Simona Halep’s Mental Game of Tennis
There are two mental approaches to tennis matches: (1) Focusing on your strengths; or (2) focusing on the strengths of your opponent.
When you focus on your strengths, you play with greater confidence and composure. You feel a sense of control because you believe you can score some points if you play your game.
Focusing on your opponent’s strengths is like mentally withdrawing from your match.
You allow your opponent to dictate the flow and style of the match. You feel over-matched. You might feel intimidated. You may even fear being totally embarrassed on the court.
Take a few minutes to compare some of your past matches…
Think of a match where you were overwhelmed by your opponent’s hard serve, physical size or their ability to run down practically every ball you hit over the net.
What was your level of confidence during the match? Did you play your best tennis that day?
Now think of a match where you were focused on your strengths (your ability to drive the ball to the baseline consistently, your speed, the spin you place on the ball, etc).
Did you feel like you had the chance to win each point? Did you feel in control through most of the match? Did you feel relaxed and confident?
The way you approach a match has a tremendous impact on the outcome of the match. No matter what skill set your opponent has, you also have strengths in your game. As long as you have a positive approach to a match, you have a chance to win.
Simona Halep won the 2016 Rogers Cup beating Madison Keys, 7-6, 6-3.
The first set was challenging for Halep who was focused on Keys’ strong return. Focusing on Key’s strength caused Halep to try to do too much. Halep felt pressure to hold serve so she attempted to put more pace on the ball.
HALEP: “[The first set] was tough. I think I was very tight on my serve because I know she’s going to return very strong. I wanted to make something big with the serve. I think it was too much pressure on me.”
In the second set, Halep changed her mindset for the better…
Instead of worrying about Key’s strong strokes, Halep focused on her own strength, her return game. That was the difference maker for Halep who won the second set in convincing fashion.
HALEP: “I am a good returner, I think. With anyone, I return pretty well. I can say I have strong legs and I can be solid on the back. I can return all the heavy balls that she was hitting today. I like to return. I work a lot on the return.”
Tips for focusing on your strengths:
Instead of intimidating yourself about how well your opponent plays, write out a strength list.
What are you really good at as a tennis player? How can you use your strengths to win points?
Create a match strategy based on your strengths. Do what you do well! Stay focused on your abilities and talents so you can feel more confident.
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