1.) Prepare with the tournament in mind.
– Manage your practice schedule months out.
– Think about the event frequently for motivation.
2.) Set a realistic goal that is not revenge motivated.
– Set a challenging but not discouraging goal.
– Revenge motivated goal is one that revolves around playing a player who has beat you in the past. The problem with goals like that are there is no guarantee you will play that player. Also, it takes the focus off the event and simply on playing one player meaning you might not be appropriately focused for all your matches.
3.) Prepare the week of and arrive early for event.
– Practice the week before but do not cram.
– Have school in a good place so you are not stressed out.
– Eat, sleep, and hydrate appropriately.
– Do not be rushed and stressed arriving to the event.
4.) Just because it is a BIG event, do not over-respect your opponent. Everyone is in the tournament for a reason and anyone can beat anyone.
5.) Just because you travel far, do not put too much pressure on yourself. Try to approach the tournament mentally just like all your other events. Think about a tournament or situation where you performed really well. Have that mentality.
6.) If tournaments stress you out in general and you find you perform better practice — have a practice mentality. Approach the event with the mentality that you do for drills or lessons.
7.) Make the event comfortable.
– Have a routine.
– Be particular about your meals, hydration, and snacks.
– Warm up the same way you typically do.
8.) Be careful with the section. There is sometimes a belief that if you play someone from California or Florida or Georgia — that they must be really, really good. The reality is that there are good and beatable players from all cities, states, and sections.
9.) Take in the scene but do not be the scene. Watch other players and try to learn something, however, do not be too social or unfocused.
10.) Win or lose — make the experience beneficial. Take tournament notes. Learn something. Improve from the experience.
Stop. Breathe. Think. Relax. Then Speak.
What not to do…
Do not call the person a cheater. Everyone who has played tennis has likely made a bad call at some point. Also, there is a chance that you are mistaken as you are half a court away. Even if you are playing someone who has (in your opinion) repeatedly made calls against you/others that you do not agree with — do not call them a cheater. We do not speak negatively about or to our opponents. We also do not go around the facility (or use social media or any other form of communication) to tell everyone that you got cheated and/or your opponent was/is a cheater. We would not want someone saying those things about us and like I said earlier…because of human imperfection we have all likely made a bad call or have been confused on the score.
Stop. Breathe. Think. Relax. Then Speak.
What to do…
One bad call, give your opponent the benefit of the doubt. Second bad call, calmly explain that you are going to get a line judge. Be careful with asking…”are you sure?”. You are not supposed to make a call in tennis if you are not sure, so calling the ball out by default means that you are sure. Also, very rarely does anyone reverse their call because someone asked are you sure. You could spend that energy and time more resourcefully. It is similar with “how far out was that?”. It doesn’t matter if it was out by a little or out by a lot — the call was out. Often times what happens is your opponent will answer with an exaggerated distance which is extremely frustrating or tell you that you missed by the smallest margin which can be equally frustrating and compound the problem. Either way — time and energy can be better spent.
Stop. Breathe. Think. Relax. Then Speak.
The main point is do not lash out in anger at your opponent which can negatively affect you for the upcoming points. Simply remain calm and go get an official. It is YOUR job to get an official. Officials are not perfect themselves but it is the best way to try to ensure as fair of a match as possible.
1.) When gathering information about an upcoming opponent — make sure the information is reliable. For example, a friend might have played your opponent months ago. Your friend says: “Their backhand is terrible. Hit every shot there.” Even if months ago your opponent’s backhand was not very good, they have likely been working on that shot for months now. So when using information that you hear from others — consider the source and the amount of time involved regarding the information. Your parents and coaches are frequently the best source for information.
2.) Be careful with the warm up. Frequently people use the warm up to determine their starting strategy for their opponent. The problem is that the warm up is a very small sample size. In only 5 minutes, you are hitting a very limited number of shots. Anyone can hit good or bad shots for a brief period of time. Also, some people do a good job of hiding their strengths or weaknesses in the warm up. It is far better to let the match develop to determine their true strengths and weaknesses or watch a previous match that your opponent is playing.
3.) Start simple — when you are watching your opponent play…try to find a strategy. Do they have a better forehand or backhand? Are they better on the move or standing still? Do they come to the net a lot and which side should you pass them on? Even if you are able to watch your opponent before the match, start with YOUR best stuff. Your primary strategies and tactics. You are the best version of yourself, when you do what you do best.
4.) Remember, each match is different. Meaning if it appears (from a previous match) that your opponent has a bad backhand…they could have just been having a bad day that particular day. Start the match with what you do well and go from there. Each match is different and each day is different.
5.) Study their return technique and look for technical flaws with all shots. Does your opponent back up when they return — then you should use more spin and wide serves. Does your opponent move forward when they return — then you should serve more body. Find technical flaws. Bad technique breaks down in pressure situations. On big points, it is smart to hammer away at technical flaws.
