First Tournament: Any tips for setting achievable goals?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Shaggy, Jun 14, 2012.

  1. Shaggy

    Shaggy New User

    Apr 13, 2012
    I'll be playing in my first tournament in a couple of weeks. It's not a big deal. Just a casual level 3.0 round robin type thing for rec players at the park I play at.

    To be honest, I fully expect to get trounced. The reason is my mental game. I usually do great when I'm just practicing, but when the pressure to win kicks in, I start to play terribly: netting balls; over-hitting instead of focusing on placement; footwork goes out the window; etc... I know this. And I know that it's something I need to work on. And the only way I can really think of to work on it is to put myself in more situations where I will have to face it. Like tournaments.

    One thing that I thought might help is to view this not as an actual tournament, but as "practice at playing in a tournament."

    The other thing I thought might help is to set achievable goals for myself. For instance, instead of setting my goal as winning the match, I was thinking that an achievable goal might be something like "winning at least one game out of every set." I realize that might sound like a pretty pathetic goal. That's actually OK with me right now. It seems like it's something I can probably accomplish. And if I do, then I've met my goal, and at that point, I can relax and just play tennis. Whenever I am able to do this, I usually play better.

    Anybody have any other tips for short term goals that I can focus on in the smaller scale, like within a point or within a game to keep my mind busy and off the "you gotta win this thing" track?
  2. 6-2/6-4/6-0

    6-2/6-4/6-0 Semi-Pro

    Jun 2, 2011
    about 5000 feet up...
    Here's my quick thought - set mental goals and tactical goals. Biggest one: Every time you make a bad error let it go before the next point. Another one might be to S&V at least one point every service game. Or maybe to try and hit out at least once every game when you are under pressure rather than moon-balling to try and get back in the point.

    Most of all the only way you will fail is if you fail to have fun. Tennis at a recreational level is supposed to be fun, otherwise why would you play. Keep the joy of the game foremost and the results will come if you put in the time...

    TENNIS4FUN2 New User

    May 16, 2012
    I remember being petrified in my first match. Luckily it was doubles and my partner really helped.

    My son has problems with the "mental game" side of tennis. His coach has taught him to keep "just one more ball" in mind, meaning I just have to get one more ball in play than my opponent. Good Luck!!
  4. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

    Jun 12, 2009
    I asked for advice before my first tournament a couple of years ago and a poster on here gave me great advice. I wasn't able to follow it, but I'll pass it on to you in hopes that you can.

    Your goal should be to play how you play in practice. Don't worry about winning. That's just going to cause you to get tight and lead to timid hitting. You'll be much happier with your experience, win or lose, if you play your game.
  5. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

    Jul 22, 2005
    I think that you would want to set your goals like you would for a practice match.

    "Take every return deep and cross court. Don't worry about mixing it up- work on the crosscourt return"

    "When getting a neutral ball, choose to hit to the opponents backhand until they show they can attack off of that side"

    "When getting a short ball, go up the line and follow it to the net"

    "Try and make the opponent hit a backhand return on every serve"

    Doing these things simplifies the game and lets you focus on one thing at a time which for me makes it a lot easier to work on my shots. These are good habits to get into for your tennis game overall. Setting these things as your goals separates the winning and losing from the equation. But if you were able to accomplish all those things then you would do great in the tournament.
  6. IA-SteveB

    IA-SteveB Hall of Fame

    Jun 6, 2012
    I just played in my first USTA tournament last weekend at NTRP 3.5. I hadn't played in a match that counted for 20 years. My goal was very simple ... play my game, don't make unforced errors and concentrate on service. I didn't want to worry about a lot. I know people say concentrate on this and that from a tactical standpoint, but I thought it was enough just to keep fundamentals and form in mind and not get down on myself for an error. If I do that, the rest will work itself out, and it did. In future matches, I am sure tactics will be more of a focus but not just yet for me. I took it down to simplest form and now I can build on that.

    Good luck.
  7. Herdsman76

    Herdsman76 Rookie

    Dec 20, 2010
    The good thing if I read your posting correctly is that it's a Round Robin which means you're playing more than one match that counts. Not trying to put any more pressure than you're already feeling. What I'm saying is that you're getting to play multiple matches.

    In my first tournament I had the dreaded first round jitters and got trounced 6-0 in the first set. It took a long while for me to settle into the match. I ended up losing 6-0, 7-5. Although I played well in the second set, that was typically of tournaments for a couple of years after that. During those tournaments, there was no consolation so it was one and done... Talk about pressure, especially if you're down a set already.

    The main thing like the other posters said is to play like you practice. Go in with no expectations and don't worry about the score. Yes you will have the jitters but give yourself a break, it's your first tournament. The beauty is you have more than one match so you're getting multiple match experience right off the bat.

    Cheers and good luck!

  8. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

    Jun 15, 2007
    Find out what kind of balls they use and practice with those.

    #1 Get your first serve in.
    #2 Return three balls without missing.
    #3 Come in on a short ball.
    From Marcus Coostona's book, "OCCAM'S RACQUET"
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2012
  9. zcarzach

    zcarzach Professional

    Feb 12, 2005
    Win at all costs, or kill yourself.... ok, we've got that out of the way.

