Mental chatter fills most people’s heads all day long. On the tennis court I have heard these lovely comments involuntarily rolling around in my head: “I am a hopeless human being, I can’t even hit a forehand over the net”, “this guy will never play with me again I’m so bad”, “why do I make the same f***ing mistake over and over again?”, “I hope he makes a double fault”….

There are many things that drive mental chatter, here are just two of them:

We think we are better players than we are and so we are incensed when the results don’t show it. Playing a sport is quantifiable: if I really am a better player than my opponent, I would have won.

Self image is a fragile thing. It is bolstered by winning and battered by losing.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter what I think. If I’m so bad that my opponent will never play with me again, there’s not a lot I can do about it except play as well as I can. It’s a little late to think that I can morph into even a 47 year old version of Martina Navratilova at this point. It won’t help my game if I think I am better than I am and it will likely hurt it if think I am the worst player on the planet.

The thing that will help me is to concentrate on each point and use the skills I have at the moment. Run the mental program for each point, write down the things I need to improve after the match and then come up with a plan to make those improvements. It’s not as exciting as an alien spirit swooping down and giving me superpowers, but there you have it.

Practice and Competition Report: played T. today, he is so much better than I am that he gives me 3 games each set, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4.
Solutions Analysis:
1. Looking for a solution to the problem of rushing the shot when my opponent is at the net. What can I say, I get rattled.
2. Looking for a solution to returning deep, looping topspin shots. I need to develop a feel for when to come in and take them on the fly, when to short hop them and when to drop back and get under them.
Success Analysis:
1. My serve was consistent. I concentrated on serving deep in the service box and it resulted in some service winners.
2. I figured out how to return those soft second serves by slowing down the 1-2-3 rhythm of the return of serve.
3. I overcame my feeling of insecurity about playing a much better player, stayed with the mental program for each shot and I beat him in the last set.

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