Confidence during matches

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by fuzzfactory, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. fuzzfactory

    fuzzfactory Rookie

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    Hi all,

    I've recently found time to get back into tennis again and joined a NTRP 3.5 league in a new area. My tennis experience has mainly been just rallying with a few good friends back in my college days, but rarely did I play games. The relaxed, stress-free environment allowed me to play to my best ability without nerves getting in the way. However, now that there is a ladder system, I find myself nervous about hitting the ball out and as a result, I find myself hitting very slow paced shots or moon-balling from fear. When I do swing hard, I tend to either shank the ball or hit it into the atmosphere, even though when rallying these shots would be very easy to execute. Anyone else have this problem?

    I'm doing well in the league at about a 70% winrate after 30 or so games, but I'm winning primarily because of point construction and game strategy rather than with my strokes. I feel like I rally like a 4.0 but play like on a 3.0-3.5 level :( Anyone have any advice on building up this confidence to the point where I can take huge cuts at the ball without fear like I do when its NOT during a game situation? This affect anyone else?

    Thanks
     
    #1
  2. RogueFLIP

    RogueFLIP Semi-Pro

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    You are not alone. I'm exactly like you describe.

    Played my first ladder league earlier this year. Then my first USTA in the summer.

    Played no where near my potential, and unfortunately fear was how I played.

    I'm taking some steps towards toughening up my mental game, but I'm hoping that also experience will help when I start the fall ladder league.
     
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  3. tennixpl

    tennixpl Rookie

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    start swinging like you want in game matches, accept that you will lose a little more but you will start to find the groove you want to exist in, same issue here. In a fun match i kill it, in a tournament I hit pusher mode as soon as i feel stress and like i might lose. With no prize money, prestige, and a ranking that really doesn't matter it is amazing how much we make it matter in our own heads. If you still feel you must win to justify being out there then divide your effort, hit like you want till a certain game count then see if you can pull it back in and be more consistent and comeback and win if you are behind. or do the reverse, get a lead and then swing out, can always win in a tiebreak :) though the stress of always going to a tiebreak when you lead by a break or two gets old real quick
     
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  4. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Not only is this common, but many would argue that your experience is, in fact, the essence of tennis itself. That is, it is not about hitting a fuzzy ball, but it is about battling your own ego etc.

    Similar to the way many would say poker is not really about cards, it is about knowing the weaknesses of your opponents.
     
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  5. DBH

    DBH New User

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    Make aggressive swings to safe targets. When you have a normal rally ball (assuming you're not pulled out of position), take a good, full swing, but use plenty of spin to keep the ball in play, and don't aim for the lines. Aim for big sections within the court, especially until you get a rhythm in the match and are relaxed.
     
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  6. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Seems like you're answering your own question, imo.

    If your goal is to win: don't change anything. A 70% win rate (21-9) is as good as you can want, really. A great pusher can do fine even at the 4.0 level, in my experience.

    If you feel guilty, because you're a pusher in match play, and want to change your tactics, then just change your tactics. In my opinion, winning and improving your match play are at least somewhat mutually exclusive at the rec level. Unless you have time to practice multiple times in between matches, the only time you have to practice is match play.

    I'm of the school of thought that the fear of losing, and the lust for winning can paralyze the rec-level player. I believe this is why you see people who've been playing for 30 years that can't/won't hit a topspin shot during match play. For me, I usually pick an aspect of my game and "level" it. For instance:
    • For a few months, I'll dedicate it to a better service return grip.
    • For a few months, I'll dedicate myself to a new BH stroke
    • " " to a new second serve strategy
    • " " to more net play, etc ...
    Don't try to change your whole game at once. Pick something you want to level up, and dedicate yourself to that thing during match play. Once you feel you gained that level, move on to the next thing.
     
    #6
  7. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    I deal with the same thing.

    Play the ball and trust in your strokes instead of thinking about win / loss and the score. And when you make an error move on immediately.

    Easier said than done I know but whether an ATP top 10 or rec player it remains the same.

    Reducing tennis to a mechanical exercise by focusing on the ball through contact and "becoming a machine" is most important. I've earned my most satisfying wins that way while an opponent self-destructed in an orgy of self-inflicted fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
     
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  8. leroy_sunset

    leroy_sunset Rookie

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    My biggest issue has always been mental. I'm not a positive player, I'm not the icewater type either. As long as I stay offensive, focused, and don't mentally check out, I play my best.
     
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  9. emilyhex

    emilyhex Rookie

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    Play more matches.

    Set up some matches outside your ladder. The more you play in match situation, the more comfortable you will be. Play a variety of opponents and skill levels.

    Never give up. If you are down 0-5, 0-40, play like you still have a shot. Every point, make them work for it. Look at Nadal the other night, down 0-40, 4-4 in the third set. He comes back and cruises to a USO victory; that is a champion.
     
