A few weeks ago I had a discussion with a player who played in the Women's leagues. She told me of a situation that just happened to her where her doubles partner gave up in one of the matches. She explained that there had been some tension between her partner and one of the opponents because of some questionable line calls.
They were in the third set with the score tied at 4-4. Her partner was serving. When one of her serves, which appeared to be in the court, was called out, an argument pursued. Nevertheless the line call stood. Her partner was furious and mentally lost it! The next shot she angrily bashed the ball everywhere but in the court.
The girl telling me the story tried to calm her partner down, but to no avail. Her partner continued to recklessly slam the ball throughout the rest of the match. Needless to say, they lost the match.
I guess the logic here is, "I'll show them, I'll lose the match and teach them a lesson." Of course, this is inane, irrational thinking because when players become entangled in their emotions none of their reasoning makes sense.
The player who was distressed with her partner's anger asked me what I could say to help players learn to let go of failures and controversies like what had just occurred. She told me that years ago she decided that tennis competition would bring out the best in her and not the worst. She was dead set on enjoying her tennis.
Unknowingly she had answered her own question. My answer to her was that I could do nothing unless that player made a decision to change, just like she made a decision to bring out her best. I have produced numerous articles, books and CDs that address this problem, but making the change comes down to one fact and one fact alone. When players are ready to make that change they will.
Players have come to me and said, "My mental attitude is terrible, can you change it?" Can I change it! Sorry I cannot. Only you can. What they really want is for me to wave my magic wand and presto! a Champion's mind develops.
This seems to be the a prevailing attitude. Players want to shift the responsibility for learning tennis to a coach or a training camp or the latest high-tech technique to get the job done. Parents often think if they will just send little Johnny to an academy like Nick Bollettieri's, their son will be a star.
Stop relinquishing control of your mental attitude or your tennis game to others. The player in the story who totally lost it and gave away the match, completely turned over control of her game and her mental attitude to her opponent.
Players should think twice before they lose their poise on the tennis court and give control of their mental attitude to an opponent, the failures or any adversity. Is that what you want? Do you think that is a winning formula? Do you think you will play better when your opponent takes control of your mind? Seems like you have handed over a superb advantage to your opponent on a silver platter of your anger. Guess what? It is an advantage that you created!
Somewhere all great players must learn to take control of their mental attitude. In the "Roger Federer Story" by Rene Stauffer, Roger made this astute comment. "Before, when my coach told me that I should calm down, that seemed impossible to me," he said in 2004. "I simply had to get rid of this tension and these demons in my head. No one could help me. It had to come from me."
You have volition. You decide. You make the choice to take control of your own mental attitude or your opponent most certainly WILL!