I have worked for many years with top level athletes and have come to realize that the 24 hours leading up to any big event will determine how you do during your match. Here are the basic psychological approaches that will help you to win:
1. It ought to be obvious that any high level athlete will be both fit and skilled
This usually means that they have a fitness trainer to get them flexible and strong, and they also have a swing coach who works with them on technique. After the above foundation is laid down, the remaining task is to be able to control your mental set. This is by no means easy to do, given the high level of competitive stress you will be facing. This is where the expertise of a sport psychologist comes into play. With 24 hours to go before the tournament, one needs to establish a strong mind set.
2. Early to bed
The first thing one must do is relax and conserve energy the night before a big match. In thoroughbred racing for a day prior to the race, the horse is kept in his stall and allowed to rest. The danger the athlete faces is social distractions that can drain energy the night before a big match. If the tournament site is far from home, you may be in a hotel and can be tempted to go out and be distracted. If you are home, you may be tempted to stay out late as well. This can only hurt your chances of winning.
3. The mental approach on the morning of the match
A feeling that tennis is fun and that tournaments are a great way to spend the day is helpful. It is necessary for the athlete to instill a positive mood state rather than feeling dread or anxiety.
4. An aggressive attitude
Deep down inside, the mindset of any champion is aggression. Whether it’s John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, the champion has one thing in mind … to win. And winning means being very aggressive. They all smile on the outside, but on the inside, they are killers at heart. In that way, sport is like war. You either win or you lose. It helps to remind yourself of that so you can get more in touch with your aggressive nature.
5. Murphy’s Law
Always be ready for things to go wrong on the day of the event. Maybe you get there late, there is a rain delay, someone makes a wisecrack or starts to cheat. Rest assured, things like this happen in every tournament, so be ready for it and don’t let it affect you.
6. Have a strategy for each point, game, set or match
A good one is to remind yourself that the only thing that matters is the point at hand. It is natural to get ahead of yourself from time to time, but train yourself to refocus on this point only.
Tennis is a tough sport. You are only human and will make mistakes from time to time. Train yourself to let the mistake go and get back into focusing on the point at hand.
To be a winner in tennis, you need a strong body and great racket skills, but you also need a great mindset. To win more often, try to follow the plan I just laid out for you and you will fare much better in tournament play.