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Tennis Warrior
December 2018 Article

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Pushing the Positive Side in Tennis

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Tom Veneziano

Trouble on the tennis court comes in many forms, whether it's an onslaught of failures during practice or an intimidating opponent in match play. While these and all tennis pressures are unavoidable, your response to them makes all the difference. In the face of adversity, you choose one of two attitudes: positive or negative.
Sound obvious? Let me elaborate. With a negative attitude, your reaction is one of total frustration with all your misses, mistakes and difficulties. With a positive attitude, your response is total motivation to improve. Which one do you normally choose? Do you give up or do you take on the challenge?
If you sometimes struggle to pick sides, you're not alone. Novak Djokovic played a long and brutal match against Gilles Simon on January 24, 2016, hitting a surprising 100 unforced errors but winning nevertheless. He said this afterward:

"At the end of the day, you're battling yourself the most. There are so many players out there who are hitting the ball well. It's important to keep it together, especially when the emotions are going up and down. In a match you go through different thought processes, and even though it sometimes seems unnatural, you need to keep pushing the positive side."
With all of his experience and training, even a number one player in the world runs into trouble. So what! No one is perfect. How does he handle his failures? By choosing the positive -- and meeting the challenge head-on.
How do you get better at "pushing the positive side?" It takes practice. Mental practice!
This mental practice, or thought conditioning, involves two steps.
First, you must be aware when you are becoming frustrated. The key to solving frustration is recognizing the frustration right away. This is true both in practice and in match play. Do not rationalize or deny your frustration. And do NOT think you are a victim. I call that the victim mentality: "After all of my practice... I'm still missing!" That kind of grumbling will get you nowhere. So, step one: be aware when you are steeped in frustration and acknowledge the negativity of your thinking. Then get ready to immediately apply the next step!
The moment frustration occurs on the court, practice CHANGING that negative thinking. Turn your focus forward. Remind yourself that the next shot is more important than the last mistake. Right on the spot have a talk with yourself, pull out of the nose dive and rise to meet the challenge. Practice thinking the opposite of what you normally would think. Obviously this is easier to execute in practice sessions, but with persistence you will slowly apply this new thinking in your match play.
When I am coaching in a practice session, I stop my players if I see frustration welling up. I challenge them to not judge or criticize their shots, but to direct their thoughts toward what is important... the practice! I encourage them to just keep swinging, forget the failures and go for their shots. Eventually the players work themselves out of their destructive thought pattern, but they must stay sharp to catch themselves from slipping back.
Needless to say, frustration is the kiss of death in the competitive arena. When they become frustrated with misses, players tend to give up and play (or practice) with less intensity. This lackadaisical attitude causes even more failures. Interesting, isn't it? The very thing they are trying to avoid, they actually cause! The focus is backward; they overemphasize past failures and become emotional. Emotional reaction accomplishes nothing.
The point is, adversity can make you weak or strong. Your responses make you or break you! Always, your best answer to any real or imagined setback is to not give in to frustration. This positive mind-set motivates you to focus forward and keep going, which in turn decreases your misses and failures. If ever frustration occurs, practice correct thinking and turn your problems into progress.

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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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