Despite what we've been led to believe, it is NOT advisable to encourage players to try to control emotions during matches. Check out the reasons why and what we should do instead...
What an incredible rollercoaster that was!
A perfect example of why tennis is the ultimate sporting mental test. Tough conditions…Massive momentum shifts…And ultimately an incredibly brave effort from Ash Barty to make her 1stGrand Slam final.
There’s a lot we can learn from such a great battle. Because tennis is so challenging it never has been and never will be about perfection. Instead it will always be about dealing with frequent challenges just a little better than the person down the other end. And beneath massive momentum swings that are so common in matches usually lies the same predictable psychological processes for all players who are willing to put it on the line as these 2 young ladies did.
Here’s my most important takeaways:
1.) Compete Your Hardest When Your Opponent Is Ahead, As This Is When It's Most Likely They'll Play Their Worst
The moment that a player realises they are in reach of winning a set or match, but have...
We can take many lessons from the amazing run that Naomi Osaka is currently on in the Slams. But there is one that stands out more than any other for me...
Did you see that Naomi Osaka lost her Madrid Masters match after leading 5-3 40-15 in the 3rd?
Thats right, even the world number 1 can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory :-)
Whats more, she only won 2 more points for the rest of the match...
And in my latest 'Mental Toughness Made Simple' video I reflect on the crucial lesson we can learn from Osaka's experience. It is, in my opinion, the most important factor in what separates the winners from the losers on any given day.
Check it out by clicking below:
Today I want to focus on a crucial lesson we can take from what were in my opinion the 5 most important points of Fabio Fognini’s career last week in Monte Carlo. Now you might be thinking these points occurred during his amazing win against Nadal but they didn't.... Take a look at the video to find out :-)
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1.) Compete Your Hardest When Your Opponent Is Trying To Finish You, As This Is When It's Most Likely They'll Play Their Worst
As we saw in the final stages of the women's tournament, finishing close matches is hard, even for the best. And it was this fact that allowed Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova to get back in their matches against Serena and Osaka.
These 2 recoveries were my favourite efforts of the tournament. To do this, the key is to recognise the difficult thoughts that will surely arise when our opponents seem likely to finish us (e.g., Pliskova remarked that her head was 'already in the locker room' against Serena), and commit to taking actions that increase the chance of success on just the next point (and practice repeating these steps over and over.
2.) Choking is Rarely Fatal, So How Players Recover From Getting Tight Is Super Important
All players tend to get tight at least occasionally when finishing sets and matches...Federer struggled big...
Almost universally, coaches and parents report to me their advice to players regarding competing effectively includes the aim to control unintentional match related thoughts and feelings like nerves, frustration, and helplessness. For example, statements like: "Believe in yourself", "Stay calm", "Don't worry about the outcome", "Accept errors", Don't get frustrated at the wind", etc, etc.
While this is well-intentioned and sensible on the surface, a crucial question to reflect on in trying to help players improve is this:
How well does it work?
For example, I imagine that before their matches against Nadal and Kerber, Alex De Minaur and Kim Birrell's coaches advise included a combination of certain strategies to employ and also the message: "Believe In Yourself".
But as their respective matches unfolded, I wonder whether their dominant thoughts and feelings were more reflective of self-belief or helplessness.
I strongly suspect that no matter what their coaches did or...
With the Australian Open about to start Mentally Tough Tennis consultant Pat Flynn is hard at work preparing a player for the Australian Open.
Today he shares with us 2 tips for responding well to the normal and frequently occurring pre-tournament worries and concerns. This topic is especially relevant at the start of the year when we may not have competed in a while...
Check out Pat's report from the tournament above and if you would like to access a video example and instructions for the activity that we find most useful in helping players apply Pat's tips during matches you can do so here :-)
Given that a break of serve would have almost certainly resulted in another Nadal Slam victory...who would have thought that when Novak Djokovic walked up to the line to serve at 7-7, 15-40 in the 5th set of their Wimbledon semi-final a few months ago that he would wake up regaining his #1 ranking by early November...
After all, in that moment he must have been experiencing significant self-doubt given that he hadn't won a Grand Slam for more than 2 years (which probably included the prediction that he would likely lose the match)...And he must have felt frustration at having just double faulted at 15-30 and earlier twice coming within 2 points of victory (0-30 on Nadal's serve).
But what happened next was that Djokovic cracked a Serve + 1 combo to force a Nadal error, followed by an ace. This gave an insight into what was to come in the minutes and months that lay ahead... And how Djokovic had regained the mental skill that had provided the foundation for him...
If ever there was a match that points a microscope on the mental challenges that competing in tennis ensures it was this match.
It spoke to the mess of applying what tennis psychology legend Dr Allen Fox calls“The #1 Rule of Tennis Success” that even the greatest tennis competitors can make:
Never Do Anything That Doesn’t Increase The Chance of Winning
It seems like this should be so simple right…
So why is it that even Serena Williams, the player who has successfully applied this rule at the highest level perhaps better than anyone in tennis history, so spectacularly failed to apply it in the final?
Well, as simple as it seems, the human condition combined with the nature of tennis means that what seems like it should be so straight forward is actually incredibly hard to do.
But Why Is This?
The basic reason is that losing is emotionally painful due to our brain’s inclination of interpreting a tennis math akin to a life and death...
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