If you’ve been playing tennis or around sports for a while you’ve probably familiar with the phrase “play in the moment” and if you really understood what that meant then you should be playing a lot better tennis today. If you are not playing better then this post will certainly provide you with enlightening information.
Playing in the moment means that you play your best, without effort, hitting your best shots practically every time. It is attune to playing “in the zone” as we refer to it sometimes, a state we sometimes reach but for very brief moments.
I like to refer to these moments of perfect play as playing “present tennis”. However, a lot of us do not really get what this means or maybe do understand but don’t know exactly how to play in the moment or how to reach this state. A lot of books have been written on the subject, including one of my favorites being THE INNER GAME OF TENNIS, which you can see here. However, I think this blog will benefit you in understanding some key basic steps which will guide you to reach a state of being where you can effectively play “present tennis” to improve your game. Let’s go over the steps:
1. Watch the ball on every point all the way past impact. Yes the key here will be on every point and past impact. Have you watched the pros do this? You already have a sense of the dimensions and angles of the tennis court so when you hit the ball your focus should stay on the ball until after you strike it and only then should you look up to admire your shot. Trust me, your shot will go where you are aiming for, just watch the ball. Here’s a sample of what you should strive for. Watch the maestro Roger Federer at work.
2. Let go of the result of the last point. When you win a point it is fairly easy to move on and focus on the next one. However, losing a point you should have won is tough to put behind you, I know. The key to your success as a player will be how well you can develop the skill to forget about the last point and stay focused on the next one.
3. Trust yourself. You need to be able to trust that the practice you have put in will get you through the match and that you will be able to consistently hit your shots. Of course for this to happen you will need to have put in the time on the practice court. If you practice diligently and are satisfied with your results then this step should come easily with time.
4. Go with the flow. The game of tennis like life has many ebb and flows during a match. You cannot play your best when you are stressed out. You will have great moments and you will also go through some where things are not working out your way. But as you learn to go with the flow and to get centered and trust yourself more, you will begin to experience more of these moments where you are playing some of your best tennis. Stay patient.
Every time you practice, be conscious about these steps and in time this will become automatic. The key is consistent practice.
Now, let me give a couple of additional secret ingredients that will get you playing “present tennis” faster. These are meditation and yoga. Two disciplines which are more similar than you imagine.
Meditation is a powerful practice which will help you calm down quickly, get centered, and stay focused on the present moment. Get into the habit of meditating at least for 10 minutes every day. Remember that if you can’t stay still for 5 minutes then you definitely need to meditate for 10 minutes daily.
Yoga practice incorporates slow, deep rhythmic breathing which relaxes the body and mind enabling you to also get centered, focused and also stay in the present moment. Get into a local gym that offers yoga or if you don’t have the time for that then at least download a basic yoga app on your phone and start this practice tomorrow!
The combination of yoga and meditation will help you reduce and eventually almost eliminate the internal chatter that seems to come up inside us at the worse times during a match. Quiet the mind and watch yourself play some of your best tennis!
Thanks for reading!