under pressure

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Lee James, Jul 30, 2004.

  1. Lee James

    Lee James Rookie

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    I've been visiting the boards here for a while now, to the tune of 3 or 4 yrs. I've always enjoyed the advice many of you can give. Once again I'm in dire straights and in need of an outside view point. My tennis lately has gone done the poop shoot. Physically I haven't been able to make it through practices with my drill sargeant of a coach, and I've been losing to players who I feel I should be demolishing.....ex.) today I lost to this up and coming 9 yr. old. That might not sound too bad, but consider my serve ranges between 110 to 120, and my groundstrokes are hard, no real weakness except for my backhand which can juss go haywire from time to time. My confidence level has dropped so far that I find myself hoping my opponent misses a ball so that I don't have to play another one. I even find myself pushing serves and balls into play. I can't even focus on whats going on in the matches. I was tired because we had juss finished a 2 hr. practice session, and my legs were feeling crampy, but still how on earth do I lose and on top of that get broken twice. :cry: I'm thinking that this is all mental, but I'd really love to get some advice on how to turn things around. I'm going to be playing tennis in the fall at Alabama A&M which is a D1 school and I really don't want to go 4 yrs. without stepping foot on the court. I also had aspirations of playing some am/pro am events to see how well I could do. I'm just scared and nervous about the way things are going. Maybe I need a short hiatus from practice....I juss dunno. As you can see I'm pretty down and out about this. I'm open to any and all suggestions.

    thanks in advance

    Lee
     
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  2. Camilio Pascual

    Camilio Pascual Hall of Fame

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    110 - 120 mph serves against a 9 year old is getting you beaten? Forget your tennis, try to become that 9 year old's agent! LOL
     
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  3. Lee James

    Lee James Rookie

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    I wasn't serving nearly that hard, with my confidence off I was basically dinking serves at speeds drastically lower than that. It's like I was serving normally for the first 2 service games and winning easily basically not dropping a point, but then I missed a few first serves and anxiety went up and I lost it again.
     
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  4. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Wow, this is one complex problem!

    First off, I get the feeling your exhausted both mentally and physically. You might want to take some time off and just rest.

    Rest rejuvenates the body both physically and mentally and should be looked at as part of your tennis career. A very important part. Otherwise, you end up feeling stale or everything seems like it is an uphill battle.

    Second, while you're resting I would encourage you to learn more about game strategy and tactics. This will heighthen your awareness and bring in a different aspect to your game besides serving and groundstrokes. Conditioning and stroke development are important please dont get me wrong, but they are only a part of the equation in tennis and this is where most players stop.

    Addtionally, many coaches fail in this area and look at tennis as a bunch of strokes because they dont know strategy that well. So many aspiring players only focus (or are trained to focus) on hitting a better backhand. The problem with that is tennis isn't just about how well you hit a stroke or how fast you can serve. It is much more than that.

    Case in point, in America (I dont know where you're from), Amercian football can be a lot like tennis. When we were kids, we not only learned how to catch a ball and throw it (technique), we also called plays (strategy and tactics).

    These plays weren't that complicated but they were plays. We came up with a strategy to score points in our little game of football. "Tommy, you block Johnny, Danny you run 10 steps and turn around, Jimmy, you go long..."

    In a much similar way, you need to add this to tennis. It is not about how fast or powerful your strokes are. Tennis is about shot patterns and finding the key(s) to unlock an opponents game. This is the main reason why you got in shape and learned to perfect your backhand so you can execute your options in strategy.

    Technique is something you learn to be able to execute your ability to see patterns. By learning shot patterns you can also recognize when someone has found a key to your game and starts to unravel it. This will allow you to be patient and defend it. Sort of a "plugging up the dam" by changing the pattern.

    Now my question is, how much effort have you really given learning how to think in tennis vs. how to hit a ball? I would bet it is lopsided.

    You need something new in this game. If you're going to play college tennis you really need something new! That new thing is called "how to develop your pattern rocognition skills" or "how to improve your understanding on what is happening on the court."

    Remember tennis is not about just strokes. Another question, how many times have you seen a lesser player beat a technically better player? Many times. Its happened to you! So tennis is not about strokes!

    The problem with stroke development only, is you train your brain to see only your strokes and their strokes and think it is a game of who has the better strokes. What is happening inbetween strokes is foreign. Have you ever seen Brad Gilbert play? His book Winning Ugly is an understatement. But he won and he reached the top 10!

    Changing your perspective will revitalize you. Inspire you again. Motivate you to look at the game of tennis as a game of strategy more than strokes.

    So how do you do it? First off, I wrote about this in another post (see and print "How should I approach this tournament?").

    You need to understand:

    1. That every player in the world that has ever played tennis has holes in their game. It gets harder to find the holes in a player that is better than you.

    2. Every player has tendencies whether they know it or not.

    3. Most players even advanced players do not know what is happening to them when they are losing.

    4. Most players do not understand how to look for the key that unlocks a players game.

    In the above statements, notice I didnt talk about strokes. This is because if you can find a strategic matchup that allows you to win points you will beat a player better than you that doesn't look at the game of tennis that way. Here is some breif information about what I am talking about:

    Strategy

    1. Its all about strategic matchups. This is a critical concept toi understand. You need to begin to incorporate it into your game beginning the next time you step on the court.

