Preparing yourself for battle is key, and if you don’t do it the right way, you could be putting all your tennis training to waste.
After thinking about my own experiences, observing other players, and hearing feedback from my coaches and parents, I compiled a list of 10 things to stop doing before a tennis match.
Identify which of the pre-match mistakes you are committing below, eliminate them, and you will be rewarded with better performances in your tennis matches.
1. Stop Doubting Yourself
Have you ever had the following thoughts before a tennis match: “There is no way I can win.” “He is too good.” “Well, at least I’ll be able to go out tonight if I lose.” Get rid of these negative thoughts. Replace them with a warrior-like mentality. Believe in the countless hours of training that you have poured into your game and be confident in your abilities. Know that you will put forth 100% effort into your match no matter what the circumstances. No one ever won anything by doubting themselves (except for the lottery).
2. Stop Looking at the Draw
All too often, players waste time checking the draw, imagining potential match-ups and looking past their next opponent. Instead, ask yourself the following: is what I am doing right now going to help me win my match? It is fine to briefly look at the draw and see who and when you are playing next. But anything beyond this wastes precious time that you could be using to warm-up, stretch, and mentally prepare yourself for the match at-hand.
3. Stop Eating Late
Movement is everything in tennis, and eating too close to match-time can result in indigestion, which hinders your movement. I have experienced this firsthand, and it neither feels nor smells very good 😐 . As we all (should) know by now: movement and footwork is everything in tennis. The International Tennis Federation recommends eating between 1.5 to 3 hours before a match, and the USTA similarly recommends eating two to three hours before playing. And since matches can be delayed, bring something light and nutritious to snack on, like an energy bar (Cliff Bar is my favorite!) or nuts. You must eat clean and healthy foods to prime your body for success.
4. Stop Forgetting Important Tennis Gear
There is nothing worse than being soaked with sweat and not having a towel, extra shirts or wristbands. Or having low energy levels and no snack or sports drink in your bag to keep you going. A seemingly small mistake like this can lose you a tennis match. For example, you could be stuck playing with a wet, sweaty grip, worried that your racquet will fly out of your hand, because you forgot to bring extra grips and a towel. My favorite tennis gear to prevent a sweaty grip are double-wide wristbands. I use this one. The double-wide wristbands absorb more sweat and seem to be more durable than regular-sized wristbands. Make sure you bring all the tennis gear that you need before you leave home so that your training does not go to waste because of a wet grip or low energy levels.
5. Stop Ignoring the Warm-Up
It is extremely important to warm-up before a match. And I’m not talking about the 5-minute warm-up with your opponent. Find someone to hit with before you play your match. Getting your body loose and ready to play will help you start your match off strong. If you step on the court without breaking a sweat beforehand, the match warm-up will not be enough. Trust me, I have had enough slow starts during my career to make me realize how essential it is to warm-up before a match. If you can’t find a partner, then jump-rope, jog, or do a few tennis footwork drills to get your muscles ready.
6. Stop Rushing to Get to Your Match
One of the worst things you can do is leave your house late for a tennis match. Leaving late means you are going to rush to the match. This has many negative effects: it encourages unsafe driving (i.e. speeding), you will be nervous when you arrive for the match, and there will be no time to warm-up and relax before the match starts. You may also have to start at a deficit if you arrive late to the match and get penalized as a result. Start leaving earlier for your matches and you will be more mentally and physically prepared to play.
7. Stop Getting Pumped Up Too Early
It is good to be excited for a match. However, if you get too pumped up before playing, you may not have enough energy to finish out the match. Excessive excitement can make you more nervous and cause you to rush points. Clearly, everyone is different: some perform better when relaxed while others need to be pumped up to get them going. However, keep in mind that sometimes being too amped before a tennis match can have negative consequences. It is best to conserve your energy and pump yourself up as needed to boost your intensity.
8. Stop Forgetting to Hydrate
You need to drink water before your match, and a lot of it. You also should start increasing your water intake days, and not just hours, before the match. Your muscles need enough water to properly function. If you aren’t hydrated, then you will not perform at your best. Even worse, you increase your risk of heat-related illnesses.
9. Stop Sleeping Late
Getting enough sleep is crucial for your success on the tennis court. Without it, you risk decreased focus, motor skills, and energy levels during your match. If you truly want to perform well, you will do anything to optimize your chances for success. This includes getting enough sleep to allow you to perform at your best.
10. Stop Wasting Time and Start Focusing on What You Need to Do to Succeed
You need to optimize your time before a match and focus on what you need to do to succeed. Whether it is warming-up, drinking water, or meditating, do what will enable you to perform at your best during your match. Preparation for optimal performance should be your priority. Find what works for you, develop a successful routine, and then follow it.
I hope that you found my list of 10 things to stop doing before a tennis match useful. Are you making any of the mistakes above? Fix them and you will be ready to perform at your best during a tennis match.
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