They are invaluable pieces of advice that can assist you in your quest to play better tennis. One of the great aspects of tennis is that it requires a lot of strategy and mental toughness in order to be successful on a consistent basis. In other words, you have to use your brain to win. There is far more to the sport than just hitting the ball as hard and deep as you can. That explains part of the sport’s appeal.
However, that mental aspect also can discourage many a player. Players with lots of physical talent sometimes underachieve due to problems with their approach, mental hang-ups that hold them back, a lack of confidence in their game and ability to win. This occurs even at the highest levels of the sport. Many times you will see a player who has long had the physical ability to be a top-10 player “break through” when “he gets his mind right.”
Tips on Playing Tennis Focus on All Parts of the Game
Often, that has a lot to do with maturity as the player gains a serenity based on renewed confidence in his skills. Do you need proof of this phenomenon? Watch how many double faults are hit at crucial times by a player who is known to be weak mentally, especially on the women’s side. You’ll realize right away that a player’s mental approach has a huge impact on the physical game, perhaps more in tennis than in many other sports.
Part of the reason for that is that tennis is a technique sport. That is to say that the mechanics of the sport must be mastered and become very finely tuned. Tennis is not a sport of brute strength or speed. As a technique sport, tennis is prone to more breakdowns when the mental fitness of a player is not up to par.
Tennis can also be a very lonely sport as you are out on the court by yourself, having a bad day mentally and getting pummeled because of it. It is not a good feeling. To help you avoid such days, here are some tips on playing tennis that will improve the vital mental portion of the game.
Tips on Playing Tennis #1: “Only the Ball” –
A handy phrase that has helped many players has been “only the ball.” This forces you to focus on what counts—hitting the ball correctly and solidly.
If you’re upset, angry, nervous or distracted, try to repeat this phrase to squelch any negative thoughts and put your attention where it needs to be. This can be especially helpful when you are losing.
If you are in a tailspin in the course of a match, concentrate solely on hitting the ball on the sweet spot. Many times, you will begin to prolong rallies and win many of them.
“Only the ball” can get you right back into the match.
Hitting the ball hard also reminds you of the fun of playing tennis, the joy of a well-struck shot. If your opponent continues to play out of hihe or sher mind, hats off to him/her. For your part, you should concentrate on hitting the ball on the sweet spot of your racquet. Many times, the rest takes care of itself. This is one of the best tips on playing tennis.
Tips on Playing Tennis #2: Take A Vacation Off the Court, Not On Court! –
One of the key times in the course of a game when players take a mental vacation is during the return of serve. Ask any top player and he or she will tell you that this is true. If it plagues the pros, it can sidetrack us amateurs as well. If the person serving takes a lot of time to get set, has a high toss, etc., it can be even more tempting to zone out. Here are a few pointers on keeping your mind in the game:
a) While the server is getting set, focus on something that does not distract you from the task at hand, such as your strings or your rocking back and forth to maintain your balance.
b) As the ball is tossed, try to watch it out of the server’s hand and say to yourself, “baaaallll.” Again, you are placing your focus on where it needs to be–the ball!
c) you might want to continue your monologue with “hit” as the ball is struck and “bounce” when the ball bounces on your side, then “hit” when you return it. Another couple of ideas that can help with single-mindedness on the return of serve are to tell yourself how important the point is and think through a couple of options for your return.
Do not think of 10 options, though, because by the time you are done weighing them all, the ball will be past you. Say to yourself, “Let’s try to put this one deep to the backhand,” then try to execute that shot in a slow, controlled motion.
Tips on Playing Tennis #3: Work on Proper Shot Execution-
Throughout any match, there has to be a balance between plan and execution, analysis and crunching the ball. Too much plan leads to distraction and weak strokes. Not enough plan leads to hitting the ball randomly and often becoming the victim of your foe’s plan. If you hit a totally unforced error, take a deep breath and think about what you did wrong: did you rush the shot? did you take your eye off the ball? was your backswing too short? your follow-through non-existent?
Tips on Playing Tennis #4: Avoid Dwelling on Past Mistakes-
Once you have an idea of what malfunctioned, say, “I won’t do that again.” Try to hit the same shot again as soon as possible.
For example, if you blow an easy volley, go to the net soon after and hit another volley, this time with control and force. That will help you to erase the mistake and you will have a nice piece of auto-correction.
Don’t dwell on your mistakes; correct them as soon as possible and move on. The absolute worst thing to say is, “I can’t hit a backhand today.”
That resigns you to blowing many backhands for the rest of the match and having an illogical excuse to fall back on.
Tips on Playing Tennis #5: Be Prepared to Change Your Game Plan-
One of the other key tennis playing tips is to go into the match with a versatile approach. Experts say that a key factor in psychological health is the belief that you are empowered to choose different courses of action to address a problem. That problem might be falling behind in a match to an opponent who seems to be playing spectacularly. Guess what? You need to move to plan B. If hitting deep to the backhand and rushing to the net is resulting in a majority of lost points, stay back and work from the baseline or try to lure him or her up to the net, etc. Develop the mental ability to switch course in the midst of a match.
Learn to hit to every part of the court with a variety of spins. As you try variations of plan B, you might discover that your adversary has a huge problem hitting slices to the forehand side. Ahh! Plan D worked! Now you can keep on slicing to that forehand and get back into the match. You can also try variations on your serve to bother your opponent. You have lots of control over that as well. Vary your spins, speeds and placement to steal some games on your serve and get back into the match.
Tips on Playing Tennis #6: Use Positive Body Language-
One of the sometimes-neglected tips on playing tennis is the importance of body language—it is huge in tennis.
It sends unmistakable messages to your opponent and seems to communicate one to yourself, too. Your mind sometimes follows your body at this point. When you look alert, energetic, happy and confident, you can often play that way.
When you curse at yourself, have your head down and your shoulders stooped, your opponent often says, “I’ve got him now.” In another scenario, if your opponent is known to choke, your winning look might push him/her over the edge, especially if the match is close.
Think about your body language throughout the match.
Tips on Playing Tennis #7: Avoid Obscenities-
Sure, you will occasionally let out an expletive after a bad shot, but if your demeanor is constantly negative, it probably is not helping you to win.
Within the bounds of good sportsmanship, celebrate your good shots every now and then, try to have fun and project peacefulness and confidence as you play. Some players perform better when angry, and you might need that motivator, but don’t let it veer into negativity.
With these tips on playing tennis in your mental toolkit, you should be better equipped to not only be more competitive in your club’s next tournament, but to enjoy the sport more. Sports should be fun, not a burden. Don’t forget to have a good time when you play tennis, win or lose. Don’t find your identity in your ranking; simply do all you can in the time that you have to improve it. By following these tips on playing tennis, you will have a better mental approach so that you can maximize your physical abilities and be the best that you can be on the court.
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