Monday, December 5, 2011

A question of tactics, related to the mental side of tennis

Although I write this tennis blog, I’m not an authority on any topic related to our sport (even though my tone may suggest as much sometimes;-) What you find written on these pages are my experiences, observations and the knowledge (limited by my abilities: I’m a high B/3.5 level player) that I’ve gained while playing and captaining for (now) 11+ years here in Atlanta.

Obviously I can gain from your knowledge and experiences, if you’re willing to share by posting a comment to this (or any other) post. Although I know (from this site’s Urchin statistics) that many read my reflections – btw, thanks! – there hasn’t been a lot of participation from ‘you’ out there. Although I write largely for my own pleasure, I sincerely hope that what I have shared has helped you or others in some way over the past year. But now I am openly soliciting your help.

When I’m in the midst of a close match against persons that play at a higher level than me – in practice or a league match – I sometimes find myself wondering if I can maintain my level of play in the critical games at the end of the set, or not. Because of this self doubt and believing that my opponents have probably figured me out by now and will change their tactics – e.g. start poaching more – to close out the set (e.g. force a break, etc.), I’ll change my tactics and inevitably have a couple of bad games to effectively lose the set to them, and restore order.

I’m beginning to believe that this is a mental deficiency on my part: I don’t have enough confidence in my ability, in fact I believe that my opponents are better (because they are), such that I try to change my game (even though my physical ability is limited) to try to compensate at the most important time in the match, effectively sabotaging myself – and my partner – in what then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s easy for me now, in hindsight, to see the error of this … but that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop the next time I find myself in this situation. I can say to myself “dance with the one that brung ya” or “keep on keepin’ on”, but I guess I must believe in my heart of hearts that the outcome will be the same if I don’t change, so I try to force the issue to trip them up.

After all, when I play an opponent of equal or lesser ability, I’ve become pretty good about staying with what works to close out the match. I don’t fear them or their ability to raise their game or change their tactics to stop what ‘we’ have working and beat us, for some reason.

If anyone has any advice that would help me change this self-defeating pattern I've developed, words of wisdom or pearls of knowledge, I'd appreciate it. Thanks in advance!

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