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  10. Bdarb

    Bdarb Hall of Fame

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    welcome to competitive tennis. It's a lot easier in practice isn't it ;)Being comfortable taking big cuts and producing in big situations is what makes a good tennis player. Tons of people hit a good ball, much less do that on command in pressure situations.

    Sometimes I'll be in a stressful situation in a match and catch myself just dinking back a serve or my second serve is crap, remember you don't practice at 50% so there's no point playing at that level. Half the time those safety shots don't go in or the opponent kills it anyway. If you're going to lose the point, might as well work on something or go all for it. That kind of mentality helps me focus on swinging out in a match if I get up tight.
     
    #10
  11. fuzzfactory

    fuzzfactory Rookie

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    Some good tips in here, thanks guys. It does make sense that if I just hit a sitter, most players will be able to crush it.. so why not just make the most of it
     
    #11
  12. Kasmatsu

    Kasmatsu Rookie

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    I recommend watching the Degobah section of The Empire Strikes Back and listen to everything Yoda tells Luke. Basically you need to find inner calm. Peace. Serenity. Let the tennis flow thru you.

    A good place to start is by taking a few deep breaths between points.
     
    #12
  13. Sox Fan

    Sox Fan New User

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    I have had the same problem. So afraid to make a mistake I start pushing instead of hitting.

    When I play sports I usually do best when i get myself all ****ed off and fired up before playing. This worked very well when I played baseball - i pitched in college.

    This approach wasn't working for me as a middle aged club tennis player. So, recently, I have strated approaching matches like i am playing with a good friend for fun. My effort level is the same, running down every ball and all that. But I smile a lot, try to make great shots, compliment the other player a lot and don't think much about the score. Instead, I just think about hitting good shots.

    I am willing to lose to get better. Doesn't bother me a bit so far. I think if I stick with this approach, i will be able to really improve my game over the long term instead of just figuring out how to win a lot of matches at my current level.

    As I get ready for a match, I think about the worst thing that can happen. OK - i get clobbered in some club league or USTA 3.5 or 4.0 match that almost no one will remember or care about the next day. Life is short, have fun!
     
    #13
  14. Sox Fan

    Sox Fan New User

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    This is a really good post.
     
    #14
  15. nickarnold2000

    nickarnold2000 Hall of Fame

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    I think your post is good too. Focus on improving, not winning and in the end the winning will take care of itself. (I stole this line from Agassi!) :)
     
    #15
  16. AtomicForehand

    AtomicForehand Hall of Fame

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    Play the score.

    In order to do this, you have to know what the high-percentage play(s) is/are for each situation you will find yourself in on court.

    When you are behind in the score, concentrate on executing the high-percentage plays to the best of your ability.

    When you are ahead in the score, take more risk. Attack. Hit with more spin, angle, or pace than you might normally. Try something new.

    This is the secret to winning.

    You're welcome.
     
    #16
  17. dlk

    dlk Hall of Fame

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    I hate to say profound, but essentially it is...tennis. I have just recently learned to lose for the sake of improving and swinging for the shots "I" want to make. I can almost always win when in pusher mode, but experimenting places more risk on shots.
     
    #17
  18. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Thanks, Sox Fan!
     
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  19. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Well the reason pushing wins is because one player is battling their emotions (the nonpusher) and the other is just hitting a yellow ball, which is considerably easier to do.
     
    #19
  20. CFreeborn

    CFreeborn New User

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    So true. I play better against 4.0 - 4.5 players (win more games) than against 3.5 softballers, on account of I've convinced myself I can't defend against that type of play. Just lost a match today on account of that. I've been playing for more than 40 years and I still do it... I don't need a coach I need a shrink....

    Hey Lucky, nice car. Mine's a '74 911. You anywhere near Portland?

    -C
     
    #20
  21. Rjtennis

    Rjtennis Hall of Fame

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    What your going through is pretty natural. As you grow in match experience things will come along. You will start to loosen up and go for your shots.
     
    #21
  22. fuzzfactory

    fuzzfactory Rookie

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    Ok so I had a match yesterday against a guy rated 0.5 higher than me. Figured I had absolutely nothing to lose.. so I decided to take a lot of your advice and go for broke. I lost 6-3 6-4, but at the end of it all I felt like I was the winner. For once, the match seemed to be in MY control rather than my opponents. I had much more unforced errors but the winners scattered amongst them certainly upped my confidence. Thanks for the advice so far, can't wait for the next match!
     
    #22
  23. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

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    just got to play to win that point. easier said than done i know, but treat every point like match point, run every ball down.
     
    #23
  24. rh310

    rh310 Professional

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    For what it's worth, I find this perspective to be helpful whenever I get tentative about anything.

    [​IMG]
     
    #24

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