Mental Slips Can Be Costly


Mental Slips Can Be Costly

It rained all day on Friday so all matches were postponed for a day. After many years of playing tournaments I have learned how to accept days that don’t fit into the schedule that I want. Showing up at the courts and being told to hang out until a decision is made requires being flexible and adaptable. I like having to strengthen these skills so I see rain delays as practice. Just one more way I can be improving.


These slips are normal. The key is to be aware of them quickly before they lead to the mental swamp. I love it. Having to be aware. Having to reset. These are the sweetest moments in matches. To resist them is to be defeated by them. To accept them is to find the solution. 


After a near perfect focused quarterfinal in singles and semifinal in doubles on Thursday I now needed to prepare for the next level. I woke up a few times at night with thoughts of losing my singles match. In the middle of the night thoughts seem bigger and more real than random thoughts in the day. I feel back asleep imaging my serve and service returns. I still had some doubts when I woke up as I knew my opponent in singles was going to put a lot of balls in play in the hopes of drawing errors. What settled me down was thinking of how well I have prepared and how each day I have played better. I would not let doubt take over and make me think that I couldn’t stay on a good trajectory. I was able to own how tough I am on the grass. My confidence was high that I could continue serving and returning well and this would lead to solid points. 


I really do love this about tennis. That I need to find the way to dispel worry, fear and doubt. In days past I wished I didn’t have these thoughts but now, I like to dance with these beasts. I pull them in close and lead them in the dance, rather than be led by them.


I got a great start going up 2-1. I held serve 4 times in a row with hardly a wiggle. And I broke my opponent twice in the first set for a 6-2 win. I started the second set with another service break and hold. At 4-3 I thought about how smoothly my service games were going and BAM, just like that I was down 0-40 on my serve. The mental slip. Costly as, despite winning a couple of points, I double faulted at 30-40 and what seemed like a routine second set had now turned into a match. Mazo, my worthy opponent then held serve as my intense focus on service returns slipped just a bit. Another mental slip as I had let my intensity drop off by thinking for just a moment how well I was returning. Now down 4-5 and having to serve I was still not where I needed to be and, down 0-30, I was two points from going into a 3rd set. I took a lot of time. I went for a serve that I knew I needed to hit but didn’t really want to. I mentally processed the thought, “winners do the hard thing. They do what they don’t want to do.” Made the serve that I feared missing and got the point. That freed me up and I won three more points in a row to be at 5-5. Needing my earlier in the match service return deep focus (“I will not miss a return”) I broke him at love and cruised through my last game to win the set 7-5 and the match.


On to the singles final tomorrow against a very tough unseeded player with a big serve and formidable volleys.


The short story on the doubles final is that we lost 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 in a 3+ hour match. I will write about it tomorrow after the singles. I don’t have the energy right now as I am in the rest and recovery mode after of 5 1/2 hours on the court today.


Love this game.

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