It happens at every level of tennis. One day you head out and for whatever reason you just have a level of self doubt which inadvertently will end up in a loss in the match you are playing. Self doubt crushes you. Thoughts of “I’m not up to this type of level” and “I am not close to this person” and the ultimate self doubt affirmation of “I’m no good at tennis”
As an advanced club level player and coach, I get the feeling that players of a more intermediate/social level think that this type of thinking doesn’t go through my head. It still does.
The truth is at all levels you get days and periods of time where your confidence is high and days and periods of time where you just don’t believe in yourself. The benefit of being an advanced level player is that we have played so many tough tennis matches that we have the self awareness to know that this type of self talk and on court self esteem is something to be mindful of. We have also faced enough pressure and adversity to go through the extremes of having a good day to having a shocking day and a day of lack of self belief.
As a player and coach, I thrive on building on the ‘never give up’ type mindset with tennis. The role models of Hewitt and Nadal are good for everyone, no matter their game style. In tennis, or any sport, the most important thing to focus on is to ‘control the controllables’ in a match. Our mindset, attitude, body language and effort is something that we can control. See another one of posts, The Triangle of Control, for more information on this.
The state of our Mindset when we play is so important. After now over 25 years of competitive tennis, I can say that I have played a lot more matches with a positive and productive mindset than I have with a negative, low self esteem tennis mindset.
The improvement in mindset has been a slow and steady road where I have learnt to have a great belief in the amount of hours I have put in hitting a little yellow ball around a court along with some wisdom I have picked up along with way.
I look at the competitive and tournament tennis scene I experienced as a junior and sometimes look back with anxiety. Thoughts of losing to someone with a lower ranking or worse, a lower reputation, was at the time too much to deal with pre match. There were many terrible matches I remember winning out of fear with ‘moon ball’ type tennis – getting an ugly and fear based victory.
Director of Tennis
Scarborough Tennis Academy