Most matches are not lost at match point. The complexity of the game is such that, in a tennis tournament, for example, a Grand Slam where the draw is of 128 players, there is only one winner and 127 losers. Those losers lost their matches for different reasons. Let us find out why by defining different types of players.
We have the player who signs up for a tournament and loses the match as soon as the draw is posted. He loses the match when he finds out who his opponent is, especially, if he faces a seeded player. We call that player “The Loser” This player is happy to be in the main draw and is not thinking about winning the tournament. He goes to participate, not to compete.
There is the player who wins matches that he is suppose to win against players with a lower ranking, but cannot beat players with a higher ranking. We call this player “The Average.” This player stays in the middle of the pack and can win one or two matches, then prays for someone to do the job for them by beating the higher ranked player or winning by default.
Finally, we have the player who goes to compete and believes he can win every match and tournament he signs up for. He looks at the draw and says, “First round, I beat ‘X,’ semis, I beat ‘Y’ and in the finals, I beat ‘Z,’ get the trophy and the 2.000 points in the rankings.” This player is defined as “The Champion.”
The best way to recognize these different players is by watching them arrive at the club on the day of the match. “The Loser” walks very slowly, you almost have to push him in. His head and shoulders are down, in other words, the loser’s body language is very indicative of his play. He usually waits until the last minute to check in and sits in the corner thinking … I hope I can win a game in each set so I don’t go home with breakfast (6/0-6/0 equals two bagels).
“The Champion” gets to the tournament site early and is ready to beat anyone. He makes sure everybody notices when he arrives, especially his opponent. He knows his pre-match routine, usually is very popular with the other players, and you see him walking from one side to the other with a winner’s attitude.
“The Average” player is the one that changes his behavior depending on the opponent. If he plays someone he should beat, he acts like a “Champion.” If it is someone with a higher ranking, he behaves like a “Loser.”
The interesting thing is that some players can change their attitude depending on the tournament they are in. Some can change from being “Champions” at the regional level to “Average” or “Losers” at the national level. Some can be “Champions” at the national level and “Losers” when they go to an international tournament.
Whenever we step on to the court, a mental battle begins. One player sends a message, “I’m going to beat you today” and the other responds, “No, I’m going to beat you.”
There are opponents that only need to lose three games and they’re convinced you are going to beat them. With others, a set is enough. There are players you need to go three sets to finally show them you are better, and there are others who don’t believe they have lost even after the match is over.
“The Loser” will find any excuse to stop fighting (the foot, the wrist, the court, the wind). Just give them the chance to quit, and they will take it. “The Average” will fight more, but when the match is on the line, he will choke because he doesn’t believe he can beat a better player. “The Champion” fights until the end. He doesn’t always get the victory, but he believes he can win right up to the end of the match.
The only way to learn how to compete is by competing. The most important thing is your attitude and the way you approach the challenge of competition.
The question I would like to ask is, “What kind of a player do you want to be?”
Salomon is the Co-Director of Tennis at Christopher Morley Tennis in Roslyn. He is a passionate tennis coach that with his unique and creative way of coaching has been making a great impact in the life’s of many of his players around the world for more than 25 years. He is a Sports Science Teacher and a Master in Tennis and High Performance Coaching from Wingate College in Israel. He is \author of the book Salomon’s Tennis Wisdom. You can reach him at Zenmaster18@hotmail.com or by visiting www.Salomontennis.com.