Holding a Lead
By Kim Shanley
To The TennisONE Community
In the last three newsletters, I wrote about preparing for a match physically, psychologically, and strategically. All this was to get you into the match and hopefully ahead of your opponent(s).
But getting ahead and winning, as we all know, are two entirely different things.
I received an email from Dave X who said he frequently wins the first set 6-0 or 6-1. Dave's problem is that after dominating the first set, he often loses the second set 6-0 or 6-1. He writes, "This is too weird. Does TennisONE have something that can help?"
As your acting librarian, I scoured the massive TennisONE archive representing the best minds in tennis, and lo and behold, I came up with the precise guidance sought by Dave X. Anyone who worries about holding a lead should read TennisONE editor Jeff Greenwald's article, "Closing out Matches" (you need to login as a TennisONE member to view this).
Holding a master's degree in clinical and sports psychology, Jeff Greenwald is a master of the weird. He is also a master on the court, holding the number one ranking in the world in both singles and doubles in the men's 35 age division.
Jeff cites the key psychological breakdowns once you get a lead:
- Protecting the lead syndrome. "The most typical response in this situation is to tighten up and become tentative."
- Over-attachment to results. "As players begin savoring the possibility of winning, they become distracted by the attractiveness of this outcome. They lose focus, are unable to stick with their game plan, and instead of enjoying the game, they shift their attention to the results."
- In-the-driver's-seat mentality. "They feel they are in the "driver's seat," and have the room to pull out from the match for a moment and briefly celebrate their success."
- Nagging self-critic. "As soon as we are on the verge of something good, enter Mr. Doubt: you better not lose this now. You've choked before. Here we go again."
Greenwald offers these anti-choking remedies:
- "Stay with your game plan. Don't change it because you are leading."
- "Use positive phrases to maintain concentration and appropriate arousal" [not over-excited and not too relaxed].
- "Smile when the critic comes knocking."
- "Keep your eyes focused on specific targets--Strings, ground, where you want to hit the ball."
- "Breathe deeply and rhythmically to maintain physical relaxation."
So Dave X, I hope this answers your question and solves your problem. You're not alone out there, and I'll certainly raise my hand as having fallen prey to all the psychological breakdowns listed above. I end with the same advice: email this to one of your tennis friends. Say, "I found this helped me."
[Sure, this is a bit phony. You really mean, "Hey friend, quit dragging me down!" But you're too nice of a person to say this. Cut out this last part before you email your friend].
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