But how much time do you put into strengthening the mental aspect of your tennis game? Probably not much. Or, if you’re like me, it’s more like none at all.
Well, that is about to change for me because I just finished reading The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance by Jeff Greenwald. Here are 50 ways to handle almost any psychological problem you come up against on the court. Problems with your partner? Turn to Chapter 29 – “Develop Positive Chemistry With Your Doubles Partner.” Intimidated by better players? Read through Chapter 9 – “Focus on Your Game, Not Your Opponent’s Ranking.” Pissed off at cheaters? Look over Chapter 33 – “Keep Your Cool When the Bad Line Call Happens.”
Each chapter is short and sweet, just a page or two, and gives you concrete ways to deal with your mental problems on the court. For example, in Chapter 19, “Establish Your Presence Before Serving,” Greenwald talks about the problems we all have as we step up to the baseline and prepare to serve: “Whether it’s impatience to get the next point started, frustration with the serve in general, anxiety about double-faulting, or just plain old habit, the actions in which players engage in the time prior to serving is perhaps the most widely abused time in the game.” Greenwald, p. 54. As he goes on to point out, most of us have no pre-serve routine and simply hope to get that serve over with. Greenwald then provides a simple routine to improve your serve:
First, take a deep breath as you walk to the line to establish your presence. This is brief but deliberate. Second, create a quick visual image in your mind of the ball traveling toward your target. Make sure you are decisive with your placement of the serve. No second-guessing. This is critical. Third, check the tension in your shoulders and arm. Keep a loose arm! This routine is followed by you bouncing the ball a set number of times (how many is up to you) and then serving. Keep this routine consistent and practice it regularly so it’s automatic.
Greenwald, p. 55. How easy is that? Breathing, visualization and getting loose – all the elements that will undoubtedly help you get off a good serve.
The Best Tennis of Your Life is a book that you can easily keep in your tennis bag and turn to as you’re waiting to go on court for a quick boost of confidence and insight. That’s where I’ll be keeping my copy.
© Kim Selzman 2009
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