The checklist for becoming the next Roger Federer
“You always want to win. That is why you play tennis because you love the sport and try to be the best you can at it.” – Roger Federer
Indeed. Be it the great ‘Roger Federer’ or be it a 10-year-old boy who has just won his first tennis competition, every tennis player in this world is out there to do just one thing…win.
But if this was true, why isn’t every player able to become a champion? Is there a road-map to success that most players are unaware of? You bet.
The foundation of a successful tennis career is laid on 5 pillars. Whether you are a beginner who is preparing for your first tournament or a professional tennis player on the road to Wimbledon, if you do these 5 things correctly, it is almost guaranteed you will win. So, let us figure out what these pillars are:
THE FIRST PILLAR: YOUR TECHNIQUE
Your technique defines how you execute your shots, how much energy you spend while executing your shots, the power you impart to your shots and lastly the control that you have over your shots.
There is no ‘best’ technique in tennis. The playing style of every player is unique and has its own set of strong and weak points. The player who is able to identify and correct these weak points is usually the one who ends up on the winning side.
To improve your playing technique, all you need to do is listen to your coach. If there is anyone who knows your strengths and your weakness better than you, it is your coach. Your coach can not only pinpoint your weak areas but also help you to improve them.
Secondly, start using video analysis to analyze your technique. A video is an excellent way to discover the weaknesses that may be holding you back. Pick an area in which you are struggling and watch games or matches to find trends and patterns you can change.
A basketball team may be vulnerable defensively on the outside, a golfer may hook his iron shots or a pitcher may stride too far on his delivery. Once the weak link is discovered, it can be modified and improved upon.
THE SECOND PILLAR: YOUR FITNESS
To be a better tennis player, you need to be a fitter tennis player. Avoiding injuries should be a top priority. An injury not only reduces your performance as a player but also throws you on the bench for weeks.
Injuries usually happen because of a weakness or imbalance in a muscle or joint in the player’s body. This weakness can be due to overtraining, diet, previous injuries or by birth too. To protect yourself from such injuries, taking part in ‘Injury Management programs’ is very important. These programs are based on an approach called ‘Prehabilitation’, a systematic approach that identifies common sports specific injuries followed by implementation of exercises that minimize injury risk.
The process is really simple and is carried out in two steps:
Step one involves a comprehensive screening of the player by physiotherapists and sports scientists who identify all such weak muscles and joints in the player’s body that not only effect performance but also increase chances of injury.
Step two involves fabrication of an exercise plan to strengthen all the weak links identified during the injury screening.
This is followed by a 12-month recovery monitoring process during which the progress in the body structure of the player is reviewed on a continual basis.
THE THIRD PILLAR: YOUR MIND
“I didn’t hear anything today. I didn’t hear anyone. The only people I could hear was maybe in my box but other than that most of the time I don’t hear anything. I am in a zone.”- Venus Williams
To excel as a player, mental fitness is equally important. Distractions like a screaming crowd of 98,000 or an excruciating knee injury can wreak havoc with your focus. The skill of your opponent may also be intimidating. The numbers on the scoreboard can take the mind off the moment and introduce fears of defeat.
If your brain succumbs to such pressures during the crucial stages of a match, you might end up losing even if you were the better player. According to leading Sports psychologists Dr. John Bartholomew and Dr. Esbelle Jowers, having a pre-performance routine is very important to overcome such mental barriers.
A pre-performance routine can be something as familiar as bouncing the ball three times before a serve or rubbing your face with a towel after every point. Such routines can help you to separate the thinking and planning time from the time when you must act.
To help infielders silence distracting thoughts and shed tension, sports psychologists who work with baseball teams often draw a circle in the dirt and have the infielder do all of his mental prep outside the circle. Once the player is inside the circle, its time to react. Practiced often, stepping into the circle becomes a solid, effective cue.
THE FOURTH PILLAR: YOUR DIET
Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, nutrition is fundamental to your athletic performance. The right diet will optimize your energy levels and help your body recover more effectively.
THE FIFTH PILLAR: OPPORTUNITY
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."- coaching legend Darrell Royal
In sports, looking for the right opportunities is as important as mental and physical fitness. If put into 'Rafael's words, ”Expect Nothing. Fight for everything. "Instead of depending on good luck for presenting you with the right opportunity, you will have to start looking for it yourselves." Small things like entering the right tournament, choosing the correct doubles partner etc. can make a difference between success and failure.
Reading about some successful tennis players can also be a great option to start with. This will not only familiarize you with how they managed to open doors of success but also keep you motivated.
Phew. A long list of things, isn’t it?
Things may get a bit difficult to start with but the important thing is not to give up. You just need to believe in yourself, keep working hard and you shall be the champion the world has never seen.