My opponent was hitting solid and deep. I could hear the pop from his racket, I could see his strong shoulder rotation and lateral movement and I could feel his confidence building with each shot he made and each one I missed. The balls pooled on my side of the net, and I knew I was in trouble.
This is not an unusual scenario on the tennis court for any intermediate to advanced player. Yet, those of us at any level can have either a good day or bad day on the court. When we begin our warm-up, it sometimes becomes visibly apparent that we might not be at our best. But have no fear. The tide usually turns, and if it does not, there would have been nothing you could do anyway. Personally, I take a while to warm up and usually get better as more balls are struck. So when things look bleak, and your patience with yourself is running thin, keep these principles in mind:
- Be patient...players get hot and cold, and even the pros are sometimes at their best or worst in any point during a match. Some players are a quick start while others begin more slowly and progress upward more gradually.
- Be self-aware...check out the fundamentals in your game. Check your racket preparation, unit turn, amount of footwork (more on this later), racket face angle at the contact point, and length and/or direction of follow-through. If you get lazy, it will haunt you on the court.
- Be positive...remember that a mark in the loss column is likely to be the worst that can result. This happens to even top 10 players on any given day.
- Be strong of mind...if you continue to push yourself and look for that second wind, you just may find it. Refuse to give in to the normal fatigue of gasping air or feeling heavy-legged after a long rally or challenging point.
- Be realistic...play within yourself and skill level. Also, be conscious of your cardio and muscular fitness, medical limitations (like asthma), length of play time, hydration regimen (always have something to drink), and temperature/humidity restrictions.
Nothing can guarantee your success at turning a bad hitting day into a stellar one. However, by following these principles, you have tried your best to turn things around. Regardless of the outcome, you have probably enjoyed a wonderful workout and burned tons of calories in the process. So in reality, LOSING on the tennis court can be a good thing after all!