Psychology: Playing The Better Player

Staying with a better player at the outset of a match is crucial for several reasons.

Typically, the better player starts in “neutral” and then gradually elevates their game as the match progresses. Let’s delve into why matching the level of a better player early on is important for your devlopment:

1. Confidence Boost: Keeping pace with a stronger opponent from the start can significantly boost your confidence. Believing that you can compete at their level may encourage you to play more aggressively, take calculated risks, and trust in your abilities, which are essential components of improving your game.

2. Pressure Application: If you manage to stay level or even lead in the early stages of the match, it applies psychological pressure on the better player. No matter their skill level, every player feels the pressure when the score is close, which can lead to uncharacteristic errors or conservative play. This pressure can level the playing field, giving you opportunities to capitalize on.

3. Adaptation and Learning: Playing against someone who is better than you forces you to adapt and elevate your game. You learn to anticipate faster serves, return more challenging shots, and handle high-pressure situations. This adaptation process is a rapid learning experience, enhancing your strategic thinking, shot selection, and mental toughness.

4. Exposure to Higher-Level Play: Competing against better players exposes you to higher-quality tennis. You get firsthand experience of superior shot placement, spin variations, and strategic depth. This exposure is invaluable for understanding what it takes to elevate your own game, including the areas you need to work on to compete at higher levels.

5. Motivation to Improve: Even if the match doesn’t go your way, sticking with a better player shows you what you’re capable of. It’s a nudge to keep pushing, keep improving, and maybe next time, turn the tables. It highlights your potential and areas for improvement, pushing you to train harder, focus on specific aspects of your game, and seek out challenging opponents to continue your development.

6. Opportunity to Raise Your Game:  Sometimes the intensity and quality of play from a better opponent can draw out the best in you. This phenomenon, known as “raising your game,” is common in sports. Athletes often perform better against stronger opponents because the challenge demands it.

In a nutshell, keeping up with a stronger player right from the start is your path to a better game. It’s about more than just the score; it’s a chance to grow, learn, and get fired up about reaching new heights in your tennis journey.

So next time you’re up against a tough opponent, remember — it’s an opportunity in disguise.
Get out there and give it your best shot!