Mindset to level up

DailyG&T

Rookie
Hi! I've had a few matches recently (I'm a 3.5 player playing up to 4.0) where I've lost, and the other players WERE both higher rated than me and better overall players, BUT I felt I could have done better or even figured out ways to win (or lose but not by so much.) For instance it's unacceptable to me to lose 6-0, 6-0 yet have long deuces in 3-4 of the games. That tells me that I'm getting into trouble at key junctures and not closing out the games. In these matches I'm thinking of, I'll count W/L individual points and win many or even sometimes MORE points but not win the crucial points and lose. Observers tell me they couldn't tell who was winning or even they saw the scores and thought our scores were reversed due to watching the play. I'm not expecting to walk in and win right away. I'm playing up and all of these players are higher rated than me, sometimes a lot higher. The 6-0, 6-0 match I had recently is an example -- I hover on TR around 3.2-3.3-ish and she is 3.9+ probably will be bumped to 4.5 if she keeps on this way. I think she's 10-0 so far this year. Another match was a loss of 6-4, 6-2, but we were neck and neck except she could close out those games. This has to be a mindset/psychology issue, right? So what do I do? Advice for resources like podcast or website, videos, book, etc? Just keep at it? Thank you!
 

esgee48

Legend
Mindset should be to stay in the point. If you are playing defense, make the opponent hit another ball, preferably a hard loopy shot that buys you time to get back into position. If playing offense, hit your angles, but always expect the ball to come back, until you get that sitter you can put away. I normally play guys younger and slightly higher to much higher level than me. Makes the game more interesting. Most could/have played 4.5 or higher, which they do during the Spring/Summer. In singles, I would lose like 3 & 3 because they can outlast me. In doubles, where I do not have much court to cover, I may win about 50% of the time. Being the oldest, I get the best player as partner. [hehehe] They can't pick on my 'legs' in doubles. Oh to be young again.
 
Hi! I've had a few matches recently (I'm a 3.5 player playing up to 4.0) where I've lost, and the other players WERE both higher rated than me and better overall players, BUT I felt I could have done better or even figured out ways to win (or lose but not by so much.) For instance it's unacceptable to me to lose 6-0, 6-0 yet have long deuces in 3-4 of the games. That tells me that I'm getting into trouble at key junctures and not closing out the games. In these matches I'm thinking of, I'll count W/L individual points and win many or even sometimes MORE points but not win the crucial points and lose. Observers tell me they couldn't tell who was winning or even they saw the scores and thought our scores were reversed due to watching the play. I'm not expecting to walk in and win right away. I'm playing up and all of these players are higher rated than me, sometimes a lot higher. The 6-0, 6-0 match I had recently is an example -- I hover on TR around 3.2-3.3-ish and she is 3.9+ probably will be bumped to 4.5 if she keeps on this way. I think she's 10-0 so far this year. Another match was a loss of 6-4, 6-2, but we were neck and neck except she could close out those games. This has to be a mindset/psychology issue, right? So what do I do? Advice for resources like podcast or website, videos, book, etc? Just keep at it? Thank you!
I think your results would paradoxically improve if you stopped worrying so much about the results.

Forget about who is rated higher, by how many points, what her record is, how good her game looks, etc. Play each point to your best ability and when it's over, get ready for the next point.

Given how much detail you put into your post about things that aren't really related to what's happening on the court, I'd imagine similar things are going through your mind as you're playing. This is a burden and a waste of energy. If you can form a mental "bubble" and keep things like this out, you'll be able to devote all of your concentration and energy to the process; let the results take care of themselves.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tennis+patrick+cohn

 

DailyG&T

Rookie
Yes I am an overthinker lol! Big time. I will so though that this in this case is post-game analysis. I don't let myself look anyone else up until after the match. All I know if if she's 3.5, 4.0 etc. I'm playing in a new to me geographical area so I don't know a ton of people yet so don't recognize "oh that's Susie who is really good" etc. I'm going in cold mostly with the assumption that these players are at a "higher level" and I think that is getting in my way, like I'll think "wait a second, she's playing really well but so am I today, what if I actually win!?"
 

