How To Mentally Approach Playing A Weaker Opponent

How To Mentally Approach Playing A Weaker Opponent

Hi Tomaz,

I got the manual about a month ago, and it is absolutely fantastic. I have a question for you.

Mentally, at stages it’s normal to have negative thoughts towards playing somebody who is way way way weaker than you.

I know I would beat the person most easily, but do have some negative thoughts about the match going all wrong if I had to play him, that I would get nervous/lose/be mentally broken, …

I would like some advice.

Playing a much weaker opponent has its traps and may not be as easy at it seems.

1. You can underestimate him too much which means that your judgment of his tennis skills is wrong.

This happens when your ego blinds you. 😉

It also happens when you just look at his strokes but you don’t actually know how he plays.

There are many great tennis PLAYERS who don’t HIT the ball that well. Remember Brad Gilbert and his Winning Ugly? 😉

What works best is that you actually lose a match because you underestimated your opponent and you learn from this experience.

2. You think about what would be the consequences of you losing to this player.

I see two approaches how to deal with this situation:

a) Become aware of your thoughts and change them.

Imagine playing great tennis, giving 100% even though your opponent will not automatically make you play 100%, hitting effective shots, not looking for shortcuts (hitting winners when it’s not the right time) and winning the match.

The key is your awareness.

If you realize what you are thinking, you can change it. Negative thinking makes you feel in doubt, indecisive and this affects your performance.

It can become self-fulfilling prophecy.

b) Accept losing a match to a weaker player as a realistic possibility.

The first thing that comes to my mind is Roger Federer losing to Guillermo Canas twice and once to Filipo Volandri this year.

They are not close to his level, but he is only a human with imperfect mind and body. We all are.

When you accept the possibility of losing and see it as a part of your tennis journey, then you won’t feel pressure.

You can only give your best and cannot control the outcome.

Even if you play a much weaker opponent you cannot guarantee with 100% certainty that you will win.

That’s sports and that’s why it’s so interesting for people to watch.

They actually like to see surprises. It’s what all the media reports if an upset happens.

So this is reality.

You feel pressure because you don’t want this to happen.

There are many unwanted things that happen in tennis and life and even though you don’t want them to happen, you can accept them.

Once you do, you won’t feel pressure and that allows you to play your best tennis and thus minimize the probability of those events actually happening.

Related posts:

How To Always Bring A Steady Game To My Matches?
How To Keep Focused On The Game? Just Do It!
Winning In Practice But Losing In Matches
Dealing With Bad Patches Of Play
How To Stop Losing Against The Same Opponent

Essential Tennis Instruction – FREE Video Lessons on How to Improve Your Serve

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 12:35 am and is filed under Mental Tennis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “How To Mentally Approach Playing A Weaker Opponent”
Alistair Says:
September 7th, 2007 at 11:17 am
How do u beat a hakker who is good at finishing short balls?


Tomaz Says:
September 13th, 2007 at 10:18 pm
Alistair, that’s a very general question and it’s tough to answer. Try to be more specific. But if someone is good at attacking, you need to attack them first and play the game that they don’t like.