Overcoming Match Expectations in Tennis
Have you ever been up in a match and unable to finish?
Do you sit on your lead and try to protect it?
Have you been the “favorite” and expected to win… and lost?
This scenario is quite common in tennis, and essentially all sports.
Players or teams get ahead, start playing too carefully or “not to lose,” and end up losing.
Maria Sharapova recently lost in the first round of Wimbledon, for the first time ever.
Sharapova lost to Diatchenko 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-4; all of which she seemed to be in control.
She went ahead much of the match, though each lead disappeared just as quickly. Sharapova’s collapse finally ended with her 11th double fault.
Previously, Sharapova was 49-1 in openers at a major tournament, and 13-0 at Wimbledon. She was a No. 1 seed and has won five Grand Slam titles.
Her opponent, Diatchenko, was 8-25 in main-draw matches at all tour-level events and 0-2 at Wimbledon.
Diatchenko said: “Everybody expects me to lose the match.”
Sharapova was ahead many times throughout the match and expected to win, though she wasn’t able to finish.
When tennis players are up and dominating, they sometimes try and hold on to their lead by playing it safe, trying to avoid errors.
As athletes slip into this comfort zone, they stop playing the way they were when they got into the lead.
They’re less aggressive, more tentative, and try to play perfectly as to prevent mistakes. It’s a comfort zone phenomenon…
Tennis players in a comfort zone stop attacking and stop trusting. Being aggressive and playing confidently is what helped them get ahead. When they break their play, the game changes for them.
As you play less assertively in a match, your opponent takes advantage of the opportunity.
Also, being “expected” to win can add pressure, no matter the occasion. It was assumed that Sharapova was going to win, and expected that Diatchenko would fold.
Sharapova may have entered the match with that same mindset, adding a weight to her shoulders to play more perfectly.
If you find yourself with a lead, like Sharapova, remember what got you in the lead.
Play that way all the way through. Stay aggressive, trust your skills, and play one point at a time. Start strong and finish strong.
Additionally, let go of any expectations you feel entering or even throughout a match. This can add a burden to play perfectly.
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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.”
“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.”
“My confidence seems to disappear when I go from practice to matches and I don’t know why.”
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What are mental game customers saying?
“Danielle 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 on Danielle’s behavior in less than 24 hours were AWESOME! Thank you for your guidance!”
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~Melanie Lewis, Junior Tennis Player