Confidence is a very important part of a good player's "toolbox". When the point gets long, the game is tight, or the match is on the line, confidence can be the difference in a player's ability to execute the shot or play the point well.
The problem is that confidence comes from having success. In other words, players gain confidence from winning or hitting a great shot. One of the reasons that the best players in the world seem to be more successful at the crucial times in a match is their ability to remember the great shots they have hit, the points they have played well, and the big matches they have won. This has happened many times for these players. They are masters at reminding themselves of their past success prior to playing an important point.
They also have perfected one of my favorite coaching instructions: players need to have a convenient memory-remember all of the great shots, points, and matches and ignore and forget all of the missed shots, lost points, and match disappointments from the past. My advice for players who are struggling with their confidence is to write down some of their best matches and try to recall the feeling it produced. In addition, close your eyes and visualize a great serve, forehand, backhand, or volley that you have hit, and try to repeat it the next time you are on the court.
You do not have to make every shot or win every match to be confident. Use your "convenient memory" to get that confident feeling back and keep working hard on the practice court.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com) and MyHamptonsPro based in Sag Harbor, NY (http://www. myhamptonspro.com) and Tennis Professional at Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club in Tucson, AZ. For details on lessons, clinics, or coaching, contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-300-7323