Mental approach: intensity or relaxation?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by jmhs, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. jmhs

    jmhs Rookie

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    Apologies because I'm sure this has been covered in various ways, but I'm trying to decide my best mental approach. I'm naturally intense, but I obviously don't want to be tight. I try to stay calm and focused, but my natural intensity tends to lead me to get frustrated...tight.

    I know everyone is wired differently. Federer seems very relaxed and Nadal is intense. People say they play their best when they are trying to just have fun, trying to have an Inner Game mentality, etc.

    If I try to play too physically relaxed, I feel as if I lose a step. But do most people play best when physically relaxed but mentally focused? Thanks in advance.
     
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  2. MethodTennis

    MethodTennis Hall of Fame

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    I play more consistently but when I am tense I play much more aggresivly I play match points against me best and have a tendency to win games when my opponents had advantage and im match point down
     
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  3. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    mentally focused on the right things. go buy inner game of tennis and be intense on BOUNCE/HIT
     
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  4. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    There's a vast difference between being intense out there where you're dialed in, acutely aware of what's happening, fixated on the ball, etc., and being ready to constantly berate yourself over unrealistic expectations over your performance. You have to be a little "keyed up" to play sharp, move well, and keep track of what's happening to play up closer to your potential, but you also need to do some work off the court on that space between your ears.

    I'm not a sports psychologist, but I do enough coaching and teaching to be able to see how a player's mind-set can either help them or hurt them. You may want to honestly consider going through the process of sitting down and specifically writing out your expectations of yourself on the courts given the abilities that you believe you have reached. What you want to do is get comfortable with how you perceive yourself and make sure that those impressions are grounded in reality. If you're furious about missing a ball, but you don't play the sport for your lunch money (that means "professionally") and practice six to eight hours a day, then that anger at yourself is a bit out of whack, right?

    Part of getting better means allowing yourself to mess up and blow a shot along the way, but make adjustments and get past it. If you choose to focus on those mistakes though instead of keeping fixated on your good habits, you're only more likely to repeat those mistakes. Play according to your familiar personality - you'll be less likely to be at odds with yourself - but regardless of what that may be, you need to do it in a positive light.
     
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  5. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Excellent topic.

    IMO, thinking relaxed and intensed in general isn't enough. You may need to analyze one level further. Physically you may need to relax from time to time so your muscles can learn to contract/tense up even more effectively. Nadal looks tensed during a point but he's very relaxed and even unconcerned about the time, the score between points. Mentally, you relax so that you can have room to focus/tense up on what's more necessary.

    "People say they play their best when they are trying to just have fun,"

    Not necessarily, occasionally I team up with this guy who likes to burst out laughing and sometimes even horsing around with his hitting during points, and he told me he was enjoying the game. No doubt about that, but the problem is we always lost.
     
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  6. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

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    Balance both to whatever you feel is best.

    The only way to can learn how to balance this is through years of match experience. Play thousands of matches. That's how the pros learned it.
     
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  7. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Sounds like it is a problem for you but not necessarily for your partner. If his primary goal is too have fun, then he has succeeded, win or lose. But if the primary goal is to win by having fun, then it is a fail.

    Whenever I adjust my attitude to focus on having fun, I don't always win but I will usually play at a high level where I am relaxed, yet still intense. I find that I get much more satisfaction if I lose while having fun and playing at a high level rather than winning while playing like crap and not enjoying the process.
     
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  8. jmhs

    jmhs Rookie

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    Yes..this is what I struggle with...making an adjustment instead of automatically getting frustrated.

    This says a lot. I've read some Jim Loehr stuff. If I could only remember to apply it.

    I just turned 17...ranked in the 30s in a tough USTA 18s section. I just feel as if I could be less tight physically out there (the downside to my intensity) I could at least breakthrough the top 20.

    I know that everyone tightens up at times during a match. I don't have any fear out there...but tweaking the way I'm wired physically...I guess I'll experiment with trying to be looser physically without losing that step. I'm happy with my small accomplishments, but I feel I've kind of maxed out on my natural intense approach. I think a lot of my UEs are from being too tight...missing a volley, etc. Anyway, the least I can do is try to breathe relaxed, more freely between points.
     
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  9. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    It is a problem for me because I assume that the common objective of two different people agreeing and stepping into the court to play a definitive game is to try to win which implies that you do your part first and then you can have whatever else you want. Without this common objective being understood, any partnership or how the game is meant to be played isn't possible or at least very short lived.

    Imagine this exaggerated scenerio and you'll probably understand: you ask someone to come out and play a game of tennis, he agrees and comes to the court in sandles, carries a broom that he says that's all he needs, while you're all adequately prepared. No matter, you two still hit, but almost all the balls are unhittable and he runs pathetically in the sandles, but he still has so much fun. After a while, you have enough and say hey we're not playing tennis, and he says that's your problem.
     
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  10. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, the common objective is ideal (but not always possible). The have-fun-win-or-lose guy should play with others with a similar attitude or objective. Mr sandal & broom guy should be playing with other sandal people.

    Some people go out to the courts or the golf course primarily to get exercise and have fun. Winning is nice, but secondary to some.


    .
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
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  11. Falloutjr

    Falloutjr Banned

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    I'm a def baseliner so I focus on bounce/hit a lot and I don't let myself get too intense I relax and focus on my strokes more than others. Tennis is not the sport you want to lose focus while playing. In sports like golf it's okay to allow yourself to think because you're not reacting to things but tennis is a bang-bang sport. Things are constantly happening back and forth and it's vital to keep your cool, focus, and stay within yourself.
     