How to analyze your tournament matches…
1.) Start with the facts. What actually happened. Who won. Score. Flow of the match…for example…was up 4-1, opponent brought it back to 4-4, and won 6-4.
2.) Recognize key moments. For example…long deuce games, momentum swings, comebacks in a particular game or set, key mistakes, hustle points…
3.) Understand what you did well and what your opponent’s strengths were
4.) Understand what you did not do well and what your opponent did not like
5.) Learn a couple of things you want to work on based on the match
If breaking down your matches is still a challenge…give yourself grades based on the following categories:
– Forehands and backhands
– Approach shots, volleys, & OHs
– Serves and returns
– Footwork, movement, & conditioning level
– Ability to play offense and defense
– Slice, touch, angles, & lobs
– Fight, mental, & emotional toughness
– Situational tennis…for example…5-5 deuce, biggest moment of the match, I hit two aces or back to back double faults which won or lost the game and led to winning or losing the set/match.
*Please note: often times tennis players make this mistake. It was 5-5 deuce and I double faulted so that means my serve is the problem and I need to work on my serve. Well, did you double fault a lot throughout the match or just a little bit? Because if you are consistently double faulting throughout the match, then obviously some serving practice is in order (for the record…everyone can always improve their serve). However, if you are simply double faulting at key moments, that is more of a mental & emotional toughness issue. Finding a way to calm your nerves to execute in the biggest moments of the match.*
RANKINGS: USTA, UTR, ITF, WTA/ATP…
A.) These are tools. Use them to your advantage. Meaning…use them to track your progress if that motivates you. However, if tracking rankings and points stress you out…then do not worry about them. Same goes for your opponent. If knowing rankings and the UTR of your opponent motivates you and takes pressure off you then study up. If knowing this information about your opponent stresses you out or adds pressure then limit your exposure to this information.
B.) College coaches use rankings & UTR…but they also look at grades, attitude, level of professionalism, recommendations, and a whole other bunch of aspects. Value rankings. It can help you be recruited and go where you want to go. But also value all the other important aspects that go into being a student athlete.
C.) Remember…rankings are not perfect. Just because you are ranked higher than someone does not mean you will beat them. We need to respect everyone. Just because someone is ranked higher than you does not mean you are going down. Do not let a ranking determine a match before it is played. Matches are won and lost on the court by players and are not determined by a computer.
D.) Do not stress out if your ranking goes slightly down. Rankings change all the time. Look at a large sample size. There will be ups and down for every athlete over the course of their career.
Injuries in tennis most often occur from 1.) overuse and 2.) technique. Playing too much, especially combined with technical issues, can lead to pain and eventually an injury. String and racquet choices can lead to injuries sometimes but usually poor string and racquet selections lead to bad technique which is the real reason for the injury. For example, if you use a racquet or string that is not powerful enough or too stiff, you will try to over hit and therefore your technique will break down which can lead to an injury. Therefore, switching to a more powerful racquet or string can help sometimes with pain — but usually the help comes from improved technique and not needing to generate as much power on your own.
The first question with any injury is — will continuing to play tennis going to make my injury worse? If that is the case, then rest or some form of medical treatment is necessary. If the answer is no and continuing to play will not make the injury last longer, then try to find ways to endure the pain and continuing playing or training. More often than not, a few days of rest will do the trick and is far better than pushing a potential injury and making it worse which might require an extended absence. If you do rest and find little or no relief then you will need to explore some form of medical treatment.
It is super important to remember to do all that you can to help prevent and endure through injuries. For example, you should start any form of a practice session with a proper dynamic warm up. You should finish any session or day with a proper stretch. Usually at the first sign of pain, you should make sure to spend extra time stretching, icing, and strengthening the area in pain. Also, proper hydration, nutrition, and sleep will help with preventing and enduring injuries.
Speaking of REST…how much should you rest in general? 1-2 days/week depending on your goals. After a tournament you should take a day off IF you have a tournament the very next weekend. If you do not have a tournament the very next weekend, you should come to practice as soon as possible and work on playing fatigued/multiple weeks in a row. Then you can rest Saturday and Sunday the following weekend. If you are not in a good place with school or sleep, you need to take sometime to get caught up in those aspects. You cannot practice properly overly stressed about school or sleep deprived. Lastly, do NOT rest if you are sore! Sometimes soreness is confused with injury. When you are sore the best thing you can do is work out the soreness through exercise.
FALL WEEKLY THEMES
Building Cross Court
Attacking Down the Line
Attacking the Net
Continental Grip Skills
Volley & OH Development
Quick Pressure Plays
1.) Go to the tournament prepared. Preparation involves 3 aspects: on court training, proper rest (not taking days off of tennis but proper sleep), and having your equipment ready.
2.) Go to the team warm up in the morning.
