developing proper habits for becoming successful at the Mental Game the first
level and the foundation is the Reality Level. It is here we face the obvious.
We as human beings tend to overlook the obvious. We often ignore our intellect
and act on emotion. We tend to do what we like to do and this can be a damaging
practice if the goal is to win. Most Players live in an unreal world. They create
a fantasy world in their minds based on how they would like to play rather than
the way they actually play. Reaching the reality level is done through perception.
This refers to the ability to correctly interpret the events that you create,
how you respond, and how you enjoy the game. Discovering your real strokes, serve,
concentration, anger, competitive drive and mental physical balance is the first
level required before it is possible to make any decision that will lead to positive
results in your game.
The game of Tennis has principles that work. Tennis has a physical reality that
cannot be changed although playing conditions require each player to adjust to
this physical reality. The Tennis court is 78' x 27' with a net that is 3 1/2'
on the sides and 3' at the center. The game played is arranged by the constants
of gravity, speed, force, and distance. These are immutable principles that are
an essence of reality. We cannot change the fact that the ball is coming at 120mph
and towards the backhand corner. We have to react to it using the most effective,
successful, and repeatable techniques. In tennis the principles are reliable.
Gravity for instance; Throw the ball up 20 times and catch it. You will notice
that it came down each time. It did come down 19 times and go up once. Principles
are consistent. In the same manner each stroke if it is not consistent it is because
the principle and the resultant techniques are not being followed.
The most basic ideas are strategic to having the proper view of the game. What
is the purpose of the game from your side of the net? To keep the ball going back
over the net and not coming back inside your court area. It is a fact that most
points are lost not won. Between 60 and 90 percent of all points are lost and
most of the ones lost are hit into the net. The higher the level the more errors
are forced but still it is the error that is caused or created by the intelligent
player. Getting one more shot over the net gives the opponent one more opportunity
It is essential that each player come to the court with the proper perception
of reality. It is not important to have a detailed understanding of the laws of
physics to play tennis. The one thing that you must know however is ACTIONS HAVE
CONSEQUENCES. If your opponent plays a hard shot to your forehand you feel the
pressure of the shot and must prepare quickly. If you hit a short lob to you opponent
at the net this action will produce unwelcome consequences. There are only so
many basic results of each action. These are predictable results. It is also important
to understand that with each action you are establishing a habit pattern along
the proper principles and techniques or in variance to the ideal.
Before we go into actual stroke production the reaching of the reality level requires
the advancing player to understand the problem of self-delusion. The results of
this destructive practice can be devastating to not only your overall enjoyment
but your opponents' enjoyment as well. If you are serious about achieving meaningful
results in your game you must develop the habit of carefully examining your own
premises and beliefs to make certain you are not feeding on a diet of self delusion.
Ask yourself the questions; Do I have a Good Serve? What are the elements of a
Good Serve? Am I better than my results? Do I need to hit this hard to win the
game or am I hitting the ball this hard to prove I am a power player. Do I practice
what I really need to in order to improve? These are a few questions that can
help to start the process of self examination in order for you, the player, to
challenge yourself to improve.
The reality level of your game is seen when you examine the facts clearly and
without regard to your emotions. Reality is. Delusions are nothing more than good
or bad fantasies. Excuses are the symptoms of fantasy. As an advancing player
the habit of extracting a positive lesson learned from a negative experience is
imperative. Then by applying this wisdom immediately and consistently it will
provide future situations the advantage of a better shot. Ideally this habit should
become so strong that when you make a mistake you instinctively and immediately
think in the image of reforming the underlying cause of the mistake and visualize
The last level is the action level. There are six major obstacles to making things
happen all of which are mental in nature. It is an important realization because
it means that freeing yourself from an obstacle is primarily part of the mental
game and mind problems can be solved. Once the mental obstacle is removed, action
follows almost automatically. To change requires only the will to cultivate the
habit of making things happen.
is a tendency to cling to the status quo. This is a self-defeating and self-destructive
habit. It defies the principles of the game. The laws of momentum and change require
the player to adjust along with the elements of the game. It is easy to grow comfortable
with staying on the baseline, or just hitting forehands, and or topspin. The superior
player needs to be ready at all times to change, adjust, react, and to force the
play in order to win.
FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN
You are all alone on the tennis court. No one cares about your game or winning
it as much as you do. The more important the point the more it is up to you to
make it happen and win it. If you wait for your opponent to miss you will usually
find yourself playing tentative tennis and setting him up which allows him to
force you into an error. It is important not to try something you are incapable
of but at the same time if the shot is there you must do something with it. By
making things happen you build your confidence level. Remember where you won or
lost points. Play smart tennis and make it happen when the opportunity arises.
No Guts no Glory.
One of Tennis' great frustrations is trying to do more with your body than is
humanly possible but trying anyway. In tennis time is one of the most important
factors. If you are in one corner and the ball is hit to the opposite corner at
a 100mph forget it. If you are at the net and the ball was hit right at your face
from the service line you must react quickly. It is important to practice utilizing
the time we have in the most expedient and efficient usage possible in order to
protect ourselves and avoid the trap of giving up on balls we could reach if we
had the time.
In playing the game we must note that we follow physical principles that require
time, force and control to develop and execute. Your opponent is under the same
restrictions given the same type of shot. A superior player needs to follow as
closely as possible bio-mechanical techniques that work. This includes requiring
a balanced and systematic approach to all shots. It is fascinating the power the
mind has over the game and how it becomes automatic by practice and training.
