Summer usually means good weather and more tennis tournaments! I’ve been competing my fair share lately, and as I get ready for my next tournament, I want to share with you a few of the most important things to focus on when getting ready for a competition. If you do these things, you’ll give yourself the best chance to perform at your highest level and have the most fun when you hit the courts…
The first and seemingly most obvious aspect of preparing for a tournament is practicing beforehand. Make sure to get plenty of high-quality hitting sessions with many different styles of players, because you never know what type of player you’ll face in the tournament. You could face all kinds of opponents that may be awkward to play (lefties, pushers, serve and volleyers, etc.), and you want to know how to handle each and every one of them.
If you vary up your practice partners, you’ll naturally learn to adapt to different styles of play.
Also, there are two very important types of practice to focus on. First, make sure you work on specific strengths and weaknesses of your game. You want to make sure your weapons are firing on all cylinders, and you want to be able to handle it when/if you have to use your weaker shot. If you’ve been struggling with your serve, make sure to get extra serving practice in and give yourself ONE OR TWO SIMPLE IDEAS to focus on that helps you hit that stroke better. Also, if your weapon is your backhand, make sure you get it fine-tuned for competition. Your weapons are what win you tournaments, so make sure they are locked and loaded and ready to go.
Lastly, it’s important to taper your practicing in the days prior to the event. Practice less than usual two days out, then get an easy hit on the day before, and let your body rest until your tournament match. You want to feel as close as 100% mentally and physically as you can on gameday, so you don’t want to kill yourself with difficult training the day before the event. As my coach used to always say, “REST IS A WEAPON”.
On the day of the tournament, your mind should be on the match ahead of you, so the last thing you want to be worrying about is your gear. Make sure it’s ready to go beforehand. Have enough racquets (at least 2-4) in case you break strings during a match, and make sure they are strung at the tension you like. Put a fresh grip on all your racquets if that’s the feel you like, or be sure to have extra ones in case they get too sweaty and dirty.
Shoes are also extremely important, so make sure you have a pair that you know you like and won’t bother you feet, even after spending long hours on the court. Ideally, break-in your shoes before a tournament so that you’re not using a brand new pair, because you want to know that they fit your feet properly. You don’t want brand new shoes but you also don’t want shoes that are too worn down, so make sure they have enough life left to survive the rigors of competition.
Get all the other extra stuff ready, like your water bottle, wristbands, towels, etc. Make yourself a checklist of all the gear you need for a tournament so that when it comes time to compete, you know exactly what you’ll need without having to think twice about it.
Three important elements of the fuel you need to compete at your best: FOOD, HYDRATION and SLEEP.
Start eating and drinking the right things days before the tournament, because that’s the fuel your body will be tapping into on gameday. Make sure you’re getting lots of carbohydrates and good fat for energy, and protein to help your muscles recover.
Start drinking lots of water 1-2 days before you compete. Staying hydrated is very important for your energy and focus during a match, as well as avoiding body cramps and aiding in recovery. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during play, and rejuvenate after with a good electrolyte replacement (like Gatorade) to replenish whatever you lost during your matches.
Get plenty of sleep so that you’ll have good energy and focus for your matches. Not just the night before, but the couple nights leading up to it as well. The more rested you are, the fresher and more focused you’ll feel.
4. Have fun!
It’s easy to get nervous in the days and hours leading up to an event. In fact, it’s completely natural and happens to almost anyone! Remember, all it means is that you care about the tournament, and THAT’S A GOOD THING! Instead of trying to fight your nerves, give yourself two or three simple goals that you want to accomplish during the tournament, but are independent of your results. You could even use the previous things I’ve mentioned as your goals, like being sure you’ve got all your gear ready to go, or a simple idea that helps you on an aspect of your game you want to focus on. This will help you channel your focus and energy on things that will help you perform your best instead of worrying about your nerves and things that may be out of your control.
Tennis is about competing, but more importantly it’s a game, and it’s about HAVING FUN. It’s easy to put too much pressure on yourself to win, especially if you’ve put lots of energy into your preparation. Take solace in the fact that your preparation has gotten you ready, and now it’s time to go out and see what you got! It’s a pleasure and a privilege to play this game, so make sure to remember that when you take the court. In the days and hours prior to competition, start thinking about the things that will help you have fun and be in a positive mindset on the court in the heat of battle.
Use this little checklist to help make you better prepared for your next tennis tournament. Thanks for reading!