| By Steve Annacone

It has been an incredible year so far on the ATP Tour. There are many great up and coming players and a lot to look forward to the rest of the year. Obviously, the biggest story thus far is that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are once again near the top of the rankings and have split the first two Grand Slams this year. Although there has been a lot of analysis and possible explanations for why this has happened, I believe the biggest reason for these results has come from the incredible mental toughness that these two players possess. In my estimation, they are probably the two toughest players mentally that I have seen in my lifetime. The following quote exemplifies the attitude that both players seem to exhibit time and time again:

“I try to push myself not to get upset and stay positive, and that’s what my biggest improvement is over all those years. Under pressure, I can see things very clear.”–Roger Federer

Many of the ideas listed below are routinely executed by these two great champions. This is what separates them from many of the great players we have seen.

The keys to understanding how to think correctly:

►Sometimes, the most important things you do are the things in between points, games and sets, and not during the actual point.

►One bad point or game can sometimes result in players losing control of the situation and ultimately, the match.

►What you do before and after the points really affects your performance during points.

►One point is just one point, yet we can lose control after one bad mistake.

►Accept that you will make mistakes … you are not perfect.

►Every player who has ever played the sport of tennis and will play in the future will make mistakes and play bad points, have bad games and occasionally lose sets.

Once you understand these keys, do this during the point: Focus on one basic technique idea, like watching the ball, getting ready early, getting to the ball quickly, or getting set right before contact.

Do this between points: Remind yourself of a strategy, like moving forward as the point gets longer, keeping the ball cross-court and/or deep, hitting three or four good solid shots in a row, or hitting one extra shot when you think it is time to win the point.

You are playing against the ball, the conditions, the problems you are encountering on that day, and basically, yourself. Your opponents can only play as well as you let them and they are not the major factor. If they win, you give them all the credit, but you must take responsibility and figure out what you might be able to do slightly different next time in order to change the outcome.

The final word

Keep things simple and read what Roger stated above … do not get upset, stay positive, and you will play the critical points much better the majority of the time. The better players do these things better!

Some of the info used in this article was borrowed from my friend, Duncan Simpson, a sports psychologist who helped me tremendously with our Tournament Players Group at Smoky Mountain Tennis Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. some time ago. He gets the credit for many of these ideas.

Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com). For details on lessons and camps at Sag Harbor Park Tennis and throughout the Hamptons this summer, please contact sannacone@aol.com or management@annaconetennis.com