How to Maintain Focus Early in Tournaments

Stay in the Moment and to Focus Well

How would you describe your ability to focus when you are playing in a big tennis tournament?

Do you have the tendency to overlook opponents in the early rounds and worry about who you may be playing later in the tournament?

When you are concerned with who you may be playing next, your focus is pulled away from playing your current opponent.

Overlooking an opponent, not only increases the chances of losing, but leads to inconsistent play in matches.

Flipping the competitive switch is not an easy task and causes under-performance and the risk of being knocked out of a tournament early.

In our Mental Game of Tennis Needs Survey, a player requested help with focusing during the entirety of tournaments:

“I tend to underperform early in tournaments. How can I perform at the highest level from the very beginning and stay focused in the biggest tournaments on tour?”

Tennis players underperform when they are focused on who they may be playing next instead of who they are playing now.

When you view an early matchup as a warm-up match, you are not fully invested in playing your current opponent. Your mind is elsewhere. You give your current opponent a decisive advantage because you are not the best version of yourself. Your head is not in the game.

As your opponent wins more points, they become more confident and aggressive. You find yourself in comeback mode and feel anxious. You feel panicked. You have trouble finding your rhythm.

You force play and make uncharacteristic mistakes. You try to regain your form but its too little too late and the match gets away from you.

Focusing on the future hurts your performance in the present.

If you are not fully immersed in a match, you may never regain your focus and fail to advance further in the tournament.

Headed into the 2021 Australian Open, Dominic Thiem was solely focused on himself and not on the possibility of playing against the Big Three (Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer) later in the tournament.

THIEM: “The only thing I can focus on is the first round. I shouldn’t focus at all on who is in my quarter or even who is in my half. But for myself, it doesn’t matter so much. I just basically focus now on the first round.”

Even though Thiem was knocked out in the first round, the lesson is the same. Focusing is a choice and the best choice is to focus on playing your best against your current opponent.

How to Focus Early in Tournaments:

Set up a game plan for your current opponent. Focus on your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses. Between sets and changeovers, remind yourself of your plan.

If needed, tweak your plan as you go to be flexible but stay focused on your present match.

You can only play one match at a time so give your full attention and effort into playing opponent at a time and stay immersed in the present moment.

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