Frequently, tennis matches can be described as: “I won so I played well,” or “I lost so I played bad.” But what does that really mean? When we feel like we are playing well or not playing very well…why do we have that feeling?
Equation for how you feel like you are “playing”….
[(Your Level + Your Preparation) – (Daily Conditions + Opponent’s Level)] x Mentality
Your Level = How you have done in your tournaments in the past, your rankings, or your UTR. If you are someone who frequently feels like they are not playing well or are disappointed with themselves…it might be good to do a honest assessment of where you truly are level wise based on your previous results. This is not meant to make anyone lose confidence or feel bad about themselves. Just the opposite — you might have unrealistic expectations which are putting too much pressure on you and making you feel bad.
Your Preparation = This is the amount of time you have prepared for the event over the past few months. If you have not put in enough practice time, you cannot expect to perform up to your best abilities. Even if you have put in a tremendous amount of work, you do not want to be overconfident. The point is that there is a connection with how you will play and the amount of work you have put in leading into an event.
Daily Conditions = Temperature, sun, wind, court surface, bad bounces, line calls…anything that affects your level of play on that particular day. For example, there might be a very strong wind blowing in a particular direction. This wind causes a large numbers of unforced errors for the player. The player comes off the court and believes that they lost and simply played bad because it wasn’t their day. However, the important thing is to learn from playing in the wind. Understand that the wind plays a role in how we should be hitting our shots and in windy conditions a player should aim further from the line and hit particular shots based on the direction that the wind is blowing. If the player stops the analysis of the match at…I missed…I played bad…they are missing out on important information and this mistake could happen again.
Your Opponent’s Level = How your opponent has done in the past, their rankings, or their UTR. Be careful…this can make us feel like we played well or very poorly. Sometimes…we play a very strong player, lose badly, and feel like we played really bad. But once again…what is the lesson learned there? It is important to understand what our opponent did that we did not like in order to understand what we need to work on. It is also important to understand what they did successfully as those might be aspects of tennis that we should look to add to our game. Other times…we play a very strong player, lose, and feel like we played awesome. That is wonderful but make sure you understand what is truly happening here. We usually feel this way because we were able to hit the ball harder and play with out “pressure” (there is always pressure but this is less perceived pressure). That means that we might perform better in all of our matches if we play more aggressive or find a way to take pressure off ourselves.
Mentality = The most important part of how we think we are playing. That is why it is multiplied in the equation. Just like in real math…if our mentality is a ZERO then all of the other aspects do not matter because we will not feel good about ourselves.
Why is it important to understand this equation and get past the idea of “I won so I played well” or “I lost so I bad”? Because that is how we will understand what is happening in our matches and therefore we can learn from them. It will also help us with setting goals and have a more enjoyable tennis experience because we understand the why. It might be a good idea to try to get away from saying we played well or played bad completely in order to analyze our matches at a deeper level. If we cannot avoid saying statements like that…this might work…”I played poorly because…” That way we are at least forcing ourselves to analyze at a deeper level.