Mental Strength Wins Matches
This is one of the toughest but most important things to do on court - block out all the previous 'negatives' that can occur during a match, which often cause huge emotional outbursts and concentration loss.
Classic things which need to be blocked out include:
* blown break point opportunities
* easy shots missed
* lost games which you should have won (or feel you should anyway!).
* bad calls from your opponent or umpire
Focusing upon these events only destroys your spirits and your concentration - and usually blows the match. Block them out and only play (and think about) the point you are involved in - forget the past!
Your resilience is also a huge factor in matches. How long are you willing to stay out there to win? No matter what happens and how far down you are in a match, you must never, ever believe that you are out of the match.
Continue to believe in yourself and continue to hang in there - if you hang in long enough, your opponent may start to tighten up and make errors as they try to close the match out. Never say die and play each and every point as if your life depends upon it.
Remember also that it's not just a matter of whether you're physically ready to return your opponent's service - this is not good enough - it's whether you're 100% mentally focused to play the point (or not) that matters.
Tennis is a game of switch on, switch off concentration - where you focus during the point, and then relax in between the points - only to re-focus again as the next point is to begin. Make sure you never play a point without fully 100% switching on first.
Most of all, ensure you are no longer thinking about a previous point when you begin the next! As soon as a point is finished - it's modern history. Forget it and move on to the next point.
The mindset you need is to play each point as if it's the only point in the match. We never have the luxury of thinking cumulatively in tennis - because as soon as we do, we very quickly lose concentration.
Practicing and developing mental strength is very important - as it can help you to beat players who are technically better players than yourself! Yes, it's true, you can beat better players quite often.
For instance, how often do you see flashy players begin a match playing unbelievable levels of tennis - only to dissolve into a mass of frustration and unforced errors by the end of the match? Often!
You see this commonly at any tournament, no matter how high the standard. This shows that the best hitters are not necessarily the mentally strongest - in fact, they rarely are. The great hitters usually rely on their awesome power to win points, but when the match gets close and the pressure builds up - they often crack like cookies!
Practicing tiebreakers can also be a great way to de-sensitize yourself to pressure, and toughen you up mentally, so you are able to continue to successfully execute your shots when the pressure is on.
Tiebreakers are classic times in matches when players 'go into their shell' and stop playing with the same flair that got them there in the first place. This is a form of choking which often causes a player to play too safe.
I'm not saying, of course, that you should go for huge winners in tiebreaks - just play your own game to the best of your ability, unhindered by the pressure of the situation. This mentality can only be built up over time with experience and of lots of match play, both in tournaments and also in practice.
So begin working on developing more of your mental toughness in matches over the next 12 months - believe me, you will reap the benefits in the years to come.
"The Mind controls the body, and the Mind is Unlimited"
The best of success, Craig Townsend
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