Playing Higher-Ranked Players In Tournaments
A great many competition players seem to experience their game freezing up from nerves whenever they play against higher-ranked opponents - even if they've played brilliantly in all their matches right up to that particular one.
This is simply a case of playing against the reputation of the player, instead of competing against the player themselves, and it can be very difficult to overcome - and let's face it, higher-ranked players can be difficult enough to beat when you are playing well, let alone when you can't get your game to work properly!
However, there are several things you can do for this, both to prevent the problem happening and also to overcome the intimidation when it is already happening.
First of all, before you go out there to play - remind yourself that all the pressure is on your opponent. They are the player expected to win, not you - and so they have much more to lose than you do! All the pressure is on them, and none is on you - this can only be good!
This means you actually have the freedom to be able to play your own game and even go for your shots, a luxury which they do not always have the freedom to afford in their situation. Always remind yourself of this - the pressure they must be going through of being the favorite.
Secondly, often players overly build up the reputation of their opponents in their minds, believing they must play at their absolute best to even have a remote chance of winning. This usually causes overplaying or trying too hard, and it is the quickest way to get into the locker room without winning a game!
So never do this - remember to play within yourself and don't go for 'super' shots all the time, unless you feel able to make them. You may even find that your regular level of tennis is all that is required for victory, not to mention that your standard can often raise naturally when playing against strong opponents anyway.
Also remember that highly-ranked players are often used to their opponents being highly nervous, and so often they are used to getting a quick and early lead, and even winning their matches very quickly and easily.
This can be in your favor! This means that if you can manage to stay with them and hold your serve until say, 3 or 4-all, they may well begin to get frustrated that they have yet not won the first set - and they may come up with some uncharacteristic errors around this time.
Surprisingly often, if you hang in there long enough, you can find the set being handed to you on a platter with some welcome double faults or unforced errors.
Remind yourself also that this opponent, regardless of who they are, has lost a lot of matches in the past, and will lose matches in the future - so why not to you, today? Let's face it - upsets happen all the time in world-standard tennis, so why not in this particular event you are playing in, today? Go into each match knowing you always have a chance to win, regardless of who you are playing against.
Last but not least, if you find yourself overly intimidated by your opponent, instantly reduce the amount of eye contact you make with them during the match, and do not look at them between points, choosing to look at your strings instead.
This helps reduce the emotional impact of your opponent's reputation, plus from the other end of the court, it can appear (to your opponent) that you seem unconcerned by them, which can be unsettling even to top seeds if they can see no sign of fear.
So remember that against higher-ranked opponents, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain (and it's the oppose for your opponent), plus remember to play within yourself and also stay with them in the early games of the first set.
And last of all - the bigger they are, the harder they fall! Go out there and show them what you can do.
"The Mind controls the body, and the Mind is Unlimited"
The best of success, Craig Townsend
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