When two players engage on a tennis court there are so many possibilities as to the outcome. A major factor determining outcome is the mental state of the players.

When a player is lacking confidence it is obvious in his demeanor and in “backing off” his shots. He hits with less deliberation and mistakes pushing and prodding the ball over the net with keeping the ball in play while creating an opportunity. Even more agonizing is when a player is leading and in position to win a game, set or match because he has played with confidence and determination,but promptly becomes defensive and ineffectual.

Whereas previously he had been dominating with his first serve or his forehand, suddenly he is pulling his serve into the net, or pushing his forehand into the middle third of the court where it sits up nicely for the opponent who dispatches it with ease, or holding ground at the service line in the hope that he won’t be lobbed but somehow or other will be able to still volley effectively. All totally irrational scenarios.

If it happens only occasionally it’s not too big a problem but if it occurs frequently it becomes a major problem and will impede the progress of your game and the success of your quest. It will become a habit.

To increase the possibility of success in a match the mental state must be, that when ahead, a player must close out the situation. He must take the point to the opposition, be pro-active rather than re-active. If he has gained a dominating position in the play he must continue to play in the manner which brought him to that point.

Nerves and lack of confidence or belief happen. But they can be overcome, or even avoided, if a player becomes aware of the problem and toughens up his mental state. You can’t change what you don’t know exists. Spend less time agonizing over your inadequacies or bad calls, and instead be more aware of the tempo of the match, the big points, the plays that are hurting you, your plays that are working for you. Really see the reality of the match. Don’t dwell on anything – most matches are too fleeting.

Don’t surrender – become aware of the adjustments you need to make, then execute them. The more you attempt to discipline your mental game the more successful you will be. Negative mental habits are hard to break but the repercussions are great and well worth the effort.
Originally published in the Laguna News Post

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