You’ve been here before.
You’re in the middle of another intense rally against one of your most hated rivals. Wait, do you actually hate this person? No, no you don’t, but you sure don’t want to lose to -
Fault! Darn it, where did your mind just go?
Sound familiar? Tennis is one of the toughest games when it comes to maintaining control of your focus. So much depends on your ability to make quick decisions about where to place the ball, which way to retreat in anticipation for a return, and simply which shot to select.
The moment your mind shows weakness is an opportunity for your opponent to pounce.
A simple way to maintain control, particularly during long rallies, is to focus on the depth of your shots. If you can continually push your opponent to the back of the court you’re more likely to force an error as their chances of hitting a successful shot dwindle while the odds of committing an error increase. Plus, if they do connect, you’ll have more time and space to react. The next key is to then push yourself forward and take away your opponent’s time while simultaneously wearing them down with extra power.
Here’s more on depth from active.com’s tennis pro Paul Gold:
“To help you achieve this, use the large rectangle formed by the service line, baseline and singles sidelines as your target. Spend a few minutes before your next practice and look at it from the net. Keep looking at it as you walk back to the baseline. Next, drop some balls for yourself and hit shots over the net trying to get the ball in this "back box.””
The more preparation you do on your opponent, the better your chances are of beating them.
Let’s say, for instance, you were able to sneak in to watch a future opponent play a match. Don a classic glasses-nose-moustache disguise and sit somewhere inconspicuous (or sit court-side, that would actually be pretty intimidating) and make note of their weaknesses.
And then prepare to exploit them.
Let’s say your opponent struggles on their backhand. This is a common weakness, so hitting shot after shot to their backhand will not only increase the chances of committing an error, it will no doubt frustrate them and get them off their game.
Especially if you’re still wearing your disguise.
Now, what happens if your opponent is attempting the same dirty tricks? Will you get frustrated? In tennis, where you can easily see facial reactions, it’s easy to get a boost if you know you’re having an impact on your opponent’s mental state.
So if you’re on the wrong end of this abuse, do your best to keep your emotions in check. Don’t give the other side any reason to doubt your commitment to winning the match. This control itself is an important trick, because even though you might be panicking on the inside, demonstrating a calm and cool demeanour can easily unnerve your opponent.
And then you can wait for the perfect moment to pounce!