DailyG&T

Rookie
If you know Myers Briggs I will tell you I am INTJ (anyone who does know MBTI will say "yes, figured that one out already" lol!)
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Didn't you *just* get bumped from to 3.5? What mindset did you use then? If so, use that mindset again.

And what @S&V-not_dead_yet said about not worrying about the results is so point on ... don't worry about the W/L or even the number of games that you are winning/losing .... but if you are playing better at a higher skill level than you were a month ago or 6 months ago that is definitely where the focus should be in my mind.

Have you ever noticed that when you go into a match that you know that the other player is better than you are and you "let go" of wanting to win (or not lose) but instead just go in and surprise yourself at how well you can play against a higher level opponent?
Do that ... as often as possible.
 

DailyG&T

Rookie
I did just get bumped up. Note I don't want to get MOVED UP to 4.0, just want to be 3.5 playing up to 4.0 and win more of my matches. Not even all of them, just a good number (or any lol!) The problem for me as a singles player is in my region lots and lots of people play up so if I play 3.5, it's a ton of 3.0 playing up, ditto for 3.5. Stronger players don't want to play at level at 3.0, and 3.5, I'm finding. (I'm guessing 4.0 are not fighting to play 4.5 though.) I am seeking that magic place where I'm challenged and the matches are fun and I am growing and improving, but without losing in this frustrating way where it's not "tennis skill" so much as mindset. (Or at least not entirely tennis skill.)
 
I'm going in cold mostly with the assumption that these players are at a "higher level" and I think that is getting in my way, like I'll think "wait a second, she's playing really well but so am I today, what if I actually win!?"
Going in cold will help you focus on your game, not on the opponent's rating/record.

But then you undermine yourself by setting expectations ["what if I actually win?"]. Try to not set expectations; just play your game the way you know how to play it and let the results take care of themselves.
 
I did just get bumped up. Note I don't want to get MOVED UP to 4.0, just want to be 3.5 playing up to 4.0 and win more of my matches. Not even all of them, just a good number (or any lol!) The problem for me as a singles player is in my region lots and lots of people play up so if I play 3.5, it's a ton of 3.0 playing up, ditto for 3.5. Stronger players don't want to play at level at 3.0, and 3.5, I'm finding. (I'm guessing 4.0 are not fighting to play 4.5 though.) I am seeking that magic place where I'm challenged and the matches are fun and I am growing and improving, but without losing in this frustrating way where it's not "tennis skill" so much as mindset. (Or at least not entirely tennis skill.)
I counted 10 times you noted an NTRP in the above paragraph. That tells me you are concentrating a lot on NTRP.

OTOH, I didn't see much at all about your actual tennis [GSs, serve, return, volley, the 3Fs [fitness, focus, footwork and spacing], etc.].

BTW: if you are a 3.5 beating a "good number" of 4.0s, you likely belong in 4.0.

Again, the recurring theme I see in your posts [not just this thread but in others] is your focus on ratings and records. I suggest again, stop expending so much energy on those #s and use it instead on process improvement. I realize this might not be easy due to your personality but I believe it will help you more than your current approach.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I did just get bumped up. Note I don't want to get MOVED UP to 4.0, just want to be 3.5 playing up to 4.0 and win more of my matches. Not even all of them, just a good number (or any lol!) The problem for me as a singles player is in my region lots and lots of people play up so if I play 3.5, it's a ton of 3.0 playing up, ditto for 3.5. Stronger players don't want to play at level at 3.0, and 3.5, I'm finding. (I'm guessing 4.0 are not fighting to play 4.5 though.) I am seeking that magic place where I'm challenged and the matches are fun and I am growing and improving, but without losing in this frustrating way where it's not "tennis skill" so much as mindset. (Or at least not entirely tennis skill.)
Although I get the frustrations with the downside of the playing-up thing I am again agreeing with @S&V-not_dead_yet and thinking perhaps your focus is on ratings and numbers (how many times a week do you check TR?) rather than match improvement.

You are also not giving much credit to your opponents. I know this may sound crazy but is it possible that they have in fact higher tennis skills than you? Perhaps they hit with more pace? (see your other thread), perhaps they play more aggressive tennis (see your description of your game style in other thread)? Perhaps they construct points better? (patterns, etc.)

If you focus on your tennis skills that is in fact a change in mindset.

In my mind one cannot truly be both process and results oriented.
 
I am seeking that magic place where I'm challenged and the matches are fun and I am growing and improving, but without losing in this frustrating way where it's not "tennis skill" so much as mindset. (Or at least not entirely tennis skill.)
The problem with this approach, IMO, is that you're concentrating on the destination ["that magic place"] rather than the journey [process of improvement].

As a result, two things commonly happen:
- You never get to the magic place
- You get to the magic place and discover it isn't as magical as you anticipated ["the grass is always greener on the other side" syndrome] so you set your sights on the next magical place. Rinse and repeat

I don't want to get stuck in that; I work on process improvement and having gratitude that I'm healthy enough to play this crazy game. I try to let the results take care of themselves [not always successfully]: if the results were undesirable, I know what I have to work on.

Challenge to you: go an entire season without checking any stats, records, ratings, etc. Spend that energy visualizing your game and how you want to play it [both Djokovic and Andreescu [who won Indian Wells] use visualization heavily in their training].
 

DailyG&T

Rookie
Thank you, you guys! I do think I am chasing that mythical perfect competitive match which I feel I get at just the right level of challenging without being over the top frustrating. I would say about 1/5 of my matches are that way. It is a Goldilocks situation I think?? I was trying to drill down on why this matters and I think part of it is I work FT and squeeze tennis in. I have kids/family needs to tend to and most of my matches are an hour drive or sometimes more away (just part of the geography of where I live.) So it's a big investment of time and I want it to feel "worth it." I had this same "chasing the right type of X" situation with a job I had awhile ago and I think it was similar -- it was a type of job where the metric of "how am I doing?" is in wins and losses and I was always chasing the situation that was just challenging enough to feel pretty hard and win 51% of the time. Too easy and it feels boring and pointless but losing 100% of the time is a terrible feeling too. So maybe this is just something in my personality OR I'm more conscious of it than most. Anyway, food for thought.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Thank you, you guys! I do think I am chasing that mythical perfect competitive match which I feel I get at just the right level of challenging without being over the top frustrating. I would say about 1/5 of my matches are that way. It is a Goldilocks situation I think?? I was trying to drill down on why this matters and I think part of it is I work FT and squeeze tennis in. I have kids/family needs to tend to and most of my matches are an hour drive or sometimes more away (just part of the geography of where I live.) So it's a big investment of time and I want it to feel "worth it." I had this same "chasing the right type of X" situation with a job I had awhile ago and I think it was similar -- it was a type of job where the metric of "how am I doing?" is in wins and losses and I was always chasing the situation that was just challenging enough to feel pretty hard and win 51% of the time. Too easy and it feels boring and pointless but losing 100% of the time is a terrible feeling too. So maybe this is just something in my personality OR I'm more conscious of it than most. Anyway, food for thought.
Think about it this way .... look at the early part of the draw of any major tournament .... who are the #1 seeds playing? How easy are their early matches? How shocking is it when a #1 seed gets taken out in the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd round?

They cannot afford to have your mindset about the matches that are "too easy" .... they even will talk about how they have to prepare themselves mentally for those opponents. When they are ousted early they talk about how they weren't mentally in the right place to get the job done.

On this board and out there IRL, with rare exception, every single one of us is squeezing tennis into our lives. You are not special in that regard.

And I will challenge you a little further .... you claim you want a perfectly competitive match .... and yet in your first post you described a perfectly competitive match as being "unacceptable":
For instance it's unacceptable to me to lose 6-0, 6-0 yet have long deuces in 3-4 of the games.
That is the VERY DEFINITION of a competitive match!!

