How to win a tennis match or play matches better is always on the mind of tennis players. If there’s one absolute truth in tennis, it’s that the pressure cooker of a match can get to any player, regardless of your tennis level.
Maybe the stronger player dreads the thought of losing to someone they consider a step down. It’s not just a match for everyone. it’s potential embarrassment instead of a chance to grow. The horror, right?
Now, post covid, there’s a fresh wave of adult tennis players gracing our adult tennis holidays in sunny Spain, it’s high time we delved into this topic sooner than later. I mean, let’s face it, tennis is all about playing. And winning tennis matches or playing them better is where your game is headed.
Whether it’s a laid-back hit with your buddy at the park, a friendly family match, or a high-stakes tournament, players wrestle with the concept of competition. The fear of loss, and the jitters that come with it. The sensation of losing control, the uncertainty of not knowing your best shot to take or suffering a serious dip in confidence are hurdles we all face as players.
Let’s be real, you’re going to lose matches, especially in the beginning. It’s all part of the learning process, But only if you’re focusd on the right things, will you grow from the loss.
How you felt that day. Were you on-time. How you feel in the warm-up, all matter in the match. How much information during the warm-up did you get on your opponent?
Do they move well? Strengths and weaknesses on-court? Rightie or leftie? A huge one for me is – body language. What does your opponet’s say? Full court game, topspin? Flat? And their serve? What was that like?
It all factors in. Especially when it’s just you out there in singles. Or the added weight of not letting a doubles partner down. Tennis matches can be stressful.
If you want to know how to win more matches or play them better you must know your game and your opponents game.
But how many times have I asked a player about what they knew about their opponent, what their strengths and weaknesses were. What tactics they used against their opponent, and if & when they tried another strategy or tactic at another point in the match? Most times I get a deer in headlights response.
When I ask a player how did they beat you, they often don’t know.
Playing tennis matches demands courage to taste the glory. And, hey, I get it, no one wants to hear this, but the golden nugget here is to play more matches. It’s where the real lessons are served, on and off-court.
Breath & Focus on the present
When the pressure mounts, our minds often jump to the future or dwell on past mistakes. Take a deep breath, reset, and focus solely on the present point. It’s crucial to stay in the moment, concentrating on your current shot and strategy. This mindfulness technique can prevent the pressure from overwhelming you and helps in making clear, focused decisions.
Develop a Reliable Routine
Create a pre-point routine that works for you. Whether it’s bouncing the ball a certain number of times before your serve or taking a deep breath before receiving, having a consistent routine can anchor you in stressful situations. It provides a sense of familiarity and control, calming those nerves and allowing you to channel your energy into your game.
Your mind is a powerful tool on the court. Use it to your advantage by holding a positive dialogue with yourself. Instead of dwelling on mistakes, mishits & winners focus on affirmations and positive reinforcement. Remind yourself of successful shots, past wins, or moments when you’ve handled pressure effectively. Encouraging self-talk can boost your confidence and help you perform at your peak, even when the stakes are high.
And remember you have a subconscious within you working overtime 24 hrs. a day. It’s important you know where your fears are coming from. They may present on-court but be rooted somewhere else. The more you breath and have a solid self talk routine. The more you’ll start to see where the resistance comes up. Whatever ‘that’ is, will present itself.
That could be affecting you in matches.
Play more Matches
This one bears repeating. Just like you go out there and drill down on hours of a perfect technique start incorporating match play into your practice sessions – on repeat. You need to develop the muscle of moving through doubt and swinging through nerves, frustration & fear.
Play matches against any playing level that will play you – for your own experience. Don’t only play players who suit your personal playing style and you enjoy playing against or even losing to.
It’s all experience on-court.
How did they beat you? What were their strengths and weaknesses? After the warm-up, what was the plan you had to beat them? Did you have one? If not, why not?
What worked for you and what didn’t? And add that into your next match. Make every match count. And before you know it, instead of focusing on your technique, your focus shifts to playing tennis.
Now you’re PLAYING to LEARN. Not merely learning to play. It’s a big change in mindset.
Remember, how to win a tennis match & improving performance under pressure is a gradual process. Continuously practicing these techniques in training sessions and matches will gradually build your resilience, making you better equipped to handle pressure situations on the court.
Keep at it, play more matches, and enjoy the game!