Using Your Mind to Win Ugly in Tennis

Using Your Mind to Win Ugly in Tennis

What does it mean to “win ugly” in tennis?

Often, tennis players believe they need to play perfect tennis to win. If they are not on top of their game, they lose confidence, back off their intensity, and put less effort into their game.

As their circumstances become more challenging, their attitude shifts from fighting for points to surviving the match.

For example, when the weather is sweltering hot, they primarily think of the heat and how tired they are. Instead of focusing on winning points, they just want the match to end.

Can you identify with the following scenario? Your opponent dominated the first set, and you lost 6-0. You feel that a loss is inevitable, and you lose your fight.

Instead of trying to hit a powerful serve, you play it safe. Your opponent seems to return every ball crosscourt for winners, and your confidence and motivation tank. You eventually lose in straight sets.

The cause of the loss was due more to a lack of mental toughness than a lack of talent.

Understanding what contributes to a player’s mental toughness is a positive step to building mental toughness.

What is the make-up of mental toughness?

  • Resilience – A resilient mindset is staying focused, composed, and confident when things are not going your way.
  • Adaptability – Sometimes, you will need to adjust your game plan in the moment if your current match strategy is not working. In other words, instead of giving up, you find a way.
  • Attack Mode – Instead of focusing on aspects of your game that are not working, focus on exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses. With this mentality, you will feel a sense of control during the match as you fight and focus on each point.
  • Assertiveness – By being assertive during the match, you are attempting to dictate the pace of the match.
  • Discipline – Stay focused on each point, giving maximum effort rather than allowing your circumstances to dictate your play.
  • Grind Mentality – Know that winning ugly is an option. Keep grinding throughout the match. Keep fighting until the last point, even when the odds are against you.

Mental toughness can help you pull out a victory even when winning seems improbable.

WTA player Katie Boulter beat Brenda Fruhvirtova, 7-6 (7-5) 1-0, in the second round of the 2024 Miami Open after Fruhvirtova retired due to illness and the humid playing conditions. The heat affected both players during the match.

Despite struggling through parts of the match, Boulter did enough to win while playing in challenging circumstances.

BOULTER: “For me, it was challenging, and I wasn’t the kindest to myself, but we live and learn. There is a lot to improve on, but I’ll take it.”

Mental toughness is the “X” factor that helps you to find a way to win when things aren’t going your way or conditions are not optimal.

During warm-up, set a mentally tough tone through your self-talk. For example, “No matter my circumstances, I will not back down. I will fight for every point throughout the match. Adversity will not defeat me.”

Avoid judging your game by thinking it needs to look and feel right. Winning ugly is about winning points any way you can!

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Improve Your Mental Game for Tennis

Tennis Confidence 2.0

Tennis Confidence 2.0

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