Mental Problems during Games

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by kimhobbes, Oct 20, 2011.

  1. kimhobbes

    kimhobbes New User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Hello Tennis Warehouse!

    I am having a problem that is driving me crazy. I can't hit properly!

    The thing is, I am not a bad hitter. During practice I can hit really well, but whenever I walk into a game, my shots seize up and all my shots go out or drill the net.

    For example, one day I practiced very well, I played a game (screwed up), and then when I rallied right after the game I then played very well again!

    My peers tell me it is a matter of confidence, that I demoralize myself before I even hit the ball.

    When I play a game, I lose the "feel" of the racquet and the ball, if you know what I mean.

    Every time I play, I think, "hit the ball confidently", but when the ball comes, I get really nervous for some reason and I end up making stupid mistakes. This has been happening for quite some weeks.

    I usually hit very strong and hard, but I wish that I could have a form that I could swing without being scared of it going out.

    I have a tournament coming up, and I really need to contain my nerves and get it together!

    Please give me some advice on how to overcome my weird hitting during games!!
  2. Bender

    Bender Legend

    Dec 30, 2010
    weak era
    I'm like this as well--funny thing is I don't really notice myself locking up...

    I guess more match experience would work, but the fact that I play so much better in practice than in a set is starting to bother me a bit haha
  3. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

    Aug 24, 2005
    The crappest town in Britain
    Try playing practice sets where you have various rules set up for yourself. Don't tell your hitting partner what your rules are though so that he/she can't exploit the situation.

    For example, you could play a set where you have to serve & volley on every first serve. Or, try playing a set where you are not allowed to go for any winners until you hit four groundstrokes (obviously doesn't apply if your opponent has popped the ball up and you've got the easy, short put-away). There are several different rules you could do.

    The point is to learn how to play in a match environment while focusing on a plan. When you do this, you eventually learn to ignore other factors that only make you nervous. Once you get to that stage, when it comes time to play a competitive match, you can take away the rules and set a specific game strategy to focus on.

    It's all about learning to focus on what's important and ignore anything that can only bring you down.
  4. Ramon

    Ramon Hall of Fame

    Sep 4, 2011
    There is a classic book written on this subject, "The Inner Game of Tennis" by Timothy Gallwey. It's all about the mental side of tennis.
  5. 813wilson

    813wilson Rookie

    Jun 15, 2009
    Tampa area
    Four easy questions to help with anyone's advice offered:

    1) how old are you?
    2) when you practice/play matches is it with the same people?
    3) are the matches you are playing competitive? IE a local league/ladder?
    4) what level of play are you?

    The Spaceman offered some good points.
  6. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

    Jun 24, 2009
    At Large
    1. You need to incorporate match situations into your practice sessions. Spaceman already touched on this and did a good job. You can't just hit or rally. You need situational drills to simulate scenarios in a point, and you need to also replicate the pressure of a match using the score. I am a huge fan of finishing out practices by playing out tiebreakers.

    2. Are you realistic about how you are hitting in practice? Let's say in practice you went for the same type of shot, for example a midcourt forehand, 10 times. When it doesn't count, you might only remember the 4 times you hit it for a clean winner but not the 6 times you missed it long, wide, or in the net. In a match, a 4 out of 10 success rate on that shot isn't going to cut it. Also, are you working on the right things in practice? Staying with that midcourt forehand example, are you just practicing putting it away for a winner or are you also working on a more reliable shot such as playing it as a driven approach and following it up with volleys or an overhead.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2011
  7. Sim

    Sim Semi-Pro

    Sep 20, 2011
    1. Rally shots and shots you decide on during a game are totally different. You can't just rely on your rally shots in a game. Obviously, the only way to get a better feel of how to play "your game" is to play more singles matches. Practice sets really help with this, and the important thing about singles is to be consistent and make your opponent uncomfortable during the match.

    Think of it this way. Both of you may rally well during practice, but who would win in a singles match? The better rallyer? Nope, it's the player who can force more errors out of the other.

