Have you ever walked off the court and realized that you "should" have won the match you just played? Every tennis player goes through this frustration at some point in their career. Ill explain why you feel the way you do and how to mentally prepare yourself the next time you
play a match.
How does this happen?
At the beginning of the match you already have an idea of how challenging its going to be. This happens without us really thinking about it. During a warm up, we sort of judge someone's tennis ability, footwork, and we start building confidence because we do see that we are the better player. At this time we set the tone and expectations for ourselves. Often we make this mistake by looking up their rating, history of matches in tournaments, and experience etc.
It all goes down hill from here.
When you start losing points, making errors, you start to become frustrated and it just snowballs from here. The confidence that you had in the beginning is now slowly going away which then causes us to play scared i.e. not hitting through the ball, poking at it, slowing your game down tremendously and doing things that you normally wouldn't do.
Why do I feel and perform this way?
Its because your confidence is going away and the fear of loss kicks in. Ultimately its because you want to win the match and your going to do whatever it takes to win. Even if means hitting the ball with the ugliest form. Also, the outside perspective plays a huge role in this! Friends, teammates, family, and coaches watching your match. Most of us get scared, nervous and again absolutely fear the loss to an opponent you had so much confidence in beating in the beginning.
Breaking it Down
Really stop and think about this. If you go into a match thinking that you should win, your putting yourself in a defensive position. What I mean by this is that you have to defend your level of confidence and prove to yourself that you really are that good. Sounds weird, but its 100% True.
Whats funny about this is that your opponent may think the exact same thing you do. They may go into the match and recognize that you are the better player. So what does your opponent do?
They play some of the best tennis because they have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. They don't mind losing. There "Supposed" to.
At the end of they day, even if you are the better player you can usually chalk up your loss from frustration. It happens to every tennis player. Don't forget that.
Accepting that they are better than you or were just better that day.
Giving credit where credit is due is one of the hardest and best ways to handle tennis match loses. This matures players and quickly helps their mental progression. Accepting that you could potentially lose the tennis match from the beginning will help ease the nerves and you won't feel as much pressure. This is vital for junior tennis players.
Another Funny Thing
Usually when a student goes through this I always ask the question.
" If you could play them again right now, would you win"?
" Usually the answer I get is "YES"
This is because now WE have everything to gain and THEY have everything to lose.
How to Prevent This
1. Learn to let points go. Even if you made a bad mistake. Don't let the frustration build.
2. Don't lower a game to a level where your making more errors. (Playing Scared)
3. Talk to yourself and stay positive.
4. Give credit to your opponent when they hit good shots.
5. DON'T SHOW NEGATIVE EMOTION
This is just one of the reasons why we lose to players that we "should" beat. The main thing to take away from this is not letting frustration build. Learning to let things go is one of the biggest weapons a tennis player can have when competing. Remember, having a strong metal game is more than half the battle when it comes to tennis.