How to Grow from Bad Matches

tennis mental game

Learn How Roger Federer Responds to Loses

After a bad match or a string of losses, do you generally feel like you will lose the next match? Making predictions about future matches after a bad performance will keep you stuck in a rut.

The ability to process a loss or poor performance is necessary to minimize negative emotions, rebound from bad matches, and focus on your next match. You can either be haunted by poor performance or learn from the past. A negative mindset sees losses as failures, while a positive mindset finds valuable feedback.

Mental Game of Tennis Needs Survey

One player left a very brief comment highlighting a common issue that affects many tennis players:

“I feel demotivated after I consistently play poorly in a series of matches. What can I do?”

Any tennis player would feel bad after playing poorly. When you think you can do nothing right, motivation slowly evaporates. Negative emotions wear you down. You don’t want to go to practices, and you don’t want to play matches. You feel practicing is useless because nothing will change.

You can use the past to project the future, “I played another bad match. My next match will probably be horrible too.” Or you can use past matches as feedback. The player who bounces back quickly uses past matches as learning opportunities:

  • How to prepare better
  • What to do differently in matches
  • How to avoid certain mistakes
  • How to mentally approach matches
  • What mental skills need improvement

The Key to Bouncing Back

The key to bouncing back after bad matches is to find the lessons and the positive aspects of your play. Roger Federer, former World No. 1, has been focused on finding the positives heading into the 2021 Wimbledon tournament. Federer sat out most of the 2020 season recuperating from two knee surgeries.

Wimbledon marks Federer’s fifth tournament since the start of the year, and Federer has only made it past the second round one time.

He’s taken the feedback from the earlier 2021 matches and intends to apply that feedback to fuel his play at Wimbledon.

FEDERER: “The good thing now, looking back [over the season], is I know [my poor play] will not happen here because I’m ready, I’m excited, I’m pumped up. I know I can do so much better. I think I’ve got to take the positives out of these last few weeks, that I’m actually here at Wimbledon right now, and I have a chance. I know if I get rolling, I get into the second week, which is the goal here right now, that I get stronger and stronger as every match goes by, I believe it’s very much possible.”

Live and learn is an expression that refers to learning from personal experience. When you learn from the past, the experience is no longer a “bad” experience. A “live and learn” mentality will help you maintain some level of motivation, focus, and confidence after any match.

Learning from Bad Performances in Tennis Matches

Give yourself some time after a match before you start evaluating your play. A loss may have stirred some intense emotion, and time will give you a chance to allow those emotions to settle. Observe the one-hour rule.

Afterward, write down three lessons learned from the match and how you can apply those lessons to improve in the next week or practice or benefit your future play.

Avoiding dwelling on your mistakes and the lost chances you had in the match. Focus on what’s next to help you improve.

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