3.) Communicate with coaches prior to going on the court, if you split, and right after you finish. If there is not a coach at your site, call or text them.
4.) Think ahead when you will need snacks/meals and plan accordingly.
5.) You plan out your day. Take ownership. Be very particular, yet extremely flexible.
6.) Get plenty of rest when at the tournament. Do not be draining yourself by being too social or on your phone too much. Stay in the shade and have your water jug with you when you are off the court. Get enough sleep each night.
7.) Know when, where, and who you play
8.) Finish your day with a stretch and make sure you re-stock what you need for the next day
1.) Use primarily spin serves wide and hit to the open court to move opponent
2.) Back up on returns further than normal and one step split backwards when returning
3.) Primary strategy: move opponent
4.) Hit approach shots behind opponent
5.) Volley short
6.) Use more slices than normal
7.) Use more drop shots than normal
8.) Make people finish, run down every ball — it is tough to finish points on clay.
9.) Stay calm if you get a bad bounce or unlucky break because of an uneven surface. The surface is the same for everyone. Do not let one bad break lead to a mental or emotion breakdown and loss of more points.
10.) Do not worry if you have not practiced very much on clay. Worrying cannot help you at all. All that you can do is try to formulate a simple game plan and try to execute.
What is a game plan?
A game plan is your specific approach to a tennis match. It involves:
1.) Where are you going to try to hit the majority of serves and returns for the match
2.) What is your primary strategy for the match?
3.) What are your primary tactics for the match?
*Strategies are broad and there are only 4: build cross court, move opponent, isolate a corner, or attack the net. Tactics are the specific plays you will run to carry out your strategies. For example, my strategy is to build cross. My tactic will be to hit a heavy forehand cross court, a slice forehand cross court, and then another heavy forehand cross court — then look to attack. When carrying out strategies and tactics, please remember that this is what you are going to try to do the majority of the time. 60-70%. Not every time. We do not want to become that predictable.
4.) What is a mental/emotional/physical goal of mine for the match? Could be to stay positive after every point. Could be to go to the towel every time I lose a point. Could be to do ready steps before I return or serve.
What is the benefit of approaching matches in this way? You are in control of all the aspects listed above. That does not mean that you will execute perfectly but you can have a plan for each point and try to execute. This helps you focus on your performance (things you can control) rather than how you are “playing” which is some abstract non-specific feeling based on simply how you believe you are hitting the ball.
Within your game plan…you might have to consider the following questions:
1.) Is it better to play aggressive or high %? That depends on you and the momentum of the match. Are you someone who values playing to win or playing the odds? Neither is right or wrong. Be true to yourself.
2.) Should I do what I do best or what my opponent does not like? Majority of the time, you should do what your opponent does not like. However, on big points (5-5 deuce for example) do what you do best. You do not want to try to execute a plan that you are not as comfortable with when you need to win one or two points. You want to go with your best stuff.
3.) Should I change it up or go with what is working? Follow the momentum rules.
1.) It takes two points to have momentum. If you simply win one point and then lose the next point, you have no momentum. Focus on winning two points in a row. The game of tennis is designed around 2 point swings. Win the first two points of the game, up 30-0, now you need another two points to finish the game. Deuce…win two points, win the game.
2.) If you have just won a point; play high % the following point.
3.) If you have just lost a point; play more aggressive, attack, or run a quick pressure play.
4.) If you have the momentum, it is better to play a little faster. If you do not have the momentum, it is better to slow things down and take your time (within the rules!).
5.) If something is working — keep doing it. If something is not working — mix it up.
6.) Momentum serving : (1) If you have just broken serve, under no circumstances, should you double fault to start your service game. It is best to use a high % spin first serve to ensure you do not. (2) If you have just hit an ace, under no circumstances, should you double fault the next point. It is best to use a high % spin first serve to ensure you do not.
7.) If you are up 40-0, even if you opponent has just made 3 unforced errors, play aggressive, attack, or run a quick pressure play. Your opponent will likely play their best at 0-40. If they don’t — you win the game anyways. However, if they do, it will take a winning shot to close out the game. Also, this creates a relaxed offensive mentality rather than a tight defensive mentality which is usually behind 40-0 leads lost.
8.) Be flexible. These are guidelines. Sometimes though you need to rely on instincts and the flow of the match rather than rigid rules
Monthly Mental Training
Weekly Mental Training
Daily Mental Training
1.) Improve knowledge of 4 Strategies — Build Cross Court, Move Opponent, Attack the Net, Isolate a Corner
2.) Improve level of professionalism with daily, weekly, and monthly mental training
3.) Improve ability to play doubles with a whole day dedicated to doubles each week
4.) Improve conditioning level by doing fitness at every practice and stretching at the end of practices
5.) Improve ability to execute in matches by playing matches everyday
Be charismatic all summer long and improve the atmosphere at practice with your presence. Continue to improve the culture.