Staying focused during tennis is tough. Who hasn’t been distracted during a tennis match thinking about work, dinner, or better yet, a critter on the court? Below are 10 suggestions for how to deal with some of these distractions, including what the pros have to say on the issue.
Critters on the Court
Creepy, crawly, cute, and cuckoo are just a few words used to describe some of the crazy critters found on the court. Amused, flustered, and distracted can be the result of such creatures.
Over the years we’ve seen plenty of examples of how critters on the court can be both comical and annoying. As a natural dog-lover myself, I appreciate seeing people walk their pets near the court, and I’m always enamored when the pros practice next to their beloved pooches.
How cute is Chip, Serena Williams’ Yorkshire Terrier, or Rusty and Maggie-May, Andy Murray’s Border Terriers? Don’t even get me started on Sofia Kenin’s adorable Rottweiler puppy, Leo. Yes, I want one!
While pets may be a welcomed addition to the side-lines, animals, particularly the untamed ones, can create an annoying interruption and keep you from staying focused during tennis matches or practice.
During the 2017 Miami Open, while John McEnroe was commentating for Tommy Haas and Jiri Vesely, a rather beastly creature interrupted play. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xRPXHR9nEY
In Rome, 2018, this frolicking feline skipped across the center court, disrupting not one player, but four! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXPvLZ6C48M
And in London, Wimbledon wears the crown for its notorious pigeon problem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xfyCb6ayPs
Bees, bad line calls, and buzzing cell phones can also be a hindrance. Not to mention the weather, minor aches, pains, or spectators.
In fact, Maria Sharapova received a fine when her father, Yuri and hitting partner Michael Joyce waived a bandana at her, reminding Sharapova to eat and stay hydrated during a match.
So how do we dismiss these distractions? Here are the pro’s recommendations for staying focused during tennis matches.
The Pro’s Approach
Although Rafael Nadal reveals his fear of animals in his autobiography titled, Rafa, he also shared one of the ways he stays focused on the court during a recent interview. The 2020 Rowland Garros champion said:
“You work mentally when you go on the court every day. You don’t complain when you play bad, when you have problems, when you have pains. You put on the right attitude, the right face. You are not negative about all the issues that happened, if I am playing bad, if I have physical problems. You go on court every day with the passion to keep practicing. That’s the mental work, no?”
“Champions adjust,” says Billie Jean King in her autobiography titled, Pressure Is A Privilege.
The queen of the court also notes during one the most iconic matches of her life, at the Battle of the Sexes, that she didn’t look out into the crowd or allow herself to be distracted. This was a technique King used throughout her career, whether in practice or during a match.
In the book, Tennis Confidential II, author Paul Fein writes, “When it matters most, tennis champions often show poise, grit, and courage to prevail against their toughest rivals.”
Will versus Skill
Professional players may tout repetition and focus, but every tennis player knows you have to be flexible. Matches are unpredictable, opponents can be ambitious, and there’s only so much we can control.
Sometimes it boils down to determination versus dexterity. You may have all the tennis tools to win a match, but if you don’t have your mental game, you could be plumb out of luck.
Several years ago, I read “The Inner Game of Tennis” by W. Timothy Gallwey. It was a fantastic reminder that the next point is always more important than the last. The book also suggested what you preach is what you practice, in other words, tell yourself you’re going to hit a great forehand, then watch the ball come off your racquet with purpose and power.
Other tips for dismissing distractions include:
- Play one point at a time
- Practice a routine between points, games, and sets
- Focus on the point you are playing, not on the score
- Go back to the basics: eye on the ball and move your feet
When all else fails, smile and enjoy the game!
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