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Why Success In Tennis Is Much More About How Players Compete On Their Worst Day Than Their Best…

 

 

When Marco Cecchinato was down 2 sets to 0 against Marius Copil and fighting for survival during a tight 3rdset in the 1stround of the French Open I wonder if he ever imagined, having never won a Grand Slam match, the possibility of what might lay ahead if he could find a way to scrape out a victory.

My guess is probably not…

But 9 days later, he is still standing as the 1stItalian man to make a Grand Slam semi-final since 1978 after defeating Novak Djokovic in another amazingly gutsy effort.

His life changing run is a strong reminder of an often overlooked keys to tennis success….

This key is that because of the one on one match play structure of tennis, how players compete on their worst days is often more important that what they do on their best.

So, in golf for example (unless in a match play tournament), players’ performance over 4 rounds in averaged out to decide the placings. This means that golfers can often survive a round where their...

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Nadal's Superpower and How Players Can Develop It...

 

 

During the 2018 clay court season, Rafael Nadal broke another amazing record, becoming the first male player to win 50 straight sets on any one surface. Consider that in his last 46 sets on clay before yesterday, no opponent had reached a tie-break against him and just once had someone achieved a 7-5 loss and his mind boggling run seems even more astonishing.

It got me reflecting on the mental attribute required to achieve such a feat and one stood out.

 Relentlessness…

Andre Agassi described this attribute well in his book: ‘Open’. He said this about the difference between the great champions and the rest:

The more you can be present on every point. I think that’s why you see great champions separate themselves at the end of a set or at the end of a match, because they are the ones that aren’t changing in their execution. They are not assigning a value to any one point more than another. It is about what they do...

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The Most Important Mental Toughness Lesson You'll Ever Learn From Federer's 20th Slam Victory...

 

 What a rollercoaster!

And a classic case study for how in vital ways the field of sport psychology has set coaches, parents, and players up for failure when it comes to developing long-term mental toughness. But to understand why this is so, I need first to summarize the match and Federer’s experience of it.

Part 1- Federer’s Pre-Match Jitters

It was refreshing to hear Federer talk about how difficult he found the build up to the final.

He said, “Well I think my thoughts were all over the place all day, I was thinking what if I lost how horrible it would be to lose it, what if I won, it’s a late match start so I thought about this all day, I was so nervous going into this match.”

Part 2- Federer Looks To Make It An Early Night

With Federer off to a flyer as Cilic struggled to find his range in the cooler closed roof conditions, the 1stset was over in a flash. And early in the 2ndFederer looked like he was going to cruise to victory as he...

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The 2 Types of Mental Toughness...And Why We Need To Know the Difference

 

 

When we watch the ATP and WTA tour players compete, we have the privilege of watching the mentally toughest players on the planet.

And while it may not seem it while watching from the sidelines, playing at the highest level of the game brings huge levels of pressure that have caused many aspiring tennis players to be driven to mental weakness.

The reason that playing the game of tennis creates such huge pressure is that our human brain tends to interpret it more like a life and death situation, especially for those who commit so much of their lives to it.

But one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that even at the highest level, as we watch mentally tough players compete, there are 2 distinct types of mental toughness which are driven by different motivations and results in very different long term consequences both on and off the court.

I call these ‘Healthy Mental Toughness’ and ‘Unhealthy Mental Toughness’.

And while players...

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When Pain Becomes Shame: The Perils of Parent Conditional Regard

 

 

One of the most difficult things to go through as a tennis parent is to watch your child develop ‘avoidance focused coping defenses’. This occurs when players develop competitive adaptations such as excuses, tanking, perfectionism, and anger explosions as an unconscious way of reducing the stress of competition.

While any player can develop these responses to reduce the normal fears that are a part of competing, it’s important to be aware as a parent that it's MUCH more likely that children will develop these adaptations when a child’s fear of failure has become exaggerated due to what can be called ‘parent conditional regard’.

The devastating effects of parent conditional regard on children’s development are well researched and highly predictable…

Parent Conditional Regard and the Shame Emotion…

Parent conditional regard occurs when parents communicate love conditionally by tying special...

