Most athletes prioritize the technical and tactical elements of their games, but they don’t take as much time to improve the game between their ears. Tennis players have to quickly recover from bad shots, deal with internal and external stress, and take lessons from each match. The mental challenge of tennis can’t be understated, and unless you’re playing doubles, you’re playing alone.
This is where good meets great. Just as there should be a physical plan for your on-court performance, there should also be a dedicated mental approach. Here are three ways you can start making your mind into a weapon all its own.
VISUALIZE AND MEDITATE
Whether you’re playing a match or having a friendly hit, write down what you want to accomplish. Then sit down, close your eyes, and envision yourself doing that on the court. If you are practicing a new technical approach, visualize yourself making perfect contact. If your goal is getting to the net, see yourself doing it.
Work and life should not be on your mind when you step on the court—the only thing you should be thinking about is tennis. Before you get ready to hit, take a minute, close your eyes, take three deep breaths through your nose, and a big exhale out of your mouth. This will help ground you. Set an intention for the practice or match you are about to participate in. This will help you better connect to the moment.
Champions like Bianca Andreescu and Novak Djokovic rely heavily on visualization. (Getty)
REFLECT, AND GET FEEDBACK
Start keeping track of what you do well, and what you can improve upon. After every practice or match, take five minutes to reflect and give yourself constructive feedback in a journal or on your phone. This will set a path for improvement, while also allowing your mind to realize your strengths. It will also help your coach, if you have one, for future practices and matches.
The best players have a plan, are present, and reflect. If you can implement these three things, you will start to take your game to the next level.
Dr. Sean Drake is vice president of RacquetFit, an educational organization dedicated to the study of how the human body functions in relation to tennis.