How strong would your game be if you could only have confidence in your serve?
Serving sets the tone for the point. When you serve, you have total control of how the point starts. Yet so many tennis players are so anxious when they serve.
Think of those times you lost your serve… You start the set with a fault… You can feel your anxiety steadily rise and your muscles become tense… You start thinking, “I have to get this serve in” and are no longer in an optimal mindset. The result is that you double fault. The double fault causes you to question your ability to serve throughout the match. Your confidence is shot and the faults just pile up.
When you feel out of control (perceived inability to serve), your confidence plummets. That is understandable… if you think you have no control over the outcome, anxiety builds up. Too much anxiety is the enemy of confidence. Anxiety takes you out of the present moment, the current serve. Anxiety forces your attention to what might happen: “What if I lose my serve?” “What if I double fault?” “What if I lose the set?”
Key Element in Serving with Confidence
It is critical to regain a sense of control in order to serve with confidence. The only moment you can control is the present. Of course a lot has been written about the importance of “playing in the present.” It is not always easy. Emotion can steer your focus in many different directions. If “playing in the present” was easy, then every tennis player would compete at their highest level consistently.
How do you get into the present moment? Let’s start by thinking of what moves you out of the present moment. Reminding yourself of past mistakes keeps you locked in the past. Fearing potential mistakes or outcomes vaults you into the future. The only way to lock in on the present or immerse yourself in playing THIS point is to change your focus. If you are over-focused on negative thoughts, get out of your head. Divert your attention to something else. Your negative thoughts are not going to disappear but you do not need to pay them all your attention, effort and energy.
Release, Strategy, Routine, Serve (RSRS) Strategy
This strategy is designed to let go of the last point and re-focus on the present point. First after a point has ended, take a deep breath and do something physical (playing with racquet strings, focus on the feel of the ball). Decide and commit to your strategy for THIS serve. Fully engage in your pre-serve routine. Then, serve!
Gaining confidence in your serve and rebound after a fault will dramatically improve your mindset and performance on the court.
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