Racquet Sports Psychology Tips: How To Regain Momentum In Tennis So That You Win More Matches
Are you good at adapting to momentum changes?
In every tennis match, there are going to be numerous momentum shifts throughout. They can dictate how players feel, think, and play. With the scoring system in tennis, a 10% shift in points could be the difference between a set you lose badly to a set you dominate score-line wise. Therefore, being able to identify where the momentum lies and being able to think clearly and act accordingly can help decide the outcome of matches.
How many times have you heard a player say, “I can’t believe I have lost that set 6-0, every game went to 30-all but I lost all of them”, or “when I win the 1st set but lose the 2nd, I always lose the 3rd”? Personally, I have heard these kinds of things a lot, and sometimes players dwell on these thoughts, causing them to doubt themselves in future situations. Eventually, this becomes a common thought pattern for them, they become so used to thinking this way they just accept it’s going to happen again without doing anything about it. I call these bad habits.
To me, this is the by-product of negative momentum. When a match is turning against you, or if you have lost a string of points in a row, you start to think oh well, it’s happening again. You carry on as if it’s normal, and no wonder it keeps happening.
Ask yourself this, if you don’t want something that happens regularly to happen again, does it make sense for you to keep doing the same thing? I certainly wouldn’t! There is a great example of this from Rafa Nadal’s post match conference after he beat Daniil Medvedev in the 2022 Australian Open final. Against Medvedev, he was a break up in the 5th set but got broken when serving for the championship, which reminded him of the times when he was also in the same situation, being a break up in the 5th set of the 2012 and 2017 Australian final, before losing to Djokovic and Federer respectively. Upon realising this, he was able to stop thinking about that and chose to tell himself that he has to do something different, he needs to believe it’s going to be different this time, and changed his game plan accordingly, before finally winning the match.
This shows the importance of being able to recognise the situation you are in and where the momentum is, before having the ability to think clearly about what your intentions are. For example, I’ve seen a lot of players rush when they’re in a losing position, probably trying to win the next point as quickly as possible, or they just want to get it over and done with. However, you should be doing the opposite. When you’re in a losing position and the momentum is against you, you should be slowing things down. This way, you have time to analyse the situation, regroup, and come up with solutions.
4 Top Tips to Help You Regain Momentum
Accepting that the momentum will be against you sometimes, and that there is no reason why you can’t get it back, but you have to try, instead of letting frustration get to you, in which case you are making it really hard to get back to where you want to be.
If you are someone who rushes when losing, think about what happens when you rush. If it’s not good, why would you want to keep doing it? The first step towards changing bad habits is convincing yourself that they’re bad, with clear reasoning behind it (if you don’t believe something’s bad, you’ll usually not bother changing it). Try and identify other bad habits by actively thinking about why they’re bad, and figure out beneficial alternative thoughts.
Focus on your intention for the next point instead of dwelling on how the match has been going or trying to force yourself to not think about it, because when you do that, you can’t help but think about it! (try it, don’t think about a cheeseburger… hungry now? ☺)
4. Routine, Routine, Routine
At the next change of ends, spend 1/3 of the time evaluating the situation, the next 1/3 planning your plan of attack, then the last 1/3 on the execution of your plan. These are all things you can fit into your routine. Having set routines will allow you to keep a cool head and think through things mid-match, especially when things aren’t going your way. You can also create routines for when the momentum is neutral (i.e start of a match), on your side, or anywhere in between. When momentum is neutral, use your go to shots/serves to grab control of momentum, what’s the shot you have the most confidence in right now? What’s your best shot? They are especially helpful if you’re feeling a little bit of nerves or tension.
Lastly, and a bonus tip – when momentum is with you, analyse your opponents more as they are more likely to change tactics, adapting to that can help you avoid overconfidence or complacency, maintaining focus on your intentions.
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Online Sports Psychologist and Mental Skills Specialist who has a deep knowledge and passion for Racquet Sports supporting tennis, squash and badminton players globally New York to London, Dubai to Cape Town, Perth to Christchurch, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.
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