Staying Confident When Playing Opponents Ranked Higher
Do you get anxious when going up against top ranked opponents? Does your anxiety overwhelm you and cause you to play well below your capabilities?
When playing against higher ranked opponents, you might notice several issues at play that affect your performance:
(You can remember these factors with the acronym A.C.E.)
1. Attitude – Your view of the upcoming match means everything.
Do you think you are going to lose before the match even starts or are you excited to see how you match up against top opponents? If you view the match as a challenge, rather than a guaranteed loss, you will fight for points and raise your game up a notch. Who knows… you may even pull off the upset because nothing is ever set in stone or predetermined.
2. Confidence – Do you feel you have prepared well and have the skills necessary to play your best tennis no matter the opponent?
Ultimately, how you play is up to you. When you focus on your abilities and skill set, your best tennis is at your fingertips.
3. Emotions – Emotions are tied into your attitude and confidence level.
Prior to any match, you want to have the right level of activation that helps give your energy and focus. Some players get excited for the challenge of playing top players while other players get anxious.
Your emotions will dictate how you play so it is necessary to keep these emotions in check if you are to play at your peak.
In fact, some top-ranked opponents may overlook you and be emotionally flat at the start of the match. If you are in an optimal emotional zone, you can pounce on your opponent early if they take the match for granted.
John Millman loves challenging himself against top players.
Millman, ranked 128, is looking to break into the top 100 this season. In order to accomplish his goal, Millman will need to beat many higher-ranked opponents on a consistent basis.
At the 2018 Brisbane International, Millman played resilient tennis and revealed his approach to playing higher ranked opponents.
MILLMAN: “I always like to test myself against the best players in the world. And sometimes it’s challenging, as I found out against Rafa last year at Wimbledon [losing 1-6,3-6, 2-6], but sometimes it can be very rewarding just to kind of see where you are against them.”
Millman approaches matches against higher-ranked opponents with a very particular mindset:
1. Nothing to Lose – When you play higher-ranked opponents, you really have nothing to lose. With nothing to lose, you can hit the court and play freely and aggressively.
2. Getting Comfortable & Confident – The more you play in high level tournaments against tough players, you get comfortable in that environment. When you are relaxed, you are more apt to go for shots and, with each win, your confidence grows.
3. Any Given Day – On any given day, the results may turn out in your favor but only if you fight for every point and move forward from previous mistakes.
The right mindset is always the best bet!
Competing against Top-Ranked Opponents:
1. Choose your attitude wisely. Look at each match as an opportunity to lift your game higher.
2. Play confidently. Focus on your strengths and talents, not opponents’ strengths.
3. Keep your emotions in check. Don’t allow the moment to overwhelm you. Stay relaxed and loose.
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Are you (or your players) performing up to your ability in competition?
Do you bring your best and most confident game to matches?
I often hear players complain about the following problems when they play in matches…
- “I get so tight or tense before matches that I can’t think straight or have any rhythm in my game.”
- “My confidence seems to disappear when I go from practice to matches and I don’t know why.”
- “I get so frustrated with hitting bad shots or with errors and it snowballs.”
- “I expect so much when I play that I unravel and lose confidence when the match does not go as planned.”
Successful tennis players have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in tournaments.
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~Tim Whitehead, Tennis Coach
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“Dr. Cohn, one of my goals is to become a world-class-coach. There are a few coaches from the US who inspired me the most–John Wooden, Don Shula, and Pat Riley. After working with you, I now also list your name among the most influential coaches in my field!”
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~Wing Yu, Tennis Player
“Maggie had such a great weekend. As always, after she works with you she just seems more grounded and focused. She’s less likely to look around and get distracted during her match. She’s more focused on one point at a time. Also, as a parent, I’ve learned to encourage her process goals and not outcomes. Consequently, she played well and won her first doubles match, upsetting a seeded team in a really really close match!”
~Katherine Johnson Cannata, Maggie’s mother
“She did really well with controlling her emotions during the matches today. We were very proud of her for not showing her frustrations during the match; I think that was a big accomplishment. She really looked in control of her emotions even when she double faulted or made mistakes. The changes we saw in her behavior in less than 24 hours were AWESOME! Thank you for your guidance!”
~Jennifer, Tennis Parent