Experts always say: ‘Preparation is key to success’. It’s no different when it comes to winning a tennis match. However, you’ll need to add hard work, determination, motivation, learning from your mistakes and understanding your opponents to your preparation list in case you want to win in the end. We prepared a few tips for you on how to win a tennis match during league play.
1. Attend a few training sessions
In case you want to perform really well in a match, you should know how to play right. Attending a few training sessions is a practical way to learn proper play. Surveys show that those who get trained under a coach play more consistently than those who do the same on their own. Sure, you can watch tone of Federer footage and read about proper ways to hit the ball, but it’s just not the same as when a professional points you to the right direction.
2. Prepare as early as you can
Don’t live under the wrong impression that you can prepare for a match just before the season starts and your first match in on. Begin preparing from the minute you learn there is a possibility for a tournament to be organized in your area. Bear in mind that you are not preparing yourself for a bodybuilding contest, so there’s no need to hit the gym three hours a day. You can try workouts like yoga, Pilates, plyometrics or HIIT. Ideally would be to create a routine and take care of your diet all year round, so you’re never really out of shape and are always prepared to perform well during competition. Scheduling occasional friendly matches with friends and acquaintances is another way to gain insight and to keep you constantly prepared. In case your friends don’t play, we can gladly help you find tennis friends in your area to play friendly matches with.
3. Get to know yourself
One of the most important things is to know your weaknesses and to know strengths. A winner has to know why he’s winning, a loser needs to learn why he’s losing. If you are losing, you need to be able to change your game. That’s why it’s good to pre-develop backup game plans, so that you can quickly switch plan A for plan B if you see that plan A is not working. And if you are winning, you need to work hard on imposing your game. You must be determined to keep the ball in play, because it’s a good way to spot your errors, or to spot your strengths in case your opponent is the one making them. Important is not to stop attacking your weaknesses until the problem is solved.
4. Watch your opponent
Besides being focused on the way YOU play, you need to be able to pay attention to your opponent, too. You need to keep your eyes on the entire court, including the other side of the net, and you need to listen. You can look for negative facial expressions or body language, plus, players are often loud when expressing dissatisfaction with their own play, so you’ll hear when you send a ball they can’t catch. Also, pay attention to their movements and where they are comfortable and uncomfortable to be on the court (baseline, forecourt, etc.). From that point on, you can hit them where they are weakest. Just make sure you’re not the one being transparent when it comes to your weaknesses, or your opponent can use the same strategy against you.
5. Be prepared for the next move
A great mistake would be to over-focus on the ball after you hit it. You cannot treat your game as if it consists of separate moves that are not mutually connected. Don’t get carried away by the perfection of your serve and stare at the ball flying across the court passively, but hit it and get prepared for both your opponent’s and your next move. Always remind yourself that tennis is a game requiring fast response. Watch professionals and try to imitate them. You don’t have to go to extreme. Just hit the ball, finish the action and get prepared for the next move.
6. Control your emotions
In case things start to go the wrong way during a match, you’ll maybe find yourself feeling down. Your body will start following your emotions - head down, shoulders down, starting to walk slower, and you need to do everything you can right away to snap yourself out of this low-energy mode. As soon as you start feeling down, focus on making your face and body look like you are feeling completely opposite emotions. Bring your chest up, smile and tell yourself: ‘All good, let’s get it!’ You’ll snap out of it quickly and you’ll confuse your opponent at the same time by doing this. You can also try with hitting the palm of your hand or the side of your foot with racket strings, as it is a good way to transfer your brain’s attention from the negativity you are feeling to slight physical sensations.
Also, work hard on controlling your thoughts and emotions about the past, future and current performance, and while it’s only natural to feel nervous, don’t let the feelings take over and become out of control.
7. Develop a ritual
Since people are emotional beings and they get upset when they lose or fail, it’s good to develop a ritual that can take you back to the neutral state of mind and keep you calm. Rituals can be executed prior or during a tennis match and it can be anything that can relax you, but keep you concentrated at the same time. Some players try to clear their heads of negative points during the changeover while they focus on creating a positive state of mind. Creating a ritual will make you calm, confident, which will only bring more wins and a lot more fun.
8. Do not underestimate lobs
Know that when things go tough, the lob is your best defense. You have two choices when playing a lob – topspin, which is more offensive, or backspin, which is more defensive in nature. When playing the defensive lob, pay attention to your stance and footwork. You’ll be under more pressure to defend yourself, so make small feet adjustment to properly position yourself and to keep a low center of gravity. You’ll find yourself in closed-stance position, because you’ll be prepared to sprint toward the ball. Lobs are excellent weapon when you decide to be more offensive, too. You’ll have more time to get into proper (open) stance position and to adjust the gravity center. Open stance position helps you use your hips and shoulders more, so you’ll be able to execute a heavier topspin. The neutralizing impact this shot can have on your opponent is sure to surprise you. The great thing is that you can play it wherever you want- on the base or over the net.
9. Work on your footwork
You can have weaknesses and strengths, but without good footwork, you won’t be able to bring your game to the next level. Footwork can get you through, even if you lack speed or have weak backhand, because you’ll be able to get in the right position to execute the best possible shot really fast. Make sure the split step is your reaction whenever your opponent is about to hit the ball. You should hop and be airborne at that precise moment your opponent is hitting the ball. If you do this, you’ll land back on the ground when the ball starts heading back towards you, and you’ll be able to quickly bounce off in the right direction. You should always stay on your toes, because when your feet are planted, your whole weight is holding you down, so it will be extremely hard to move. We suggest you move side to side or bounce up and down between the shots, so you are prepared to jump into action after the opponent hits the ball.
10. Don’t let the ball bounce twice
It is extremely important to stay motivated and to give everything you got. When you play a match, make it your mission never to let the ball bounce twice. When the ball comes flying your way, focus on hitting it, don’t think about whether you can make it or not. You may feel that reaching for it is not practical, but still, you should always go for it. You might be surprised by the shots you can pull off and it can only take you a step closer to winning.