Last month we talked about looking for the possibilities instead of the problems. We specifically talked about how great players never get overwhelmed by their situation, instead they manage whatever situation they’re in, and learn to see the patterns when they play. They’re great at neutralizing their opponent’s advantage while maximizing their own advantages. The obvious question then is, why don’t more players play this way and, more specifically, why don’t you play this way?

Here are some do’s and dont’s for becoming a better match player:
1.) Do practice situations in your clinics and practice matches until they become instinctive. In tennis, like everything else we do (e.g. driving a car), the more we practice each situation, the more each situation becomes automatic. We understand where we are, where we want to be and, most importantly, the most efficient way to get there. No need to panic, we’ve been here before.

2.) Don’t think you’re going to win every point and get frustrated when you don’t. Even though you play people who seem like they win every point, it’s simply not true. What the great players do, however, is stay committed to their patterns and plays. They also don’t beat themselves with loose, unforced errors. They stay committed to the principles they’ve learned in practice and make their opponent earn every point they get! They know that when the chips are down, the team with a plan and the consistency to implement that plan will win the big points

3.) Do constantly gather information about your opponent and their tendencies during the match. There will be subtle differences and nuances to each teams game and being aware of what they’re doing can help you to be a step ahead instead of a step behind. Everyone has favorite shots and patterns. They tend to use these most often. Identify them and focus on them. Recently my partner and I were playing against a very good doubles team that just played at National’s. As we played the match we noticed that the player in the ad court always hit his passing shots down the middle, never down the alley. His shots were very good and we were struggling while we figured this out. Once we did, we were better prepared to handle these shots and control the match.

4.) Don’t give too much credit to your opponent. Whenever we teach a clinic, no matter where we are, as we teach players “the plays” and how to set up points, invariably several, if not most, of the students begin to give us hypotheticals of all the amazing things that their opponents are going to do to them. Most of these are things that can’t (and don’t) happen on a regular basis but because players don’t understand that they’re in control of what happens in the match, they fear the worst and create obstacles that don’t exist.

5.)Do stay disciplined and stick to what you’re good at, especially when the pressure is on. Here’s a good rule “ don’t go for a shot in a match that you can’t make consistently in practice.” Continue to work on adding options to your game when you practice ( including practice matches) but don’t try them in a real match until you perfect them and can add them seamlessly to your game. Stick to what you’re good at and don’t look to win with magic shots.

6.)Don’t get discouraged as you go through the process of becoming a great player. No matter how good you get, you’ll always have to deal with ups and downs. The way you handle these fluctuations will determine if you are able to become that player who can play with any partner, be in any situation and compete against all styles while still being successful in match play and thoroughly enjoying every time you’re on the court .