If you are a competitive tennis player, sooner or later you will find yourself in a slump – a time period when nothing seems to work, when even the simplest shots become a problem, when confidence is nowhere to be found. As frustrating as it is, it is part of the game.
Here area few ideas that may help:
Go Back to Basics – Make Sure you are Moving your Feet, Watching the Ball all the Way to Contact, and Swinging Smoothly.
Part of being in a slump is losing confidence and when that happens your game breaks down. You are afraid of hitting the ball, so you start waiting for the ball or even backing up instead of going to it; you worry about missing, so you start looking up before you make contact, and you get anxious, which causes you to tighten up during the swing. After a while these patterns become habitual, and you do not even realize you are doing all these things.
The first step to recover your game is making sure you take care of the basics:
Stay on your toes and move towards the ball every time you can.
Watch the ball all the way to contact.
Hold your racquet loosely and swing relaxed.
Be Positive on the Court at all Times. Negativity is your Greatest Enemy.
Tennis is a very frustrating game even in the best of circumstances, but when things are not going well for a while it can really mess with your mind. Most people in a slump will become very negative on the court and this tends to create a vicious circle in which your bad play triggers negative feelings, which in turn trigger more bad play and so on. Once you find yourself in the grip of the tennis daemons, it is true hell. You need to break the cycle, and the only way to do it is to keep negative energy at bay. Be aware of any negative feeling building up and fight them. Focus on the positive and if you can’t: “fake it till you make it.” Act positively even if you do not feel it. Slowly your actions will lead a more positive atmosphere.
Set Measurable Performance Goals and Celebrate the Small Victories
Once in a slump, it is very common to feel like nothing is going well. You need to change the tide. You need to set yourself up for success by adding a few notches to your belt. Set goals that you can control such as: I will move towards the ball every time I can or I will aim high over the net on my rally shots, etc. During your time on the court work hard on accomplishing these goals. Get your mind away from winning and losing and celebrate your accomplishments. Build up your confidence one small triumph at a time.
Compete as if your Life Depended on it, Because your Tennis Life Does
When things have not gone well for a while and your confidence is nowhere to be found it is hard to compete effectively. One basically forgets what it truly means to compete. It is very easy lose focus and start thinking about the ifs, whys and hows, instead of fighting one point at a time. It is also extremely difficult to push yourself and make that extra effort that is usually required to win a close match. This of course perpetuates the problem. When you are in a slump every match is important because it usually only takes one good win to get back on track. Therefore, it is imperative that you fight like a dog every time you are on the court. Here are a few things that you need to commit to in order to give yourself the best chance to perform at your potential:
Run for every ball.
Do not start any point if you are not positive and mentally ready.
Try to win every point regardless of the score.
Allow only positive self talk.
Be fanatical about your rituals.
Remember, one match can turn everything around!
If Nothing Else Works, it is Time to Take a Break!
Sometimes the only way to move forward is to start from scratch. If you have truly tried everything for a while, including all the ideas discussed earlier, and you do not feel like you are making progress, you need to take a break - a long enough break to give you a sense of a new beginning. In severe cases it will have to be somewhere between two weeks and a month. The idea is to forget, to give yourself time to relax and to close a chapter.
After the break, go though a training period where you work on specific aspects of your game before starting to compete. Take your time! Play lots of practice sets and once you feel confident start playing tournaments.
Slumps are not fun. As a matter of fact they are one of the worst experiences you can have as a player but they are unavoidable. Sooner or later everyone will underperform for longer periods of time, and when that happens refer to the slump busters above to get you back on track.