Coach Marcin Bieniek, founder of Enjoy Tennis Blog, gives mental strategies that you can use to win a practically lost tennis match.
Matches can last from 45 minutes to several hours. Such a wide time frame makes tennis unpredictable and forces players to fight for every ball because until the last point is won they can’t be sure about the final result. This factor also helps players who are playing really bad and it can look like they have zero chances to win the match.
Everything starts with good preparation
Before the match, preparation is crucial. Players have to build their performance weeks before the tournament starts to make sure that they feel comfortable with their strokes and routinely choose the right tactical decisions. Additionally, players have to work out, do running sessions and take care of recovery to properly balance work and rest. If this hard work is done, players will be in good mental and physical shape, so it is justified to have positive expectations before participation in competition.
Translating proper preparation into competitive success
Playing well during practice sessions is much easier than repeating the same performance under the pressure of rivalry and many players are not able to deal with it, especially in their heads.
Every day of competition is a new day of adaptation. Players have to adjust to current conditions and make sure that they do their best to perform better than their opponents. However, it is not always as easy as it looks, because factors like weather conditions, tiredness or opponent’s uncomfortable gamestyle can make you miss a lot and slowly lose the hope of winning the match. It is important to understand that this difficult situation is a challenge primarily for the mind, so players have to remember a few rules to apply while dealing with short or long-term struggle.
What to do when you start losing big time
1. Prolong the match
A lot of times players start to rush their actions while missing more than usual. They feel frustrated, can’t mentally accept the high number of mistakes and want to change this scenario as fast as possible. We all know that this attitude rarely leads to success. Underperforming players mostly lose this kind of matches without winning many games.
The solution is quite simple: in this difficult moment, the losing player has to prolong the match. Here I am not talking about untying shoelaces on purpose or taking a bathroom break. I am talking about using full 20 seconds between the points and allowing yourself to rethink the situation and take proper decisions that will limit the avalanche of unforced errors. The longer the match lasts, the more time the losing player has to find the solution and improve their own level of play.
2. Don’t make drastic changes, improve just one step at a time
One-year-old children start to learn how to walk. Later on, when they can walk and do it faster and faster, they try something more difficult, they learn how to run. This approach has to be taken while competing and playing really bad tennis.
Unsuccessful players have the opposite approach: they want to switch instantly from playing the worst tennis of their life to playing the best tennis of their life. That is almost impossible. Before you reach your top, you have to go step by step with patience.
If you miss many balls, you have to work hard to reduce the number of mistakes just by 10 or 15%. You have to accept that you will still make more errors than usual, but by hitting just a few more balls in, you will get more control, your confidence will go up and soon you will start missing even less.
Be humble with your current performance and improve just a little. The result at the end can surprise you a lot.
3. Know that your opponent’s game can go south at any moment
Mindset has a big impact on performance. It is not easy to have a positive and confident mindset when you are missing every ball and your opponent doesn’t have to do anything special to get a big lead in the match. A negative score combined with a low-quality game leads to irritation, demotivation and deprives of self-confidence.
When it looks like there is no way you can win the match, you have to remember that there are two players on the court. If you’ve been missing almost every ball for 30 minutes, the other player can start doing the same. You never know! You should never doubt your chances of winning a match, because even when you play badly for 30 minutes, you don’t know what you and your opponent’s games will look like in the next half an hour.
Nobody likes to play really bad and look like they don’t have enough skills to keep the ball in play. However, we can’t control everything and every day is different. We have to accept the situation when it happens to us, but at the same time, we have to be conscious of the mental steps that we can include to play better and increase our chances of winning the match. Until the last point is complete, a tennis match is not over, so never lose hope and fight even when it is the only thing that works well for you on a given day.
To learn more from coach Marcin Bieniek, join his on-demand video training program and get a 30% discount with the code WTBPROMO. Also, visit our Tennis Tips page to learn how to improve specific shots and skills, handle pressure, adapt your game to all surfaces and weather conditions, choose the most appropriate tennis racquet, best strings, and much more.