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Tennis Warrior
April 2018 Article

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Play Fearless Tennis - In Practice and In Matches

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Tom Veneziano

Playing instinctive and spontaneous tennis is your key to better play. In order to play instinctively you must learn to put yourself on automatic. What stops most players from doing this? The answer... FEAR! Fear of missing, fear of mistakes, fear of failure. This is true for everyone, even professionals. Fear of missing is an obstacle we all must overcome. If you would like to play on automatic and win the battle of fear here are a few pointers.
 
First, practice going for your shots in your practice matches -- whether you miss, fail, or lose. In other words, give yourself the freedom to go for your shots. Stop trying to mentally control every little move you make. Let yourself go. Now, this idea of going for your shots does not mean to pulverize every ball with blinding speed or power. Letting go is the absence of mental tentativeness or cautiousness when hitting your shots. You can hit the ball with power or with a deft drop shot and mentally be letting go. This is crucial to developing the freedom to go for your shots.
 
Second, if you're going to adopt this attitude you must not fear missing. You cannot give yourself the freedom to go for your shots if you are spending all of your time trying NOT to fail. Give yourself the freedom to go for your shots, and if you miss... accept it. Failure is part of success. In fact, failure and success are the same. The only difference is, success gets up and keeps going.
 
You must learn to deal with your failures by taking responsibility for them. One of the main reasons this is so difficult is because most players do not practice dealing with their mistakes properly. They're too busy being angry or rationalizing their mistakes, instead of just accepting them and moving on.
 
What do you do if you want to play instinctive and automatic tennis? You must consistently practice these two mental habits:


  1. Give yourself the freedom to go for your shots.
  2. Learn to deal with your mistakes and failures by accepting them and moving on.

Like many players, you may be able to let go and hit your shots in your practice sessions but not under pressure in matches. Letting go is one of the most difficult mentally tough principles to integrate into your pressure matches. It requires a decision on your part to not be scared and to go for your shots. There are no magic pills or sophisticated formulas that will help you accomplish this goal. Fearless play in matches requires time and match-play practice where you are constantly challenging yourself to make the correct decisions.
 
Whether or not you fail is not the issue. The first step is learning to make the decision to put yourself on the line and go for it. If you fail, do not let the negative consequence of that decision stop you from making the same decision in your upcoming matches.
 
Of course, you are not alone in integrating your relaxed, practice play into pressured, match-play situations. Many top pros also play tentatively at crucial moments in match play. How do they deal with this situation? The same way you should learn to deal with it. They become determined not to play tentatively or cautiously in their next matches.
 
Sam Querrey, currently ranked number 21 in the world, had the same "practice versus match play" dilemma that you do. After a big loss, he resolved to let go of his shots more, telling reporters that "the next time you see me I won't be rolling the ball over at deuce." He went on, "I learned today that I need to take more chances and hit the ball much bigger on the big points. I need to step up in those situations. You can work on that in practice all you want, but it's not the same. You've got to do it in matches. If you fly the ball long, at least you're going to lose the way you want to lose."
 
"I was just scared to do it. You can't be scared."
 
Sam's statement is loaded with excellent mental toughness principles. Most important: You can't be scared! My challenge to you as a Tennis Warrior is, the next time you play a match will we see you becoming tentative and scared or will we see you stepping up and going for your shots?
 

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Tennis Warrior Archive

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This column is copyrighted by Tom Veneziano, all rights reserved.

Tom is a tennis pro teaching at the Piney Point Racquet Club in Houston, Texas. Tom has taught thousands of players to think like a pro with his Tennis Warrior System.

     

In Tom Veneziano's book "The Truth about Winning!", tennis players learn in a step-by-step fashion the thinking the pros have mastered to win! Tom takes you Step-by-step from basic mental toughness to advanced mental toughness. All skill levels can learn from this unique book from beginner to professional. No need to change your strokes just your thinking.

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