Improving Confidence With Aggressive Playing
How aggressive are you in your tennis matches?
Do you sit back and hope for your opponent to make mistakes and unforced errors?
The underlying reason for tentativeness is lack of confidence. Confidence and playing style have an interesting relationship. When you are more confident, you go for your shots more. When you play aggressively, you start hitting more winners and your confidence grows.
The truth of the matter is, an aggressive playing style fosters a positive mindset which affects your attitude, body posture, confidence and performance.
Playing to win is at the heart of being a competitive athlete. Playing to win is a growth mindset that pushes you to explore your potential.
Being tentative is the same as playing not to lose, which is the equivalent of mentally giving in and giving up. When you play not to lose, you are creating performance limits and growth ceases.
Michael Mmoh, who climbed as high as the No. 2 junior in the world, knows the danger of playing not to lose.
After winning the USTA boys’ 18s National Championship, Mmoh received a berth in the US Open’s main draw and faced Jeremy Chardy in his opening match.
Mmoh was tentative and defensive, losing to Chardy in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.
What lesson did Mmoh learn?
MMOH: “You can’t play tennis just hoping your opponent is going to miss. You have to have an aggressive mentality to win. Andy Murray didn’t win many Slams because at crunch time he’d revert to his defensive ways. Look at [Novak] Djokovic in the US Open final. He was very defensive in that final against [Stan] Wawrinka — that’s not going to get it done.”
Mmoh not only understands the relationship between confidence and style of play but used the loss as a learning experience and adjusted his game as a result.
Mmoh: “When I’m not confident, I’m not the most aggressive player. I use my athletic ability to retrieve a lot of balls. In today’s pro game, guys are hitting the [heck] out of the ball. Getting a lot of balls back — that can be your Plan B. But to be successful, you want to be in control of the points.”
Mmoh’s increased confidence and aggressive play in the following months helped Mmoh not only record some top ATP finishes, but break into the top 200 in the rankings for the first time in his young career.
A Strategy for Playing Confident Aggressive Tennis
Remember, you are what you repeatedly do… so you need to develop that “play to win” habit consistently in practice.
You will not be able to pull something out of your hat if you are not working on developing that habit.
In practice, judge your practice matches in terms of how aggressively you played on each point rather than the number of matches you won.
Rate yourself from 1 (tentative) to 10 (highly aggressive). Evaluate each practice and record your performances in a notebook or performance log.
Be patient but be committed. You will soon see your confidence grow and your performance flourish.