When you start with realistic expectations, everything becomes upside potential.
How often have you been mad at yourself for failing to meet your own expectations? Like losing to that player you should have beat.
People ask a lot about why they don't play as good in matches, as they do in practice. They've practiced so hard, but find themselves getting tight, falling apart, and choking. Usually to a player that they shouldn't lose to. It's frustrating.
One of the strategies I've been toying around with to deal with match anxiety might be counterintuitive for you at first, especially if you're one to believe you should "fake it til you make it".
If you're looking for a fresh strategy to add to your next match try incorporating this idea into your game plan. Here's why you should start with realistic expectations.
Worst case scenario
In the days or hours leading to your match, you need to accept a few things. Accept that you could be double bageled. That's right, it could happen. When you accept the worst possible outcome, you don't fear it any longer.
Once we've accepted and processed it, we can now move on and shift focus to the stuff that matters - playing our best tennis.
Forehand not all there?
Before your match take a moment to assess the current state of your game. If your forehand is off at the moment don't fake like it's not. Acknowledge it, and accept that you might need to get out and practice it before the match to dial it in.
Don't just spray to the back fence and get mad wondering why it's happening - you know exactly why it's happening. Instead, plan accordingly and fit in another practice session, or head there early for an extra warm up. Adjust your gameplay to compensate, and put yourself in a better position.
Aches and pains
Take a second to analyze the current state of your body. Is your hip or hamstring tight? This is no time to fake it and push through it. Accept that your body is tight and make some time to stretch and loosen it up the night before the match. Show up to the courts early and get a proper warm up - address the issue.
The guy who pushes through it will be sidelined with an injury, while the guy who is realistic about it prepares and adjusts to make it work.
All upside from here
A great internet quote once said, "Happiness is inversely proportional to expectations".
Not only does this type of thinking help us prepare and adjust, it sets the stage for unlimited upside potential. When you are unrealistic about what could happen, you set your self up for disappointment. But when you start with realistic expectations, you open up a world of opportunity ahead of you - and possibly a world of happiness.
I've been trying this recently. When I'm sensing a little nervousness or tightness leading up to a match I think about these things, and begin to shift focus to the things that matter. The weight lifts off my shoulders, and a smile washes over my face. I've been playing better, winning more matches, playing looser, and having more fun.
Why? Because I'm not playing to win - I'm playing to be, happy.
And that's how we win.
But don't take it from me, take it from the GOAT himself in this last French Open. Listen as he answers his very first question on how he prepared.
"There's always a chance I lose in straight sets, but I take enough shirts, rackets, strings, and shoes. Ready to battle. I'm there to fight."
"I'm not gonna go without trying."
"The hope, was to go deep."
Happy 4th, see you all out there.