Petra Kvitova, two-time Wimbledon champion, has mastered to stay focused by comfortably stationing herself in “the zone”. She tunes out the crowd and plays out each point. Here are various perspectives from a pro, yogi and recreational player on ways to “keep it together” during a match.
FROM THE PRO: Barb Acosta
Many of my students tell me that they do not enjoy playing in matches because their game changes. They can go out and play a friendly game but when the pressure is on, they choose the wrong shots or cannot execute the right ones.
Whether playing in a league match or your club championship, warm up is key. From the first rally pretend the match has started and do not miss a shot. You are not trying to “win” the warm up but you are mentally putting yourself in the match. When you practice your serves pretend the score is 15/40, 30/30 or even 40/love. By the time the match starts you have already served under a bit of pressure and you are relaxed. Putting pressure on your game is a good thing. It can bring you up to a new level.
Go out of your comfort zone and sign up for your town tournament or club championship. After all it’s only a game!
FROM THE YOGI: Jillian Pransky
Mindful breathing and stretching are great ways to stay relaxed during a game. These do require some practice, but will have great benefits in keeping you fluid yet alert during the game and throughout the match.
Bringing your awareness to your breath right before a game for a minute or two, will help you string it along throughout the game and allow you to access it when you need it. Between points, as you walk to your position or as you prepare to serve, are good opportunities to take some deep breaths in and out so that you don’t loose the focus on your breath.
Stretches done 10 minutes or so before the warm-up for the match, will help your muscles to stay fluid and prevent them from tensing-up during the crucial points. This can also help prevent injuries that are often caused by nervous tension.
Incorporate these stretches into your warm-up routine for amazing results:
Shoulder stretch with squat
Standing moving twist
FROM THE PLAYER:
Often, I get frustrated or excited in the heat of the game and lose focus on what needs to be done at any given moment. Having a mantra helps me stay grounded and play my game.
I like to keep a phrase or two in mind as I play, and repeat it over and over before the point starts or as I’m about to serve: “Relax, move forward.” “Step into it.” “Gather yourself.” “Just breathe.”
There are those times when unforced errors force me to yelp “Oy!” like my grandmother or mutter: “That was stupid.” “What was I thinking!” or “#$%#??” If I do let one slip, it’s a good time to regroup and repeat the mantra for the next point.
After four unsuccessful previous attempts, at age 64, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Her mantra was “FIND A WAY.”