Tips to help players about to play a Grand Slam, Davis Cup or Fed Cup match for the first time
- Understand momentum will come and go.
- Try to stay sharp and finish in straight sets if you can. You have plenty of time, but zone in with real determination to convert the early chances if they occur.
- Keep your sense of humour and also your toughness. The crowd will feel this even if you are in a bad period.
- Use your good tennis memories in times of crisis – Consciously prepare three successful memories to tap into for confidence
- Be you – the tennis player out there, feeling at home – rather than being manipulated by the crowds, your opponent or the court. 'Own yourself' and therefore own your choice of emotions and actions.
- Totally believe that you are competing to continue building your game and enjoy the reason for playing which is – performing your best under pressure.
- When you serve or return for the match –look at your opponent, smile and play to take him/her out. Remember whatever you feel they are feeling worse because they are in the toughest position trying to stay alive in the match.
- You will wake up the next morning with pride or regret. You will still be back learning and playing regardless. It is an honour but don’t make it a bigger deal than any other tennis match played on a great court.
A player has four reactions when faced with a normal match with lots to gain. Following are the reactions players can have to this kind of pressure situation:
Nervous and scared: this means playing with frozen or lethargic legs, tentative, intimidated, overawed, can’t think, believe it is a nightmare and be embarrassed.
Worst outcome - hardly remember the match or remember it only as a blur, which will be no fun and a wasted opportunity.
Best outcome - snap out of it too late and realise how unnecessary it was to be that way – There is huge regret for the wasted opportunity created by poor mental preparation.
Solution: If you feel this way pump energy into your legs, make noise, jog from and to your chair and celebrate any point won until you feel better. Be brave and smack a couple of balls as hard as you can and take on anything that is short to get forward. Everything has to be exaggerated until you feel normal.
Nervous but adrenalized - and start like you are on speed: can’t time the ball and no breaks come your way.
Worst outcome – game racing away and then suddenly you become deflated and quiet. Match goes dead and you want it to end.
Best outcome – Understand adrenaline so keep energised rather than manic and be patient knowing that eventually you will strike it well when you get your eye in and nerves under control. Wait for your window, staying alive physically but calm mentally. Soon the match will be on!
Solution: Take your time. Think about moving like a panther, smooth and powerfully yet controlled and relaxed. Smile and feel meditative until the rush subsides. Talk slow and calmly to yourself.
Nervous but energised - start like a dream taking the opponent apart
Worst outcome - opponent gets their window and starts to play well. You buy into the feeling that she is suddenly a better player, rather than realising it is a normal match with a change in momentum. You slide into panic and never recover your form.
Best outcome - realise it’s a momentum change and keep physically working hard but mentally calm therefore riding out the storm looking to take your opportunities when they invariably arise again.
Solution: Good players will adjust and fight and make you work harder to win points. Trust you will adjust to this and put the pressure back on them and contest a normal tough match.
Start playing tough, keep tough and end tough – enjoy the match and put in a class performance.