How to Win When You’re Being Outplayed

How to Win When You’re Being Outplayed

When is a tennis match won or lost? The answer is the moment when one player gives up or the last point.

Let me explain. Your attitude determines your fight. When you enter a match against a high-ranked opponent and believe you have no chance of winning, you will not play confidently.

Confidence is a necessary element for success. Confidence is needed to hit a powerful serve. Confidence is required to play aggressively, take risks, and hit winners.

Likewise, if you were shut out the first set, you might predict you will lose. Instead of chasing down and returning a ball, you might not go for it at all.

Or when you lose your serve, you might conclude your game is off and, therefore, cannot win. Instead of hitting a powerful, well-placed serve, you no longer strategically hit your serve and decide to play it safe.

In all these instances, you have decided to quit before the last point of the match. You send a message to yourself to back off. Your physiology changes, and you lack energy.

When you give up, you no longer maintain a one-point-at-a-time focus and lack a strategy for each point. In addition, you send a message to your opponent that you are beaten.

A tennis player who responded to our Mental Game of Tennis Needs Survey sent us the following question:

“When your opponent has significantly better shots and is better in every area (including the net, serve, etc.), is it better to just give up on winning and develop your shots for the future or continue pushing to try to win?”

Of course, technique is critical, but so is developing your mental toughness in competitive situations. You never want to get in the habit of giving up every time you trail in a match or are playing a strong opponent.

Remember, mental toughness is a skill and habit. Responding with mental toughness will not only help you in future matches but may also turn the tide in your current match to mount a comeback and pull out a win.

Twenty-two-year-old Jannik Sinner overcame a two-set deficit and won the 2024 Australian Open, beating Daniil Medvedev, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

Sinner appeared nervous early in the match but started striking the ball with confidence from behind the baseline in the third set. Sinner was committed to battling for each point.

On championship point, Sinner hit a powerful forehand down the line, landing it inches inside the baseline to win the title.

SINNER: “I had this feeling that [Medvedev] might come out a little bit more aggressive. He played really, really well for the first two-and-a-half sets. I just tried to stay positive. I tried just to play even level and just stay as long in the court as possible, knowing that he has spent so many hours on the court. The more the match goes on, maybe physically, I’m a little bit better today. When you win one very important game, the match can change occasionally, and that was the case today.”

Mental toughness is never giving up on yourself. The flow of a match can change at any moment, but only if you keep battling. The longer you battle, the more you develop your mental toughness.

Instead of giving up when you are behind in a match, remind yourself that you are developing the skill and habit of mental toughness.

This mentality will give you purpose for each point and keep you mentally engaged throughout the match.

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Improve Your Mental Game for Tennis

Tennis Confidence 2.0

Tennis Confidence 2.0

This Tennis Confidence: Mental Game Strategies for Tournament Playersis Dr. Cohn’s program to help tennis players, coaches, and instructors improve the mental game of tennis is just 8 easy to learn sessions. Tennis Confidence: Mental Game Strategies for Tournament Players Audio and Workbook program is ideal for any junior, collegiate, and tour professional player. Tennis coaches and instructors would also be wise to teach the strategies “Tennis Confidence.”

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