    I would try to focus on certain strengths. Whatever you are good at, try to do it as much as you can. If you have a great first serve, get it in. If you have a monster forehand, hit it as much as you can. Winning a tennis match is about playing your strength to your opponent's weakness until it stops working, then adapting. If it keeps working, keep hitting it. So, figure out what you are good at and do that.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2012
  10. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006

    #4 Do not attempt any shots you do not own.
    #5 Make 100% of your approach shots. Make him hit the pass.

    If I can steal something my coach once told me: "Your best stuff is good enough."
  11. Shaggy

    Shaggy New User

    Apr 13, 2012
    Wow! Thanks!

    Probably more here than I can use already.

    A lot of things mentioned that I think will help, especially this: "Do not attempt any shots you do not own." Which I think I will change to "don't get fancy" because that's short enough that I can repeat it like a mantra as the ball is coming towards me. Unlike a lot of people, when I get tight, I do not play it safe. Instead, I attempt to crush every single ball for an outright winner, and predictably (since that's not my normal style of play) the ball sails into the tarp or smashes into the net cord. If I'm able to rein that in a bit, I think I'll probably see a lot better results. Another thing along those same lines that seems like it might help is, when I get a nice juicy sitter, think to myself, "set yourself up" which sort of loosely connects to the "one more ball" advice which may help me stay in a point rather than going for broke.

    I think that will probably be about as much as I want to focus on my first time.

    Some of the other advice like "try to hit every ball deep cross court," and "concentrate on getting your first serve in" seem like they are probably great advice that I'm not quite ready for yet. I can just see a scenario where I miss three first serves in a row and then the old brain will start stewing, which will drive down my first serve percentage even further, which will then start driving down the second serve percentage until the full meltdown begins. But if I get through a couple more tournaments taking baby steps, I can definitely see that these will start to become more useful goals.

    Thanks again!
  12. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006
    You sound like your demons are similar to mine.

    Geez, I just cannot help myself sometimes. I see my opponent way behind the baseline, and the voices in my head start making suggestions: "Hit a drop shot! Go on, it will work and you'll look amazing! How dare she stand so far back? You should make her pay with a drop shot you have no clue how to hit. DO IT! DO IT! DO IT, YOU WUSS!"

    And then I hit a drop shot that lands two feet behind the T and sits up. Ahem.
  13. Shaggy

    Shaggy New User

    Apr 13, 2012
    Played a match with a friend on Sunday to help me get mentally prepared for the tournament and also to try out some of the advice here.

    The last time I played this guy was at the end of last summer and he beat me 6-1, 6-0. It was just awful that time. It wasn't so much that he won that bothered me because I know that he's better than me, so I expected that. What bothered me was that I beat myself and I knew it. All he would have had to do to win was show up and stand there. My first serve percentage was about 10%. My second serve percentage was about 20%. Anything that did go in, all he had to do was dink it over the net and watch me smash it into the net. I almost had a complete racquet smashing meltdown. The only thing that stopped me was the sudden realization that I couldn't really afford a new racquet at the time.

    So I thought playing him again would be good practice at trying to keep it together.

    My goals were pretty simple: Win at least one game per set; try to keep a majority of my shots limited to things I knew I totally owned; and exercise patience on points (instead of always trying to end them).

    Things went much better this time. I still lost, but it was a much more respectable loss (6-4, 6-4). The good: I managed about three or four aces; only had two double faults (a VAST improvement over the last time we played); didn't get bageled in any game; only got aced once; pulled off two well-timed and if not pro-level then at least pretty-well executed drop shots. The bad: still netted a few easy approach balls; made some bad decisions about when to come to the net; noted that his backhand was a little weaker than I remembered (especially on high balls) and utterly failed to do anything with that information. Still, I'm pretty happy with the improvement. Mostly I'm happy that I was able to just relax and enjoy playing while I was out there.

    Thanks for all of the advice! Hopefully it will work as well in the actual tournament.
  14. GameSetMatchWin

    GameSetMatchWin New User

    Jun 18, 2012
    Instead of concentrating on what shots you want to make, think about how the ball is coming towards you. How fast is it coming, is it coming to your forehand or backhand, and predict how high it will bounce (was it a slice or a topspin shot?). This will help you set up for your shot and help to keep you from over-hitting

    Don't get ahead of yourself, and just play it one point at a time
    Good luck and let us know how you do!
  15. FlameYo

    FlameYo New User

    Nov 2, 2009
    Try to stay in a relaxed state by accepting your errors as part of game and then correct the mistakes if there is a pattern.
  16. CaldwellYSR

    CaldwellYSR Rookie

    Jun 3, 2012
    Shelbyville, TN
    I have never heard this before but I love it!
  17. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

    Aug 30, 2010
    LOL! That's awesome. I went through a tiff a few months ago where whenever I went to hit a dropper, it would hit the tape, literally 100% of the time. My feel was just a touch off and I couldn't get a dropper over the net.

    That's when I decided to really work on my forehand so that I didn't have to ever hit anything other then topspin off of it, and I guess it worked out pretty well considering any short ball that I can reach is crushed back way faster then it came! :razz:


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