How to start the tennis match effectively
By Marcin Bieniek
Tennis match is a stressful situation for any competitor. It doesn’t matter if you are 12 years old beginner or Rafael Nadal who is looking for another chance to win the Grand Slam, the beginning of the match makes all of the athletes nervous. The difference between top champions and less successful players is the fact that champions know exactly how to reduce the stress and play percentage game to get early lead over the rival. Making many unforced errors. Reacting slowly. Making wrong decisions. And losing quickly the first few games. That’s the common scenario for many players, who want to win the match, but they are not able to even come close to their regular performance during the first minutes of the competitive battle. When the tennis match starts poorly, players tend to be more negative which leads to even more errors, more emotions and less solutions to the problems. Underperformance doesn’t cross out the chance for advancing to the next round but it definitely makes it harder especially while playing against solid rival.
To change this scenario and be able to build early lead, players have to perform conscious actions before and during the match. In tennis, there are many things that competitors can’t control but they definitely have an impact on how they feel and how they play the first points of the match. Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal show that you can have quality game even while starting the match so it is the confirmation that this trait is not inborn but this is the skill that any player can develop as own strength.
Necessary areas to develop to start the tennis match effectively:
- Prepare physically and mentally
Warm-up before the match shouldn’t include just 10 minutes of running and dynamic stretching. Top players dedicate at least 45 minutes to properly prepare for the match from the physical and mental perspectives. They take care of own body parts to make sure that they are able to play fluidly from the first shot of the match as also they reduce the stress level and achieve positive mindset by listening to favorite music, performing visualization and using breathing routine.
- Have plan for the match
If you step on the court without a plan, you shouldn’t be surprised with the big number of errors. Stress, necessity to make quick decisions as also the surprising shots from the rivals are all the factors that make you underperform. If you know exactly how you want to play the points, it is much easier to maintain high quality shots and force rival to make more mistakes.
- Be comfortable with the new balls
At all levels, matches begin with new balls. The reality is that most of the training sessions are played with used balls that bounce lower, fly slower and are much easier to control. To be able to control new balls and play own game at the expected level, players have to train more often using new balls to not be paralyzed by the balls straight off the can.
- Get to know your rival
The more you know about your rival, the less surprised you will be during the match. It means that you should do the research and get as much information about the opponent as possible. Remind yourself if you have played this player before, check the YouTube for recorded matches from previous tournaments or ask friends to discover strengths that you want to avoid and weaknesses that you want to use in your favor.
- Play percentage game
Starting the match is like starting the car – you have to focus firstly on control before you gear up. Your basic strategy for the first games should include topspin shots, more cross-courts and big targets on the court. These simple steps will decrease the number of unforced errors and will check how well prepared the opponent is for the demands of the beginning of the competition. After getting control and feeling more comfortable, you can add more power to your game and put even more pressure on the rival. The most important point in tennis is the last point but the beginning points can’t be omitted too. You should approach every point with the same quality focus and have specific tactical mindset for different situations on the court. There are many players who struggle playing the first games but it happens because they are not aware of the fact that they have to develop specific skills to be able to start the match on own terms. Analyze the categories from this article and think if you always focus on these areas while preparing for the next tournament.