Closing out an opponent is one of the toughest things to do in tennis. Sure, once we get rolling with a couple of games under our belt and stir up a good amount of momentum, we’re OK. It’s smooth sailing.
But when it comes to actually putting the final nail in the coffin, that’s where the ship can get rockier than a one, manned by the scurvy-ridden Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise.
We start performing possibly the most damaging song any athlete has ever heard. No, it’s not yo ho, yo ho (…can you tell I just came from the movies). I’m talking about the one called “What If, What If.”
It’s a horrible self-sabotaging yet widely-sung number, written and internally belted out by the player who’s on the brink of getting a great victory.
…Not knowing that it’s killing them softly (…thanks Ms. Lauryn Hill) with each and every note.
It sounds a little something like this. “What if I forget how to serve in a tennis match… What if he breaks me and starts to come back… What if everything breaks down… What if I botch up my feet…”
You know that song? I’m sure you do. It’s more than likely that you’ve involuntarily started playing this one in your head at least once or twice in your tennis career. Needless to say, I know what happened as a result. Nothing good…
When this happens, the key here is to slam down the stop button. And you *NEED* to do it asap before it’s too late. That’s right, you want to quickly play a game called “Kill That Tune.” Because the “what if” stuff is like a deadly dose of hypnosis.
The longer it plays, the harder it’ll be for you to snap out of it and pull through. It’s rather hypnotic if you know what I mean.
The question is how? How do you get yourself out of this trance, get your killer instinct back, and continue to blaze the trail to a win?
You’ve got to speed up! S-P-E-E-D UP?!? Yes, you’ve got to move faster. I know you might be thinking, “What?!?” If so, you’re definitely not alone.
Many players feel that if you want to reel your thoughts back in and get yourself centered again, you’ve got to slow things down, NOT speed them up – the opposite of what I’m telling you here.
Now of course, you don’t want to rush things. But when we go slow, what ends up happening is we tend to go too far with it. And it jacks us up.
We take our sweet time walking up to the line, bounce the ball a zillion times, and breatheeeee so many times we could darn well fall asleep.
But get this, that’s NOT all we do. We also begin to T-H-I-N-K in this situation! We magnify everything and think (…or should I say OVER-think) waaay too much! Are my feet right? Is my grip in the right spot?
Yeah, and from there everything starts to slowly implode even more.
You see, you know how to do that stuff already. You don’t need to go over that if you’ve been playing for a while. It’s really unnecessary.
That stuff is embedded in your muscles and in your mind from your hundreds of practice sessions.
Don’t give yourself too much dead time. When we do that, we tend to kill our games. Our anxiety gets even worse, the nerves get more unstable, and our focus and level of certainty get even more fragmented.
So instead, you want to cut the time you spend between points. And the easiest time to do that is when you’re in the most control, when you’re serving.
How do you quicken your tennis serve ritual?
Tennis Serve Tactic #1: Execute your breathing technique
Now, I’m not talking about any old breathing technique. I mean, you can inhale and exhale in your sleep without trying. What I’m referring to, and what’s going to help your serve immensely is by executing a special type of breathing.
It’s clinically referred to as the diaphragmatic breath, (…I mention in our course). Do this as you’re walking to pick up the ball you’re going to serve with.
You don’t need wait until you set your feet up on the service line to begin that part of your ritual. By multi-tasking, you’ll be smoothly shaving off seconds without throwing anything out of wack.
Tennis Serve Tactic #2: No Unnecessary Toweling Breaks
Don’t walk to the corner or the back fence to towel off if it isn’t completely necessary. Do that during the change over. Unless you feel that sweat from your brow may immediately drop into your eyes or have hands so moist, you don’t think you can hold on to you racket, you’ll be ok.
NOTE: Be sure to towel off during every change-over, not just when it feels too wet. Doing so will keep the moisture from collecting or building up. This means less problems later on in the match.
Tennis Serve Tactic #3: Decrease Your Ball Bouncing
Minimize your ball bouncing to the fewest amount practiced. You don’t need 30 (…like Novak Djokovic) . Three will do.
During your tennis serve, the more your mind is occupied or locked in on something specific, the less it can wander, worry, and throw you off course. So yes, the less time you have to think the better.
I mean hey, it’s like the old “icing” the basketball”player at the free throw line or a kicker about to make a field goal attempt that could win the big game strategy.
In case you’re unfamiliar, that’s when the opposing team calls a timeout immediately before the player is able to execute the move.
Why do they do this? Because there is a higher likelihood that the player will “freeze up” and buckle under the added pressure. So that said, you don’t want to aid your opponent’s cause and “ice” yourself .
So, the next time you’re in a crucial point on your tennis serve and on the brink of a great win, don’t waste it by waiting. Don’t sing the what-ifs.
Scream the OH YEAHs! And push through it like it was a point of no real significance. You’ll feel much more comfortable and the odds of you finishing strong will go way up.
Have a good day, a great tennis serve, and an even better game!
Enjoy the French Open…
P.S. Remember to check our 19 hour Instructional Mega Course “Tennis Mind Camp Strategy Serets 101”
P.P.S For for more on the french open, click here.