Be against you destroy the focus and the performance

During a tennis match it is very easy to see and hear one of the two opponents starting to speak against him/herself and to show behaviors (shaking the head disconsolately or shaking the racket like a stick), denoting a negative emotional condition and damaging the concentration on the next game. These sketches occur more rarely among professional players, they have been trained to effectively manage these moments of competitive stress. They are instead frequent among young people and above all they are very common among those tennis players who may be technically gifted but who have not understood that playing a match is not only a matter of physical strength and tennis technique.

To play tennis well, whatever your level, you need to want and know how to think and this becomes very difficult if you are in a state of anger or self-devaluation. Otherwise you don’t know to direct the attention. Everyone wants to win, the prize consists of hundreds of thousands of euros or an aperitif at the tennis club, and the moment you start the first exchange the emotional tension begins to grow and if you do not act to control it, already at the first 15-0 for the opponent you will have the opportunity to start to torment yourself, distracting yourself from the game. Tennis tests everyone’s beliefs: you can’t draw like in football, you can’t put the responsibility on your teammates, you can’t blame fate, there are too many shots you have to send out to lose a game. You have to take responsibility for the way you’re playing and reason to do something different from the very first moments of losing attention.

The question is, therefore, to do something different, easy to say when you watch someone else play but more difficult when you have to apply this simple rule to yourself. You build this positive attitude,  first of all by becoming the main fan of yourself and not the main denigrator. The tennis player after a mistake must always do two things to return to being focused on the game: encourage himself + give himself a simple technical instruction to avoid repeating the previous mistake. Only in this way will he be focused on the game. The game is like a battle, in which to overwhelm the enemy you have to trust the instructions received from your commander, which in this case is ourselves. Of course there may be exceptions to this way of acting, but precisely because such exceptions must be rare. Therefore, encouragement is necessary to maintain a high level of concentration and control of emotions while the technical instruction serves to indicate to the tennis player what / how to do to effectively spend this mental energy.

If this kind of attitude is not demonstrated on the court, the tennis player’s mind will be like a sailboat without the helmsman, that is, prey to the opponent’s play. I suggest to tennis players to establish a priori a checklist of things to do and to pay attention when they are in difficulty:

  • What to do when the first serve is out or in the net
  • What to do when I want to finish the game too quickly
  • What to do to reduce my anger or disappointment at ta specific moment

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