80% of a tennis match is intervals between points, games and sets. And what are you doing during this time? (THINKING). For most of you, your brain is responding to your EMOTIONS! ‘How did I miss that shot?” “He was so lucky on that shot” “I’m thirsty” “I can’t believe how bad I am playing” “I have this match in the bag!” etc., etc., etc…
This is how most of you spend 80% of your match time! Even in your training sessions, the ratio between action and thinking are disproportionate. That mental part will always take more of your court time than hitting and chasing balls.
Rarely do players use that 80% of time to mentally prepare themselves for the next point or the next drill. Tennis competition is a tough challenge. You cannot depend just on talent, your racket, physical fitness, and tactical skills or even on hard work to play your best.
Your psychological skill set plays the main role for 80% of your tennis matches. The way you can control your emotions, keep your focus, motivation and self-esteem high will determine the outcome of most matches.
You just have to realize that you are playing against a similar player with similar abilities and with the same desire to win that you have. “It’s two brains fighting each other” ( Marat Safin). For example, visualization is a big part of the mental training.
You can visualize motor skills, techniques and strategies. That way you are giving your mind a great weapon. You can use this skill set (visualization) before the match, during the match and after the match.
Anticipation and rituals are also important. We all know that good tennis players are a combination of technical, physical and tactical factors. Of course we cannot forget things such as nutrition, hydration, stretching, warm up and cool down.
All these little things are vital components when it comes to competition. But the psychological aspect also must be a part of our regular training sessions. Tennis is much more than hitting balls over the net, good footwork, offense or defense and good equipment.
Tennis “Is about using your head” (Marat Safin).Tennis is also about concentration, desire, self-esteem, self-motivation, positive self-talking, attention, analysis, emotional control, creativity and the list can keep going.
Tennis players should try to develop rituals that let them feel comfortable with themselves even if things are not going their way. You can develop rituals for almost every aspect of your game. Before the match you can visualize your own strokes and analyze strengths and weaknesses of the opponent.
During the match you can use rituals to visualize serving and returning, before and after the points. After the match during the cool down, you can visualize what you did right and what you need to work on.
Remember that 80% of every tennis match or of a training session you will be thinking. Not performing tasks, not hitting strokes. You must make that 80% (intervals between points, games and sets) just as valuable of a skill set as your strokes, footwork and strategy until that 80% becomes the core and foundation of your performance.