US OPEN 2017 report – pressure everywhere
Pressure is available at all stages. It doesn’t matter if you play national tournament or US OPEN you will have to deal with a lot of stress. The higher the level the more stress you should expect. Is it possible to learn to deal effectively with these challenging conditions?
My trip to New York gave me a lot of new inceptions. Sitting on Arthur Ashe stadium was a great opportunity to not only watch top players in action but also to see what difficulties are waiting at the highest level of performance. Television doesn’t provide the real view of the match so being able to be there on my own made me realize that there are much more than we can see while sitting on sofa.
Tennis is a mental game. Many times we repeat this mantra but we are not fully aware what it really means. I was watching a lot of players during US OPEN 2017 and additionally I was able to see them in different situations what gave me a big advantage over fans who were able to see their behaviors only on the court. I had a chance to meet tennis stars on practice courts, in restaurant as also during matches. All these situations were different but most of them consisted of smaller or larger level of pressure. If you know how to deal with it you have a chance to focus on your game and present your best performance. If you are not you can play one good tournament and then have a real slump.
Experience. When we talk about successful answers from players like Nadal or Federer we always refer to experience. I agree that the more often you face particular situation the more effective answer you can provide but without conscious learning you will never change your ability to successfuly respond to pressure. It is like with knowledge – age doesn’t make you much smarter if you don’t look for education. If you really want to make a difference in your wisdom you have to take particular steps to achieve this task.
So to improve your ability to deal with stressful situations firstly you have to be aware of them. If you know what you can expect then you can prepare yourself to act properly. US OPEN 2017 showed me many aspects of tennis that include pressure. Here they are:
Playing in front of 23 thousands people
Arthur Ashe stadium. The biggest one. A lot of fans cheering for own favorite player. If you play against this player can you imagine pressure you have to deal with? That’s enormous. I was able to see match between Agnieszka Radwanska and CoCo Vandeweghe. Great winners hit by CoCo were followed by a lot of noise and screams. That was impressive. If you can’t deal with it you can get paralyzed. That is why juniors should stop complaining at „not-perfect” conditions during training sessions and tournaments. Someone is talking too loudly and you can’t focus? Better think how you are going to compare this situation to planes going one by one over US OPEN courts. Accept this fact and learn how to focus on yourself. If you get distracted – it is your fault!
Practising with fans
Going to the practice court means hearing screams from kids who are waiting for autographs. Then session where all your moves are seen and recored by tens or even hundreds of fans. And when you leave the court you should stop for a while and sign some shirts and tennis balls. This is exactly how practising looks like for professional tennis players during US OPEN 2017. Another great experience from this trip. Modern juniors don’t like to be observed and many of them are not happy when their opponents can see what they practise. On the top level it is regular so you can’t hide anything. You have to be really confident to train, show your weaknesses to the whole world and still get on the court and play your best game.
Media. Sometimes we love them sometimes we hate them. If you are Maria Sharapova or Roger Federer you have to be aware that there is always someone behind you with camera. It simply means that you have to take careful steps and be ready to take responsibility for your mistakes. On the court and off the court. Even during crucial matches media staff is on the court and record players during changeovers standing not further than 2 meters away. You have to learn how to deal with this „obstacle” and not let it have a negative influence on your game. The same rule applies to your off-court actions. If you behave badly newspapers will write about it tomorrow so controlling your actions and words is especially important if you have a bad day.
Pressure. If you want to get trophies and prize money like Rafael Nadal you have to also take his pressure in the same package. Be aware of different stressful situations, face them and learn how to respond. Only this approach will guarantee that you can get advantage over opponents in this mental game.