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  • Writer's pictureTracy Rolling

Top 5 Lessons to Learn when Losing

There's a famous saying above the player entrance to Centre Court at Wimbledon. It challenges players to treat triumph and disaster with the same enthusiasm. But it's easier said than done.

If you've ever lost a match and walked away thinking, "What in the world went wrong?", you are not alone.


By design, tennis is a challenging sport. Millions of people play tennis every day, but only half of them win. The rest, meet their opponent at the net, shake hands, and try not to think about what went wrong.


Whether you're a social player enjoying recreational tennis or a competitive tennis player, the game is more mental than you realize.


For doubles players, the pressure can intensify since you don't want to let down your partner. Singles players carry the weight of the world on their own shoulders. They can choose to be their best friend or their absolute worst enemy.


Athletes who compete on a team are acutely aware of their contributions. Generally speaking, each point counts as does every game and set, for the overall score of a match.

Regardless of what level or surface you play on, there is much to learn from losing. Here are my Top 5 lessons and some insight to help you win your next game, set, or match.

Lesson # 1 - Never Judge a Book by its Cover

At first glance, your opponent doesn't look like much of a contender. Maybe they're older, demonstrate a skill deficiency, or clearly have an injury. Without delay, you form an opinion. You determine that your match is either going to be easier than you thought, or harder.


A few points into the match you realize your assumption was wrong. What do you do?


By starters, you should never judge a book by its cover. Don't give your opponent that much credit. Play your game. Be decisive, problem-solve, and execute the shots you've been working on.


Lesson # 2 - Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Just like a ball exchanged during the midst of a point, every match has a rhythm or ebb and flow. When you are up in the match, you have the opportunity to try something aggressive. When you're down, you need to rely on your instincts and play high-percentage shots.


Be patient and mentally coach yourself to play like a backboard until the tide shifts back in your direction. I'm not suggesting you create a hindrance or anything, however, taking a bathroom break after the set might be the opportunity you need to regroup.


Lesson # 3 - Don't Act Impulsively

We all know tennis can be a frustrating sport. Who hasn't felt like Nick Kyrgios and wanted to bust up a tennis racquet every now and again? But acting on an impulse is never a good idea.


Instead, try channeling your emotions with breathing technics or using a stress ball at the changeovers. If you can't find ways to motivate yourself without having outbursts, you'll likely not find much competition either. Being in control of your feelings is an essential part of winning.


This applies whether you are upset about a questionable call or if your partner missed an easy put-away. Since errors account for a big part of the game, be quick to forgive yourself. Remember, there could be as few as four points in a game, and we all know the next point is way more important than the last!


Lesson #4 - Be Preapared


There is nothing more crippling than underestimating preparation. If you want to win, you need to be mentally prepared, physically prepared and have the right tennis equipment.


It's easy to imagine yourself as a winner. But playing a good game is tough. You need to train your mind and body both on and off the court. It's also important to play at your skill level. Being mismatched is no fun for either player.


Another critical component is equipment. Are you using the right racquet? How about your strings? When was the last time you restrung your racquet?


The last thing anyone wants is to be prepared physically but have an equipment malfunction. Having a backup racquet, along with an extra shirt and pair of socks, is a good start.


Lesson #5 - Be Present


Let's face it, your mental game can do far more damage to your match than your physical ability ever will. The pain of losing could be the result of not being present.


Don't let yourself get distracted by something at the office or a task you have to do when you get home. When you're on the court, there's nothing you can do about those things anyway. Focus on the point and hand, and don't think too far ahead in the match.


Above all, believe in yourself and your ability to win. Regardless of the final score, pat yourself on the back and keep working on treating your triumphs or disasters just the same.


This is my shortlist of lessons, what's yours?

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