Mental Tips for Closing Out a Lead
It is not unusual for tennis players to lose their focus when they are trying to close out a match. Excitement, anxiety, and tiredness from a challenging game can all cause you to lose your mental focus. Here are some tips that can help you successfully close out a match.
1.Breathe! We often forget to breathe at the moments when our brains most need oxygen. In tense situations, we breathe shallowly or unevenly. If you find the tension building up, taking three or four very deep breaths where you can feel the expansion of your diaphragm. These types of breaths will help you regain your focus and give your body some much needed oxygenation. Breathing deeply improves blood flow and instantly reduces tension. Try to take one or two deep breaths between points, like a reset before the next point.
2. Play to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose Tennis champion Gigi Fernandez has a saying of “Play to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose”. Playing to win means hitting shots that will help you to win. These shots are where your training and practice come into effect. Playing not to lose means just hitting and hoping that the other team is going to give up points to you. Playing to win is the most effective strategy but most particularly when you are closing out a match. If your opponent has mentally given up, they may hand the match to you but otherwise you need to stay on your game to finish it out.
3. Slow Down Many tennis players start to rush when closing out a match. It is often not intentional but may happen if you are not mindful of this. You are allowed a full 20 seconds and may utilize them. Once the point starts, play to win, but slow down when between points. This will help you to keep your focus and stay on track to a win!
4. Have Serve Cues If you have played competitive tennis before, you may be aware of how pressure affects you and your tennis game. Be aware of these changes and work some counteractive strategies into your training. A helpful behavior to adopt is a serve cue. This is a specific direction you give your body on how to serve properly, since proper form and technique can give way under pressure. Say this verbal reminder aloud or in your head to remind your body what it needs to do. Saying these words will also keep your mind away from intruding thoughts or anxiety that will cause you to lose focus.
5. Reverse the Score If you have a tendency to get super stressed while closing out a match, consider reversing the score in your head so the situation does not feel as intense. This is helpful whether serving or returning on a break point and can keep you from buckling to the pressure of closing out a match. Many players employ this technique to keep themselves in the game when the pressure is high!
Work mental tips and pressure-reducing strategies into your training so you can close out your match! Tennis is a game and is supposed to be fun, keep this in mind the next time you start feeling tense during a match!