We’ve previously spoken in depth about how an individual’s psychology plays a huge role in their ability on the court. The top players are able to control their emotions throughout a match and use them to gain a mental advantage over their opponent, even when they aren’t playing to the best of their ability.
It’s almost impossible to play the perfect game, there will always be moments during a match where a player’s mental strength is tested and it’s during these moments where the best players come out on top. It’s easy to become frustrated if you miss a simple shot and if you allow that mistake to stay on your mind it will negatively impact the rest of the match. Having the ability to regain your focus between points is crucial for racquet sports players of all ability to ensure they are playing to their full potential.
Below we’ve highlighted some of our top tips for how to use the time between points to gain a mental advantage over your opponent:
1. Focus on one point at a time
Having the ability to focus specifically on the point you are playing and avoid reflecting on previous shots, or planning ahead, is something that separates the best players from everyone else. By playing each point as if it was the first point in the match players will be confident in the fact they are giving everything to win that point.
If you find yourself constantly replaying past mistakes it will lead to further negative thinking and doubt in your own ability. Negative thinking and self-doubt will only hurt a players confidence, which in turn will further impact their performance. Players who are able to take each shot once at a time will have a mental advantage over their opponent as they are focusing all of their efforts on winning the current point.
2. Remain confident
Improving your confidence is something we have covered in detail in a previous blog post. A player who has confidence in their own ability is more likely to be successful than someone who is constantly doubting themselves. Players who feel their confidence drop as soon as they lose a couple of points will see a drop in performance resulting in a downward spiral in their ability. To gain a true mental advantage over your opposition take a look at our top 5 ways to improve your confidence.
3. Improve your body language
Strategically changing your body language will not only help to improve the mental side of your game, but it can also directly affect your opponent's mental state. Negative body language is a natural result of losing points. A drop of the shoulders, shaking your head, or simply displaying frustration are all natural reactions to losing. By displaying your emotions through your body language you are almost telling your opponent that you are losing confidence and letting the mental side of your game slip. Subsequently, this can often provide a confidence boost for your opposition as they can see your frustration.
Having the ability to avoid this body language and to continue in a positive manner is a simple technique any athlete can use to gain an advantage. Not only will it intimidate your opponent as you are displaying a confident persona, but it will also help to boost your own game. Displaying positive body language when you’re losing will help your body to react as if you were winning by boosting adrenaline and focus, which in turn will help boost your performance.
4. Avoid analysis and focus on strategizing
Over analyzing what went wrong in the previous point can be one of the most detrimental things for a tennis player of any level. Players who want to try and gain an advantage over their opponent should focus their energy on evaluating their strategy for the next point instead of analyzing the previous point. There is only a short space of time for reflection between points, therefore, it’s far more beneficial to use this time to think about the point ahead and how to win it instead of focusing about what you did wrong during the previous point. Using this time to assess your strategy helps you to remain focused on the next point and ensure that you are fully focused on winning the next point.
5. Never give up mentality
Having the mental strength to never give up and keep your head held high when things aren’t going your way is one of the toughest things for a player to learn, but it is the best way to gain an advantage over the opposition. The best way for a player to display their mental toughness is to never give in and keep playing your game with a positive attitude and confidence. Once again this goes back to having the ability to let go of any emotional baggage and not letting negative thoughts affect your play. Players who are able to show the desire to win throughout a match, even when things aren’t going there way, will gain a mental over their opponent as they remain confident and focused on winning the match.