A few times I've mentioned that one of my teams has moved up to the Champ level. So, as amazing as it may seem to anyone who knows me and knows my tennis game, I am on a Champ team! Even I find it hard to believe. Having just finished my first season at the Champ level, I can tell you, I played PLENTY of good ladies. Players who were much better than me.
So how do you approach the match where you know you're playing a better player? How do you play when you know you may get beat?
- Be positive. Don't get down because you feel like you're about to take a humiliating beating. Although you probably always want to win, you know you can't always win. And when you're playing a markedly better player, you're really under no pressure to win. So remain upbeat about the situation and have a good time.
- 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. 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.
- Learn as much as you can from the experience. Take advantage of the opportunity 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 players I used to play and the Champ players I'm now playing is that those Champ ladies hit the ball hard and everything comes back. I did not realize how often I relaxed and eased back after hitting a winner until those winners kept being returned (in other words, they weren't winners after all!). Lesson learned – do not relax until the point is completely over!
© Kim Selzman 2009
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