Scott Baker | Tennis4you
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Do you ever get nervous while playing in big matches?
Perhaps playing in tournaments makes you so jittery that you are
too timid to play your full potential. Maybe school matches get
you on edge and keep you from hitting those shots that you are use
to hitting in practice. Many people battle their own nerves while
playing tennis; I know I too can battle them sometimes on the court.
You may be the type that can play anyone and never deviate from
your game even if it is the championship point in a tournament you've
dreamed about winning since you were 6. If that describes you.that
is great! I have been playing for over 12 years and still get nervous
on certain occasions. When I was much younger I used to play people
at a local club and I knew I had a good chance to do well in their
local tournament. So I signed up for my very first tournament. I
saw that my first opponent was someone I have beaten before, and
someone I could probably defeat left-handed. (I am a right-handed
player). Needless to say I lost. Why? One, I was nervous; it was
my first tournament and he had been in several tournaments before.
Two, I took my opponent for granted, which will be another article
Nerves can kill a game quickly. So how do you get
rid of nerves? Just like everyone else; match experience. I often
hear from other players that they do not perform as well in match
play as they do in practice. Even more often I hear players say
they play the worst tennis of their life in tournaments. Well people,
there is a difference. You can practice hitting the ball all day,
but match play is where it is at! Do not get me wrong, you have
to practice, but match play helps you to learn strategies and how
to become a stronger player offensively, defensively and strategically.
With match experience comes an improved player. After twelve years
of match experience, I rarely feel nervous during matches, even
if they are tournaments. Anticipation before the game is normal,
but once the point starts, you have to be in the zone, not the Twilight
One of the best ways to get good experience
is to play against as many different people as you can.
Playing the same person over and over again can only do so much
for your game. You adapt only to that person's style of play and
do not grow strategically. A lot of us are guilty of this, including
me! The more people you play matches against, the more relaxed you
will become in tough points in different situations. If you play
John Doe everyday and no one else, then you are only adapting to
playing John Doe's style of play; you get a feel for John Doe's
game and it gets to be comfortable to play John Doe. But is John
Doe going to be in the tournament coming up next week that you have
to play in? When you play the same person all of the time you do
not get to experience the difference in styles of play of other
tennis players. If you are used to playing someone who hits the
ball very hard and then in a big tournament you have to play a lobber,
will you be comfortable and know how to play the points?
Another way to get good match experience is
to play in leagues.
Leagues are a step up from playing different players everyday. During
leagues you get to play a variety of people. Granted, it is not
as tough mentally as a tournament, but it is a great tennis resource.
A lot of leagues play for prizes at the end of a season or maybe
rankings and that is great! Even better! This will give you something
to work for and mentally challange you more than league matches
that have no rewards or rankings.
Tournaments are the biggest brain racker! There will never be a
tougher situation mentally than a tournament! So get in those tournaments
early and play as many as you can. If you can learn to stay calm
in a tournament then you will be much tougher to beat!
Here are some of the common errors that you may
make if you are nervous during a match.
Error 1: You are afraid to hit the ball
hard when you need to. You just try to dink the ball in play and
put no pressure on your opponent.
Error 2: You deviate from your game. If
your game is serve and volley, but you are to afraid to go to the
net because you might get passed, you will not be playing your game.
That alone gives the opponent a great advantage!
Error 3: Taking your eyes off of the ball.
When nerves hit, you lose confidence. When you are not confident
in your game or your shots, you tend to look up well before you
hit the ball to make sure you see where the ball is going after
you hit it. When you lift your head up early, the racquet head lifts
up as well, creating an error or a poorly hit shot.
Error 4: Some people may go for the big
shot too early because they are nervous and have less confidence
in their consistency over the long run.
Error 5: Not thinking straight! It is obvious
that most people think better when they are not nervous.
Some people take tennis extremely serious, including
myself. However, you must take control and stay calm in all types
of situations on the court. The more practice you get with different
players in different types of play the better you will be. You will
thank yourself later!
Good Luck on the Court!