So in fact, you don't want a perfectly competitive match, you want matches that are somewhat challenging that you win.

If so, don't play up ... play at level on line 1 ... you will get competitive matches more often than not and you may win your 51% of the time.
 

tomato123

Semi-Pro
Do you take lessons at all? If you have the resources and can make the time to take private lessons, let’s say once a week, even once a month, I think it could be a great investment, especially if you can find a good coach that could adjust his own level of play to help provide just the right amount of “challenge” for you each session and also provide opportunities to improve your game. Especially if you have one of those weeks where you might be fuming over a loss and you know exactly what you needed to do better to win, and you need to get some more tennis out of your system to feel like you're “addressing” the problem to some extent, and more importantly, to get ourselves out of our own heads. Whoops, did I say “our”? :)

I think you and I have very similar personalities, and if I’m reading between the lines correctly, this may be an example of the discrepancy between the analysis and real life tennis, and seeing how things like win/loss records and NTRP rating are the only “numbers” we have access to, and when we see "numbers," it immediately gets us to associate them with analyzing and attaching a personalized value to them. Yet the subjective and variable nature of these ratings and corresponding individual players makes it very hard to theorize and formulate any kind of generalized strategy that would pan out in real life matches. Which is unfortunate because I think we take equal enjoyment in the number crunching, projecting, planning, and strategizing, as the games themselves.

I don't have much more to offer in terms of what would be helpful, but I wanted to at least validate your struggle, and for me as well, it is an ongoing process to just let go of all the noise and just play, and enjoy the moment to moment aspect of the game. I'm sure there's a happy intersection of all this somewhere for all of us, and I hope you find it!
 
And I will challenge you a little further .... you claim you want a perfectly competitive match .... and yet in your first post you described a perfectly competitive match as being "unacceptable":
@DailyG&T - let's say you played a match where you won the same # of points as your opponent: wouldn't you call that a perfectly competitive match? But it sounds as if you'll only conclude that if the match score was close [ie 6-4 6-4 or 4-6 4-6]. I think you're using the wrong yardstick to measure competitiveness.

Perhaps something you can analyze is are you frequently winning about the same # of points but losing by a wide match score: if so, that probably means you have to change your mental approach. Maybe you're playing fine until Deuce and then your mental toughness fades and your play gets more error-prone?

I'm grasping at straws. Watch the Cohn and Litwin material and see if it resonates.
 

winchestervatennis

Hall of Fame
If you lost 0&0 I’m not sure the match was as close as you think. You got to deuce 3-4 games? Lets call it 4... that’s only 25% of games. I’ve NEVER won 0&0 and thought, “dang, that really could have gone either way.”
 
A lot of times, the better player doesn’t play her best until she needs to. If she beat you 6-0,6-0, you should pay most attention to what happened on the decisive points after it got to deuce. What happened earlier in the game was probably that she didn’t take you that seriously as an opponent and played more carelessly. When I beat someone 6-0,6-0, it’s hard to maintain focus on every point.
 
If you lost 0&0 I’m not sure the match was as close as you think. You got to deuce 3-4 games? Lets call it 4... that’s only 25% of games. I’ve NEVER won 0&0 and thought, “dang, that really could have gone either way.”
We'd have to see the stats to get a better idea [ie total points won].

My thinking is broader: say, for example, I win the first set easily and am up 2-0 serving in the 2nd set and I barely win after being down 0-40 and with multiple Deuces. My opponent falls apart mentally and I cruise to a 0&2 victory. On paper it looks like a lopsided match. But I know that if I had lost that game, he would have only been down 1-2, would be serving, and there would have been a huge momentum shift. Maybe I lose that set and then the super TB.

Yes, that's a lot of IFs; but I think that happens more often than rarely. Just look at the scores of any league and you'll see a lot of matches where team A won easily in the 1st only to lose easily in the 2nd. Or won easily in the 1st and barely won the 2nd.
 

