Recently a player asked me how to deal with nervousness in a match. I’ve written articles on the topic, and there are a number of techniques for dealing with this – as I pointed out to the players, different methods work for different players. The player asked me, “What do you do?” And so here are my methods for dealing with nervousness – and it has a 100% success rate. I may not play well in a match, but I haven’t had a problem with nervousness in many decades. Plus when I follow these three simple things, I almost always play my best. Here’s my personal three-part technique.
- I pretend my racket is a magic wand and I’m a magician. When I’m out there, I can do magic and make the ball do what I want it to do. I’ll think of myself as Jan-Ove Waldner, who’s often been called a magician at the table, and so have complete faith I can do the same, whether I’m serving, receiving, or rallying.
- I remember my best matches. Often I’ll think back to perhaps the best match I ever played, when I beat Rey Domingo (2500 player), where the ball seemed to move in slow motion and everything I did worked – looping, smashing, blocking, receive, etc. – and I won easily. There was magic in that match, so all I have to do is recapture that magic and remember what it felt like.
- I think about tactics. Your mind can’t think about two things at the same time, so if I’m focused on tactics, I can’t be nervous. Tactics is how you apply the magic from the two items above.
So, are you a magician? Have you had matches where you played great, the ball seemed to move in slow motion, and there was magic in the air? Are you focused on tactics when you play? This is what works for me.