Top Five Mental Mistakes Tennis Players Make (By Ed Tseng Pro of the Year USTA 2005 and author of "Game. Set. Life.")
Many tennis matches are won and lost on the six inch tennis court between your ears.
You probably know the mental side of tennis is the most important factor in predicting
success on the court. But have you ever been taught to be mentally tough?
Physical skills take a while to develop, but you can instantly become a better
player by having the same attitude and mind-set as a Roger Federer. Below are
my top five mental mistakes that tennis players make.
Mistake #1: Playing with a negative attitude. Have you ever missed a first serve and said to yourself,
"Don't double fault!" and you then proceed to double fault? Many players tend to focus on what they're
doing wrong in a match and end up frustrating themselves even more. The fact is you rarely fix a
problem when you focus on it with a negative outlook. By shifting your attitude, your energy goes into
playing better rather than worrying about making another mistake.
Mistake #2: Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses. Sure, it's fun to practice what you're good
at, but it doesn't help improve your weakest link. If you have a killer forehand but no backhand and
your opponent sees that in the warm-up, guess what? They're going to hit everything to your backhand.
Although it seems obvious, most of your practice should be spent improving your weaknesses, not your strengths.
Mistake #3: Thinking winning is everything. If this was truly the case, wouldn't you just play people
you knew you could beat? That would get old fast. Facing a challenge is the best way to learn, and
losing a match is the best motivation for boosting your game. If you focus only on winning, you'll end
up putting too much pressure on yourself and quickly lose the joy in playing the game. Winning is a
byproduct of having fun and focusing on the right process.
Mistake #4: Performing according to your emotions. The biggest difference between elite players and
average players is that when most players feel tired, frustrated or unfocused, they play that way, while
the best players know how to channel their emotions into game-winning power. Energy is a state of
mind, and learning how to summon it when you feel it the least is the key to rising to the top of your game.
Mistake #5: Setting vague goals. Almost all of the players I work with cite "becoming a better tennis
player" as their number one goal. But what they don't realize is that goal won't actually help them get to
the next level. The best way to set goals is making them specific and giving them a realistic timeframe.
With that in mind, an effective goal would be to say something like: "I want to be able to get nine out
of ten of my serves in play by the end of the month."
(From NetPlay Magazine, Fall 2008)
Mental Game tips (By Brit Lay, Former Tennis Director, Westborough Tennis Club, Ma)
Self talk is key to maintaining focus and staying mentally tough.
Keep your thoughts and self talk positive.
Here are some specific tips:
1) If you go to the line to serve with negative thought in your head, (or if you are still winded or upset from
the previous point), step back, re-focus on a positive and start your serving ritual again with a better mindset
on what you intend to do. (Do the same when getting ready to return serve).
2) If the score is "Your ad," remember what "ad" stands for - "advantage." Tell yourself as you get ready
to serve or return, that "I have the advantage", the upper hand. If the score is "ad out," remind yourself
of times when you have come back from love-40 to win the point!
The night before you play a match, just before falling asleep, visualize yourself serving the way you want to
serve, returning the ball for winners,and hitting crushing groundstrokes, blistering overheads, and angle volleys.
Feel what it feels like to hit those shots and picture that being the way you will play in the match.
Fantasy (virtual) tennis will carry over into the real deal. Then forget about it and go to sleep.
Afraid to Hit the Ball? (By Mike Stair, Wilmington NC)
Have you ever been afraid to hit the ball during the match, so you end up pushing it?
Are you aware you are pushing the ball, and can't do anything about it?
This is very common in players who are afraid to lose. Why are you afraid to lose?
It's a game- ask yourself before a match if your wife will stop loving you if you lose
this match, or your husband, or your parents.
Will losing the match really cause someone to stop loving you? Or think less of you?
Take the pressure off yourself and enjoy hitting the ball!
If you are pushing the ball, aren't you taking away the real reason for playing tennis?
Hitting the tennis ball pure is the reason why we play. When we are hitting it pure, solid, and clean, we are
confident, we enjoy being on the court, we enjoy playing our opponent, and we enjoy the competition.
That is the real reason you're out there, so if you are afraid to hit the ball, ask yourself why you are playing the game?
Frustration you say? Forgetaboutit!! (By Phil Naessens, Corfu Greece)
Frustration. As I probably say a hundred times a day, tennis resembles life in many ways.
I don't know of a single person who hasn't ever had frustrating experiences in life, and the tennis
court is certainly no different. There is good news, and that news is simple: Tennis is supposed to be fun!
Tennis is supposed to be the place where you take OUT your frustrations, not ADD to them and in this
lesson, I will attempt to help you FORGET about the frustration, and FOCUS on the fun!
Laugh it off and focus on your next shot
What's the most important shot to focus on? The one you just missed or the next ball?
If you answered "the next ball" you are absolutely correct! Why? Because there isn't anything you can
do to change the shot you just missed. Your next shot is the only thing you can try to control, so that
should be your sole focus.
Frustration usually occurs when we think about the shot we just missed, so, instead of dwelling on the
ball you just 'shanked', laugh it off and focus on your next shot. I can't begin to tell you how
learning this very simple thing helped me deal with the frustrations that I feel whenever I 'shank' one.
