#1. You Must Change Your Expectations to Play Your Best Tennis.

You somehow think that just because you take a lesson, attend a clinic or two, maybe play a practice match that you should dominate in competitive play.  Wrong.

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It’s great you are taking steps to be prepared, and it does help. But your sense of entitlement, this misguided belief that your preparation should lead to wins is hybris. You are expecting something that is out of your control, or anyone’s control for that matter.

You don’t EVER control the outcome of a match.  There are too many other factors or which you also don’t have any control that make this an impossibility.

     You don’t control the elements.  Heat that wears you out, sunlight in your eyes while serving, wind making your groundstrokes sail ten feet long, humidity making your racquet slip out of your hands, cold slowing you down, rain that interrupts matches, and the list goes on.

     You don’t control your opponent.  You never know when your opponent may ‘catch fire’, or start striking the ball with uncommon accuracy or power.  This is ‘entering the zone’, or ‘being up in the trees’.  When it happens, you’ll just have to ride it out, and hope he/she/they snap out of it.  If not, who do you have to blame for that loss?

     You don’t even control yourself.  If you’ve ever ‘tried’ to force shots to go in, or go over the net, you’ll know this act is futile and taxing.  It takes away your spontaneity and ability to play instinctually.  This is your ego trying to exert influence on your tennis game.  It doesn’t work.  Your ego may help you manage accounts, sell houses, organize a conference, but it has no place in tennis, but on the sidelines.

So what do we control?

Very little.  Let that be liberating.  Let that take off some pressure.  Let that knowledge allow you to prioritize what is important.  Here’s the list of the things you control:

  1. Your focus–How well are you seeing the ball?  Can you forget about what happened on the point before?
  2. Your effort–Are you going after every ball?
  3. Your intensity–Are you swinging freely?  Are you moving your feet?  Are you looking to make your opponent miss?

That’s the short list.  It’s simple, but not easy.  Go out and play.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.