40:30. You are so close to winning the gem and getting closer to finish the match. One point can decide if you are going to take a lead or if you will have to fight for more points. In tennis each point counts because one ball can make a big difference in your game. And the score.
Do you really value a tennis point? Some players definitely put less effort into points when they have visible lead in match. When they are winning 4:0 and 40:0 you can see that their motivation to get to each ball and perform optimal shot is decreasing. On the other hand, you won’t see this approach when the score on the board shows 4:4 and it is 30:30. Why is player’s attitude so different according to score? Should it have any influence on our game? The answer is simple: Score shouldn’t have an influence on our performance but mostly it does!
When we have a comfortable lead we start to believe that score will take care of itself. We mistakingly think that because we are winning it won’t change. Probably it can have a chance to happen when you play against much weaker opponent but while competing against players at your level you don’t have any chance to finish the match as a winner with this kind of approach. Tennis is a dangerous game because it is not time-restricted. It is an open sport where you have to win 2 sets to finish it. It can last for 45 minutes if there is a big gap between players’ skills but it can also go over 4 hours if players are even or if their playing styles are based on low-power consistency.
By knowing these facts we have to start value more each point of the match. There are many players who get the lead so comfortably that they forget about specifics of tennis. They start to lose motivation and they hope that their opponent will deliver more and more errors to get this match to an end. Unfortunately, only if you put your best effort from the beginning to the end of a match you have a chance to win it so many players have learned the lesson in a hard way. If you want to play your best tennis you have to approach each point in the same professional way. It doesn’t matter what the score is because you want to give your best. Possessing this approach will not only allow you to win more matches against solid rivals but it will also let you to make games much shorter while competing against weaker opponents.
So theory is easy but how to put this approach into practice? There are few methods that you can use to possess this approach much easier. Here they are:
To really value each point you have to narrow your focus. Yo have to put your mental laser just on this specific spot. It simply means that narrowing your approach allows you to think only about one point. Nothing else. If you have broad focus you think about full score like 5:2 and 30:15. If you have narrow focus what you see is only point at 30:15. This approach will make you aware that each point is the next step in your battle.
Not giving 100% percent is mostly related to lack of focus. If we start to think about other things than our actual performance we are not focused. That is why we need rituals. Rituals are automatic habits that we perform between the points to feel comfortable and put focus on right things. Develop your own routine or copy actions from the best players in the world to keep your focus precise for the length of the entire match.
As short as possible
Part of being a professional athlete is to finish the match as fast as possible. If you can do it in 45 minutes you must do it! Remember recovery is an important part of playing your best tennis so there is no point to make your matches longer if you can use this time for extra recovery. Additionaly the longer the match the more chances for you to get injured. I know it doesn’t happen too often but you are probably aware that one ball can make you pause for many weeks if you roll your ankle. Only be playing the shortest possible matches you show that you value each point, your health, and your entire tennis career.
Tennis consists of many points but each one is important. Give your best toward each point and you will see the difference in your results. Big success always start with a first small step so you can take it now.
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.