Is Losing The Desire To Win Tennis Matches Bad?

Is Losing The Desire To Win Tennis Matches Bad?

I have a (probably) mental tennis question to ask. I’m 45 years old now.

I played in two singles tournaments (NTRP 5.0 and above) in the past two months. The first time, I beat a title contender in semi and got cramped, so had to forfeit the finals.

The second time, I beat a top senior player in the first round 9-7, beat a 34 years old 5.5 player 8-4 in the second round.

In all these matches, I played above my “daily” level. I saw the ball clearer than usual, my legs moved almost by itself and my body moved through every stroke, and my volleys were all phenomenal (I played an extreme net rushing style : the way Stefan Edberg and Pat Rafter played).

The problem is – the next morning, in the semi of the second tournament, I played against the same guy I beat in the last semi. But this time, I lost 0-8!!

He didn’t play that better, but I experienced a strange feeling. First, I missed all the easy volleys (hit the frame, dumped it to the net, sent it wide, long, anything that lost the point). And I still felt so relaxed that I didn’t care to increase my focus.

I didn’t care to raise the consistency. I just felt so lazy to fix it. My opponent, however, was on fire as he really expected a revenge.

I didn’t plan to play loose. I went there intending to play as usual, but the eyes, hand, and body don’t seem to get along like the afternoon of the day before. And I didn’t do any thing to fix the problem. So the result was logical.

And I didn’t feel bad or upset being beat 8-0. I knew I could play much better but realized that – on that day I could lose to any 3.5 player.

This is my first lost in 5-6 matches after beating many reputed players. And I don’t understand why I didn’t try to fight (well, I have digged deeper and have come back to win matches before, but not this time).


From what I read I sense that before that 0:8 match you were very motivated to win. In that match, you were not that motivated – therefore you did not play with the same intensity and desire to win and fight as previous matches.

You’re asking what the problem is.

I am not sure there is a problem. If you’re not motivated to win, that’s fine. Why would you need to be motivated to win to live a happy life?

I am quite happy and yet I don’t play matches.

You might have reached the stage where winning is not that important any more. You know you are a good player even if you don’t win.

The desire to win comes from insecurity – we feel we are not good enough and we need external proof that we are good. We need wins to convince us that we are good.

Of course, that feeling (if we win) lasts very short time. That’s because we didn’t really heal the inside part which still doubts our qualities.

So we need to play matches and win them to put a short term band-aid on our wound – which is typically lack of self-esteem and lack of confidence.

If we eventually realize that we are good tennis players regardless of the outside result, we will lose the need to prove that to ourselves with won matches. We will lose motivation to compete – as we will be at peace with ourselves.

That’s what the ultimate goal of everyone should be.

So in my opinion you have reached that state – even if for a short while. You did not need a win to feel good and the loss did not hurt you.

That points to healthy self esteem and solid confidence about your tennis game.

I personally have also reached that stage where I feel that I am a good tennis player and I don’t need external proof to keep convincing me that over and over again. Therefore I don’t have the desire to compete.

If a friend asks me to play a set I agree, but I don’t need to win. I enjoy the fight, being active and alive while running for the balls.

I do play to win because once I decide to compete my mind automatically switches over to “compete mode” and I play with 100% effort.

It has been “installed” into me through 23 years of competing in tennis and 16 years of competing in volleyball. I am aware that I compete well because I am an athlete and I feel it’s a like a code of conduct to perform at my 100% effort.

If I don’t do that, then I am not an athlete. I don’t deserve that title. I am just a regular guy sweating out on a tennis court. And that’s not who I am.

So bottom line: I am sharing my views on competing and how I don’t need to compete and win but if I choose to, then I play like a true competitor. I am not attached to the outcome and am therefore playing totally freely and therefore enjoy the game even more.

I think that this is what everyone should strive for and not be a slave to constant desire to win matches in order to prove to yourself that you are a good tennis player.

This proof needs to be internal – your own opinion of yourself needs to be that strong and that permanent so that you don’t need any more external rewards to confirm that.

You seem to be going in the right direction – and while at this moment you feel that something is wrong, I personally do not. I believe that you should be more and more aware of your own perception of yourself and become more and more at peace with yourself.

You’ll then be able to channel your energy into something more creative and productive and useful for your life (and other fellow people) than wasting it in tennis matches – which in reality mean nothing in real life.

Related posts:

3 Reasons Why A Tennis Qualifier Can Beat A Top Player
I Don’t Like Competing In Tennis And Hurting Other People’s Feelings If I Win
How Rafael Nadal Gets Into The Right State Before The Match And What You Can Learn From That
How To Stop Losing Against The Same Opponent
Should My Child Participate In Tennis Tournaments?

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

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 11:41 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.

3 Responses to “Is Losing The Desire To Win Tennis Matches Bad?”
Arturo Hernandez Says:
September 10th, 2010 at 11:41 am
Very interesting post. Two comments.

I have also started to experience a feeling of satisfaction independent of winning or losing. In fact, I doubt that even professionals play every practice match with the intention of winning. They save themselves for the most important matches. I think Sampras lost at Queens every year that he won Wimbledon. Maturity allows people to pick their spots and to realize that this is just one match. In your case, you realized that the 0-8 loss was just one match and not a reflection of you as a player.

I wonder, however, whether you might have actually been feeling fatigued. McEnroe has commented numerous times on the fact that recovery is harder as a person gets older. Maybe it was just fatigue. It sounds like you are playing much younger opponents. Your recovery may not be as swift as theirs.


rodrigo Says:
September 29th, 2010 at 1:12 pm
your out of shape. fatigue has entered your thought patterns and it inhibits your performance creating a loss in mind first then in match. this truth is the first rule in any sport. you need to train harder and more than your adversaries. track work, gym work, and on court drills. without this you will not have the desire to win. if you dont train hard you have nothing to lose. training hard gives you the desire as you feel that you deserve the victory. desire to win is not derived from playing matches its from making the committment to train harder than your matches, opponents, and your mind’s tolerances. you get what you deserve. i dont care if your 45. you can play like your 25 if you believe and stop whinning about winning and losing. if you played on the tour then use your past knowledge of your on court and off court training with its difficulties and rewards. fatigue, ever so slight is a detriment to any shot, you concentration, and your desire for victory. with training comes insight, clarity, and greater desire. the fastest way to improve your tennis is to improve your athletic capabilities. i wish you the best.


A.David Says:
October 3rd, 2010 at 1:23 pm
Hey Rodrigo,

You are so right! To know at what time on the clock your energy begins to wain is the clue. Is it one hour into the match, 30 minutes, more? Get to the stationary bicycle and start increasing the endurace daily. Use the heart monitor and computer feedback as well. This will increase the level of energy on the court tremendously as any age. It takes effort and will power to transfer the gym to the court.