Laugh off the 'shank' and focus on the next shot to help keep the frustration away!
Your opponent is a much stronger player then you are?
There is probably nothing more frustrating then playing against someone who is a much stronger player
than you are. Watching balls that you normally hit for winners whistling back at you twice as fast as
you hit them can be tough to take. I know this is going to sound like a cliché, but you should take
it as a compliment that this stronger player is hammering you. Sounds kind of strange, huh?
Usually, when someone is playing against a weaker opponent, the tendency is to pull back and 'carry'
the weaker opponent to make a match of it. In this situation, your opponent is taking YOU seriously,
which is a compliment! Just think to yourself "Now I know how people who play Roger Federer feel"
and you'll forget all about getting pounded. So just go out there, laugh, smile, and enjoy yourself.
Remind yourself why you play tennis
Why do you play tennis? For the exercise? For social reasons? To get outside in the sun? To escape
the pressures of the day? To compete and play tournaments? To hang with your friends?
Each of these reasons are great reasons to play tennis. Notice the word 'play'. When you play,
you're supposed to have fun, right? Tennis is SUPPOSED to be fun! Games are supposed to be fun!
Of course, everyone wants to play well, to win, and to compete hard, but it's also supposed to be fun!
Cursing and yelling at the sky isn't a lot of fun nor is breaking your new $300 racquet, is it?
It's also not going to change a single thing except ADD to your frustration (not to mention lighten
your wallet!) Just remind yourself why you play tennis and forgetaboutit and just have fun!
I believe that people take the game far more seriously then they should. Sure, competitive tennis
is serious, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it's still supposed to be fun.
For people who do play for the competition, taking lessons is a great way to ease the frustrations
that you're feeling from your competitions. 99% of the tennis playing population never makes a
nickel playing the game, so why let frustration take away the immeasurable joy that playing the
game of tennis can provide? As Tony Soprano would say "forgetaboutit" and have fun!
©2008 PhillyFlash Enterprises All Rights Reserved Worldwide
The Correct Response to Difficulty (By Phil Naessens, Corfu Greece)
Tennis resembles life in many ways. Difficulties and adversity happen in every single tennis match
just as they do in real life. How we choose to deal with these situations is the difference between
success and failure and in this lesson I will give you some tips on how to hopefully overcome these
situations and produce a far different result.
Maintain a positive attitude no matter what the situation
Positive thinking is the most important aspect in handling difficulties. I can tell you from my own
experiences that we can be our own worst enemy on a tennis court. Negative thoughts cloud our judgment
and affect our play. We've all heard the saying "You are what you eat", right? Well, I believe that
we are what we think we are. Instead of telling yourself "How did I miss that shot" or "I'm playing
terribly today," try saying things like "Next time I'll bend my knees and make that volley" or " This
time will pass because I know I can play better then this".
This type of positive self-talk is essential to maintaining a positive attitude during a tough time in
every match. Another thing you can try when things are going wrong; think about someone or something
special to you (fortunately for me there's someone that makes me smile) for a second or two and then
go back to the task at hand.
Go back to your foundation and get back on track
Hopefully you have a set style of play and have a certain 'game plan' that you usually follow during
a match. Don't let a few mistakes deter you from executing this plan. What's needed here is to get
back to the basics, or your foundation. If you are a player who hits big ground strokes and relies on
hitting winners, try hitting a few balls deep in play and look to attack a short ball.
This will help you get into a rhythm and gain some confidence in your ground strokes.
If your game plan revolves around your service game, take some pace off of your first serve and raise
your percentage. This will also help to increase your confidence and get your game back on track.
Don't Give Up!!
The key here is never to give up until the last point is over. Retreating during difficult times
won't teach you anything. Hang in there because you really never know exactly what will happen during
a match. Your opponent could start having difficulties so keep your feet moving. Take the time during
the change over and think about just what is really happening.
Ask yourself how your opponent is beating you or what exactly is going on? For example: If your
opponent is hitting winners from the baseline, try hitting some short angled slice shots near the
service lines and see what happens. Most club players are pretty one dimensional so by mixing things
up and taking your opponent out of their comfort zone, you might cause them some difficulty and turn
a hopeless situation completely around. The important thing is to never give up in difficult situations.
©2008 PhillyFlash Enterprises All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Visualization Into Reality (By Dan Horowitz)
You have just spun your racquet and won. You choose to serve first.
Your breathing is calm but you are nervous. You have set your feet on the baseline to serve and are bouncing
the ball in front of you. As you bounce the ball, visualize hitting your best first serve down the middle
of the deuce court jamming your opponent. Visualize following the path of your serve with your feet.
You move forward as smoothly and effortlessly as a fish moves through water.
Your opponent hits a return at you. You are on-balance, your nose is over your belly button and over the
base of your feet. Your five toes feel the court beneath you as you strike the ball in the
sweet spots of your racquet. The ball lands deep in your opponent's court, then you receive a weak lob and
you strike an angled overhead winner with grace. Achievement is turning this visualization into reality.
Smile and enjoy the game.