What do you focus on when you have a significant lead in a match?
Does your focus change depending on the score?
Top tennis players focus on one point at a time. They understand the importance of battling for each point separately instead of focusing on the entirety of a game or set.
However, many players, even professional players, change their focus when playing with a lead. Instead of focusing on the present point, they worry about the possibility of choking.
While in the middle of a match, some players may even become preoccupied with advancing in the tournament or their next opponent.
Future or outcome-based focus distracts you from competing for each point. Your mind is elsewhere instead of giving your full attention to what is in front of you at that moment.
In our Mental Game of Tennis Needs Survey, a highly ranked collegiate player asked:
“How can I avoid a mental letdown when winning and confidently close out the match?”
Closing out a match is a matter of focus. When you focus on the match’s outcome while playing, you will make more mistakes, unforced errors, double faults, and bad decisions.
An outcome focus is when you make conclusions about what might happen, “What if I choke and lose this match.” or “What if I get knocked out of this tournament in the early rounds?”
Outcome thoughts divide your focus, making it impossible to give your full attention and effort to the task at hand. Once you become distracted, your performance declines rapidly, and you allow your opponent back into the game.
The key to closing out a match is to maintain the same mindset, match strategy and thought process as you had earlier in the match.
For example, your match strategy may have consisted of being aggressive on the first serve, hitting the ball to your opponent’s backhand, and attacking the net.
Maintaining a consistent mindset and focus throughout a match improves your ability to play at your peak and close out matches.
At the 2023 Berlin Open, Ekaterina Alexandrova upset seventh-ranked Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. The win was Alexandrova’s seventh match victory in a row.
Gauff had the edge early on with a 3-1 lead in the first set before losing 11 of the next 12 games.
ALEXANDROVA: “Maybe the score looks easy, but it’s never like that because she played amazing. I needed to stay focused during every single point to keep it that way.”
The key to playing your best tennis is to be present in the present. Focus on giving your full attention and focus on playing the current point.
This one-point-at-a-time approach is the mindset that leads to successfully closing out matches.
Compare and contrast your mindset and thought processes when you fell apart at the end of matches versus when you successfully closed out matches.
Highlight the key components that helped you play aggressive tennis and go for it. You can refer to this as your “close out” mindset.
When you have the lead late in a match, you can use the phrase “close-out mindset” to remind yourself of your success formula.
Continue to keep your “foot on the gas.” Avoid protecting your lead and stomping on the breaks.
Related Tennis Psychology Articles
- When You Need a Time off to Refocus
- Growt Manage Emotions in Matches
- How to Assess Your Game After Losing Matches
- Download our a FREE Tennis Psychology Report
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