During my career I participated in quite a few clinics with kids. After we played tennis I’d talk to them and answer their questions. I always like doing it because in this age players are quite open, they don’t hesitate to speak about something that bothers them. They are ready not only to listen but also to hear what I have to share with them.
One of the most common things kids usually ask would be if I am getting nervous before the match and how do I deal with it. My answer is always the same. Of course I am getting nervous – everybody does, and sometimes it happens that even when I step down to the court to play the match I am still feeling shaky. I’m sure everybody has his own routine. Some people try to use breathing technics, others concentrate on one spot, look closer at the tennis ball… With years I found out what helps me to stay calm. But although we are all unique, there are few things that work in most cases.
For example, I think that if you concentrate on one point at a time, it really makes a difference. It might sound casual, because we hear it a lot. But, trust me, it does work. When you feel anxious on the court, try to make a simple plan, ask yourself, what would you like to do with the next point. Decide how you would like to play it and concentrate on executing it.
The other thing is to take simple decisions and play the shots you like to use. For example, if you like to hit your forehand down the line, construct the point so that you can have this shot and don’t rush. Find the right moment and go for it. In this case you will play with your strong sides and, what is even more important, feel confident.
One more advice: concentrate on what your opponent doesn’t like. Maybe you are nervous and not feeling 100% but make sure that he or she also has a hard time. This will switch your attention from your doubts to what you need to do to win.
Probably some of you are reading this and thinking on the same time that you’ve heard these things before. I’m sure you did! Still there is a difference between knowing them and actually doing them, so next time you go on court, just try it. Start with the practice match and see how it helps you go through some important points. I’m looking forward to your feedback and comments! Good luck, guys!