When the player uses imagery – visualization to its fullest potential, this can accelerate his progress and help him immensely in his mental preparation of the match.
One of the most powerful tools of our mind
This is not some special ability that only Olympic champions use. We use it every day when we decide that we will go from point A to point B. When you decide that you want to go from one side of the city to another you visualize where you will go – which street to take, what to avoid and so on.
Tennis players also use visualization extensively but usually not in their best interest and they are not even aware what they are doing. It's when they are thinking about negative consequences of their play.
They are basically visualizing failure and feeling in the present how that will probably feel in the future. This makes them nervous, they are not focused and are expending precious energy.
They need to reverse this process and start visualizing their success and how good they will feel when they achieve it. This will fill them with lots of positive energy and program them for success.
Where can visualization be used in the game of tennis?
It can be used in all four major areas of tennis:
1. Technique – when the player is still learning a new stroke or improving an existing one, he first needs to see the correct execution on the video or in demonstration and then visualize how he performs this stroke perfectly. This will greatly speed up the learning process.
2. Tactics and strategy – when the player is planning his strategy before the match he can visualize how he hits certain combinations of shots. He can visualize good and precise serving, returning and all other areas of the tennis match. When he plays he will react and decide much faster because he will already have preprogrammed decisions and directions.
3. Physical abilities – the same as athletes visualize how they jump higher or longer, so can a tennis player visualize how fast he is, how is he able to withstand fatigue and how strong he is in the third set. Mental images have incredible influence on our bodies when we use them consistently.
4. Mental preparation – the most effective way of visualizing in the mental area is when the player imagines how he plays the finals or in front of many people. It happens many times that the player gets nervous before or at the beginning of an important match because he is not used to pressure around him.
If he visualizes these situations before, he gets used to them in his mind and when they happens in reality he is ready and relaxed.
Another very effective way of using visualization is when the player anticipates situations in the match that could potentially cause him to lose focus or to get upset. He then visualizes these situations and how he handles them. That way he prepares for when they happen in reality and he immediately knows how to respond because of the previous programming in his mind.
How to visualize effectivelySit comfortably in your chair and take a couple of deep breaths to relax first. Then put yourself in your mind on the tennis court and try to see the colors.
Next try to see the shapes of the objects on the court – the net, the chair, the fence…
Then try and hear the sounds that you would normally hear on the court – the sound of hitting the ball, your breathing and other sounds.
Then try and feel your movement and your strokes. Make a forehand topspin in your mind and try to feel how that would really feel. Then try to feel your movement on the court from left to right and so on.
The last and most important component are your emotions. This time try to feel the emotions of how good you would feel if you hit a certain shot, won a match or reached your desired ranking.
When you include your positive emotions: joy, enthusiasm, happiness and satisfaction, then the effect of visualization is much more profound and permanent.
Another very effective and useful use of visualization is immediately after you make an error on the court. As soon as you miss, you turn away and in your mind see how the ball hit the target. See it exactly – how high over the net, where on the court and how fast and with how much spin you played it.
This has double effect – it takes you away of your negative thinking since you are not seeing success and it also trains your body for the next similar situation when you will have to play a similar shot. This way it will be already stored in your mind.
One final, very important use of visualization is explained in the Mental Manual for Tennis Winners. It explains why when we analyze the match and learn what went wrong again make the same mistakes in our next match. It also explains how to use visualization to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
How to practicePractice for one week the following ways of visualization:
1. After you make an error imagine how you actually hit the ball. Write down some of the mistakes and how you imagined them later.
2. Rate yourself from 1-10 how good you are at this – 10 means that you can do it clearly and immediately, 1 means that you can't do it and that you don't see anything (yet)
3. Every night before you fall asleep visualize for 5 minutes one of the elements of the tennis game that you want to improve – technique, tactical play, physical or mental abilities.
There is a lot of chance that after only one week of practice you may see significant results. Be open to this possibility.
Next – Self Confidence