    2. Rallying during practice won't give you any idea on what strategies to use in a match. Every match is a different opponent, and you will need a different strategy for each (if they are of similar level to you). Once again, more match play will help you become more familiar with developing and adjusting strategies midgame. You can't just hit "hard" during a match and hope to win. Focus on consistency. Construct your points. Make the other players uncomfortable by finding out their weaknesses and using it against them.

    3. Your mental game will develop as you play more singles matches. I used to be like you, but I kept on playing singles, and eventually the mental problems started to slowly go away. I would lose to "better players" although they weren't necessarily "better rallyers" in practice. Everytime I lost, I would focus on one weakness to work on that appeared during the match.

    You said you had a tournament coming up. You'll probably be nervous no matter what you do if it's your first one :(. (maybe others have better advice to offer you on this part as I was nervous my first tournament as well)

    Hope this helps!
  8. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Jun 2, 2006
    The Great NW
    Good advice in the posts above, but first things first. How you play in practice means nothing. The measure of the quality of your play, be it strokes or otherwise is in matchplay. So if your strokes in matchplay are poor, then you have poor strokes. A minor thing, true, but it gets your mindset into the correct mode to actually improve (rather than look for "reasons" for your observations).
  9. gmatheis

    gmatheis Hall of Fame

    Aug 10, 2010
    Don't know if you (or others) are like me but this is something that I have found.

    Often times in practice you are more concerned with hitting well than where the ball goes and as a result you strike the ball well and get good results.

    When you get into a match situation you are suddenly much more concerned with where your shot goes and you therefore don't focus as much on really hitting cleanly.

    Really force yourself to watch the ball all the way through impact and even just a little after.

    If you look at slow motion of pros such as Roger Federer you will notice that his eyes are focusing on the point of impact even a short time after he hits the ball.
  10. thug the bunny

    thug the bunny Professional

    Jan 7, 2011
    Out of the comfort zone
    I'm guessing you're a relative newcomer to the game?

    Look, you can be pro-active and do drills as some suggested, which I'm sure would help alot.

    Or, be patient and just keep playing matches but focus only on seeing the ball well and playing within yourself. When you focus instead on trying to win every point with every swing and playing above your abilities, you will tend to tighten up, lunge at the ball, and look up.
  11. Whirly

    Whirly New User

    May 12, 2011
    Try and take notice of the little things you are doing during practice when you are hitting well. Your grip, how lose you are what you are doing with your feet etc when you are not really thinking about it.

    Then When you are in a match you could potentially be doing something different technically due to being nervous and in a different state of mind. If you learn to recognize what you are doing right when you are doing it and then notice that you are not doing it in a match it may help.

    It could be little things like you tighten up your hold on the racquet or you are a bit more pensive and taking longer to prepare or are not stepping in or getting your weight forward for fear of going to fast and shanking.
  12. ThoughtCrime

    ThoughtCrime Rookie

    Sep 26, 2011
    I think that you are putting too much pressure on yourself and as a result aren't being fluid in your strokes; not as relaxed. What helped me overcome this is to have a routine between points.

    Before I serve, I take deep breaths and bounce the ball 3-4 times. When receiving, I also breathe and keep my feet moving. Also try to focus on the ball during game play and don't worry if you make a mistake, just be loose and swing with fluidity.

    Also I agree with the above poster about noticing the little things. During game play, check whether you're holding your grip too tightly or if your preparing in time. Try to not get annoyed with mistakes.

    And lastly, do some drills which simulate actual game play rather rather than just rallying without pressure.
  13. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

    Jun 10, 2009
    it's a matter of confidence like others have said. When i came back, even though i was a veteran tournament player 15 years ago, it took me a good 5-6 tournaments before i even felt comfortable competing again. And i had the same problems with being tight and my shots felt nothing like they did in practice. It's all mental and the more you play tournaments the better it will get. There is no replacement for match play.

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