The Mental Game

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Vixenbergen, Sep 11, 2006.

  1. Vixenbergen

    Vixenbergen New User

    Sep 5, 2006
    Anyone have any adviceon how to play the mental game?

    It seems like, even if I'm playing the best tennis of my life, my mind still creeps up on me during matches. Like when I'm playing my dad, I would be up 4-2, pulling ahead and then I lose 4 games in a row to lose 6-4. Or I would be playing with one of my friends, I would be up 4-1 and then let him come back to 6-5 before I regain composure and win 7-6.

    You might think immediately, I give up, but I don't know why that happens. I want to win, I know I can win, but yet I can't.

    It's especially prevelant when I am playing someone someone who is equal or better than me. Even if I know for sure I can win a match, and I'm playing better than them that day, something just happens to me and I lose the match.

    And another problem I have, is that sometimes I lose my strokes. I literally would forget how to play tennis. This past year, for about 2 or 3 months all I could do was slice the ball, i LITERALLY could not hit a flat shot, or any of my normal shots. But then eventually, I get them back even better. (And yes, I tried to lay off of tennis and be relaxed, that didn't help much)

    I want to get "The Inner Game of Tennis" or "Winning Ugly" but I want to see if I can fix this myself first.
  2. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

    Jun 24, 2006
    I think there are, bassically, 3 Ways of thinking about it.

    1, If you really, really, get serious and train, and develop really consistent shots, you will be more likely to think you are good-- because you really would be. It's like Federer, he plays as if he were the best player in the world, because he really is.

    2. Be obnoxiously egotistic. Start now. Begin fostering the idea that you are the center of all things. I'm sure you know some guys (and, especially girls) from school who are like this. Immitate them. When you start acting like them, you will start thinking like them. You deserve to win, just because you are you. Bobby Riggs (who played Billy Jean King, way back when, was sort of like that.

    3. Don't take things so seriously. The fear of losing will usually lead to actually losing. Someone serves you a ball that is out, you return it for what would have been a perfect winner. The next serve is in, and you bloop it into the net. Why, because you were afraid of doing just that. You froze up. So what you have to do is trick yourself into thinking that every shot is just a practice shot, and you're just playing the ball and nothing else matters. Who plays like this- just about everyone, at some time or another, including the pros.
  3. ShcMad

    ShcMad Hall of Fame

    Dec 7, 2005
    Northern Virginia
    Last weekend, I was playing a friend of mine, and I was leading 5-1, but ended up losing 7-6. D'OH!

    First of all, when you have a big lead, you tend to relax. Don't do that. Lie to yourself if you have to. Say to yourself "Oh no! I'm down a break!"
    Ivan Lendl used to be good at stretching leads cuz he would hit the ball bigger and more accurately when he was ahead of somebody else to put them on a sleeper hold.

    If you're too nervous to close the match. Focus on something else other than the match. Breathe. Because you forget to breathe when you're nervous. Sing a song to yourself and get your mind out of the game just for a little while. Go for the towel or untie/tie your shoelaces.

    When you're missing your strokes, just try to place them over the net. Don't go overboard and try to hit powerful winners. Go for placement. Remind yourself to take the racquet back early. The racquet should be taken back before or as soon as the ball crosses over the net towards me.

    But then again, I'm a choker myself. :p
  4. ceejay

    ceejay Semi-Pro

    Aug 24, 2006
    United Kingdom
    I subscribe to that theory too, although only when it comes to sport. What I do now when I play is to get myself fired up by convincing myself that not only do I have the ability to win every point, but that its an insult to lose even a single point. Even playing against some of my closest friends, during the match I seriously hate them. I've found that as long as I can keep my anger under control I can stay focussed for the entire match.

    Having said that, its not the best attitude to have if someone wants a friendly chat during the changeover :D

    I'd seriously recommend reading Winning Ugly though. I found it very useful.
  5. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

    Dec 11, 2005
    Regardless of whether you learn to close or not, I'd recommend:

    1. The Inner Game of Tennis
    2. Winning Ugly
    3. Think to Win, by Allen Fox (who coached Gilbert for awhile in college)

  6. JordanR

    JordanR New User

    Aug 30, 2006
    All great advice that leads to confidence, which helps you from letting your mind talk you out of a good performance.
  7. gabos

    gabos New User

    Jul 19, 2006
    In terms of getting worse temporarily ("losing your strokes"), then suddenly improving, i've found this to be a typical "plateau" effect in the process of learning any type of skill or technical discipline that involves extensive repitition and practice-- with guitar, for instance, i've experienced the same thing; i would stagnate at a given level, then start to get worse, feel like i couldn't play at all, then suddenly advance. i think if you are steadily practicing and trying to improve, you will often experience an apparent decline in skill that precedes a break-through (although this is not universal, and every time you get worse doesn't mean you'll be having a break-through, obviously-- i wish...). I also do think taking a little break occasionally or relaxing your training temporarily is helpful in a lot of ways, but I don't think it's required every time you start feeling like you are playing worse than normal.
  8. gabos

    gabos New User

    Jul 19, 2006
    in terms of tightening up and not closing out matches, or not being able to play your game, i do that too, unfortunately. "winning ugly" does have some good tips, and some people swear by "inner game." i think anything you can do to relax on the court, breathing, moving, shaking out the tension, self-talk, is probably helpful-- also consciously forcing yourself to prepare and fully complete all your strokes, and to move your feet-- purposefully, literally tell yourself in your head, or even out loud (quietly), to move your feet, complete your follow through, etc, so you don't tighten up on all your shots. i particularly agree with what bagumbawalla says about making "every shot a practice shot." i wish i could say i was able to apply this advice more-- i try to do these things when i remember, and they help, but unfortunately i usually forget. i also think that you (and I, and everyone) just needs to play under pressure over and over, in as many match-play situations as possible-- once you've been there, the next time is usually easier. obviously, even the pros choke, and they've been on the biggest stages, so...
  9. AngeloDS

    AngeloDS Hall of Fame

    Apr 1, 2005
    There's a book called The Inner Game of Tennis; read it. It's really good.
  10. remyb2

    remyb2 Guest

    The Inner Game of tennis is a great book. The author teaches you an approach to learning and getting better. You can better see what you are doing wrong and correct it. There's also a chapter about "why people play tennis" and competition which, I find, helps me deal with stress and anxiety against some players.

    Winning Ugly is more practicle. Different types of players and how to beat them. Tricks on how to keep your edge. From what you explained, you might have the "happy camper" syndrome Brad explains in his book: you're ahead and feel too confortable and you slowly start to loose focus. While your opponent is pumped at getting back in the game (the "wounded bear" syndrome)... and as he explains "A wounded bear loves a happy camper" ;)

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