Project a powreful, positive presence on the tennis court

There is another advice from the book Maximum Tennis by the great tennis coach Nick Saviano.

Nick Saviano and Jim Courier

No matter what the circumstances, try to always project a powerful, positive presence on the tennis court. That does not mean you have to be stoic because that just doesn’t fit everyone’s personality. You can get angry and still present a strong image. Sometimes, you will have to simply be a good actor or actress to disguise how you feel. It is okay to lose the match, but don’t give your opponent the satisfaction of the confidence of thinking that she has broken you down emotionally. Whether you are winning, losing, or playing someone who is simply better than you are, act confident and under control. This will leave a lasting impression on your opponent, and, many times, when you least expect it, he might be the first one to “crack” mentally. But, most important, by maintaining this type of presence, you are taking a major step in controlling your emotions on the tennis court.

It was 1987, during the French Junior tennis championship. I was traveling with four junior boys, Jim Courier, Jonathan Stark, David Wheaton, and Cris Garner. Jim Courier, 17 years old at the time (and future number-one men’s player in the world and two-time French Open singles champion), and Jonathan Stark (future number-one men’s player in the world in doubles and French Open doubled champion) were playing in the first round of the French Junior doubles. Both boys were upset earlier in the day in the first round of the singles and, consequently, were despondent when they went on the tennis court to play the doubles. They were playing a team from the Ivory Coast, which they should have been beating comfortably. They had just lost the first set, and boy was it ugly! Their body language was terrible, they were talking negatively after almost every point, and they looked like losers. What was even more frustrating was that we just talked earlier before the match about forgetting about the singles loss, staying positive, and not letting their opponents know they were down. After the first set, I had decided that I would try to make a positive comment to perk them up as they came over to the side of the tennis court where I was sitting. But before that happened, they lost serve to go down a set and a break. Jim made another negative comment and dropped his racket to the ground. I had seen enough. Jonathan glanced over at me as they started to switch sides. He knew I was fuming. Jim kept his head down and did not look. I said to Jonathan as he passed by, “One more comment out of either of you, and you are in big trouble” and I motioned to him to get Jim’s attention. Finally, Jim reluctantly looked over. “Did you hear me? One more time and big trouble”. I wasn’t actually going to do anything. I just wanted to make a point. Both of them settled down, picked up their energy, started encouraging each other, and won the match in three close sets. But that was not the end of the story. They kept that positive attitude throughout the week and went on to win the tennis tournament. They beat two great Argentinians (both were ranked in the top 100 in the world on the men’s tour and still came back to play juniors) in the finals. This was one of the most gratifying success stories of my young coaching career because I felt the boys really learned some important lessons along the way about staying in the present; using positive self-talk; and keeping a powerful, positive presence on the tennis court. The great thing was they were rewarded for their efforts. Lesson learned!

Yoga and peak performance in tennis

This article is written by Dr. Robert Heller, a psychologist, sport psychology consultant and USPTA tennis teaching professional based in Boca Raton, Fl. He is the author of the mental conditioning CD-ROM program, TENNISMIND. You can reach him at www.mentalskills.com

It has been more than forty years since I read Tim Gallweys book, “The Inner Game of Tennis”. Little did I know then how much it had to do with yoga and peak performance. Gallwey was a student meditation and yoga and used the medium of tennis to apply sport psychology and yoga principles and practices to sports and life.

Yoga for tennis

As a more recent student of yoga I have discovered it shares many key principles psychology practices designed to train individuals in achieving peak performance in sport, music and other areas of life.

To achieve a peak performance in tennis, we need to have a quiet mind and a calm body. Yoga helps us develop these abilities.

Another useful idea of yoga that facilitates peak performance focus on being fully aware of our body and our senses, noticing what we are focusing on and when we are distracted.

Rather than being preoccupied with the past or anticipating the future, yoga has a present focus on the here and now. Paying attention to what is going on in the present allows tennis players to react quickly to changes they might want to make to improve their performance now. It is really important in tennis.

The idea of “awareness without judgment” is another useful principle that is a key to achieving peak performance. By having awareness but suspending judgment we learn to make critical decisions without being overly self-critical.

