Big Win. Keep Getting Better.
Overall, April has been a pretty good month because I won my first tournament of the year in Monterrey. Since then, Evan and my results have pretty average. We lost second round in the two following tournaments. It would be awesome to win every single tournament we play. I definitely feel like I work hard enough to win a title each week. However, me winning every single tournament I play just isn’t how tennis or sports work. I prepare as much as possible to give myself the best chance to win. Losing is going to happen sometimes regardless of how much I prepare and that’s okay. Evan and I winning in Monterrey has made our month, and if we can win a tournament once a month, I will far surpass my goal of reaching 75 in the world by the end of the year. I’ll be writing and giving my take a ways on the tournament win in Monterrey and the two tournaments played afterwards. After winning Monterrey, I was reminded that we don’t have to play perfectly to win tournaments. It would be awesome to play perfect throughout a tournament, but it’s rare. There will always be matches where I’m not hitting a certain shot well, or I feel more tired than usual. It’s actually very common that in the process of winning a tournament, there is a match or two prior that should have been lost. For us, that was our second round match against a wildcard team. Winning tournaments are NOT about playing perfectly through the whole time. Winning tournaments are about emotional management, and getting ourselves to play and execute well in tight, pressure packed moments. The ability to have a good mindset durig these moments is different for each player. It’s up to the player individually to figure it out for themselves. Amazing preparation and mastering the skill of a being present minded gives me the best chance of overcoming negative thoughts during competition. For me, great preparation is watching at least one or two matches of my opponents and studying their tendencies; I also do film study on other people to learn from what they do well and from their mistakes; I lift and do plyometric workouts 4 times a week; Lastly, I start every day with 30 minutes of serves. The two tournaments following Monterrey were in San Luis Potosí and León. As I mentioned before, we lost second round in both. We had plenty of chances to win, but we didn’t play well enough in the important movements. We went 1 for 16 break points in San Luis Potosí, and 0 for 7 break points in León. The nice thing is we had plenty of opportunities the past two weeks to win. We put ourselves in winning positions which is great, but we didn’t execute as well in crunch time. Us under-performing in big moments is a combination of being outplayed, and us slightly under executing when it matters most. We can’t necessarily control how well our opponent plays in big moments. If we get outplayed by them during these times, it’s too good. However, Evan and I will need to continue studying ourselves and our mindset during the tight moments to figure out how we can play them at a higher level more consistently. In San Luis Potosí, I felt my belief waiver a little bit once the pressure in the match started to build. I played well during the unimportant moments, but once the important moments appeared, I played with a “what could go wrong” mentality. I could have the right mentality as I approach the point, when I serve, and during the first few shots; however, if I feel my thoughts and express “don’t miss this shot”, I will either execute it poorly and fall behind in the point, or I will miss the shot and lose the point. It’s a constant fight to stay strong mentally and battle doubt. I was confident overall heading into San Luis Potosi. Evan and I were fresh off of winning a tournament together. Unfortunately, that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that I was confident overall. It only takes a split second of doubt at the wrong time to lose a tennis match. I also didn’t serve as well as I wanted to. We went up a break quickly in the first set, and I eventually got broken late to put the match back on serve. I’m a little over 6’3 and I have a good serve with the potential to have a great one. I should rarely be getting broken. If I get broken, it should be off of opponents playing an unbelievable game and hitting 4 return winners. It’s safe to say that I was also disappointed in my serving. I left San Luis Potosí with two goals for the next week in Leon. 1) Train my mind to be more in the present during big moments. It’s common for our minds to want to leap ahead and think about either the future (what happens if I win or lose this point), the past (I didn’t win or lose this point last time) rather than just staying in the present. There isn’t any pressure in the present. The present is simply me hitting a tennis ball. However, there is a lot of pressure if I’m mentally caught up in future or past events. 2) I have to serve better on a more consistent basis. There is no excuses for me not serving well. I’m able to go out and work on my serve anytime. In an effort to serve better, I sat down and thought about all of the times in the past when I have served really well. I thought about my mindset during those times and the one or two keys that I was focusing on. I also asked my friends who have really good serves the same question. I took all of that information, made sense of it and figured out what works best for me. For me, serving all comes down to my toss, and my timing of when I go up to hit the ball. When I’m serving well, I’m usually doing these two things right. When I toss ball, I have to wait for it to finish rising, and there’s a split second where the ball stops rising, stops in the air, and it’s about to be on its way down. This is the moment where I must go up and hit the ball. When I hit the ball at this moment, I find myself getting the most effortless power and pop on my serve. The second part is I have to toss the ball at 1 o clock. (Insert clock face . I have to toss the ball at 1 o clock and slightly in front of the court each time. When impact the ball at one o clock, I’m my most accurate, and I generally hit the spot I want to hit, or I miss my spot by a small margin. But the main idea is I generally hit an accurate serve. If I impact the ball at 12 or 2, my accuracy is much more sporadic. These are very simple concepts, but the timing and placement of the toss is very detailed. Going up at the wrong time results in serves that aren’t powerful, and tossing the ball 12 or 2 is the difference between me hitting my spot or missing the serve. These details must be focused on and practiced every single day. In León, Evan and I had chances again. We got broken once each set, and went 0-7 on break points. Once again, we are in the position to break and win sets, but we didn’t do well enough in the big pressure moments. This match in particular, I felt like we got out played in the tight moments, and that’s okay with me. Our opponents, Sem Verbeek and Dustin Brown played too good that day. I was a lot happier with this loss because I did everything right and played well. It just wasn’t good enough. I served well in this match and didn’t get broken at all. I also hit my shots well on the big points, but we just didn’t win them. I did a great job of being present minded during big moments which helped me execute much better. The other tricky part about sports is that I can have the right mindset and do all of the right things and still lose sometimes. The key is realizing that I did nothing wrong in cases like this and staying confident rather than over analyzing my loss and losing confidence. Next week, Evan and I will play in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico before going to Korea. I look forward to learning more lessons this week and growing as a player and as a person. More importantly, I look forward to sharing them, creating dialogue and growing with you all. I hope some of the lessons I’ve learned about staying in the present and on my serve can help you too. I’ll see you next week.