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Mon, Oct. 14

Column: All tennis players should adopt a no-excuses policy

"The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other person finds an excuse." - Unknown

Wow, isn't that a nice quote to throw out, but don't do it right after you've just lost a close tennis match because your mind is probably still racing with all the reasons you ended up on the short end of the stick.

Tennis happens to be one of those individual sports where what takes place during a competitive singles match falls on your own back and skill level.

The efforts you've put forth in physical and mental training, strokes, strategy, technique, and match toughness is compared to another's on a given day and the chips fall where they might.

What might even make it worse is if you were the player that was "supposed" to win and in most people's mind an upset occurred. You want to save face, protect your pride and avoid embarrassment - knowing that you've just been defeated by what you thought was the lesser player.

Playing tournaments and matches put your skills and ego on the line to succeed or fail (if you think of it in those terms and hopefully you don't).

When we give our all during a match and things aren't going well, it's easy to conjure different thoughts that may be real, but distract and take away from our chances of turning the corner and changing the momentum back to our favor.

This roller-coaster ride of emotions during match play can easily go back and forth throughout each set and most of the time in a close contest the person or team most match tough will win the battle.

The brain has a tendency to get in our way, unless we train it as much as we do our strokes and body.

What really happens when we begin the process of thinking inwardly and then express outwardly to others what may be very real possibilities that may occur before, during and finally after a match has occurred?

Especially when those thoughts are excuses of what we believe our shortcomings might be?

By doing this, we've likely doomed ourselves to a downward spiral of what will take place, even though to ourselves we've given relief to that outcome. Anything better than our prediction is a success.

But building up excuses prior to your match play is a bad habit to get into.

If you truly try your best every point, have worked as hard as you know how for the time you can expend, know what your strengths and weaknesses are and continue trying to reach your best performance to date, winning or losing shouldn't be taken as anything but a personal plus.

There's no doubt that some players have had better opportunities to excel than others, have better physical attributes, coaching, started at a younger age, played in high school and then maybe college.

Their equipment is the best and doubles partners are higher skilled.

Yhey belong to the best club in town, and the sun and wind seem to never effect them.

They never get bad line calls nor bad bounces.

And if you really worry or think this way you'll never have a chance to beat most players who have a positive outlook and accept the fact of a "no-excuse policy."

At the BNP Paribas Open this year, I was watching Lleyton Hewitt, a former winner of this Masters 1000 Tournament and former No. 1 ranked player in the world, play against Yen-Hsun Lu.

I was sitting over by his coach, Tony Roche, and one of Hewitt's comments thrown our way was, "I can't play with this racquet." That seemed to be the beginning of the end.

He lost the match 6-2, 6-3. Would he have lost this match anyway...maybe, but this certainly didn't help his chances.

So remember, hold your head high, stay in the moment, take the time to rid yourself of negative thoughts, anger and alibis and play to the best of your abilities.

And if you happen to lose, praise your opponent(s), let them know how much you enjoyed playing them, and just add to the end of that phrase smiling, "I'll look forward to the next time we play...and see if I can change these results around."

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at or 928-642-6775.

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