Skills building transitioned to tournament play

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by smoothtennis, May 16, 2007.

  1. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

    May 8, 2007
    Fort Worth, TX
    I spent 8 years not playing any tournaments, and in the last 5, I would say, I have worked hard with a hitting partner to improve all skills. We hit on weekends, and this evolved from warming up and playing to eventually, about 1.5 hours of drills, then playing matches. In these matches, we would critique if we saw glaring problems, and work on them next time.

    My point is I increased my skills a lot, and started to have breakthroughs in stroke production, consistency, and ball depth. I took this new game to the local league, and was able to play the top 4.0 guys and win in singles matches.

    Then this weekend I did my first 4.0 tournamnet, and understandably, I got really tight. Not scared tight, just tight you know? I had close games, and even won a set, but my game was 50% of what it has been in recent play.

    I realize now that I thought too much, and didn't hit out smoothly, but reacted too much. I plan to make serious adjustments to the mental side of things.

    My question is this. How long or how many tournaments does it take to calm down and transition your practice skills to a competitive match? My practice games are competitive, but in no way do they come close to the same stress of a tournament.

    I know I just need more tournament play. I can't wait for my next one to try to practice (lol) staying more focused on the ball, and not the opponent. Any experiences anyone here would care to share on how long it took you to play your A game in a tournament and leave the tightness behind you?

  2. Pusher

    Pusher Professional

    Jul 27, 2006
    South Carolina
    As you found out-League play is not the same as tournament play. One reason you may have had less success is that tournament players are just better than regular league players. I play both league and tournaments and I actually feel more pressure in League than tournament play. In League play i have a team that counts on me-in tournaments I only fail myself.

    But the question you asked is a fairly common one. I think all tournament players feel the pressure but the good ones stay with their game. I realized quite early on that I could not raise my level of play in tournaments beyond my practice level-I could try but that always lead to failure. Whenever I get behind in a match I repeat the mantra-"play my game". If I play my game better than my opponent plays his game-I win.
  3. shindemac

    shindemac Hall of Fame

    Aug 2, 2005
    It's mostly a mental thing. There's no answer to this cause it depends on the person. For the few tournies I entered, I was able to adjust within a couple games. You just have to be zen like and trust yourself. You can't be afraid of losing. Just play your game.
  4. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

    Feb 17, 2005
    Big Canoe, GA
    You need to get your practice conditions and your playing conditions as much alike as possible. You have two options for this.
    One is to work on your mindset when playing a tournament match so that you'll be just as loose and relaxed as if you were having a friendly hit with your coach on a lazy Saturday morning. (And that's not easy to do.)
    The other option is to get your practice matches to have as much pressure and stress as a tournament match. Put something on the line - make your practice matches just as important as tournament matches. Play someone you don't know, who's maybe a bit better than you, with some people watching. Play in unusual conditions. Play the entire match without getting advice from your coach.

    The more tournaments you play, it DOES get easier. But, you'll always be a little nervous - everyone is.
  5. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation G.O.A.T.

    Oct 20, 2006
    Good advice above. You can insert an occasional tie-breaker in your workouts with your hitting partner to keep you familiar with playing for points where maybe the winner gets a new can of balls or something. I also think that this approach can make actual tournament play feel less stressful if you associate it with your workouts.

    The guys who endure SEAL training, etc. go through the grueling process of "getting comfortable with being uncomfortable" so that they can function when they go off to war. The lesson we can take from that idea is obviously to play more tourneys, but you can also practice under different conditions that force you to focus.

    Some guys like to do a heavy workout, get themselves tired, and then go out and grind on the courts. While this is an extreme example for some, the idea is that everything has to be more deliberate and you can learn good focus under the less than optimum conditions that you create.

    In my hitting sessions, I'll often stop before I put a ball in play and go through the exact same checklist I use before starting a point in a match. It keeps me much more in the present and actively managing myself in an otherwise casual workout. My efforts to improve my match play yielded big results over the course of a calendar year, but playing matches well is tougher if I don't use productive methods for practice.

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