Roger Federer made the understatement of the year in this week’s Sports Illustrated: “people underestimate the role of confidence and self-belief in tennis,…When you feel you can trust your game, it makes all the difference in the world.” This is a man who has won three of the last four grand slams without a coach.
What does it mean to trust your game? I was practicing my serve before my match today and I was hitting the ball into the net, straight up into the air, everywhere but into the service box. I didn’t get rattled, I just kept going through my mental program and eventually I was hitting a solid serve. This is one small example of trusting your game.
Another example, one I can’t say I’m all that familiar with mind you, would be to serve hard and go for all your shots regardless of the game situation. I tend to tighten up after a few bad serves or during second deuce sudden death points. What happens to interfere? I start to hear voices: “It’s a sudden death point, if I make a mistake now I’ll lose the game and I’ll be down 2-5 and then I can’t make a mistake else I’ll lose that game and lose the set and then my winning record will be below 50% and I’ll be demoted to level 5 and then…” You get the idea.
Oy those words! Better to conjure up images. In Zen Golf, Robert Parent suggests you tune into your senses: look around you and see what’s in your visual field, listen to the sounds around you – what do you hear?, sense your body – what do you feel? If you are doing this, you are probably not thinking. If you can use your senses to create a vivid image of the next shot you want to execute, your serve or return of serve for example, you are more likely to freely execute the shot instead of think about everything that could possibly go wrong.
Practice and Competition Report: played league tennis today, one set of doubles and one set of singles: 6-2, 6-2
Solutions Analysis: looking for a solution to the problem of judging my oppononent, “I should be able to beat this guy,” or “I don’t think I can beat this guy,” instead of thinking about making shots and devising strategies to make sure I beat them.
Success Analysis: I won the match didn’t I?