How To Make Shots When It Matters Most
Andy Roddick was one point from losing a final match with Nicolas Mahut in the finals of the Queens tournament.
Mahut led by a set and had a match point in the second set tie-break. He missed a passing shot and Roddick eventually won the tie-break and the match with a 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (2) score.
Here’s what Mahut said after the match:
“I was one point away to put my name on the trophy,” Mahut said. “It was just an easy passing shot like I hit a thousand passing like that. But it’s easier when you practice. When you have to make it to win the tournament, it’s another shot.”
So how can you learn to hit the shots when it matters most?
1. You really need to master them in practice. That’s the first step and involves the actually tennis technique and automatisation of your strokes and footwork.
2. You need to play hundreds of practice and official matches to get used to the pressure and play at the same level as you can in practice.
There are no shortcuts here. No amount of talking or reading will help you. You need to get out there, experience what it’s like to play under pressure and still make some shots.
Eventually you will know that you can make them even in big matches and that will help you stay calm.
3. You need to control your thinking and your emotions. Our mind and emotions will still arise when the situation suggests some sort of danger.
Although winning a match is NOT typically dangerous, losing an opportunity feels like one. So you actually don’t feel any pressure until you are in a position to lose something.
When that happens, you need to use your mental training and control your thinking and emotions.
You need to get back to “here and now”.
How do you do it?
Notice the colors, hear the sounds, feel your racquet, follow your breathing going in and out.
Take 10 to 15 seconds to get “here and now” and then prepare for the point.
With this ritual you’ll forget what’s at stake and you can play your best.
That doesn’t guarantee that you will win the point but it increases the chances of winning it.
And since many of your opponents don’t know what do to in these situations or are not able to control their mind, you will end up as a winner most of the times.
Nicolas Mahut will have to play many more big matches to learn how to stay calm on the big points and then his talent, hard work and mental training will reward him with what he is looking for.
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