Sport Psychology is all about learning to control your thoughts and emotions to perform better. In simple terms, when on court you always have a choice about which ideas you grab on to and which you let go. The key to success is choosing thoughts that will help you play your best and avoid those that may limit you.
Here is a list of purpose driven thoughts and ideas that I have found very useful throughout the years to stay focused, positive an intense during a match.
1) “There are no easy matches”
In general, unless you are playing against someone well below your ability you need to step on the court assuming that you will have to work hard to win. Competitive tennis only has one gear: “I” for intensity.
2) “Do not start the point unless you are ready”
If you do not feel: positive, intense and focused you are not prepared to play the point. Use the time between points to get there and do not start until your mental diagnosis yields three checks for positive, intense and focused.
3) “It is not a break until you hold serve”
It is typical to relax after you break serve. You feel so good about what you just did that you forget to keep playing with the same drive. Do not fall in this trap. Pay special attention to the next game right after a break.
4) “First point”
Fighting to win the first point of each game can make a big difference. Players tend to be relaxed at the start of the game maybe even a bit distracted. Take advantage of this and improve your chances of winning the game by starting totally committed. Getting up 15/0 is a big step in the right direction.
5) “First game”
Whether you won or lost the last set, that first game of the next set can really make a big difference in the momentum of a match. Do everything you can for that 1/0. It will get you back in the match if you lost the previous set or it will further your momentum if you won it.
6) “Two in a row”
Build series of two points in a row. Ideally you should be concentrated and engaged on every point in the match but as we know that is not always easy. Striving to build series of points is an effective trick to keep you focused for longer periods of time.
7) “6 out of 10”
You do not need to win every point. You only need to win a few more points than your opponent. Players frequently panic when the opponent hits a few good shots. Their anxiety level rises, and they start unnecessarily changing their tactic or making mental mistakes. Next time you approach the net and get passed or the opponent hits a winner, just think 6 out of 10 and keep playing your game. Losing points is part of tennis at any level. The secret is wining slightly more than you lose.
8) “Cover your opponent’s favorite patterns on key points”
Every player feels more comfortable with certain shots than with others and under pressure most will choose their favorite shots. Keep track of your opponent’s tendencies and exploit this knowledge in key points.
9) “The opponent also struggles”
Focusing on what is going wrong on your side of the court can easily affect your confidence. A better strategy is shifting the focus from your problems to the opponent’s problems. If you are nervous because you have to serve for the match at 5/4 imagine what your opponent is going through.
10) “Next Point!
This is one of my favorite cues – simple and effective. You play one point at a time and do not let previous mistakes negatively affect your performance. The most important thing is always the next point.
Are you winning the battle against yourself? This may be the most important question to ask yourself during play. In essence, regardless of whom you are playing against, the only things that you can control are on your side of the net. Your sole job is to create a mental state that will allow you to play your best tennis. Everything else is out of your hands. Are your thoughts and actions creating a calm, relaxed, focused and positive inner environment where you can perform well or are you instead your opponent’s best ally.