Winning When You Are NOT Playing Well!
The sure sign of a good player is one who can win when they are not playing their best. The champions do this several times each week, as they play so many matches are rarely at the very peak of their form for most of them.
While it's obviously better if you can play your best most of the time, it's also important that you have backup plans in place so you can succeed when your A-game deserts you.
The first thing is not to panic when you are not playing well. Know that you can still win the match without necessarily playing at your best, and that it is also a distinct possibility that you will be able to play yourself in and raise your game as the match wears on.
It's also important that you do not waste the entire match abusing yourself for the shots you are missing (that you would normally make) as this is only going to drag you down further mentally and give your opponent a big psychological lift. The very last thing you want is for your opponent to know that you are frustrated with yourself, insead let them wonder just what is going on in your mind - so keep your frustration inside and instead channel it into your game plan.
Remind yourself that you are willing to stay out there as long as it takes to win the match, and that you have the ability, cleverness and mental strength to win regardless of whether you are playing your best or not.
This is definitely a good time to use some positive self-talk in between points, or even a mantra that you repeat over and over between points (eg.'powerful and consistent') - definitely better than tearing yourself down with a barrage of self-abuse as most players do in this situation! (and a much more impressive image you are projecting down the other end to your opponent as well).
You may also need to make some tactical changes if your A-game is not firing. Of course, often it is only particular shots which are not firing, while the others are going fine - so this might just mean taking some a slightly different approach to these particular areas of your game that you left at home.
For instance, if your huge first serve is simply not landing into court that day, you might choose to take 20% off the serve and add more spin, to increase your first serve percentage. Then maybe you can use the big serve as more of a surprise that you blast down at given times, rather than trying to rely on it throughout the entire match.
Or if your big forehand is not firing that day, possibly you might need to keep the ball rallying more consistently and further inside the lines on the day, rather than going for the accurate line shots that you usually go for when you are at your best - or just waiting a little longer before you go for that big shot.
Needless to say, it is quite possible you may play these shots in as the match wears on, and you may find these particular shots firing on all cylinders by the end of the match!
Last of all, try to relax between points and especially when you are hitting your shots - as one of the biggest reasons for players not being in the zone is due to mental and physical stress (or nervousness) which tightens up the body and prevents the possibility of fluid, free-flowing hitting.
Some deep breaths in between points and even closing your eyes for a moment to center yourself (eg. at the change of ends) can help you to click back into a powerful mindset that will lift your game. You often see this happening on court in the pro game.
So from now on, you know it is possible for you to win any match regardless of how you are playing. Never give up on yourself during a match and you will pull out some surprising wins.
"The Mind controls the body, and the Mind is Unlimited"
The best of success, Craig Townsend
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