Acegame

New User
I got inspired by a lecture of Craig O'Shannessy. He said that even the top 4 guys in ATP only win 55% of all the points during a season. And they are the best of the best. So if you play someone who is close to your rating it's all about marginal gains. So if you stop giving away points because you were with your head somewhere else (previous points or other nonsense), it might just be the difference between winning or losing.

This winter i hardly played tennis, but i gained 1 whole ranking point just by changing my attitude and mentality. I read Nadal's book where he said that on the court he's constantly fighting his negative thoughts and trying to focus. So this is what i'm trying to do this year. I told myself i didn't want to lose a point just because i was still with my head by the previous point. Or when a match is close i'm just gonna concentrate on how i'm gonna set up the next point. This has worked wonders so far and am beating all these guys who are ranked higher than me. Also the close matches seem to go all my way. That certainly hasn't always been the case. Even one match were i was 4-1 down in the 3rd set.

Funny thing is that i'm not even playing my best tennis. But i believe a lot can be gained by mental adjustments.
 

blai212

Semi-Pro
there’s also something to be said about the mental game of sports. Conditioning yourself to be at your very best when called upon is as important as possessing the talent to do so. What’s the point in possessing talent that you’re unable to showcase in a match? (Kyrgios)


Sports psychology is a huge part of the game and should not be overlooked. If what you’re after is the ‘perfectly competitive match’ then I’d suggest exchanging numbers with someone that you meet at one of your matches that you feel pushes you to your max. Federer and Nadal are practice partners for a reason...


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Traffic

Hall of Fame
I've been consistently playing up this season. One of the things I've noticed is that the better players in the higher level have more experience playing at that level and they can keep their game going more consistently during crucial points. That's a huge difference. Also, they probably have another gear they can kick into as the competition level rises.

And quite frankly, if the score was so lopsided, you're not seeing their best game. They may be thinking, "this match should have been done long time ago" but they are losing some focus as well.

How many times have you "not played your best" against a weaker player?

That is not to be discouraging. It just means you need more time playing against that level of opponent. You will eventually adapt to that level and challenge them more closely. Just keep at it.
 
A lot of times, the better player doesn’t play her best until she needs to. If she beat you 6-0,6-0, you should pay most attention to what happened on the decisive points after it got to deuce. What happened earlier in the game was probably that she didn’t take you that seriously as an opponent and played more carelessly. When I beat someone 6-0,6-0, it’s hard to maintain focus on every point.
This is kinda what I was thinking. If I'm winning huge, I often get bored and will go for dumb shots just for giggles. Then all of a sudden I'm down 30-40 and have to start playing for real again.
 

ShaunS

Semi-Pro
And quite frankly, if the score was so lopsided, you're not seeing their best game. They may be thinking, "this match should have been done long time ago" but they are losing some focus as well.
Yeah, I doubt there's any way someone can convince me a 6-0, 6-0 match was competitive. In my last 100 USTA matches, I've had a grand total of zero 6-0, 6-0 wins. I've got two wins that were 1 & 0, and both of those were absolute blowouts against uneven odds. In both cases my opponents were around 0.75 rated lower by NTRP.

It's not fun for anyone to grind weak opponents into the dust, and it takes me a lot of mental effort to play my best tennis. If I'm playing someone who I know is far from my level (meaning 6-2, 6-2 win) then it's unlikely they'll see anything like my best tennis. It's just a lot more enjoyable time if I put a moderate pace kick serve into play rather than hitting aces at somebody all night long. Maybe we're even able to play some decent points out, but it's not "competitive" in the sense that they ever had a chance to win.

We'd have to see the stats to get a better idea [ie total points won].
Even if the points were 50/50, I'm still going to believe the opponent is simply not giving their all. I've never personally experienced a match in my life (win or lose) in which the loser had won 4 games or less that was actually close. So the idea that you could win 0 and be in it is something I can't wrap my head around.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Yeah, I doubt there's any way someone can convince me a 6-0, 6-0 match was competitive. In my last 100 USTA matches, I've had a grand total of zero 6-0, 6-0 wins. I've got two wins that were 1 & 0, and both of those were absolute blowouts against uneven odds. In both cases my opponents were around 0.75 rated lower by NTRP.

