As tennis players we all remember that day, when we could do no wrong, all we had to do was think of the outcome we wanted and it just happened, common terms for it are have a purple patch or running hot. Yes these are great days to remember, but they aren’t how you should judge yourself as a player, as they only happen every now and again, its very unlikely you will be able to play successive matches like this.
To improve, its best to look at your bad matches, because even though your best maybe a 9/10, if your bad matches are a 3/10, you aren’t going to get far in tournaments, as over 5 matches you will probably have a bad match and if that’s only a 3/10 you will loose.
To win a tournament you have to be able to beat all the other players on your bad day, so lets have a look how we can get our bad day up to a 7/10 instead of a 3/10.
1) Don’t try to hit a winner on every shot,
Wait for the right ball to attack, because only on a perfect day will this succeed.
2) Make your objective, to be consistent and make it so your opponent finds it difficult to attack you.
This may seem defensive. But when done correctly, your opponent will feel under much more pressure than when you’re trying to hit winners every shot. When you attack all the time you actually leave yourself open for a counter attacking shot, a lot of the time, so not only do your make a lot of errors, you also make yourself easy to beat. Were as if your hitting a high quality rally ball, which means a shot that is extremely consistent, but difficult for your opponent to hurt you on, your opponent will either go for too much and miss, or give you an easy attacking shot eventually
3) Try adding some variation to your shots
To stop your opponent getting the rhythm they need to hit lots of winners against you, try some slice, some slow loops, mixed in with some hard drives.
Try different game styles to upset your opponent’s game; don’t concede just because they can beat your preferred style.
5) Don’t leave anything on court
If your going loose makes sure you have fought as hard as you can and thought as hard as you can, to find a way to win.
6) Mental toughness
Most players get despondent when their best shots aren’t working, don’t, increase your margin of error, maybe slow your shot down and put a bit more loop on the ball, making it hard for your opponent to attack you and defend like your life depends on it, you will be amazed how this will beat most players, as it takes an excellent player to beat this style.
I remember Paul Annicone’s (Peter Sampras’s coach) answer when asked to compare Marat Safin to Pete Sampras after Safin had destroyed Sampras in the US final.
He said something along these lines
If Marat and Pete are playing at their best, they are of similar standard, with Marat maybe being slightly better, but I’ve never seen Marat win when playing badly, but I’ve seen Pete do it dozen of times in slams. Sampras won 14 slams and Safin 2, the difference wasn’t who could play the best, and it was who played the best on their bad days.
In closing, if you’re playing badly, its not the time to give up, its time to fight and show everyone what you’re made off,