Match Readiness – Part 1
Want to become a truly dynamic, powerful player? Take a tip from the pros, who understand that what you do off-court is just as important as what you do while on court. In this two-part series, we’ll cover the essentials to becoming match-ready between games.
Let’s start with what is needed to develop the “inner world” of self-awareness, improvement, and confidence, the driving forces for great play.
Put effort into practice
Tennis, like most things, boils down to a fundamental truth: you will get out of it what you put into it. Practice, off-court and between games, is essential to building your skills, seeing and correcting your weaknesses, and amplifying your strengths. Practice is also crucial for building up confidence and comfort when on the court.
If possible, give yourself as much practice time as you give yourself match time. You will learn things in your matches, but the ideas is to not be figuring things out while you’re playing a match, but beforehand during practice.
Work on your weaknesses
Practicing gives you a perfect opportunity to identify one of the most important things you need to know to grow into a powerful player: your weaknesses. While this takes courage, and might not seem like the most fun area to focus on, you’ll find it immensely rewarding and strengthening in the long run.
First, be honest about your weaknesses. It might be helpful to dedicate some time to finding the right coach, because you have someone on the outside seeing your weaknesses, which a lot of times you can’t detect on your own. A practice partner or even your regular opponent could also be a source of insight into where your game could use improvement.
Second: repeat, repeat, repeat! Repetition produces certainty, so the more you repeat an action, the more certain and able you are in that action. Try as many repetitions in your weak areas as you can. For instance, if your serve isn’t effective or accurate, keep serving as much as you can.
While your body of course needs to be primed with practice and great maintenance, your mind is ultimately the one “driving” your body, so it’s crucial to spend time putting your mind through vigorous practice. Visualization is a tried and true practice used by professionals and recreational players alike to increase confidence, overcome nervousness, learn new technical skills, recover from illness or injury more quickly, and increase energy, motivation and relaxation .
Simply do the following. For 5 minutes each day, vividly imagine your absolute perfect next match. Imagine it as if it is happening right in that moment, engaging all of your senses and creating all of the details possible (the court and surroundings, on-court sounds, temperature, sensations, the players). Allow yourself to feel the great joy of victory when you win the match.
By doing this, you’ll start to notice an improvement in your confidence before and after matches, as well as in your results.
In the next section, we’ll tackle the “external” steps that you can take off-court to develop your game.