In comparison to a lot of sports, tennis requires an extremely high level of concentration over an extended period. While competing at lower levels, matches will likely be a maximum of 3 sets, however, at Grand Slams, matches are even longer as played the best of 5 sets. As a result of this players need to be able to remain focused and concentrate for a long time, something many beginners struggle with.
Each tennis player will find their own techniques and tricks that help them stay in the zone and concentrate for the full duration of a tennis match. Below we’ve picked out some of our top tips to help you maintain concentration through a long tennis match.
Be the ball
This may sound a bit cliché but it is one of the most effective ways to remain focused throughout a tennis match. By focusing all of your attention on the ball you are concentrating on how you are playing as opposed to how you are feeling. This helps to sharpen your instincts and reduces any risk of overthinking throughout the match, something that can be detrimental to your mental strength and performance. Mastering this level of concentration and focus will not happen overnight and takes a lot of training and experience, but once learned it is a vital skill to have in your arsenal.
Include distractions in your training
No matter what level you compete at there will always be distractions in some form throughout a match. These distractions can include anything from a crowd, the pressure of your parents or coach watching, or even any rituals or routines your opponent has. If you are finding it difficult to ignore distractions and focus on the match then you must work on this as you would if you were having issues with your serve or backhand. Try to recreate situations throughout your training with similar distractions so you can work out what you need to do should they present themselves during a match or competition. By experiencing these scenarios you are able to work out the best ways to overcome them to ensure that you remain focused on the next point.
Stay in the moment
Focusing on what went wrong on previous points or spending too much time focusing on the future are some of the most common ways to lose concentration. It’s easy for players to get caught up thinking about a previous point and how they wish they had handled the situation. Similarly, it’s common for players to focus on what they would do if they are confronted by a certain scenario in the future.
Being present is the key to increase the chance of success in a match. You cannot change the past so there is very little point thinking about what you would have done differently, there is plenty of time after the match for reflection. Furthermore, spending time worrying about situations that may present themselves in the future puts unnecessary strain on your mind. If you have a mental game plan in place you will know what to do should these events occur during a tennis match.
Make the most of breaks in play
Tennis is full of natural breaks in play where players can reset their mindset to ensure they remain focused for the point ahead. Between points, players are typically allowed 20 or 25 seconds before the next point must be played. By using this time appropriately you can reset your mind to prepare for the next point. Spent 10-15 seconds freeing your mind, walk around, fix your strings, whatever you need to do to reset. Then use the remaining time to focus and plan for the next point.
Breaks between games and sets allow players a longer period of time to reset their mind and concentration for the next game. The same idea should be applied here with players looking to clear their minds and refocus. However, due to the long stoppage in play, it allows the player a longer rest period to regain their concentration.
Create a mental plan and goals
Concentration is the act of focusing your mind on a specific object action or scenario. As soon as you begin to focus on multiple things at the same time you start to lose concentration. Therefore, having a set of short and long terms goals for the match gives you something to remain focused on throughout. The most common short terms goals are to win the next point and focus on your game plan and strategy that aims to get the most out of your strengths on the court. By having something like short term goals and a mental game plan to focus on throughout the match you are occupying your mind to reduce the chance of getting distracted by other things when playing.