Tennis has a lot of down time and what to do during that down time can make all the difference! As the level increases in tennis, you can see more intentional and repetitive actions between points.
Nadal gets 3 balls before serving and gives one back to the ball boy/girl (one among many he does!).
Sharapova looks right at the strings before she gets to her serve routine.
Federer bounces the ball with the frame of his racquet before serving.
Almost every pro goes to the towel between points no matter what.
These are many examples of the routines you see pros doing between points. We can all emulate what we see but what about what we do not?
I want to discuss what we do not see with the pros, and that is the self talk they do. I think many of us listen more than we talk to ourselves. Even when players talk to themselves, it seems to be in response to what they are telling themselves. Timothy Galloway calls this a discussion between "self 1" and "self 2."
Self 1: "Move your feet"
Self 2: "I'm trying!"
These discussions take away the opportunity to play at our best. Instead of responding to self one's negative comments, give yourself a pep talk between points. For example, tell yourself something positive after a point ends (regardless of the outcome) such as "keep moving," "way to fight" or "you got this." It keeps the conversations in one direction as you are just absorbing these positive remarks and allows you to focus your attention to giving it your best on the next point. This can be difficult for most since we are naturally negative to our performances. Keep the positive talks going and you will notice that it will be more natural and wonder how you were able to play without them for so long!
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Want to know more about the misconception between throwing and serving?
Check this video out!