By Luke Jensen, French Open Doubles Champion
Tennis is awesome, super fans! It seems like we are pulling out a massive, five-setter over the last year. Like any tough match, there have been ups and downs, but the world kept chipping away. It’s nice to be able to even think of beating this virus once and for all. Tennis participation was up 26 percent in 2020 because of natural social distancing, but I hope our follow-through keeps those new players in the game.
Most tennis players know their strengths and weaknesses. Even at the basic level, players figure out what shots stay in and the shots that can’t hit water from a boat. It’s so important in competition to know what shots are your money maker. It also is critical to learn as much as you can about your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. I see so many matches where people play right into their opponent’s strengths. Being aware of the situation, especially under pressure. Keeping a clear mind can win more pressure points than you may think. Players who tell me they are overwhelmingly nervous or are thinking too much while on the court never seem to find true potential. My response is that I need you to think constantly on the court. Make proper adjustments to the ever-changing situations, but make sure you are thinking of the right things. Be the problem-solver you were as a student during a test. Break down the problem and find solutions. This way, you are thinking of the proper methods of finding your full potential.
I am going to share something that is going to come off extremely arrogant, but I promise I don’t mean it that way. I lost critical matches from being over-confident. I never thought I was going to lose. I had put in all the prep work and had sound, thoughtful game plans so I always trusted that my training prepared me to go into the arena with confidence. I air-balled a perfect season in college and two “slam” mixed doubles finals that I was absolutely sure I was going to win. Over-confidence was my greatest weakness on the court. I always knew the odds if I was playing Roger Federer or Roger Rabbit, but my parents trained all of us in the family a strong confident streak that helped us win more than we lost.
Sometimes it’s a good thing to have some butterflies and nerves. It keeps you focused and locked into the battle. As long as those nerves don’t overwhelm your decision-making during the competition, that little nervous edge can help you. Now if you are like me and lose from over-confidence, well, stop high-fiving the fans and hitting “hot dog shots” and go win the match!
My other massive weakness is that I am a total gear geek. I absolutely have to give up buying the latest and greatest gear on the market. Personally, I am a shoe man. The new shoes these days are so cool! I’m a sucker for a solid clay court bottom during the summer season and anything that Federer wears.
Go have fun this summer and always go for the “tweener!”