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  12. VaBeachTennis

    VaBeachTennis Semi-Pro

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    I think it depends on the individual and what works best for them. My intensity level is pretty high as well, but I play better when I am somewhat "mentally/emotionally" detached from the game and try to go on autopilot, I try to keep it light and have a slight sense of amusement even if I get burned. In a strange way, getting burned kind of fires me up in a good way. I'll even say good shot and smile, but in my head I'm like "try that next time mofo" but in a good natured way.
    My play breaks down when I berate myself and start telling myself too many different things to do. Especially if I get mad or start to talk to myself in an audible manner, unless it's "positive speak", but even that sometimes messes me up.
    Concentrating on the ball and my opponent's actions and reactions(secondary) in a detached manner works best for me, but is sometimes less satisfying emotionally for me.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
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  13. downdaline

    downdaline Professional

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    I alternate. These kind of mental states transcends plain hitting, they can affect your opponent too.

    I will always be intense during an opponent's second serve. But i will always be relaxed when returning his first. This way, i make his good first serves seem mediocre, and put pressure on his second serve.

    I'm very relaxed during my service game bcos i have a pretty strong serve. Of course, breakpoints will up the intensity level somewhat... heh.
     
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  14. Blake0

    Blake0 Hall of Fame

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    Im intense of different things. I'm intense at shot selection, footwork, and always moving, but not at hitting. If i hit a bad shot, i just get over it, but if im continiously hitting bad shots i might get a little frustrated, especially if i don't try to change something. One time i laughed really loud at myself when i hit the stupidest shot in the world. It was during a tournament final too, with people and the official watching :oops:.
     
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  15. Cody

    Cody Semi-Pro

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    I find laughing really good, it helps me relax for the next point.
    I played an awesome match today with a fella who had a personality like mine just laughin away at random things, like a lob shank winner by me.

    I lost 6-3 but it was a fun match :)
     
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  16. jmhs

    jmhs Rookie

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    I'm going to borrow from this. I usually clap my racquet at a winner, but the mofo part will spur me to make an adjustment:wink:
     
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  17. HappyLefty

    HappyLefty Professional

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    I agree SA,
    Who said you can't play intense and relaxed? From my perspective, this is the key for success! Assuming you play against a player at your same you need to have a compromise between these two to win.
    I play my best when I reach this "Nirvana mood". If I play tense -not relaxed-, I use to muscle my shots.
     
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  18. Falloutjr

    Falloutjr Banned

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    Exactly. Your ideal mood should be "in the zone" where you don't think at all, and just react. That's always when you play your best at any sport. That's why people choke when they play sports. They think "okay I'm gonna go for the game winning play, etc." and they start to think as opposed to the "in the zone" mindset that got them there. It's all mental when you play against someone that's of equal skill to you.
     
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  19. ms87

    ms87 Rookie

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    relaxed intensity
     
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  20. theZig

    theZig Rookie

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    Every player is slightly different, but I do believe that the general rule of thumb is BALANCE. And the fact that the two are not mutually exclusive is also important to remember. You can be very focused and sharp (What some people would consider "intense), or you could be a barking mad dog (Which people would also consider "intense"). The first of the two does not mean that you can be very relaxed physically and loose. In fact, as others have stated, that's generally when players play their best.
     
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  21. prattle128

    prattle128 Semi-Pro

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    Couldn't agree more. The feeling of losing a good, fun match versus a dirty, just gross match that you easily won is vastly different. I must have been 300% happier after the match I had lost.
     
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  22. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

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    Intensity or relaction- It seems like a large number of questions are black/white- go to the net/stay at the baseline- be agressive/be patient- hit flat/use spin- hit deep/lure the opponent to net---

    Well, it does not always have to be one thing or another- One can play with "relaxed intensity"

    For example- The server blasts a hard serve, just out. You crack it back for what might be a winner and call, "Out".

    The second serve is in- an easy ball, but you are tense- it's an important point and you fluff it into the net.

    So, yes, concentrate intently on the ball, but also, relax and play like you would in practice.

    There is porbably some zen term for this sort of relaxed intensity, but I ame too lazy to look it up.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2009
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  23. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    Actually, you should find that if you're looser physically you should GAIN that step. Looser, more relaxed muscles react faster than tight tense muscles. It's hard to get your usual amount of topspin on a ball if your forearm is as tight and hard as a brick. Try hitting a touch volley with a death grip on the racquet - not gonna happen. You can be intense emotionally after a blown shot, but you gotta get relaxed and ready to play the next point in 20 seconds. There are lots of techniques that people use to do this. Find one that works for you.
     
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  24. TennisVet

    TennisVet Rookie

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    for me, being relaxed makes me more patient, allowing me some time to set up and then swing away
     
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  25. prattle128

    prattle128 Semi-Pro

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    I feel that, like others have said, you need to have a combination of the two. Intense enough to stay competitive and critical enough of yourself to recognize what isn't working for you so you can adjust. Relaxed enough so that you aren't overly critical of yourself, and don't get too worked up.

    Just look at the way Nadal approaches the game. He is known to be an intense player (and he is). He's very competitive, and plays with incredible tenacity. But if he isn't playing well, he doesn't go overboard and start smashing his racquet, throwing things, or swearing (at least not out loud lol). He keeps negative emotions in check by being relaxed, but amplifies positive emotions with his intensity. An excellent blend of the two, and look at where it has gotten him!
     
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