When Your Game Is Not On
An excerpt from The Conscious Player: A No-Nonsense Guide to Mental Toughness for Tennis Players Book by Kati Kocsis and Susie Kocsis
It is unrealistic to expect to play your best tennis all the time. There are those days when no matter how hard you try, your game is just not on. When this happens, do not get frustrated but accept it, as it is inevitable. Also know that you can still win, even though you are not playing well. You might even find that your game improves as the match progresses.
When having an “off” day, you have to be especially tough mentally. When you realize that your game is not on, do not get upset or frustrated. Just accept it. It is what it is, so find a way to work within your limits. If you beat yourself up, your game is only going to get worse, which is something you really can’t afford at this point. Instead, lighten up. Realize that your having an “off” day and don’t take your mistakes to heart. Just because you are having a bad day it doesn’t mean you are a bad player; nor does it mean that you are going to lose.
Figure out what it is that’s not working. Is it just one particular shot? Maybe it is just your forehand or your first serve. If that is the case, do not dwell on it too much. Focus on what is working instead. Maybe your backhand is great or your second serve is still steady. Work with what you’ve got and change your game around that.
If your game is completely off, then you need to adjust and be a little less ambitious with your shots. Don’t go for the line; keep your balls way above the net, leave plenty of room for error, hit more crosscourt shots and maybe take some power off. Try to read your opponent as early as possible and not when the ball passes the net or, even worse, when bouncing on your side. Also, instead of going for winners, go for consistency to win the points. If all else fails, you can always try to get every ball back. It might not look as good as your normal game, and most players get frustrated with that, but you might end up winning ugly, which is still winning. So drop your pride, and do not be too conscious of how you look; hustle hard and do whatever it takes to win.
It will definitely require a lot of hustle and fighting, but winning when you are not playing well will taste that much sweeter. So next time you find that your game is not on, look at it as an opportunity to practice your mental toughness. Make sure to stay positive, play smart and be ready to battle it out.