Below is an edited version of the transcript for this episode that you can read through for notes and more information.
How Do You Play Against Better Tennis Players?
In Tennis Quick Tips Episode Zero, I mentioned that I play on an Open level team, despite the fact that I am not anywhere close to being an Open level player. Yes, even I find it hard to believe that somehow I got myself into this situation. Having said that, I can tell you that I have played against PLENTY of great tennis players, lots of them players who were much better than me. I know that when I have one of these Open level matches, it is super important that I be mentally prepared to face an Open level player. Someone better than me. Someone who very well may beat me.
So just how does one mentally approach the match where you know you know there’s a good likelihood you’re going to get beat? How do you prevent yourself from getting totally psyched out before you even step on court? How do you play against better tennis players?
Expect To Be Challenged
First, expect to be challenged. Expect that your usual “tricks” aren’t going to work with good players. Expect that you will have to play long, hard tennis and you may have to come up with some new and different strategies. If you’re playing doubles, be SURE you’re talking to your partner and coming up with a plan for every game if not for every point.
Play Your A Game
Second, play your “A” game. Don’t dumb down your tennis. A lot of times when everything’s going wrong, your tendency may be to pull back and just get the ball over the net. Better players are going to kill you if that’s you’re strategy. So remain aggressive and push through the feeling that you need to take it down a notch.
Pay Attention To Your Opponent
Next, pay attention. You’ve got to be constantly probing for your opponent’s weakness, trying to find where their game might actually break down. You can’t expect to sit back, relax and cruise through a match with a better player. You have to always be looking for ways to attack. You have to come up with Plans B and C when your usual Plan A isn’t working.
Also, be positive. Don’t get down because you feel like you’re about to take, or are in the process of taking, a humiliating beating. Although you always want to win, you know you can’t always win. Even the pros lose matches. Remember that when you’re playing a markedly better player, you’re really under no pressure to win. So remain upbeat and positive about the situation and have a good time.
Learn From The Experience
Finally, learn as much as you can from the experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to play challenging tennis and to see what players at a higher level do that sets them apart and then see how you can use those lessons to improve your own game. For example, I’ve found, again and again, that the difference between the A level and Champ players I used to play and the Open players I’m now playing is that those Open ladies hit the ball hard and everything, and I mean everything, comes back. I did not realize how often I relaxed and eased back after hitting a winner until those winners kept being returned. Because at the Open level, they weren’t winners after all. So I took those experiences and learned my lesson – that I can’t relax until the point is actually and completely over! Do the same with every match you play, especially against better players – see it is a learning opportunity and find the lesson when you lose.
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Thanks for listening and, as always, Happy Tennis!