It's not fun for anyone to grind weak opponents into the dust, and it takes me a lot of mental effort to play my best tennis. If I'm playing someone who I know is far from my level (meaning 6-2, 6-2 win) then it's unlikely they'll see anything like my best tennis. It's just a lot more enjoyable time if I put a moderate pace kick serve into play rather than hitting aces at somebody all night long. Maybe we're even able to play some decent points out, but it's not "competitive" in the sense that they ever had a chance to win.


Even if the points were 50/50, I'm still going to believe the opponent is simply not giving their all. I've never personally experienced a match in my life (win or lose) in which the loser had won 4 games or less that was actually close. So the idea that you could win 0 and be in it is something I can't wrap my head around.
I have had both wins and losses with scores in the 0, 1 or 2 range that I would consider competitive. Where nearly every game went to deuce and I either won or lost the important points .... the entire match could have gone either way and I either handled those important points or my opponent did.

I have also had a few wins that had closer scores like 3s or 4s where it really wasn't competitive but where I was just being really lazy because there was in fact no contest.

You can tell when an opponent (or yourself) is in an unbalanced match up .... they can suddenly raise their level on some points to take care of business.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Yeah, I doubt there's any way someone can convince me a 6-0, 6-0 match was competitive.
I've been double bageled once. The first set was non-competitive. The second set was 6 straight deuce games with 5 of them where we had a game point at least once and couldn't convert. That was a competitive set.

I agree a double bagel is generally non-competitive but occasionally some competitive tennis is played.
 

blai212

Semi-Pro
I have had both wins and losses with scores in the 0, 1 or 2 range that I would consider competitive. Where nearly every game went to deuce and I either won or lost the important points .... the entire match could have gone either way and I either handled those important points or my opponent did.

I have also had a few wins that had closer scores like 3s or 4s where it really wasn't competitive but where I was just being really lazy because there was in fact no contest.

You can tell when an opponent (or yourself) is in an unbalanced match up .... they can suddenly raise their level on some points to take care of business.
I completely agree...i’ve almost lost sets 6-1 that every game was deuce but faltered on the crucial points. Score is not exactly indicative of the competitiveness of the match, maybe some of you jus have not experienced it yet...


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DailyG&T

Rookie
Thank you, thank you so much you guys for all the responses. I have come back to this thread many times for inspiration and ideas. Just to clarify, I'm not trying to increase my level from 3.5 to 4.0. I'm trying to "level up" my game meaning play well against a higher caliber of players. I think 3.5 is the perfect level for me to hang out here because I have freedom to play up to 4.0 which is plenty challenging but not forced to only play there. So what has happened since this original post....I had three more 4.0 matches and lost all three, BUT "better" losses meaning 3s and 4s instead of 6-0 6-1 eg. Common in women's tennis is to exchange info after and maybe play sometime casually and this happened to me twice which I always think is a very good sign. I focused on FOCUS, just putting a lot of intensity onto every single point, every point is like match point, don't ease up on that intensity. I noticed what was posted here which is better players tend to have a higher gear they kick into at crucial times. I am becoming more sensitive to noticing when that's happening. Now I need to figure out how to do that myself:). Good news is I am convinced that playing up to 4.0 is improving my game for my 3.5 matches which I am winning more easily. I am also realizing I need "my thing" -- to figure out what my amazing weapon(s) will be. Currently against a tough 4.0 competitor (not a 3.5 like myself playing up, but a true 4.0 who may in fact be close to being bumped to 4.5), my only tactic is to try to deprive her of her best weapons, e.g. figure out what she's doing to win and never give her that opportunity. AND try to figure it out soon enough and figure out how to deprive her. I'm a lefty and I have a really strong DTL passing shot for when an opponent is at the net and I want to really hone that, and maybe one other shot? Anyway, thank you for all the responses:)
 
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