It’s just as important to build your mind as it is your technical skills and your body. A common trait in high level players is to be relaxed under pressure. This is something they work on.
The purpose here is to develop your rally ball. That is your ability to return any shot well without going for anything. It’s where you just wait for a mistake even though your opponent might be throwing everything they have at you.
This is one of my biggest strengths and weaknesses. In some areas I am really, really good under pressure. I just relax, slow everything down, concentrate and just deliver. No stress just calm results but in other areas I panic and find a way to lose.
I bet you have the same story. What I am working on is transferring the knowledge and experience of my successful areas to my weaker areas and last Wednesday I saw the spark that I recognise as a big step forward.
Competing in sport has always been an area where on the biggest stage I wilt. Academics is the opposite and I’m completely confident. Having this “known good” where I experience pressure in a positive light really helps me understand what I need. The list includes:
- Consistency: Do it a lot
- Accuracy: Be exact. Power means scaling your technique flaws and all so focus on removing flaws one by one so that when you scale your technique up it doesn’t fall apart
- Trust: Do you believe in yourself under pressure.
This is not a complete list and there are many better reviews out there. I just picked a few of the keys I’m working on.
What is important is how I’m turning the problems of last year into the strengths for this year. I should have competed really well last year but instead I was plagued with injury and never hit my stride. So how am I making sure this year benefits from last years lessons and how am I continuing to learn and improve?
The lesson is the exciting part for me. I played 7 sets at my best and the only thing sore is my wrist. I know that will heal quickly and I believe now that the soreness has a training effect. So my wrist and tendon should get stronger with time.
I also learnt that each time I have come across these bigger hitters I have handled them. I know what to do and when fit I have the skills to match them. I won plenty of points and created break points myself. I just didn’t win the key points but that will come.
Another big lesson is that I can play before a match without it harming the result. Last year I planned my day and week around each match. This put pressure on it. This year I have started to play on the day of the match as a warm up. It may tire me alittle but it also grooves my shots and allows me to try things I might need in the match. Most of all it stops match days being a special situation and thus pressured. My last match just felt like a normal day because it was.
What has changed to complement this is my attitude to lunchtime sessions. They’re no longer important contests. They are just practice. I am working on not caring and just enjoying. Winning at lunch can no longer mean anything because it is a time to focus on consistency and accuracy. What I tell myself is that if I can’t win without playing my best then I have no where to go in matches if I am losing.
If in fact I play my second string game most of the time yet still find a way to win then I will have an extra gear and more options when it really matters. This is the mental approach that I need to help focus on no hitting as hard as I can at all times. it may sound strange but that’s how I work and most people I meet. If the mind believes it the body will follow.
This approach should prevent injuries by embedding recovery in my game. It reduces pressure by building my confidence when not giving everything and playing my best.
I also found that my ankle is now just fine. It’s not even sore from yesterday. It feels fine. It’s been great since I figured out what to do with it. The same goes for my stress fracture. So I now trust that this year will be one of health, consistent play building up my technique and learning to trust my game at the highest levels. Quite exciting really!!!