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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Pinellas County Florida

    Question Why don't I stay agressive during a match?

    I have noticed an frustrating behavioral pattern in my match play. I find that I hit hard and aggressive during practice or matches with friends. But, in a tournament or league match, I begin to push the ball and play tentative.

    I find the whole thing bizarre because I am aware of it. I consciously commit to myself before each match that I will stay aggressive. However, after the first couple games, I start to push the ball and be careful.

    The irony of the whole situation is that I make far more mistakes and sail more balls long when I am "being careful". Even my serve can get the yips during this mental walkabout. The only thing that saves me is my athleticism and net skills.

    Has anyone here ever defeated the tentative tournament yips?

  2. #2
    Don't worry this a very common problem. The problem with your match play is that you are thinking about your strokes. You're afraid that you might miss. You know how to hit your shots. Don't worry about missing. You don't care about missing in practice. You shouldn't care about it in a match. You should care about it but not think about it. It is a really difficult concept to explain, but I hope you get what I'm trying to tell you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    tournament strategy

    Yes, this is a very common "problem". But... I would not recommend hitting the ball harder at the expense of losing a match and at some point in time you will elevate your tournament play to match your hitting style. If you do that, you will lose in the first round and not get enough tournament play to improve your game.

    All the way up to a 4.5 player, 95 percent of matches are won by the player that makes the fewest mistakes, not the one who hits the most winners. So, even if you are not hitting as well as you do when you practice, keep the ball in play and work on keeping it deep and moving your opponent around. You will gain confidence as you go deeper into tournament draws and play longer points. The more balls you hit in a point the better it will be for you in the long run. Also Many players plateau for a period of time before they "move up" and in some cases go through periods where they aren't playing as well. You have to realize that these plateaus and let downs will happen and play through them.

    I would also suggest to pick moments in a game (up love-30 or 15-40) or moments in a point (easy ball hit short for you to come in on) to hit the ball with a little more pace and put your opponent on the defense. You don't want to win a point outright on that short ball (too many errors) but put yourself in a position to win the point on the next ball.

    Also, practice taking deep breaths just before the next point begins. There is something physiological that happens in your body when you take deep breaths that will relax your muscles and your mind and you won't be so uptight. More oxygen pumped into the blood stream through the lungs has a natural effect on the body. Try it, it really works. And after you have taken two really deep breaths, then psych yourself up for the point. Tell yourself "come on, let's go, right here, do this..."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Quote Originally Posted by kairosntx View Post
    Also, practice taking deep breaths just before the next point begins. There is something physiological that happens in your body when you take deep breaths that will relax your muscles and your mind and you won't be so uptight. More oxygen pumped into the blood stream through the lungs has a natural effect on the body. Try it, it really works. And after you have taken two really deep breaths, then psych yourself up for the point. Tell yourself "come on, let's go, right here, do this..."
    I have been trying to pay attention during practice to what I should be paying attention to during a match. My serve routine allows me to breath and check my arm and shoulder for looseness, but I get so caught up in wanting to run and hit the ball, even when I set it as a practice goal I often forget to do it during practice. A bit of a challenge for me during the passion of play to remember a list of things to check, whether it is practice match or a tourny.

    Is there a good routine or cue words to help with remembering to breathe and relax?
    ~ "In tennis the addict moves about a hard rectangle and seeks to ambush a fuzzy ball with a modified snow-shoe." ~ Elliot Chaze

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England
    Greetings ChipnCharge ~

    Answer these question if you can :

    1. Did you ever wonder why especially on the Women’s side, why it's so hard to win a match in straight sets?

    2. Did you ever wonder why Players who have strong 1st serves, generally spin their 2nd serve in at around 85 mph?

    3. Did you ever wonder why a person who hits thousands of balls a day in Practice / Training along side the tutelage of a Coach & Condition Trainer, that earns 4 -6 digit purses per tournament, can often times play no better than your average 4.5 to 5.0 Club Player?

