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How to Play Against Better Players
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

Playing players that are better than you or players you have always lost can be a fun (and frustrating) challenge. I love playing great players and being pushed by players who are a level or 2 above me. Physically there is not much I can do but try and play good tennis. The biggest challenge comes mentally. Every point counts, and every point needs your absolute concentration and dedication. Let's look at some of the things to do and not to do when playing better players.

One of the biggest problems I see when someone feels the other player is better is their lack of patience. When you are rallying on the baseline you must be patient and wait for the right shot. I see many players trying to hit a winner when it is not the best time. Do not let your brain tell you that you cannot out-rally your opponent. As soon as a player feels that they cannot keep up in the rally they have the tendency to just go for a drop shot or big winner from a poor court position. Usually this results in an error or gets them in trouble from bad court positioning and timing. You must stay in the rally and play your game. Keep the ball in play and make your opponent beat you, do not beat yourself! Be patient, it pays off.

One of the hardest mental challenges is to not get mad at yourself. You have to stay focused or you could be shaking hands at the net well before you want to. The easiest way to stay focused is to think "point by point". You cannot change the last point and you certainly cannot think about who will win the game or the set. If you start thinking ahead you lose focus of what is going on in the present. If you play point by point it is a lot easier not to get nervous and helps you to play better tennis.

Ever hear of self-doubt? It is a killer on the tennis court. If you are playing someone that you feel is better than you and you are hanging in there and set self-doubt sets in it can be a momentum killer. If you start to think "I am not sure how much longer I can play like this" you will immediately fall apart. Again, thinking point by point is key. You cannot start thinking about the outcome of the match or even the game.

Stay positive and have fun. If you get frustrated the better player will see this and smell the kill. Stay optimistic and never give up. If you can keep the match close it might be your opponent who finally cracks and gets mad allowing you to smell the kill.

Hot and cold streaks come and go, with almost every player. So hang in there. If you give up and not give it your best you might not know what opportunities you may have missed. Remember, the biggest key is to think point by point. Any thoughts about the past or future on the tennis court and you can kiss your chances good-bye! Give each player you play all you have, point by point.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker