Winning Ugly When Not Playing Your Best

Tennis Psychology

Wawrinka Wins Ugly At The 2015 Dubai Championship

Winning ugly is still winning, but to win you first must stay in the game mentally to give yourself a chance.

A lot of tennis players make a huge mistake when they are down early in a match… They make the faulty assumption that because they are not playing their best tennis they cannot win…

When you think you cannot win unless firing on all cylinders, there tends to be a let down in your game when trailing early in a match…

You may not push as hard, you won’t go for a wide ball that might be within reach… you might have less “umph” in your serve… you have less energy and you mentally wave the surrender flag before the match is finished.

You can’t win if you don’t believe you can win and be willing to grind it out.

Second-seeded Stan Wawrinka had to overcome a deficit when he lost his first set 5-7 to Sergiy Stakhovsky at the 2015 Dubai Tennis Championship.

Wawrinka received a racquet abuse warning after smashing his racquet in the 11th game and was definitely not playing his best tennis.

Despite being off his game, Wawrinka focused on fighting for each point and came back to win 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the second round.

WAWRINKA: “I was hesitating, always being behind, [but] staying aggressive… But it’s a good win, great win for me. Not playing well, still winning, still fighting, still finding a way, playing a little bit better at the end, trying to be the [more] aggressive player on the court.”

Wawrinka’s come-from-behind win actually enhanced his confidence heading into the next round.

WAWRINKA: “It’s good for confidence but a tough match the first match. I wasn’t playing well at all. I was playing not too great today. I was struggling with the condition [fast pace game], with my game.”

Thinking that you can win when you are not on top of your game…. Imagine how much your chances increase when you play closer to your potential.

This positive mindset not only keeps you in the game, but helps maintain your level of confidence for your next match.

A win is a win, no matter how ugly it is as Brad Gilbert would say in his book “Winning Ugly.” But you first need to keep your head in the game–so you can keep fighting.

Anything can happen in tennis… For example, I once watched my daughter come back from 0-5 the first set of a match and roll to the win in the second. Sometimes your opponent can tight up or protect the lead.

You can’t give in to the negative thoughts swirling in your mind. Re-focus on winning “THIS point” and give yourself the chance to break out a victory.

Try this tip to stay in the game mentally when you don’t have your “A” game:

Staying in the game mentally demands a certain mentality or approach to the game.

Winning when your game is off, requires that you commit to finding a way… Find a way to win each point, find a way to fight for each point, look for opportunities to win points. Use what’s working that day instead of being upset you’re not playing your best.

Winning does not require perfection; it requires competing for every point. Use plan B or C is needed. Look to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses. Don’t worry how a win looks. You don’t get bonus points for winning “the right way.”

An ugly win still counts as a win on your record.

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