We often think that there is one opponent in every tennis match and that is the player(s) on the other side of the net. Craig O’Shannessy, one of the best in the world with studying and understanding tennis strategy, claims there is a lot more to it. Let's dive in and see who you really are facing in any tennis match so you can be more prepared in the future.
Opponent #1:The Player
This is the obvious opponent but there's more to it than just saying you have someone on the other side of the net trying to beat you. Knowing what your opponent wants to do and avoid is important for you to implement a winning strategy. You can figure this out during your match but don't wait until then, figure out your opponents strengths and weaknesses during the warm-up. You can figure a lot out when rallying before the match! There will be future blogs relating to this but this is a good start!
Opponent #2: The Mind
Our negative thoughts can be your biggest opponent of the match. Try to stay in the moment and give yourself positive thoughts as you are playing. Be aware of your body language and what you are saying out loud and to yourself. All of this can fuel an opponent to play better knowing you're agitated. Tennis is an imperfect sport. You just need to be a little bit better than your opponent, not play perfect tennis.
Opponent #3: The Weather
The more severe the conditions the more you need to change up your strategy. For example if the wind is strong sideways, use it to your advantage knowing you can or cannot run around your weakness as much on one side versus the other side. If the wind is strong forward and back, hit more spin with the win to your back and flatten it out when hitting through the wind. If the sun is in a particularly tough spot to serve, adjust the toss and be conservative on that side but also be aggressive to our opponents serve when they have to do the same. Throw up a lob once in awhile too! If it's rather hot out, think about using more topspin as the ball will be lively and bounce high. Use slice when it is cold as the ball won't bounce that high.
Opponent #4: The Score
Players react to scores differently. Do you like being in the lead or behind? Your opponent will probably favor one situation over the other just like you. Keep this in mind when you're in a match. Your opponent will most likely get tight when down or in the lead. Take advantage of this and add more pressure with strong shots and court position.
Opponent #5: The Audience
Depending on how you react to people watching your matches, you should prepare accordingly. I like to stay focused on my racquet between points and try to avoid the audience. If you have someone you trust watching, use them for encouragement during your match if needed. Regardless, be ready for some of those fans to be cheering against you. Use that for motivation rather than an excuse in your match.
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