Tennis greatness is achieved on remarkably narrow margins of point differential success.
The ATP number one-ranked player, Rafael Nadal, has won 87.5 percent of his matches this year and 54.6 percent of the points he has played. In contrast, the world's number 99th ranked player, Raniner Schuettler, won just 41.4 percent of the time in 2010 and 50.1 percent of the points played. To understand these numbers in perspective, consider that a favorable outcome change of fewer then one out of every 25 points for Nadal results here in a 110 percent increase in matches won.
Small point gains can result in tremendous outcome results, and from my experience, the greatest potential for rapid improvement by young players in this area is accomplished by projecting positive on-court behavior.
I frequently remind my students that while they cannot simply choose to play like Venus or Rafa, they can choose to act as professionally and positively in between each point. Keep in mind that the ratio of actual play time, to the time in between points, is usually less then 1:6. In a two-hour match, you play less than 20 min. Most of the time spent in a match is in between play.
Each year at the U.S. Open, I have the opportunity to watch juniors, legends and current professionals from around the world compete. While I witness a wide variety of playing styles, the behavior displayed by almost every player in between points is astoundingly consistent.
In order to explain this consistency of behavior, look to the notion that while emotions reflect behavior, behaviors also powerfully shape emotions. Numerous psychosocial studies reinforce the idea for example, that while happiness makes you smile, the behavior of smiling makes you happier. This means that by acting confident on the tennis court, you will feel more confident.
If the result of this positive change gains you even one point per set, the impact can be extraordinary.
Steve Kaplan is the Owner and Managing Director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as Director Emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and Executive Director and Founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 state high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.