Whenever you hear of some athlete that has played exceptionally well in a game, you hear things like “can’t explain it” or “everything felt good that night” or even “everything seemed in slow motion.” All of these accounts leave us scratching our heads and wondering what actually did it. Tennis is a sport where we are often on the other side of this discussion. We think too much. Our matches become a battle with ourselves rather than an enjoying a competitive experience. It’s an easy fix and we hear it all the time. “Just don’t think too much!” Easier said than done.
Our minds are programed to be inquisitive. We want to know why things are happening all the time. When you hit a good forehand, you want to know why. We also don’t trust ourselves to do it on our own. We need to constantly tell ourselves what to do correctly. “Racquet back!” “Move your feet!” We often add a word at the end of those directions that aren’t so nice as well! This becomes a problem for us since thinking more in tennis is not very conducive to a hitting well. For you to perform well, less is more. Letting your body naturally do what your end goal is will make it easier for you to achieve it. Even the pros are susceptible to thinking too much. When Goran Ivanišević lost to Andre Agassi in the 1992 Wimbledon Final, Goran told reporters after the match that when the score was 4-5 in the 4th set and he was serving, Goran was, for the first time all match, thinking right before he was about to serve. He second guessed himself and ended up serving poorly to lose the championship.
Having the Right Attitude
You cannot control what you don’t have going for your match that day. For example, if you are serving poorly in your match, there is little you can do at the moment. Instead of trying to take control of the issue and fix it, the better bet is to work around the issue to give yourself the best opportunity to win. This allows you to accept the issues you have and to enable a gritty attitude which is very important to get you through tough matches. Just remember, a survey of hundreds of professional tennis players revealed that they play well 10% of the time. This means they have something to deal with (usually an injury) but have no choice to work with what they have. With this attitude, you can get the most out of your matches! I also suspect it will be a more fun experience for you. 🙂
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
So how do you stop thinking about your strokes on the tennis court? Easier said than done! Here are a few tips to try. When the ball comes to your side of the net and hits the court, say to yourself, “bounce.” When you strike the ball with your racquet, say, “hit.” This will keep you focused on the simple aspect of hitting the ball squarely with the strings of your racquet and let everything else come naturally. You can also try saying to yourself “forehand” or “backhand” every time the ball is struck by your opponent so you are preparing yourself adequately for the shot. This helps players who often feel they are hitting late on the ball. Lastly, try saying “red” when you are hitting a rally ball and “green” when you are hitting an aggressive ball. This will help you understand the importance of getting the ball in and that the majority of your shots should be “red.” Whenever you miss a shot, you should be saying “green” a lot more than “red.” Depending on your playing style, any of these three methods will help keep you from thinking too much on the court. With proper practice, this will get you to enjoy the match and play a more natural game. I think that is something we all want more in our match experiences!