to make it a successful one.

Patience

Build your points from grounds up and be patient. Usually the player who is more patient on the court, wins tough matches. Since you know that you’ll need to work hard to win the match, why not give it your best shot to remain patient in the long rallies. Don’t make rash decisions, rather wait for your opportunity to attack at just the right moment. This way of thinking will help you reduce unforced errors. Another benefit is that your opponent might start losing patience, so he or she will start making more errors.

Discipline

Have you noticed that the player who is constantly yelling or cursing on the court is the one that is loosing? On the other hand, the player who is winning is all cool and relaxed. Even pros have outbursts on the courts, but discipline is mandatory if you’re looking to win close matches. If you start acting out on the court, not only will you look silly to bystanders, but you’ll also effectively diminish other winning factors such as your focus, patience and positivity. You know what that means, right? You’ll probably end up losing the match.

Confidence

We could say that confidence comes as a sum of all the factors we mentioned above. Confidence comes from making good decisions, hitting great shots and winning matches. Be prepared to work hard to gain confidence and don’t get discouraged along the way. If you regularly practice playing tennis or take lessons, than you are bound to start winning matches over time and consequently boost your confidence. Just look at the ATP Tour pros, and Rafael Nadal especially. He surely has an amazing technique, fitness level and mindset. It’s just that the game of tennis is a rollercoaster ride for everyone, and losing confidence is often much easier than gaining it. The key is never to give up, rather get inspired by those ups and downs to work harder than ever on your game.

Which mental aspects are in your opinion the most important for a tennis player? Share your tips in the comments.

Hitting Your Tennis Opponent – Is It OK?

Hitting Your Tennis Opponent – Is It OK?

A shocking video has been spreading like fire on the social media recently featuring Jessie Levine (who is Madison Keys’ coach) where he suggests Madison to “peg” her opponent. He literally suggests that she should intentionally hit at her opponent, when she tries to take the net. The question arises, is this a valid or even legal strategy?

Truth is, there is nothing in tennis rules about intentionally hitting your opponent. So, from the “legal” standpoint – this is certainly a valid strategy. It happens all the time, especially in doubles. On the other hand, is it a moral thing to do? Is it ok to intentionally hit at our opponent in order to win the point?

Click here to see the video.

Is it that bad as it looks?

First of all, tennis players have great reflexes. They are used to tracking and hitting a tennis ball that travels hundreds of miles per hour. All tennis players have been hit by the yellow fuzzy ball, many times during training. Does it hurt? It depends where the ball hits you. Usually, your pride gets hurt the most. The most of the balls that do end up hitting you, won’t really hurt you. These are extreme cases where you didn’t have time to react or protect yourself with the racquet.

Should we intentionally hit at our opponents?

Pros rarely like to discuss this, and it’s sort of a dirty secret. In the end, most tennis players will agree that tennis (especially at the pro level) is all about winning the point. Having said this, we could say that hitting at our opponent is OK. Of course, we do need to consider the circumstances. If we intentionally smash the ball towards our opponent in a situation where it is completely irrational, for example when we have a fully open court and the opponent is standing outside of the court, then sure – it isn’t OK and you crossed the line. If you do that, you are effectively starting a fight that might get you expelled from the tennis club or tournament that you are participating in.

Hitting tennis opponent

When is it OK to hit at the opponent?

One of the very popular serving strategies is to go for the body shot. This means a serve that goes straight towards the opponent, like you are trying to hit him. This way, the receiving player needs to move out of the way in order to return the ball in play. It usually results in a forced error or a weak return.

Another strategy involves a player that likes to take balls early and attack the net. This is what Jessie was talking about in the video clip. When the opponent is rushing to take the net, it’s often a better strategy to aim and hit right back at him (or her). Also, if you can get the ball to land shortly, aiming at the legs of your opponent – then you are almost guaranteed to win the point. Body shot is always hard to return, especially when rushing towards the net. Body shot combined with a low ball feels almost impossible.

Next, we have a situation where the opponent is already at the net and has hit a great volley. We are scrambling with all our might to return the ball but it’s evident that passing shot is impossible. The shot we make won’t be powerful, and we don’t have the needed angles to work with. In this situation, even if it feels dirty, one of the best shots we can make is to aim for the body of the person at the net. They won’t have enough time to react, and we’ll win the point. Sure, it’s possible that we might actually hit our opponent but it’s worth the risk.

When playing doubles, it’s a perfectly valid strategy to aim your volleys at the net person. The person at the net doesn’t have much or any time to react and you can win a lot of points this way. It would be irrational to play any other way really. Also, when you get the high ball and prepare for the overhead, if you aim it towards the net person and make the ball really short so that it bounces right in front of them – you are almost guaranteed to win the point.

What to do when you hit your opponent

After all, tennis is all about the fair play. If you do end up hitting your opponent, you should gracefully apologize. Never ever cheer for the point that you’ve won by hitting your opponent in the face. It’s just wrong. Apologize for what happened, shake your opponent’s hand and continue playing, hoping that you don’t hit him again in the same match. Never aim to hurt your opponent as that is just wrong. If you think that your opponent is cheating or hasn’t played fair, it’s not cool to get the revenge by hitting him with the ball. Be the gentleman, be professional, stay fair and make each and every point count.

Finally, let’s check out some of the tennis body shots and reactions pros had in those situations.