Last Wednesday was the first time my girls’ team, tennis beginners, played a friendly match. They have been training for about a year, and most of them started with no tennis experience at all.
I could not attend their friendly match due to some official matters. I wanted to see how I could help them. Therefore, after their training session on Monday, I casually asked two of them, who are my doubles pair, how they felt about the upcoming friendly match.
“Excited and scared,” one of the girls summed up in three words.
I replied, “Ok, I sort of anticipated that answer. How can you prepare for the match?”
She didn’t know the answer as she was very inexperienced in tennis matches.
I'm sure there are many players who have learned tennis for sometime but have never had a chance to play matches. And when the opportunity comes, they do not know how to cope.
Six Ways Tennis Beginners Have Greater Chance Of Winning.
Here are six ways you can cope with tennis matches. By using these strategies, tennis beginners will have a greater chance of winning the match.
Before the game, you probably feel excited but worried that you will screw up the match. This is common because we tend to be dominated by fear. When you are inexperienced and going for your first match, you will think of all the things that may go wrong, such as “I'm sure going to double fault many times” or “My opponent is sure going to give me a hard time.”
Yes, you will hit double faults and your opponent will give you a hard time. This is a tennis match and you gotta be ready for the challenge.
Instead of thinking of all the negative situations, I want you to think of all the positive things before the match. Let me give you some specific examples.
If you are thinking,“I'm gonna lose the match,” change that script to “It is going to be a great learning experience for me. I have been waiting for this!”
“He/she is going to make me run all over the place and make me look bad.” Change that thinking to “I love the challenge that he/she is going to give me. It is going to be fun.”
“I'm definitely going to let my partner (if you are playing doubles) down.” Convert that thought to “I'm going to find ways to set up for my partner to finish the point.”
“My serves are going to screw up.” Think: “I'm going to serve the way I serve during training.”
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Eliminate all those harmful negative thoughts and think of positive statements. Run through all the positive experiences you have had during training or previous matches.
Get used to the court
When you reach the match venue, you may feel uneasy because the place is unfamiliar to you. For example, the colour of the court is different, the dimensions of the space outside the court is different, and of course the person that you are playing against is unfamiliar to you too.
What I want you to do is use the warm up time to get familiar with the court. Jog, side shuffle or perform crossover steps to get used to the court surface. Many times I’ve seen players unwilling to move freely on an unfamiliar court. They just stand rooted to the ground and warm up with the opponent.
Test your opponent
The three-to-five minute warm up is super important because you are going to test your opponent.
During the warm up hit, test their movement on the forehand and backhand side. Is she moving awkwardly or very efficiently to the ball? Hit different heights, e.g. a high ball to her backhand side, and see how she reacts. Many players tend to struggle with high balls, especially on the backhand side, so that is a great tactic to use against her.
Next, volley time. When she is up at the net, watch how she reacts to the balls. Amateurs tend to be scared about coming up to the net. Therefore you can hit some balls directly at her and watch how she reacts. If she quickly cuts the volley warm up and returns to the baseline, it is a signal to you that she is not confident at the net.
The last part of the warm up is the serve. For your part, practice serving your second serves. Focus on getting the balls into the service box because that will give you confidence. Do not worry what the opponent does to your serve during the warm up. Some people like to pretend to crush your serves so don't be affected by it.
When your opponent is practicing her serve, practice returning a few shots. Look out for their serving techniques. If their serve technique is flawed, e.g. using the wrong grip to serve or the toss is inconsistent, then very likely their second serves are going to be slow. Get ready to crush them!
Have a plan and follow it
For amateur players, my suggestion is to have a simple plan and follow the game plan. A simple game plan could be playing cross courts 80% of the time and being really consistent in your shots. To stay focused in the match try to find targets to hit.
The reality is that both you and your opponent could be struggling during the match. Whoever is more focused and more hungry will strive to survive and win the match.
Advanced players could have another game plan such as serving out wide to the opponent’s backhand and sneaking up to volley. It is about building the game around your strengths.
Don't think about your technique
“Shxx! Why is my backhand so crappy?” When you were in the middle of the match you just hit a few backhand errors.
You start to grow distrustful of your backhand, thinking that it is rebelling today. You start to hit more and more cautiously and even try to run around every backhand shot with your forehands.
In any match whether playing like tennis beginners or a pro, it is not a good thing for you to analyze your technique. It is important to do some refinements during your practice sessions. Have you heard of analysis paralysis? The more you think about your backhand, the worse it becomes.
So in your next tennis match, if your serve or backhand is not working, think of finding targets to hit. It could be simply returning the backhand shots to the middle (that is one tactic too) to gain some consistency and confidence. Focus on the next point if you commit an error. There is no point dwelling on it.
Tennis beginners must first learn basic forehand and backhand technique so that they not only play, but also enjoy the game and come back like a tennis pro.
Keep a journal after the game
How was your match? Besides recording the results, journal your thoughts and reflections in a notebook. You can use the following questions to guide you in the reflection:
- What were my thoughts and feelings before and during the match?
- What went well during the match?
- Was there any point that I constructed brilliantly? Describe that point.
- What were the situations that frustrated me the most?
- What can I do to be better in the next match?
Journalling all these thoughts and feelings will help you to remember the experience that you have gone through. For all those tennis beginners out there, it can also become your secret strategy book should you encounter similar opponents or situations again.
Back to my girls’ team. The pair of girls that I talked to won their match. I'm very happy for them. Congratulations on their first victory! Many more to come!