When faced with the situation of playing a better opponent who has put you through
the paces and you are feeling overwhelmed take more time to collect yourself.
In tennis only 25% of the time are you actually hitting the ball during a match
the other 75% of the time is in preparing and recovering from the points. Stand
back and get the big picture of the battlefield. What is the score? Are you trying
too hard to win points? Are you missing shots more than you should? Are you capitalizing
on a weakness your opponent has? Is he in a zone? How can you take away his advantage?
Take time and look at the reality without giving up. Know that if you lose "So
What?" it is not the end of the world but you must play your game and be
honest to yourself. The superior player will find a way to win or at least go
down as a professional and not like a turkey.
Eliminate everything that isn't crucial to winning. Concentrate on the most important
objective. When feeling overwhelmed it is easy to project feelings into the future
like "Well I fought hard and I lost but it was close, or I had him in the
second set and I missed that backhand down the line." Focus on what exactly
you have to do NOW! to win each point. You can't allow yourself to be intimidated
by the opponents' game. You must mentally prepare yourself to push hard and concentrate
on nothing but the business at hand. You are the only one on the court and what
is going to happen after the match will happen later! When being overwhelmed fight
to stay focused in each point one at a time. Do not allow future thinking to repeat
the idea that you lost already. Stay in each point and know momentum always changes
and stay on the court mentally! It must be noted here that over confidence and
lack of confidence share the same lack of present centered thought. They are both
future oriented. The momentum can always shift from you or to you.
Don't try to do everything; just do something. Keep the ball in play and work
it around to get your rhythm back. Get back to the basics when you are being overwhelmed
by an opponent. Since circumstances always change expect that things will change
as you become more focused in acting in the most basic and fundamental manner
in order to eliminate mistakes and prepare to raise your level of play.
Use self discipline to maintain and sustain a comfortable pace. Avoid at all costs
the frantic approach. It doesn't work. The main thing a superior player must do
when behind and being overwhelmed is to eliminate the mistakes. Continue to play
consistently and with the decision to make things happen while knowing it is not
over till the last point is played and won. Don't think about "it" (losing)
until you shake his hand, congratulate him and walk off the court. When the feeling
comes and you feel the loss of confidence know that the conditions are right and
it is the right time for you to make it happen and this is what you have trained
to do. Don't delude yourself into believing that just because something is hard,
it's impossible. Be flexible in hard situations. It is important to understand
that the opportunity available to you at any given time will never be the perfect
opportunity. The Game doesn't work that way. You must develop the ability to cope
with the imperfections of wind, bad bounces, miss hits, noise, or else the you
will leave the game in total frustration.
Self doubt is a common problem to all players in all sports. Choking is a corollary
of failure. In all things there is success and failure. It is part of the human
goal striving mechanism that seeks the truth through trial and error. Only by
missing do we understand hitting. You must realize that at some point you will
lose, this is reality the opposite is true also, you will win! In tennis there
is always someone somewhere at some time who is better than you. This is facing
reality which frees up the idea of choking. This is a natural law of balance.
The law of averages comes into play. NO matter how long you wait no matter how
much you prepare you are still going to make mistakes. It is one of those inevitabilities
of life, a reality of being human. In losing we can learn and it can be a way
to win bigger and better in the future. By losing properly you can still face
the fact that you choked or missed important shots but it is a fact of life that
it happens but go forward without the condemnation of self-effacement. You must
develop the habit of thinking of mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
With that kind of perspective it becomes much easier to take corrective technical
We all become discouraged when going through a major slump or faced with an injury.
Bad luck is an inherent part of sport and life. There is no success without adversity.
Momentum changes, sometimes the ball will roll off the tape on your side and other
times it falls to your opponents'. Perseverance is the most essential trait needed
to overcome adversity within a match. Balance is a principle that will come into
play if you allow yourself to stay out there long enough. The probability of success
in any game is increased in direct proportion to your willingness to keep going
in spite of the obstacles. If you want it badly enough you won't give up. If not
Perseverance means being able to handle massive opposition, frustration, and disappointment.
It is what makes you persist long after the other guy has given up in similar
circumstances. No one can defeat you, defeat can only occur when you decide to
quit. Take the attitude well at least things can't get worse, he is up 5-0 and
I haven't won a point in two games. It is important not to take it lightly but
move swiftly into to action to win a point a game and some pivotal confidence.
Don't panic stay rational and look for what has been working in your game. Find
a way to minimize the damage he is doing to you, stay back further on the service
return, get all your second serves in, etc. Don't hit to his forehand if he has
hit winner after winner. Find the problem why you are losing points. Analyze what
you did wrong, is it your mental game, a stroke that is letting your down, strategy?
Find something that works and implement it NOW!
Face your opponent as an equal no matter his ranking or your previous matches
against him. This is an opportunity to win. You can't afford to let up if you
want to win. You never know what a turning point one shot might be in determining
the match to your favor. Each mistake when eliminated acts like a processor eliminating
defects and putting you one step closer to winning, and don't make that mistake
There are no big secrets to winning. Achieving positive results has little to
do with superior intelligence or special skills other than sound abilities. The
difference between success and failure in competition is remarkable small. The
simple habits and techniques work. The first one is knowing the reality of the
game. The second is putting your abilities into action with a clear mind.