Building on my article Relaxing under pressure I can explain the benefit of my focus on trust.
Do you believe in yourself under pressure? If you don’t it will show, both to you and your opponent. Trust in yourself will intimidate your opponent and keep them caged, holding them back. They will fear your response and thus check themselves.
My ability to trust myself last Thursday was the culmination of learning how to expose myself to so much tennis with a focus on an accurate understanding of good technique. I started with a game of doubles and just did what came naturally with results becoming easier as the match progressed because I could trust my instincts. My training is providing a base on which I can build.
The match in the evening had the opposite result. I lost comfortably but that’s because the opponent was much better than me so there is no shame in that. I don’t mind being beaten but I hate losing and not playing my best. So I focused on playing my game and I did that well.
I noticed a lot about his game so I was paying attention and not just hitting wildly. He had no major weaknesses:
- Big serve,
- strong off both wings.
- Lots of topspin good with slice and flat shots too.
- Punished anything weak
- moved very well.
The only weakness I noticed was akin to Andy Murray. He retreated so far he almost hugged the fence. I’ve never seen that before. When I took advantage and came in I did well with the space he had left but he still had the game to trouble me and the legs to scoop up anything other than a perfect shot.
The problem I had was lack of consistency playing at this level. So it took me the whole match and more to adjust. I didn’t know where to stand.
He had a big serve so I stood back. He could hit hard to either side of the service box so he aced me a few times. I rarely if ever get aced even against serves this big. So I had to draw from experience. I later hugged the baseline. I even came inside it. I blocked instead of hitting through. Redirecting his power instead of generating my own which meant I could take time away from him and keep good position.
It worked, no more aces from him and better returns from me but I had already lost the match. No matter because there will always be another. What I figured out was my neutral. I hug the baseline for a reason. I have the reflexes and approach to make it work. What I took advantage of was his weaker second serve. He tended to double fault and stepping in to put pressure seemed to encourage it.
The same happened during the rallies. As I slowly found my neutral I started to trust my game. I extended the points and games much more and realised I could hang with this guy. Though he was more used to playing this level consistently and this showed. He trusted his game more than I and so I panicked and tired sooner.