Coaching

Why Visualization’s So Important In Tennis ?

For me as a player, watching the pros through the screen playing at such an incredible level was my biggest motivation to strive for perfection on all the aspects of my game.

I used to ask a lot of technical questions as a young player, questions like how should the racket path be exactly and what’s the racket face angle at the contact point.

At the time, my coach was telling me i was asking too many questions and i better be hitting the ball.

However, i didn’t stop there and went on downloading and watching close footages of pro players at practice sessions and matches, so i found my answers there.

I started to imitate my favorite players technique and it was too easy seeing that the image of the stroke mechanics from head to toe was already engraved in my memory after countless hours of just watching, and maybe shadowing the strokes with the tv remote.

I learned many styles of play thanks to my imagery.

For example, if i played against a hitter with a heavy topspin serve, i could visualize how Nadal would hit that return to the opponent’s weak shot with heavy topspin from 3 meters behind the baseline position, then i would do it just like i imagined it, if i was going to hit a short cross court backhand, i would think of Nalbandian, for the run around forehand shot, i would do it like Federer does it.

New players then came along, i imitated them as well, i tried all sorts of techniques, analysed what was working and was not, and chose what was best for my game.

So that’s why i give most of the credit for my knowledge today as a coach to the great Sensei i had that goes by the name of « Visualization ».

So Visualization is a phenomenal thought steerer, that’s why Tennis players need to practice it as a major mental tool that is easy to transfer to the on-court game because all it takes is the passion and willingness to do it. Here are the methods to positive visualization that will help you better see your match outcomes.

Visualization for the competition:

1/ How to use Visualization Before a Match :

The most effective way to visualize is when the player imagines how he plays the final or in front of a large crowd. Several times, players get nervous before or at the beginning of an important game because he is not acclimatized to the tension around him.

If they visualize these tough situations before, they would expect them and be ready for them when they occur.

The negative visualization happens when they think about the bad outcomes of their game. They basically visualize defeat then that feeling in the present will more likely feel the same in the future, and that will cost them a self destructive energy and state of thinking unless they decide to overturn that process and program their expectations for victory instead.

On another hand, the coach can take advantage of the visualization quality to set his player right on a tactical level.

In a first step, the coach defines in consultation with his player a precise game plan considering the strengths and weaknesses of his player and his opponent. Then he asks his player to imagine that he is on the court watching his anticipation in his own game. So when the player elaborates his strategy prior to the game, he can visualize how he hits certain combinations of shots. He can visualize his accurate balls and all other parts of his game. Later when it gets real in the middle of the match, he will react and decide much faster because he will already have pre-programmed decisions and schemes.

Visualization is a terrific tool to mentally prepare for different match scenarios. To begin, the player can visualize a dream scenario where everything goes well. His tactical plan works wonders.

The game takes place in ease, everything is connected with ease and fluidity. In this first type of scenario, the player sees himself as the winner. He thus placed himself in a state of confidence to approach the game.

Then, the player imagines a second scenario: the disaster scenario. Everything goes wrong. It has no sensation. His game is completely out of control. The tactical plan he had planned proved totally ineffective. The public and the referees are against him. To top it off, his opponent plays an incredible tennis. Faced with this accumulation of obstacles, the player visualizes himself serene, master of his emotions, combative in the face of adversity and determined to play point by point until the end of the match. In this second scenario, the player can imagine having lost 6-0, 6-0 after fighting to the end. He accepts the idea of ​​defeat.

2/ How to use Visualization During a Match :

Visualization has also an effective use immediately after you commit an error. As soon as you miss, you turn away by seeing in your mind how the ball did not reach the intended target. Look exactly – at what point on the net, where on the court, how fast and with how much spin you have played.

This has a double effect – it takes you away from your negative thinking and it also adapts your body to the next similar situation when you will have to correct the similar shot.

You can use the “viewer” perspective as it allows you to envisage the match with the distance and  lucidity and make you willing to refine your tactical choices. The player can also place himself mentally in his opponent’s place. He “becomes” his opponent and imagines himself playing against himself, which allows him to anticipate the possible tactical choices of his opponent.

You’ll be able to use the same type of mental imagery on your chair at the change over to find tactical solutions.

3/ How to use Visualization After a Match :

One last very important use of the visualization is carried out after a match. The lack of this type of imagery explains why a player remakes the same mistakes in his next match. Thus, you must relive your game in a quiet place and note what happened down on a paper, everything that has worked for you and against you technically, physically, mentally and tactically.

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