Today was the start of the 2011-12 USTA south Florida “tournament season” and I am signed up for singles and doubles (with Tom McCune). So, how do you get mentally set to play your first tournament match – especially against an unknown opponent? Here are three tips …
1) THE BIG PICTURE – Driving the two hours up to the tournament in Longboat Key, I listened to my favorite “Fearless Tennis” guru, Jeff Greenwald. He said some things which made me mentally step back from the first match “excitement” and look at The Big Picture: I am approaching 70 years old and still playing a very high level of USTA tournament tennis … and feel that I can really cover the court and run “all day.” Nothing wrong with that.
2) THE WARMUP – A local Naples tennis guru, Spike Gonzales advises, “Focus on yourself during the warmup. Do not watch your opponent; but just focus on the ball to keep getting every one back in play; so your opponent will become concerned about your steadiness.”
3) THE START OF THE MATCH – Former Dartmouth tennis coach Chuck Kinyon used to tell his players to get three balls back in play on every early point. Don’t go for the winner too early in the point and in the match.
MY FIRST MATCH was Tuesday afternoon against Joe Csandli, from outside of Orlando. When I checked his USTA tournament record, I found NONE, which gave me cause for some positive thoughts about the outcome.
But, can you say “ringer”? Turns out that he has just retired from being a teaching pro at an Orlando club, and before that was the Director of Tennis for the City of Orlando … and an excellent player, who “hasn’t played a tournament in years.”
I was somewhat able to do what Spike recommended in focusing on my own strokes during the warmup and did keep the early balls in play – and he admitted afterwards that he was nervous and missed several shots.
But he eventually settled in to break me at 4-4 in the first set; and then roll off a total of eight straight games. An excellent player, who will now face the #1 seed tomorrow; while I enter the “back draw” and then play doubles with Tom on Thursday.
More to come.