February 17, 2017
I think we all can remember a match that we felt got away from us. The match was winnable (you were most likely the favorite to win) yet your performance was not at the level you expected it to be. The question to ask yourself is, "does this happen regularly?" Or better yet, "do you play better against superior opponents than you?" If this is the case, you are experiencing some form of choking in your matches.
So why does this occur?
Sports that require a lot of technique seem to be a place for meltdowns to happen more regularly. Golf and tennis both have histories of players that seem to be on the brink of winning yet fall apart at the end. For the tennis swing to be as productive as possible, there needs to be a smoothness to it. The soft grip and relaxed body allow for this to happen naturally. When players choke in a match, they do not let their strokes and footwork happen naturally. Instead, they are thinking through what they need to do with their form, critiquing every move. This leads to rigidity in their swing and footwork and allows choking to occur.
Ways to Eliminate Choking
There are a lot of factors that can make a player tense up in their matches but we will focus on one factor that can give positive results right away in your next match. During your next practice, try to allow your strokes and movement become automated. This means you are not focusing on your technique or footwork but rather the patterns that are occurring in the match so you can adjust your tactics as you play. Automation allows your strokes and footwork to be smooth and fast, which is exactly what is needed to be successful on the tennis court.
Practice Off the Court
We can practice self automating our strokes off the court too. Check out this video on the return of serve and how a medicine ball can help you bring the correct footwork into your return of serve without having to focus so much attention on it.