Do You Have Control over Winning Matches?

Mental Toughness

Control within Matches

Can you control winning?

That may seem an odd question to ask a tennis player. Some tennis players would answer yes, pointing to the fact that they train hard, are motivated and determined, and put in the extra preparation away from the court.

All facets of training and preparation are necessary to win, but are you actually in control of winning?

If you are unsure, ask yourself, “Are you in control of how your opponent plays during the match?

If you believe you have total control and lose a match, you may become frustrated and lose confidence.

Control” is an interesting concept in sports. You have control of many aspects that contribute to or increase the likelihood of winning.

* Training – You control how hard you work in training and how focused you are on technique in practice.

* Preparation – You alone control your mental preparation, mental skills, and pre-match preparation.

* Mindset – How you approach training, improvement, and match play is 100% under your control.

* Effort – During matches, you control the effort you put forth. An injury may slow you down, but ultimately, you are in control of your effort, given the circumstances.

* Focus – Focus is a choice you have complete control over, no matter what occurs during the match.

* Match strategy – How you choose to play each point and the adjustments you make during the match are under your control.

* Thoughts/ Emotions – The thoughts you pay attention to and your emotional reactions are up to you and you alone.

However, you are not in control of many components that affect the outcome of matches, such as your opponent’s size, strength, ability, speed, or conditioning.

Trying to control something you have no control over can negatively impact your thoughts, emotions, reactions, and performance.

To further illustrate, let’s examine the following scenario. You have been dominating local competition and are one of the hardest-working players on your team. 

The next tournament you play consists of many of the top players throughout the state. In the first round, you draw the number one seed. Just because you outwork your teammates and dominate local competition does not guarantee victory. 

Likewise, just because your opponent is highly ranked and the top seed doesn’t guarantee they will win.

Here’s the key. You always have a chance to win. The more you prepare, the greater your chances are of victory. Approaching tennis matches with this mindset is crucial for your confidence and level of play.

Ons Jabeur has established herself as one of the best players in women’s tennis. Since 2022, Jabeiur has reached the finals in three Grand Slam tournaments. Each time, Jabeur has come up short.

Nonetheless, Jabeur is laser-focused on controlling what she can control: her mindset, attitude, learning, and developing her game.

JABEUR: “You cannot force things. [Wimbledon 2023] wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully, I will be like the others that failed a couple of times … and it will come after. [I] will definitely keep learning and keep being positive. I think that’s the thing that will keep me going. Otherwise, if I’m going to be depressed about it, it’s not going to help much.”

When you focus on the aspects of performance you can control, you will feel empowered and motivated to grow into your potential, even if you fall short in some tournaments.

Growing your game requires understanding what you can control during matches and why. Understanding the controllables takes some introspection. Before matches, remind yourself of what you can control.

Likewise, after matches, review what aspects you could control and how well you focused on those aspects while playing.

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