Tennis is an amazing sport. It is incredibly difficult to predict who will win a match, even if there have been many previous encounters and one player has had a lot of success. This is true at all levels but is especially the case at the very top of the game.
Since 2005, someone named Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic has won 63 out of 70 major tournaments. Even recently, Nadal and Djokovic have continued this dominance. Serena Williams had similar success in the women's game. Along the way, there were many upsets in all of the events and many matches that seemed like a sure thing for one player, were won by the underdog.
My favorite explanation of this phenomenon is that if two players are close to the same ability, the player who is not as good will win some matches if they play each other 100 times. The conditions, injuries, familiarity between players, and basically, the nature of the game, will cause this to happen. Every time you step on the court you have to believe in your chances to win the match. It is extremely important to prepare yourself for the battle before you walk on the court.
Remind yourself of the successes you have had against players who are better than you (this has likely happened) and approach this match one point at a time. If you play the ball and do not get wrapped up in playing your opponent, there will be opportunities for success. You may not win these matches a high percentage of the time, but you can definitely defy the odds and surprise people (maybe even yourself) if you believe that it is possible to win.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org