There are many things to think about during a match. If you can create some good habits with the small things you are doing, the rest of your focus can be on the "difference makers" in the match.
First, always call the score out prior to serving. Make sure your opponent hears you and remember to say your (the server's) score first. If you are not the server, always hit all of the balls to the server's side prior to the next point. Try to hit the balls gently so the server isn't chasing the balls all over the court. This will allow you time to go through your preparation prior to the opponent's serve but still keep the speed of play at a comfortable pace.
If there is a lot of time in between many of the points (remember you only have 25 seconds and must play to the speed of the server), it is likely you will struggle to keep your concentration and focus. The long breaks will also cause your muscles to tighten up and make you feel sluggish. Try to use the time between points to catch your breath, remind yourself of one basic technique idea, and one basic strategic idea.
Keep up with the time on the changeovers and make sure you hydrate, towel off, and catch your breath. Use this time to reinforce your basic plan and to calm yourself down. Take nice, long, deep breaths and relax your muscles. Make sure you have an extra racquet ready in case a string breaks or the grip gets too slippery from play.
It’s important to use the time when you are not actually playing the point to create good match habits. This will allow you to focus on the task at hand when you are playing the point.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com) and MyHamptonsPro based in Sag Harbor, NY (http://www. myhamptonspro.com) and Tennis Professional at Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club in Tucson, AZ. For details on lessons, clinics, or coaching, contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-300-7323