    4. Does it sometimes make you wonder why (particularly in the WTA) there are so many Players that play this game with absolutely no sense of Court Strategy or Game Plan during a match?

    5. Does it make you cringe when you see a Player who’s banked easily over a million in Prize money throughout a year, double fault several times in a match?

    6. Within a Grand Slam Tournament, can you easily spot Contenders from Draw Fillers?

    7. As a Coachless Club or Park Player, are you able to analyze the weak areas of your game?

    8. If you can, do you actively work on these weaknesses prior to playing your next match?

    9. Do you know what shot is the least drilled by your average club or park player?

    10. Before you begin a match, should you worry more about your opponents’ ability or your ability?

    11. During a match, what ‘Action Words’ do you either find yourself yelling or do you hear ?

    12. Lastly, can you define the word, ‘Choke’ as it pertains to Tennis ?

    *If you've been watching this year's Wimbledon 08' you might be aware that Marat Safin beat the 3rd Seed and self-proclaimed future #1 Novak 'Joko' Djokovic. During Joko's Post Match Interview, he stated given his knowledge of Mr. Safin, he was waiting for Safin to start making mistakes. Joko was certain, sooner rather than later, the sheer occasion would begin to overwhelm him.

    At no time during a match should you or anyone wait for your opponent to give you the match. Your job is to take the match. You should lose matches because the other guy was better, you shouldn't lose matches because the other guy didn't make mistakes.

    I ask my kids constantly, "Do you want to Win or do you want your opponent to Lose" ?

    Happy to meet you btw .. What's your Rating?

  6. #6

    Play By Feel

    Quote Originally Posted by Fay View Post
    I have been trying to pay attention during practice to what I should be paying attention to during a match. My serve routine allows me to breath and check my arm and shoulder for looseness, but I get so caught up in wanting to run and hit the ball, even when I set it as a practice goal I often forget to do it during practice. A bit of a challenge for me during the passion of play to remember a list of things to check, whether it is practice match or a tourny.

    Is there a good routine or cue words to help with remembering to breathe and relax?
    Here are some excerpts from an article written by Oscar Wegner on how to orient your mind while playing tennis:

    "Tennis is a sport for the being, rather than the mind. The being thrives on feeling, on aesthetics, on beautiful coordinated moves; while the mind thrives on pictures, perfect poses, right-wrong computations. The best tennis pros are artists who operate at the higher harmonics of aesthetics flows, with little thought involved, just like concert pianists at their best and you too can learn to play this way. This level of optimum performance is sometimes called the zone. To handle something well you need to put your attention on it. You can place your attention on many things at once or focus on just one thing at the time. What is most interesting about tennis is that while you are focusing your attention on one thing almost exclusively, everything else gets aligned with that instinctively. Especially when you operate by feel! Playing tennis on a conscious level which operates by using several mental image pictures of consecutive body positions, is too mechanical and slow and therefore inadequate. Pro tennis players operate on an instinct level, avoiding as much as possible to think about the task at hand. They remember a stroke by what it feels like, not how it looks. They don’t look into their mind to recall its mechanics. They play by feel, and consciously slow their mind down. Breathing or walking are things you do on an instinctive level – hence they are smooth and effortless. Unlike say, balancing your checkbook, which requires great mental effort. When playing tennis that would be the ideal: to operate on instinct and feel. Follow the ball attentively. Trust instincts. It either feels good or it doesn’t. You’d be the judge...Tennis is movement. First of all, find the ball, then stroke it wherever you find it - all this by feel. Use your mind to reinforce one thing, finishing your swing. Make a picture of the position of your arm at the very end of the swing and repeat it over and over. Leave the racquet at this position for a bit, looking at the landing of your shot, even while turning and recovering, relating this physical finish position of your racquet to your placement of the ball. This particular process will give you a comfortable correlation between cause and effect. The racquet up there, the ball landed there. Easy! Confidence builds up! It is the best way to occupy your mind. Follow the ball into your racquet as long as possible and “finish” the stroke. It will help calm your fears and make sure you don’t freeze or change something half way through the stroke. You may swing slower or faster, but make sure your racquet goes all the way to that “finish”, repeating it each the time. Observe Federer, Henin, Agassi, the William sisters, Hewitt, Davenport. These pros “finish” all the time...To focus attention on anything else like feet position for example, will only impair hand-eye coordination. It takes something you learned by feel, instinctively, at a very young age, and brings it to a conscious level. This floods thought patterns, impairs observation, and actually serves to confuse. You in fact begin to resemble a puppet, working out which foot to put first, and where. And while you are worrying about this, the ball may hit you on the head!...Instinct is the operation of the being at the highest level of thought, with perceptions coming in and decisions going out at a speed that the mind can’t grasp. Ironically, you can develop this by waiting - by taking your time. Conversely, you can lose it by rushing."

