It can be irritating to compete against someone who goes to the towel after every point, or is often not ready to receive when you are ready to serve. We asked Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida his advice on coping with that kind of distraction. His response:
When an opponent is trying to disrupt the flow of a match by taking more than the 20 seconds allowed between points it can be very annoying and negatively affect the outcome of the match if you let it.
Obviously the first thing you can do is to seek out help from the officials. However, during a junior tournament the officials are normally so thinly spread that they can not be expected to monitor the pace of every match.
So the real question is how do you adopt a mental framework which will allow you to be successful no matter what is going on on the other side of the net?
When an opponent of mine attempts to use gamesmanship it only makes me more determined to be victorious in the match. I tell myself to play one point at a time and I stay focused on what is working to my advantage on the court. I know if my opponent is resorting to these kinds of tactics that there is a sense of desperation and that I must be getting to him or her in some fashion. I don't let myself get emotional about things that are out of my control on the court. I focus on the things that I can control: my tactics, my mentality, my game, and allow myself to enjoy the challenge that is before me.
I loved to play in front of 15,000 crazy, screaming fans when we played Davis Cup in other countries--I took it as a challenge. They would scream out when I served, they would throw things on the court, and the more they did it, the more I liked it. I was determined and resolved to do everything I could to win my matches and I had over time developed in practice the mentality to do so.
Juniors can start by playing in practice the same way they would in matches. Work on your concentration, notice when your mind drifts off and work to get it back on track immediately. I liked to focus on the ball during my matches. I would not take my eyes off the ball for extended periods of time when it was in play or just on the ground. The ball became the center of my focus and I developed the ability to block out almost everything else except me and the ball, in a sort of a dance on the court. When you are focused on the ball it takes you away from everything else that is not important on the court.
It's important to remember that you're there to play tennis and not get caught up in the soap opera of tennis. So let your opponent try to rattle you; the more you practice staying focused on your side of the court, the more successful you will be.
Do you have a question for Andy Brandi or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010