My mindset with every match I play is that on any given day any player can beat anyone. This is no surprise to those who play and watch professional tennis as upsets occur within each tournament. When I go into a match where my ranking is higher than my opponents, a few thoughts go through my mind. First of all, I really dislike hearing that a player “should win this match”. As much as I am guilty of saying these words as well, I try my best not to have this mentality.
The word ‘should’ implies that a player deserves to win when in reality they deserve nothing. Tennis doesn’t owe anyone anything and with each new match, comes a new opponent and fresh start beginning at 0-0. Going into a pressure match, I stick to my routines as much as possible. This is another area where I draw confidence from, knowing that my routines have brought me success in the past. Whether that be eating the same breakfast, warming up with the same person, taping my fingers, etc. each little action creates a routine over time and provides a bit of comfort in a stressful situation. In addition to my habits, when I am on court, I really make an effort to block out any unnecessary outside noise.
Those who say “you should win this match” usually don’t know tennis very well or respect the level of the sport. In moments of pressure, I revert back to my preparation and the game plan I established with my coach prior to the match. When I am in a pressure match situation, I try to go back to my strengths. What do I do best? What have I been successful at doing in this match? Knowing and using my strengths to my advantage gives me confidence in moments of pressure throughout a match.
Ultimately, not only in tennis, but in all sports, when two opponents first step out onto the playing field, they are equal. The number next to their name does not give them a head start in a race or free point in a tennis match. People need to respect the sport and the unpredictability of it. After all, isn’t that what makes it so exciting?