To become a successful tennis player you must avoid the pitfalls. There are four sins that I stress to students at Gotham Tennis Academy.
I. Don’t be obsessed with winning
It is a huge mistake to emphasize winning rather than improving. Every time you step on to the court, you want to get better. If you are only concerned with winning, you may be sacrificing stroke production for results. Over the course of time, this will impede your success. Keep improving your form and the result will take care of itself.
II. Have no fear
Losers let it happen, winners make it happen. As a competitor, fear or being scared are things that should never enter your mind. You should want to hit that big serve up the “T” at break point. You should want your opponent to hit their serve in the box so you can rip your return down the line for a winner. Don't hope for a double fault. A great basketball player is the one who wants to take the last shot of the game with their team down by one point. A great baseball player wants to be up at bat in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and their team down by a run. You must have the mentality of wanting to be in that big moment, not shying away from it. One of my favorite quotes comes from Michael Jordan, arguably not only the greatest basketball player of all-time, but the greatest athlete of all-time. After missing a game winner, Jordan said, “I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”
III. Be disciplined
I recently had a high level tournament player who needed a grip change. I explained to him that this change was necessary for his long-term goal of competing as a high-level Division 1 college player. We talked through what it would take to make the adjustment. He would have to be extremely disciplined for the next few months. There would be no games, no match play, and no tournaments for at least two months. He was not going to have much "fun" on the court. He decided he was ready for the challenge. His work ethic was amazing and he is now ready to start competing again. This discipline is not easy. It takes an extreme mental toughness for a player to work through and change flaws in their game. Whether it’s changing your grip, changing your stroke, or working on your conditioning, stay disciplined and your game will thrive.
IV. Avoid negativity
Don't get down on yourself after making an error. A common mistake after missing a shot is to tell yourself "I stink" or "I can't play today.” You must avoid this negativity. Turn the mistake into a teaching moment by asking yourself "Why did I miss that shot?" or "Why did I go for that shot?” Putting yourself down won't fix the problem … it will only make it worse. Figuring out why you made the error will help to avoid making the same mistake again in the future.