Have you ever come back from losing the first set 0-6 and taking the match? How ’bout winning the match after from being down 0-6, 0-5, 30-40?
World No. 479 Tara Moore was losing about as badly as one can lose to No. 201 Jessika Ponchet at the ITF event last Tuesday (4/9) in Sunderland, England. The first bageled set had already been served and the other seemed to be finishing the same way. At 0-6, 0-5, and 30-40, Ponchet had one last match point to put Moore away. But in that rally, Moore backpedaled to hit an overhead winner which clipped the net cord and dropped just inside the line.
One down… and 57 to go. I know that it seems impossible, but Moore went on to win the match: 0-6, 7-6(7), 6-3.
How did she do it? How did she overcome the odds and win that match?
Tennis is not just about executing great shots. All top players have great serves, forehands, backhands, and volleys. So, what makes a big difference in the outcome of the match? The mind.
A great way to better your on-court performance and consistency is to use your mind better between points. Mentally tough players control their minds and thoughts between points and during changeovers in order to process previous points so they can move on to mentally prepare for the next point. This allows them to have the utmost confidence, composure, and focus on the court.
Here are some strategies you should use between points to give yourself the mental advantage during match play:
Forget the score
Worrying about the score is pointless (no pun intended), as you can’t do anything about the points you lost; you can only do something about the points left in the match. Take it from Tara Moore, even if you are losing 0-6, 0-5, 30-40, you still have a chance at winning the match.
Focus on the actual point
You need to stay present and focus on the point being played, not the previous points. Dwelling on the past errors will only frustrate you. You have to play each point as if it’s the first point in the game. Pros like Maria Sharapova use this strategy; she always turns her back to her opponent the net between points, literally and mentally “turning away” from the last point to put it behind her before she “faces” the next point. Just one point is all that ever counts at the moment.
One way to help put the last point behind you is to plan your strategy before starting the next point. How can you improve your tactics? What are your opponent’s weaknesses that you can exploit? You should have a strategy walking into the match, but oftentimes, you have to make adjustments based on how your opponent is reacting to you.
Adopt a routine
Top tennis players have a pre-service routine to help them strategize and focus for each serve or return of serve. Use that moment of “me time” to shake the last point and plan for the upcoming serve or return of serve. It can be something as simple as turning your back and adjusting your strings until you are ready to face the next point with confidence.
If you’re behind and you start telling yourself you’re going to lose no matter what, then you probably will. Confidence is your best friend in tennis, and without a healthy dose of it during each and every point, you simply will not perform your best. Mentally high-five yourself on all points won, and remind yourself that no matter what the score is, you’ve earned the right to believe in your game.
The game is what it is, and freaking out about it will do nothing but…well, freak you out. Take a second or two during changeovers and between points and just breathe. Remember why you started playing tennis in the first place — for fun!
Mental toughness between points is critical to winning any match–especially when coming from behind. Like the tops players, use a routine to help you move past the last point, adjust your energy level, instill a confident mindset, and prepare for the next point.
If you can accomplish one (or two…or all) of these tips, you’ll reduce your mental errors and increase your ability to come from behind and win. your consistency during points!