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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Tennis


Importance Of The Tennis Mental Game

Anil Panjwani

My son has gained an edge on me after he became a staunch fan of Federer. Kids will learn from example, whether we're talking matrices in precalc during high school, picking their nose as a toddler, or in our case, the basics of mental tennis.

Federer vs. Safin, a short compare and contrast. Actually, just a contrast. Well, fine, both of them happen to be tennis players.

Changeovers (Federer)- Sits down in his chair, meditates, clears his mind, visualizes victory.

Changeovers (Safin)- Screams at umpire, heads back to line to show mark of ball, tosses racket while getting a point penalty, has a fit, repeat cycle.

During Point (Federer)- During a point, or in the whole match from a bigger perspective, you will probably notice Federer's consistency. He has an amazingly few amount of errors for the number of winners and aces he hits. He is able to hit the shot over and over again.

During Point (Safin)- Safin recently broke a tennis record. Two actually. And possibly a third but that one's unofficial. He had the longest game (time) in Wimbledon history, over 20 minutes. He also went over 13 deuces; I'd lost count during the match.

However, Safin has beaten Federer. At the 2005 Australian Open Semifinals he took down Federer in your epic 5 set tennis battle. People remarked at how calm he looked through the match. He'd taken his mental game to the next level.

Getting to the mental level of Federer takes years, even decades of experience. I never had any resources to find out how I'm supposed think while playing tennis. Nor did my son. We both figured it out after years of practice, but still only had a rough understanding. When he did some research on it, he soon surpassed me, and then I did some research to get my edge back on him!

Here are some tricks I learned:

* Bounce-Hit: I can't stress enough how useful this one is. It helps you concentrate without thinking all the time: how do I hit this shot, am I doing it right, is this how coach told me? When you are actively thinking about hitting any tennis shot, you are guaranteed to miss it. Eh, maybe miss it 90%, you get lucky a few times. What you do with bounce-hit, is when the ball is hit by your opponent, say hit. When it bounces, say bounce. When you hit the ball, say hit. Try it out, this works in rallies and on serve!

* Be Happy! This is as much a tennis tip as a life tip! If you look happy, it will not only confuse your opponent, you might play better too. Seeing you dejected on the other hand, will only make them to play better, knowing that they have the upper hand. They'll be having fun, but you won't!

* Control Your Emotions! Don't go on a racket rampage, throwing it at the fence, the ground, and certainly not at your opponent. However, the reverse is true as well. Federer, even after a great shot, displays none or very little emotion. You should do the same. When you display emotion, you ruin chances of getting into 'the zone'. 'The Zone' is the state of mind where you are completely calm, completely aware, yet at the same time, not thinking about anything much. Everything becomes effortless and easy. That is the ultimate goal.

Anil Panjwani is a seasoned tennis player. He has a passion for the game, which he passed to his kids. Check out his tennis blog! Learning the basic rules for playing tennis, or trying to crack a 100 on your serve, there's something for everyone!

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