    The basic idea is that tennis should be looked at as a series of patterns - called strategic matchups. Many players unfortunately just focus on the shot they’re attempting. For example, they try to hit a good forehand or a good backhand. But the smart players realize that their shot is just the beginning of a pattern.

    So what is a pattern? Pretend that you like to hit a slice backhand crosscourt to your opponents backhand. Your opponent will almost certainly have a preferred way to respond to your shot. Most players, for example, will return your slice with another slice crosscourt to your backhand.

    However at some point in the rally one of the players will do something to change the pattern. And, the reason why that player changes the pattern is that he recoginizes that its not a good pattern for him. Maybe he doesn’t hit the slice as well as his opponent and is afraid to miss. Or, maybe he wants to hit forehands, so he’ll prefer to hit a different shot hoping that his opponent will respond in such a way that will allow him to hit forehands. Its critical to always be analyzing patterns. For each pattern ask yourself – are you winning most of the points, breaking even, or losing most of the points? You need to develop an understaning of what patterns are winning you points and what patterns are costing you points. So it is not about strokes or levels!!!!!

    After finding the patterns that work in your favor, you then begin to use these as your core strategies. Similarily, you try to avoid strategies or tactics that give the advantage to your opponent.

    Since winning is all about shot patterns, the issue to analyze is not what your best shot is. It’s what your best shot pattern is!

    For example, let’s say that your crosscourt forehand is your best shot. You almost never miss and can hit it deep. But, let’s also assume that your opponent has an amazing forehand that he can rip winners even off your best shots. He’s winning most of the points. So, guess what? You’re losing this matchup!

    It is critical to understand that sometimes it is not better to hit yorubest shot if it results in a losing matchup! Now you know why you feel pressure and get tight on a certain shot you may not feel confortable with. If you sense this happening, change the pattern!

    If you dont know how after the match ask a coach that is good with strategy or pay a coach to come watch you match. For $40 - $50 an hour it is money well spent!
     
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  5. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    Reality. If you can hit 110 mph serves then you should be able to hit a kick serve over the 9 year old's head or just plain over power him with your flat serve. Maybe you don't really serve that hard. You do sound tired out and in need of a rest. If you were cramping remember to bring more water and sports drinks and drinking heavily when you are on the court sweating hard, no small sips. You seem to be feeling the pressure of trying to move up. Realize that everyone progresses at a different level and that you can have lofty goals, but that they may not happen in the timeframe you have projected. You also seem a little bit scared of losing. Stop being scared and just try to learn something every time you do lose as to why you did lose so you can go back and try to work on it. But you do sound a bit burnt out so take some time off if you can so you can come back re-energized and with a focus of what you want to do.
     
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  6. lendl lives

    lendl lives Semi-Pro

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    this is a great post. i know how you feel. i've exprienced the same type of anxiety on the court. what helped me was making improvements in my social life. (support network). sometimes especially if we get good, our self esteem can fluctuated with our tennis game....a good support network lessens these feelings.....also for some reason doing this helped me. i imagine i'm playing against a ball machine. I just remember how i kill balls all day long against a ball machine and it works for me in matches. I'm am less anxious, and infact aggressive, even when ball after ball comes back.....For some reason this really helps me.
     
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  7. Lee James

    Lee James Rookie

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    Thanks a lot. Once again I've gotten some wonderful advice. I do think I'm burned out. Lately walking out onto a tennis court hasn't given me the happiness that made me want to stay all night and even in the rain when I was younger. I guess I lost sight of why I really loved to play, and got so caught up in drilling and conditioning. My serve really is in the 110 range and being a lefty I've got all of the spin variations from flat to topspin to slices into the body, out wide, and up the T. The kid or any of the other people my age I've played always have trouble just getting it back into play. My biggest issue wasn't with hitting it, but with having the confidence to go for it because a lot of the times I'd miss a couple and then I'd like someone said in a post earlier start playing not to lose instead of playing to win and in turn my serve speeds drop dramatically and percentages go way down which in turn leads me to feel hopeless and the rest of my game starts to drop. I know that if I'm playing and genuinely having fun and loving it, that none of this is really an issue and I'm capable of beating a lot of people, but the burnout has just robbed me of the fun. I think I probably should start looking at the game from a more strategic standpoint and becoming a better student of the game.
     
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  8. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Good for you, take some time off and learn!

    email me if you have questions on strategy and how to incorporate it in your game. I was in the same position at 20 years old and quit tennis. I studied it still but didnt play it. I just got burnt out. I had no coach to help me and when burn out hit, I went to Hawaii for 7 years and surfed! Not a bad time off! lol

    It was my Aussie friends out there that got me to love the game again. :)
     
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  9. trigger1

    trigger1 New User

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    Great advice from B Bill. I would have to agree with most saying that what you need is both a physical and mental break from the game. You really need to dig down and ask yourself what motivates you to play. That question of course for each and every one of us is so varied and complex give tennis a rest and see if you miss it. I too was in a similar rut awhile ago (and hell I am in my 40's). It is a typcial scenario the more you focus on your errors the bigger they become ,like a snowball that initiates an avalanche. You become more frustrated and the inevitable happens, your muscles tighten up under the added mental pressure.
    I just tried to relax more and not focus so much on winning but making small incremental positive gains in my game and focusing on those. I also avoided the tendency to yell on the court at myself which made matters worse. Another thing I did was I finally found a racquet that is more suited to my stroke and this has helped tremendously. But aside from the racquet I belive yours is more mental. Good luck and hope all works out for you.
     
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