Djokovic: Lose Focus And You Lose the Set

Tennis Psychology

Staying Focused in Each Set

Has a coach ever implored you to concentrate? Have you ever been told that you would be a better player if only you learned to improve your concentration? Have you ever been told exactly what concentration is or how to improve it?

Most tennis players think concentration is some innate ability that we possess. Concentration is a skill and with all skills, some have a capacity to develop it more quickly, but everyone can improve upon their concentration skill level.

Concentration is the ability to focus attention on the task at hand and not be sidetracked by internal (thoughts, feelings, past memories) or external (crowd, opponents, weather, equipment, officials) distractions.

To be successful in sports, athletes must have the ability to manage potential distractions and not allow these to affect performance. Concentration involves focusing attention, controlling thoughts and remaining in the present moment

At the 2013 China Open in Beijing, , the top seed and defending champion had a slight hiccup in his second-round match against Fernando Verdasco.

Djokovic took the first set of the match with relative ease, but seemed distracted and lost the second set 2-6.  Djokovic admitted to being sidetracked.

“I had some chances in the start of the second set and I managed to allow him to come back to the match and start playing well… it was a lack of concentration from my side.”

Some reporters surmised Djokovic may be distracted by the threat of losing his number one ranking to rival and second-ranked Rafael Nadal. Djokovic denied being distracted by the threat of losing his #1 ranking:

“I try to do what I need to do and that is to win the matches… The rankings will change, they change all the time… You can’t think too much about it.”

Djokovic regained his focus winning the third set and defeating Verdasco, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2.  Djokovic attributed his success to his ability to regain his concentration and focus on the present match, not his ranking.

“Your job is to win as many matches as possible and the ranking will follow the results that you make.”

Peak performance occurs when athletes are able to purposely concentrate on the very things needed for successful performances that are within their ability to execute and act on them accordingly.

Tips on improving concentration:

  1. Preservice Routines – (ex. Prior to serving, wipe hand, bounce ball 3 times, take a deep breath, etc.).  Routines help you focus on the process by giving you something familiar to focus on, a task that you have total control over.
  2. Performance Cues – (ex. “relax” or “trust the swing”.)  These cues are reminders, repeated to yourself to center your attention on the task at hand.  Cues can be emotional, mental, physical or technical reminders that should help you focus on the upcoming point and get you ready to react.  Use no more than 1-2 performance cues per area of the game.
  3. Practice Re-Focusing – The place to develop your concentration skill is in practice.  Recognize what causes you to become distracted. Refocus back on your performance cues to re-gain your focus.  The more your work on concentration in practice, the greater your ability to stay focused in competitions.

Remember, your performance is your responsibility!

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