Match is the real test of tennis skills. You can practice many hours and put your best every time you step on the court but if you can’t use these skills while competing you will never achieve great results.
There are some players who play matches much better than they train but there are also athletes who don’t miss the ball during practice session but they make a lot of easy mistakes while playing points. Don’t worry – everything can be improved. Your match’s performance too.
There are different reasons why kids take part in tennis competition. John can sign up just to test own skills and see „how it works”. Karen can play tournament because her friend will be there too so social factor is the motivation. Paul loves competition and he wants to prove that he is the best in the city.
There are also some kids who compete because their parents want them to do so. No matter the reason reality is that if you train tennis there is a big chance that sooner or later you will start playing tournaments and you have to be ready for that.
Most of the parents want their children to win so they can’t understand how it is possible that their son always loses first 3 gems. The beginning of the match is a nightmare and against good opponent it is really hard to come back after a bad start.
Before coach or parent takes any action to start working on this aspect we should understand why it happens and how often our players face this kind of difficulty. If it happens once per 10 matches it is nothing to worry about. On the other hand if athlete has to chase score during last 7 matches it is a signal that we have to intervene.
Tennis tournament is a different environment than we have in our tennis club. The are numerous new people, courts that we are not familiar with, uncomfortable surrounding as well as big dose of pressure related to competition and ranking points.
All these factors have a big influence on player’s actions so only by understanding these things and having skills to deal with them players are able to get on the court and dominate from the first point of the match. If parents say that their kid needs „few gems to warm up” it means they don’t understand where the problem is. Good players are ready from the beginning to rock. If your player can’t it means that there is some solid weakness that you should take care of.
Starting the match on your terms is a skill like any other. There are many factors that have influence on your beginning performance so you should make sure that you include them in your tournament preparation. Here they are:
Balls are different
There are smaller and bigger differences between tennis balls. Some of them are softer others are harder. Some of them are more controllable than others. That is why it is a smart move to play last few days before the tournament using balls that you will use during competition.
This little change will give you advantage over opponents who all the time practice using the same balls. Many players need few gems to get control and „know” new balls while competing so good preparation will give you this time while training and when you step on the court on the tournament’s day you will focus just on winning points.
Playing points is a practice too
Ability to make right decisions in specific situations is a skill so players have to spend a lot of time on playing points during practice sessions to use these abilities while competing. Typical mistake is when players only have drills before the tournament and they don’t play any points.
It is not surprising that when they start the match they don’t know how to play and the first few gems are dedicated to try different things to win points. Automatic habits are developed before the competition so the best players always play practice matches or work on tournament’s scenarios to be prepared when these things actually happen. Remember that shots are not useful if you don’t know how to use them!
It is stressful not only for you
Parents are really stressed during tournaments because they really want their kids to win. It is completely understandable. On the other hand these parents who feel this big amount of pressure don’t understand that for their kids it is also really uncomfortable situation. Players have to deal with pressure on their own and if they don’t have proper mental skills they will always underperform.
First few gems of the match can quickly show if someone is brave and confident or if he has some doubts about own shots and abilities. Only conscious work and support during stressful situations can help so players and coaches should remember that and not scream at players when they have difficulty with placing the ball into the court during first few points.
Can’t buy experience
Experience comes with repetitions. It simply means that the more often you compete the easier it is for you to adjust own actions and use the best responses. Players who take part in competition once or twice per year it is really hard for them to get needed experience and learn how to deal with tournament’s pressures. Players who are present on tournaments 10-20 times per year have a good balance between practice sessions and tournaments so they can develop own skills and learn how to play the game.
That is why if we want our players to start the match well we should always look for new opportunities to compete to gain experience. Many parents make mistake when they try to “save” own kids by not playing too many tournaments because “they are not ready”. Of course we have to still develop skills so practice sessions are crucial to do so but experience is gained during tournaments so skipping one of these factors will never develop a successful athlete.
We can’t divide athletes into players who start matches well and players who don’t. Being able to win first 3 gems is a set of skills and actions – not a magical trait. If you want to make your chances bigger to play your best tennis from the first point you have to work on it. Incorporate tips from this article into your daily schedule and your progress will be faster than you can imagine.
From time to time you will still start the match with some mistakes but most often people will admire how confident you look from the first shot. Remember that if you start the match on your terms it will be much easier to put pressure on your opponent and continue your road to victory.