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Tennis Zone2

In 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 to miss.

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 correction.

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.

RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

There 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.

WAITING 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.

FEELING OVERWHELMED

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 THE NONESSENTIALS

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

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 action.

ADVERSITY

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 you will.

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 again.

CONCLUSION

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.