Develop Your Mental Strength In Practice
The secret to solid tournament and competition performances is to practice with the same intensity and mental approach that you would use in a match.
It may seem amazing but very few players seem to do this, except for possibly during the hour they might spend with their coach in a lesson - but once they are practicing elsewhere without the watchful eye of the coach, it often becomes easy to take the foot off the accelerator.
For instance, often you will see players regularly letting the ball bounce twice in practice, yet obviously when they are playing a match, they simply would not allow this to happen or they would lose the point.
The major problem with this attitude is that taking it easy in practice creates a completely separate mindset for practice than the mindset they use when playing actual matches - and this creates some big problems.
These players find it difficult to mentally tough out their matches in tournaments, especially matches that go down to the wire in the 3rd set, because their mind (and body) are simply not accustomed to toughing it out on a regular basis.
The best way to perform strongly in all your matches is to use your practice as a mental training rehearsal for your tournament matches - treating practice as if it was a match. Doing this keeps your mind trained up for performing at the highest level, so that when you play a match, your mind will treat it no differently and ensure you bring out your best tennis. This one tip, alone, can help to pull ahead of most of your competition.
Practice is also a fabulous place to sharpen up your ability to fight back from behind in a match - an ability that every tournament player will need, but very few ever actually practice!
For instance, if you are in a practice set with someone, and find yourself down 5-1, dig deep and see if you can pull out a 7-5 or 7-6 win. Doing this conditions your mind to never give up, which makes it far easier for you to stage a spirited fightback in your tournament matches when you are behind in the 3rd set.
Also, some players practice completely differently to the way they actually play while in the heat of competition - practicing heaps of low-percentage shots that they simply would not use when under the pressure of a tournament match. It's important to keep in mind that you are practicing to win your tournament matches, not to impress your practice partner.
Last of all, it is also productive to practice quietening your mind during actual points in practice (unless you are having a lesson with your coach of course, where you will need to be listening to their instructions) as this often helps players to click into The Zone more often, by playing more instinctively rather than 'thinking' every shot.
The Zone is the (somewhat rare) mental state that delivers your absolute best tennis every single time, and it appears most often when we can switch off and allow our subconscious to run our performance (for more info on this, see The Zone)
So from now on, begin using practice as a mental training exercise as well as your tennis practice, to get the jump on your opponents. Practice with a new intensity and purpose, practice your fightbacks, practice the shots you will actually use in your tournament matches, and practice getting into the zone more often.
By doing this, you will find that your tournament results will be far more successful, as your mind and body will always be primed and ready for every match!
"The Mind controls the body, and the Mind is Unlimited"
The best of success, Craig Townsend
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