The breathing/meditation aspect of yoga helps us regulate our emotions. By being less anxious and angry, our muscles can be more relaxed and movements are more fluid producing better and more consistent results in sports, music and our overall functioning.

I have noticed personally that practicing yoga has impacted my own peak performances.
As a competitive tennis player, I notice experiencing more frequent and longer episodes of,”playing in the zone”, a place where one is performing at their highest level.

As research mounts, I am confident that the usefulness of yoga in attaining peak performance states in tennis will be substantiated.

Two more secrets of great tennis players

There are two more secrets of tennis champions from the book Maximum Tennis by Nick Saviano.

Nick Saviano, tennis coach and author of the book Maximum Tennis

Breathe

Picture this: it is match point in the finals of the US Open, and a player is about to step up to the line to serve the biggest point of her life. What is the one thing almost all tennis players will do? Take a deep breath and exhale. Why? Because they are using their breathing as a way of helping to control themselves physically and emotionally. Controlling your breathing is one of the best ways to deal with both mental and physical anxiety. I am not advocating that you run out and take  a yoga class (although that is not a bad idea). Simply remember that, by pausing and taking a deep breath between points, you can really help to control yourself. So, when you are feeling tense and uptight, stop and take a few deep breaths, and you might be surprised how much it helps.

If you can’t visualize it, chances are it will not become a reality

The ability to visualize yourself executing in competition is essential to achieving your goals. When top Olympic coaches and elite athletes from a wide variety of sports were surveyed as to the most important factors in their psychological training programs, they named visualization, or imagery, as number one in importance.

Try to visualize yourself performing on the tennis court exactly the way you would like. If you have trouble with a particular shot, learn to visualize yourself hitting that short particularly well. If you have trouble serving out a match, visualize yourself serving out the game with confidence. In preparation for a match, many tennis professionals will actually get away by themselves shortly before competing and visualize certain aspects of the tennis match or specific shorts. Others practice their visualization at night.

It sound corny, but for most tennis players it really works. If you are to play in the tennis club championships and you simply don’t believe you can win it, take some time each day and visualize yourself playing the final tennis match. Picture yourself being totally under control, executing great shots and winning the last point. The more vivid your visualization, the better. Try it, and you will be surprised just what an effective tool it is.

Agnieszka Radwanska and Serena Williams in 2012 Wimbledon final

Finally Agnieszka Radwanska reached the major’s final. It is a good reason to think: why the player without huge strokes and million dollars investment has a chance to become #1 in the world and win Wimbledon. Answer is simple: she is the smart player, not  just “HIT THE BALL” one.

Agnieszka Radwanska in Wimbledon final

But why so a few tennis players play smart tennis?

In two days we are going to watch the 2012 Wimbledon final between Serena Williams, the best athlete from women players  and the smartest tennis player Agnieszka Radwanska. It definitely will be interesting match!

Agnieszka Radwanska Is the Smartest Tennis Player in Modern Women Tennis

Why a few women tennis players play smart and creative tennis? Answer is obvious, modern tennis requires strong athletes. Strong athletes often prefer to hit ball hard 🙂 Unfortunately many players on women side look very similar each other – very athletic, can hit balls hard and no any creativity in their play. You hardly to find something special in their play.

Agnieszka Radwańska - Agnieszka Radwanska Is the Smartest Tennis Player in Modern Women Tennis

Fortunately, in each generation of tennis players we see smart players who are able to compete on highest level. I remember the smartest play of Martina Hingis, now I enjoy watching Agnieszka Radwanska tennis.

In my mind, this season shows one more time, that there are no strong favorites in modern women tennis. Not like it was ten years ago. Today most of WTA players play tennis like throwing hard rocks. From top players only Agnieszka Radwanska plays creative and smart tennis. It is not high probability that she will win Wimbledon, but now she has a chance to capture #1 in the world. Serena Williams may win in London, but she should serve 20+ aces per match in all the next rounds. So, I wish Radwanska to win, because her play is very smart and attractive for watching.

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