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Why Parents Are The MOST Important Contributor to Children's Mental Toughness Outcomes...

 

 

How we interact with our children around tennis has incredible power in influencing his/her mental toughness development, even more so than coaches. This is due to the 'perfect storm' of brain factors that make tennis parenting interactions the most powerful determinant of children's mental toughness development, both on and off the court...Let's explore the 4 most important now:

1.) Our Brains Remember Important Experiences Better...

The genius of the human brain is evident in the way it has evolved ways of deciding which life experiences need to be remembered and learned from and which can be forgotten.

Recent research has shown us that the brain figures out what is likely to be important to remember based on a number of factors, making it more easily rewired as a result of these factors.

2.) The Importance of Sport Experiences

And as it happens, there are two factors crucial to sport that encourage our ability to remember sport experiences: exercise and high levels...

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How Daria Gavrilova's Difficult Mental Experience Can Help Us...

 

 

“Well, to be honest, I was really concerned about how I was going to feel on that center court. I was a bit nervous. I was telling my coaches, God, I feel like I'm playing first round all over again, like the same nerves. Yeah, I was probably thinking too much of what happened last year. I don't think it was actually a good thing for me. But in the end I managed to not do what I did last year.”

Daria Gavrilova before her 3rd round Australian Open match…

I love hearing honest quotes from top players about the unintentional difficult mental experiences (nerves, frustrations, worries, fears, etc) that come with competing…

Why?

1.) It Demonstrates Vital Mental Toughness Attributes

1st, when players talk openly about their difficult mental states it demonstrates awareness of mental experiences which increases the chance to have choice in how they respond to them (as opposed to players who lack awareness which leads to the automatic/habitual...

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The Kyrgios Saga Continues…Why Players Give Up

 

 

While I’ve written about Kyrgios’s issues a couple of times in the past I’ve never before received so many communications asking for my opinion as on his performance last night against Andreas Seppi.

So here it goes…

Essentially, the way I saw it, Kyrgios tried for 2 and a half sets…Didn’t try for the next set and a half… Then see-sawed between trying and not trying in the 5th.

First, lets clarify the possible reasons players don’t try…There are only 3:

1.) Lack of motivation

We most commonly blame a lack of effort on poor motivation. While this is sometimes the case, more often than not I’ve found that what I first thought was a motivational issue, turned out to be a result of other issues.

2.) Caught in Helplessness

A more common reason players give up is that they become caught up in the internal experience of helplessness.

Throughout evolution it has increased the chance of human survival to be able...

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Why Do Players Act Angrily?

 

 

When players act angrily, to overcome it they usually need to first understand why they are acting that way. At first sight, we might assume that the anger comes from the frustration of not meeting performance expectations, or from being wronged (such as being cheated), and this can be the case. But there may be other reasons for player anger.

Let’s first look at 3 reasons players might act angrily during a match:

1.) Caught Up in Frustration

A common reason players become angry is that they become caught up in the internal experience of frustration.

For instance, if a player performs an action that doesn’t move them towards victory they may experience the thought, “That’s not good enough.” Similarly, when a player’s opponent makes an unbelievable play or if the umpire makes a bad call that moves them away from winning they might naturally experience the thought, “That’s not fair,” which will also evoke...

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2 Powerful Communications That You May Not Have Realised Develop Mental Toughness...

If I could choose one attribute that I believe most supports player development of mental toughness I would choose emotional intelligence. But what is it and how can we nurture it in young players?

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to respond flexibly and intentionally to difficult emotional experiences like frustration and nerves.

This ability allows us to choose actions that serve our best interests even when we are experiencing difficult internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, body sensations, urges.)

So, for instance, when faced with a match situation that evokes anxiety, emotional intelligence would allow players to recognize anxiety, be able to accept the normality of that reaction, and continue on to face the existing challenge.

And when engaged in the challenge, frustration will naturally arise after an error.

An emotionally intelligent response would see players recognize the feeling then refocus attention on a process that...

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