Years ago, I saw the documentary Waiting for Superman, which introduces the concept that the American public education system is vainly waiting for a superhero to come save it.
I suspect that I’m waiting for the same thing, but in my case, it’s my tennis game that needs saving. Too often I’m finding myself at the losing end of matches, even with players who are at my level. When I do get a lead, the tide soon turns and the set disappears.
I’m not claiming that I should win all of those matches, but if I really am evenly matched, I should win more matches than I do.
It recently occurred to me that I’m probably waiting for Superman – or I suppose in my case, for Wonder Woman. I was assuming that once I improved the forehand or bettered my volleys or sharpened my slices, then my superior strokes would propel me to victory.
Clearly though, that’s not the long-term solution. If I actually got what I wanted (better strokes), then I would move up a level to find players who had equally good strokes… and then I’d start losing once again.
So what could make me more consistently competitive?
I wondered if it wasn’t my mental game that needed a tune-up, so I refreshed my memory by re-reading a book called Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis by Brad Gilbert. The book is chock-full of tips of how to think differently to win matches, so I have a lot to consider.
To keep things simple, I’m focusing on two ideas to start with: constructing a basic game plan and waiting for the right opportunity.
Too often on the tennis court, I play in reactive mode; it means that I have no particular strategy or aim, but am simply waiting for an opportunity. This mode cedes the initiative to my opponent, leaving me vulnerable. Now I’m going to spend more time analyzing what my opponent doesn’t like and spend more time trying to do exactly that.
At the same time, I’ve realized that I lack patience during matches, going for shots that I have no rightly business trying for, especially during critical points. It’s a funny thing to realize, as off the court I’m patient beyond patient, but on the court, I hit shots that Federer himself wouldn’t try. Or, well maybe he would… but I certainly shouldn’t. 🙂
Next time, I’ll write about what happened when I put this theory into practice.