Performing your best in every match can be a daunting and intimidating task. There are a variety of factors that can be controlled that will influence the outcome. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you can perform your best at each match.
1. Scout your opponent before the match begins and during warm-up
Here you can gain valuable information. Take note of their strengths and weaknesses on all aspects of their game. Things to pay close attention to include their ground strokes, volleys, overheads, serves, mobility, and emotional control. Use this information to formulate a plan of attack in order to capitalize on your strengths and exploit their weaknesses.
2. Know your own strengths
We often focus a great deal on our own weaknesses and shortcomings in our game. A great player will run their favorite plays throughout the match in order to highlight their strengths while exploiting their opponent’s liabilities. This will give you an advantage, allowing you to control the match, play to your strengths, while diminishing the chances of your opponent doing the same to you.
3. Keep your cool
No matter how much we train or prepare, we will inevitably miss a basic shot or commit an unforced error. Be in control of your emotions and keep your composure. Train your body to be relaxed and your mind to be focused in order to get to and remain in ‘the zone’. This is where you can return to after each point regardless of the outcome. Utilizing simple rituals, such as fixing your strings or bouncing the ball before each serve, will help strengthen your metal fortitude.
4. Play strategically
Tennis is as much a physical game as it is mental. Effective players formulate a plan for how to play each point. Control the speed of play (fast, aggressive, slower game) to cater to your playing style in order to throw your opponent off balance. Find what works and stick with it throughout the match. It is also important to be able to recognize moments when you need to adapt your style of play (offensive vs. defensive) in order to regain control while pushing your opponent out of ‘the zone’. The hardest thing to do is to finish a match. Never give up, a match is never over until it’s over. Remember always, fight not flight.
Written by Josh Bill, Former Director of Tennis at The New Rochelle Racquet Club