The other day I watched one of my students play a match. Her name is Julie and she is nice 4.5 player. After she finished we did a little analysis. Her comments were, "I was nervous, I played poorly, I made a lot of simple mistakes!" My comments were, "I thought you handled everything well. I liked the way you played." Interesting isn't it, two people with completely opposite views of what occurred! Obviously we must have been focused on two different sets of principles.
For most tennis players their analysis is focused solely on the physical game. If everything physical goes well, they played fine, but if everything does not go well, they played poorly.
Yes, you will be nervous and make mistakes. Yes, you will play poorly from time to time. And yes you will make simple mistakes. Do you think these ingredients are not part of winning? Do you think winning is about doing everything correctly? Do you think winning is about your playing the game you think you are capable of playing? If you do, it is time to change your thinking and spend a little more time in what I call the Mental Toughness Sphere.
What I saw in Julie's match was a player that was nervous, but slowly working herself out of the nervousness. What I saw was a player making mistakes here and there, but forgetting them and moving on. What I saw was a player who was trying to stay in the Mental Toughness Sphere and develop some mental toughness, win, lose, or draw. Julie won in a third set tiebreaker, but even if she lost, for the most part she was thinking well. This can only serve to her advantage in future matches. The next time you play do not focus on the physical negatives, mistakes, and failures. Instead, focus on thinking correctly to handle whatever comes your way in the match.
* You must eliminate from your mind the notion that to win you are suppose to play according to some standard that you have set.
The best definition I have found that explains this whole concept in one sentence is from an excellent book titled, Tournament Tough by Carlos Goffi.
"Tournament toughness is that mental resilience and flexibility that separate champions from the pack, allowing them to win against opponents who are technically more skillful and physically more powerful, even when they are playing poorly themselves."
Hmm, no sign of perfect play in that phrase! Yes, you too can think this way, but it will take some conscious effort on your part. Learning to win even when you are playing poorly will require objectivity in the face of adversity. To begin you must not focus too much on your physical failures, but place a higher premium on thinking correctly in your matches, win, lose,