Comfort Zones in Tennis
The thought of winning a match can spark feelings of excitement, adrenaline, and joy for any tennis player. You might even look ahead and think about what will happen if you win the match. Or, you might experience the satisfaction of your hard work paying off before the match is over. Some players might even get complacent when winning big.
Excitement or additional adrenaline about winning can have a positive or negative effect on your mental game and performance depending on how you use it. On the negative side, you lose focus on the current point because you are thinking ahead to winning the match. When you lose focus and are not present, you have a much harder time executing your shot or strategy.
Another common mental game mistake for tennis players is playing “protective tennis.”
When you play protective tennis, you’re on defense and you focus too much on avoiding mistakes. You are just trying to keep your lead. You might even tighten up when trying not to make mistakes and stay in the lead.
You might also be held back by a “comfort zone.”
Comfort zones are based in expectations about how you think you should perform.
When you’re doing better than expected or leading against a player you think you shouldn’t beat, you slam on the breaks and protect your lead.
Many tennis players get anxious or overexcited about winning, including rising tennis star Victoria Azarenka. She became too excited about winning during the final of the Sony Ericsson Open against Serena Williams last week. Azarenka was serving for the match when she double faulted on her second match point. But, she was able to bounce back to win the title on her third match point.
“I just had to stay calm and play the same way as I was playing. I was, you know, getting overexcited about winning the match, because it was match point. I think, yeah, okay, I got it now, and then she [Serena Williams] plays a good shot or I make a double fault. So just after the second one, I thought that I have to put the first serve in, because it was tough serving with the sun, and I just had to keep going the same way no matter what,” said Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka is a good example how thinking ahead and being too excited can affect your mental game and performance. She was thinking ahead to the end of the match, tightened up and double faulted on match point. You see this a lot at all levels of tennis.
Despite this common mental game of tennis challenge, tennis players can mental strategies to help them close out the match and become a crunch-time performer.
First, you have to continue to play aggressively and stay on offense.
Your assertive play probably put you in your current position in the match. You don’t want to abandon what’s working for you and play tentatively just because you are in the lead. Continue to go for your shots and take risks.
Second, you also want to focus your mind in the “here and now” and play one point at a time.
This means only the current point matters. When you notice your mind racing ahead to the future, you want to rewind the tape and focus on the current shot.
Ask yourself: “What should I focus on right now to execute this shot (or point) successfully?”
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