We all love hitting a tennis ball, but for many of us it is not just about hitting nice shots: we want to know how to win tennis matches.
You will come across plenty of players who look really stylish on the practice court, but who don’t win many matches.
A lot of the skills you need can be learned simply through competing regularly, but in this article we will help you to speed up the development process by suggesting some practical answers to the question of how to win tennis matches.
How To Win Tennis Matches Mentally
To overcome the mental challenges of a tennis match, there are five key areas you will need to focus on.
1. Positive Thinking
It is crucial during tough matches. Essentially you need to be optimistic, assuming that anything you are doing well will continue to be good, and any struggles you are having are simply a blip, perhaps caused by the conditions. If you really believe this you will give yourself the best chance of playing well.
2. Positive Self-Talk
It is a key part of positive thinking. Make sure that you speak to yourself in as encouraging a way as possible, and practice stopping or replacing negative thoughts when they arise. Some players speak to themselves in a way that they would never put up with from someone else.
3. Use Rituals to Clear Your Mind Between Points
If you can forget the previous rally quickly, you virtually eliminate the risk of a sustained mid-match slump. One approach is to turn away from the court for a few seconds, or towel down, between points, closing your eyes and visualising how you intend to play the next point. Turning away or towelling down can act as a signal to clear your mind.
4. Focus on the Process
Although your ultimate goal is to win, it is not generally helpful to think about this during a match. Instead, focus on your rituals and tactical strategy and try to keep doing the right things just as you have practised. Be aware of what your opponent does, but do not focus on winning or losing, as this tends to prevent you from playing freely.
5. Treat Every Shot on its Merits
It’s great to be super-fit, with sound technique, but if you frequently attempt the wrong shot, or get angry or frustrated on court, it is unlikely that you will win. Tennis is a game in which you must respond to the shots played by your opponent, so you may not always be able to play the way you want to. The key is to find an answer to the challenges set by your opponent (and often the conditions), allowing you to attack at the right moments and minimise errors.
How To Win In Tennis Singles
Singles is the ultimate mental and tactical challenge as you are generally entirely on your own out there. We have talked about how you can improve your mental game, and now we will look at eight tactical strategies which can be used to overcome even the trickiest opponents.
1. Play to Your Strengths
If you have strong shots, you should do everything you can to bring them into play. Do not allow a crafty opponent to slow the game down when you want to dominate with your heavy groundstrokes. Focus on service placement, and take every opportunity to move forward and finish points at the net.
2. Attack Your Opponent’s Weaknesses
If your opponent has a weak backhand, make sure that you pressure that shot. Choose to target the weaker area and look for opportunities to hit winners from their response.
3. Adopt an Aggressive Strategy
This will be particularly useful against a steady opponent. Attack the serve, and hit aggressive groundstrokes to keep the initiative, perhaps also standing further forward in the court for service returns to intimidate the server. Try to stay in charge without going for the lines, as the latter may produce an unacceptable error count.
4. Use Your Consistency
If an opponent has more power than you, you may not be able to dominate them. You can instead decide to outlast them in rallies, hitting safe, well-placed shots with good net clearance. For this strategy to work, you must be fit and pretty determined.
5. Mix It Up
Changing from topspin to slice, and varying the pace of your shots, can break an opponent’s rhythm and cause them to start making errors.
6. Use Angles
Hitting angled shots to pull your opponent wide can open up the court for a winner.
7. Take the Net Position
If you have hit a good serve, or a powerful groundstroke, you may get an opportunity to move to the net and play a volley, reducing the amount of time your opponent has to recover before their next shot. This also allows you to conserve energy during a gruelling contest.
8. Bring Your Opponent In
If an opponent is very solid at the back of the court, but weaker at the net, you can bring them forward by playing a drop shot. Even if they successfully retrieve this, they will be vulnerable to being passed or lobbed.
How To Win A Tennis Match Against A Better Player
This question is often asked, but I think it is perhaps indicative of slightly negative thinking. There will always be opponents who hit the ball better than you, but this does not necessarily make them better tennis players. The most effective tennis players combine technical skills with a strong mental game and good strategy– just being good at the first of these does not make someone a good player.
Essentially, the way to win a tennis match against a BETTER player is to develop superior mental and strategic skills. If you are calmer, more positive and more tactically astute than them, you will probably beat them. Former top player and leading coach Brad Gilbert has written extensively about this.
If you are playing someone much higher ranked than you, remember that this puts far more pressure on them than it does on you. Try to begin playing positively and freely to emphasise to them that they are going to have to play well to win.
In particular, focus on playing the player in front of you and NOT their reputation – everyone has bad days, and they may not play anywhere near as well as you expect.
This article has provided a number of tips regarding how to win tennis matches. To summarise briefly:
– Develop strong mental skills, including positive thinking and self-talk. Focus on the process and use rituals to ensure that you are ready for the next point, treating each shot on its merits.
– Make sure you can choose and execute appropriate tactical strategies. You might focus on your strengths, or your opponent’s weaknesses. You may need to be aggressive, consistent, or just mix it up. Angles may be useful, and it can be helpful if you or your opponent are at the net.
– You can beat higher ranked or apparently ‘better’ players by using clever strategy and solid mental skills. When you approach the match in the right way, they might not be as good as you think.
Mastering the areas discussed here is crucial in learning how to win tennis matches. Let us know how you get on when you use them.