How To Stay In The Game Mentally
Do you have trust in your game when you are playing a tennis match? Do you trust your skills and abilities when you are losing a match?
It’s one thing to trust your game when you feel good before a match or while you are winning, but having trust in your game when you fall behind is more challenging.
Continuing to trust in your strokes when you are down in a match helps you weather the storm.
Having trust in your abilities allows you to make slight adjustments in your game to turn momentum in your favor.
Many talented players fall apart when their game is off early in a match or when they find themselves down quickly in the first set.
A high school tennis player who completed our Mental Game of Tennis Needs Survey asked the following question.
“When playing in a match and things start going wrong, how do you turn them around so you can go back to playing composed and focused?”
The problem here is a lack of trust.
You enter a match feeling good and prepared. You know you have put in the work and are confident in your ability to play at a high level. You win the first four games easily and you are nailing your first serve just like you do in practice.
If you lose the fifth game, you might think, “No big deal. It’s just one game and I’m totally on top of my game.” But if you proceed to lose the next three games you start to panic.
Now you start thinking about losing the match. You feel frustrated and angry, and your emotions get the best of you. You make mistakes and your opponent ends up winning the set.
Losing trust is the problem.
In the beginning, you were playing as well as you practiced. You trusted your first serve; it was working for you. You played freely in the beginning because you knew you had put in the work and honed your skills. Your work was paying off.
When you start losing, it’s not that your skills decline, it’s doubt that has taken over.
If you regained the sense of trust you had earlier in the match you could weather the storm.
You can get your trust back by taking over your thought process, “I have lost a couple of games, but my serve can get me back in the game. I have worked hard all season long. If I focus one point at a time, I have the ability to regain my form.”
For example, unseeded Taylor Fritz defeated Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinals at the 2021 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5. Shapovalov won all 24 of his service points in the first set but Fritz battled back. Fritz was able to regain his form by talking himself through the tough part of the match, rather than out of it.
FRITZ: “I don’t think I have ever gone a set without winning a point on someone’s serve. That was kind of crazy. I think I kind of just had to play myself into the match. I felt like I was holding pretty easily, as well, so I just had to keep holding my serve and I had to trust that one of those games I’m going to get my chance.”
Trust is essential to peak tennis. Trust is not a matter of coincidence. When you can trust in your game and practice with purpose, you can weather the tough times in matches and maintain a high level of confidence.
How to Improve Trust in your Tennis Game:
To build trust in your skills, physical play, and mental game, start by practicing with purpose.
Practicing with purpose is understanding how every element of practice and preparation transfers to match performance.
Trust is built by pushing forward in practice, working to overcome challenges, preparing to the best of your abilities, and knowing that your performance in practice directly affects your performance in matches.
Avoiding making changes in your strokes when you are down in the match. You can to continue to swing out on the ball and not play it safe.
Related Articles for Tennis Mental Game:
- How to be More Accepting of Mistakes
- How Mental Training Will Get You to Your Next Level of Play
- How to Bring Your Tennis Game to Matches
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