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Even the Professional Tennis Players Do It!

Photo by Keith Allison

Andy Roddick comes off one of the biggest wins in his career beating Roger Federer 7-6, 1-6, 6-4  to lose to the 21 seed Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-0.  I thought this only happened to junior players.  Either Andy has the mental game of a junior tennis player or no-one is above the let down after “their greatest moment ever.”

How many times have you or your junior tennis player had an almost surreal match knocking out a seeded player to turn around and loose in the next round to a virtual nobody that you could have beaten any other day?  I know it has happened to my child on more than one occasion.  The physical exhaustion they feel after playing a match is understandable but it appears to be more of a mental or emotional exhaustion that causes them to fall apart.

When approaching a match in which you are perceived to be the “under dog” you have a motivation to show your strength and disprove those around you that they are wrong to believe you cannot win.  If you can channel that motivation you can positively impact your mental approach and execution of your game.  You experience a free, loose, “nothing to lose” feeling that allows you to hit the ball better, move your feet better, serve better, return better.  You focus on making your shots and block out other distractions.  Suddenly you have made the game very simple, breaking it down to nothing more than making the shot.  Having something to prove motivates you for the big win. You are faced with the question of how badly do you want to show what you are made of and what you can do?  You become your own best motivator.

What happens after the big win, after you have proven to yourself and others that you can do it?   After achieving your ultimate goal you experience the feeling of satisfaction of having achieved your goal which in turn leads to a feeling of complacency.  By definition complacency is a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of potential danger.  Suddenly that internal motivation to prove yourself  is gone.  You come to the next match with no internal motivation.  Sure you still want to win, we all want to win, but what will drive you to  do something more to achieve that win.  You need to find that motivating goal that will push you to that level of focus and loose, “nothing to lose” attitude you had in the previous match.

The biggest hurdle that faces us when playing a tournament is the whole seeding process and looking ahead in the draws.  Before we even reached the tournament my son had decided what his big match was going to be.  In the third round he was going to have to face the one seed.  Now his motivation and goal setting process was set around getting to the third round and proving he could beat the one seed.  Great, so what happens after you beat the one seed?  He hadn’t looked beyond that.  Obviously he always entered the tournament with the hope to win it but that wasn’t his focus.  His focus and goal was on the perceived “big match.”  In order to avoid this scenario he stopped looking at the draws before the tournament and never looked to see who he was playing before he walked onto the court for the match.  He avoided the general chatter about the draws and upcoming matches by wearing his headphones and listening to music.  In his mind he pretended that every match was the “big match.”

Many people will claim that the loss to the lower level player after the big win comes from being overconfident.  I think there is more to it than that.  I believe it is that inability to get into that “zone” of loose carefree hitting and complete focus you had when you had something to prove.  You are now faced with the expectation to win.  Instead of  being driven to prove you can win you are expected to win.  You loose that internal motivation.  I wish there was a secret I could give you on how to find that internal motivating goal but it will be a personal and individual journey.  The starting point is to be aware of the situation and avoid the feeling of satisfaction of having achieved your goal.

As much as you enjoy celebrating the win, get over it and leave it behind.  It was simply one moment in time and you have another moment to focus on.


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