    If you'd like some practical tips from Oscar on how to achieve this way of playing, operating by feel, freeing up the mind and body from being mechanical during play, let me know and I'd be happy to post them.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    post um up Tennis Angel .your summaries of Oscars stuff have been great.

  8. #8

    How to stop yourself choking

    Basically, this inability and desire to play anything like you do in practise is "choking".

    It is very common and sometimes seen as part of the natural course of becoming a better tennis player however you can learn to play in the match situation better with practise.

    One of the problems with most tennis players is that they are willing to put the practise into their strokes and not into their mental side (to be honest many players don't know where to start with their mental training).

    I have an article (Choking - How to stay aggressive & avoid it!) on my site that explains the 5 main areas you must work on to minimise choking - please have a look and begin working on them (one by one) and pretty soon you will be playing much better in your matches!

    If anyone wants to add to these areas please feel free.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England

    Minimizing the Gag Effect ..

    When I was beginning to learn this wonderful game, I believe I had an advantage many younger kids don't have today. I didn't start playing to win matches but instead, I played for the FUN of the game. Building my skills was paramount over simply winning a match. Personally I devoted many months of merely hitting practice.

    One game my partners and I frequently played was a game called 21 which is basically a hitting game with incentives. The first player to reach 21 wins however the twist to this game is there are no servers. To start a point both Players are standing at the baseline, either Player can start the point off however the stipulation is simply the first delivery can not be an attempt at a winning shot but rather the ball must be placed anywhere beyond your opponent's service line and whomever delivers the first hit must serve it underhand. At that point, the point begins and you are then trying to win the point as if you are in a match. There is a point to this scenario regarding minimizing one's tendency to choke.

    * Given you are not dealing with return of serves or facing someone who can ace you, your game is based upon your ground stroke capabilities. Of course all other assets of the game apply once the point begins such as drop shots, chipping & charging, hitting the corners, etc. But you'll find this game relieves much of the stress normally associated with your typical game of Tennis.

    As time goes on, you start to build confidence in your ground game and ability to win points by constructing points. What I've discovered is one's lack of confidence is usually the key to choking. Whether you make a shot or not make a shot has far too many variables to pin-point causes but when a Player makes that instant decision whether on defense or offense, you will either make it or not make it and nothing in between. If you go for a shot and produce an unforced error, correct what just happened.

    There's an old saying amongst Musicians, "You can't play the Blues until you live the Blues" well that philosophy can be applied to the game of Tennis as well. You can not produce a consistent game until you've made a sufficient amount of errors that you learn from. No one is able to watch Andre Agassi, pick up a racquet and expect to hit like him. I had a long standing pattern of losing the first set of almost every match I played. I considered myself a slow starter. The pre-game warmup never did much for me but rather once the match began, I needed to find my range and get my feet moving. So dropping the first set never bothered me in the slightest. By time the 2nd Set came around, I generally had my range and my body was loose & mobile so in my mind, now we're going play some tennis.

    I challenged every kid I worked with to only hit first servers whether they double faulted or not. I never wanted to see a first serve around 110 - 120 and then a second serve around 80 - 90 because they were afraid of double faulting. What I use to point out to them was the losing point ratio on their 2nd serve. They began to take note that by essentially getting the ball in play on the 2nd serve, they were immediately putting themselves on defense because their opponents were pounding the ball down their throats on the service return. So there's your issue to contend with, do you GO FOR YOUR SHOTS or do you play timid style Tennis achieving very little in terms of increasing your level?

    There was an old guy that came down to the Courts were I began playing Tennis. He was very Old School, all he did was hit against the wall and occasionally he would grab me or a few others to hit at him while he stood the Net. He had a great mind for the game and I often sat with him (Ernie) on the benches while we watched different people play the game. He would pick them apart telling me who was good and who needed help. There were two statements he made often that have forever stayed with me,

    "Hit it were they ain't" That was a very profound statement that made a ton of sense to me. Why are so many Players hitting the ball directly back to their opponent? He said, you must adapt a game that focuses on placing your opponent on defense as often as possible. Go for the corners, hit behind them, figure out their weaker side and selectively attack that. Don't waste time feeding them a ball so they can do it to you first.

    "Win matches because you were better, not because your opponent gave it to you." This statement reminded me of the Chris Evertt style of play where she would basically challenge her opponent to outlast her on ground strokes. Chrissy was as steady off the ground as one can ever hope to be. But Chris's game was more about her opponents finally making the error before she did. Rarely did Chris generate a series of winners or take advantage of an opening. She just didn't have that much power to her game, which is why Steffi Graf's first title came against Chris. Steffi had a fierce forehand and used that to deliver harder ground strokes than Chris was use to dealing with.

    Finally I would like to remind everyone that what makes Rafael Nadal so incredible is Rafa believes he should win every point. even if Rafa is up 5-1 in the Set and loses a point, you can see him get extremely angry at himself for losing a point. He will not give you anything, if you beat him, it's because you beat him not because he gave you the match. So every win against Nadal is a crowning glory for his opponents because they had to produce their very best game to pull that accomplishment off. Try approaching your next match with the attitude that you are not going to concede one single point within this contest. Concentrate on every point as if it were match point .. the longer you do this the more it will become commonplace. I firmly believe you will soon find, you will no longer choke on any point regardless of where you are at any given moment of the match. Even if you're opponent has match point.

    True Story: 1986 Maui Hawaii, I was playing a match against a friend that was very close to my skill level. We had split sets and as always, I lost the first set but I can't recall the score. I do remember that I won the 2nd Set and then all of a sudden, I found myself down 1-5 and he was serving for the match. My mind had taken a nap or something because I completely lost focus on the match until I heard him say, "Match Point". Then I thought to myself, what the heck is going on here, I can not lose 1-6 to this guy. He was serving 40-15 and I decided I was going to do everything possible to win this point and thus I did. Now he's serving 40-30 and I again told myself I must win this point at all cost which I did. Actually I'm one of those guys that loves the Add Court side. I have always considered my Backhand return as one of my best shots so I cheated slightly to the center hoping he would take the bait and go out wide but I didn't want to be so far away that I could make contact. He did just that and I hit a great down the line (DTL) BH Return that he didn't get to. Now we're at deuce and at this point, I figured in my head that I had this game. I am now serving 2-5 and at no time did I even give a second thought to any place other than where we were at. I had to protect my game is all I thought about which I did and now he had another chance to serve it out and once again I was able to break him. The final score in that 3rd Set was 7-5. He did win another game from the moment he yelled out "Match Point".

    I watched Mary Jo Fernandez do the same thing against Gabriel Sabatini at the French where Mary Jo was down 0-5 in the final set and came back to win that match as well as Jana Novatna vs Chandra Rubin where Jana was serving 5-0 in the 3rd and eventually lost the Match.

    Point is, in this wonderful game, it's not over until it's over regardless of the score. You can still emerge victorious even if you're down 0-5 0-40 if you instantly begin to focus on the task at hand, play one point at a time, believe in winning just the following point and going for the shot(s) you found yourself pulling back on earlier in the match.

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