In the world of tennis, it’s not uncommon to see underdogs or lowly ranked players topple seeded players. A good observation was during the Australian Open 2013 where Bernard Tomic beat a far more successful player and Grand Champion, Roger Federer. In fact, before toppling the champion, Tomic had overpowered other great players, for instance, Novak Djokovic in the Hopman Cup. So, what makes an inferior player win over a better player?
Yes, psychology does have an impact on the player’s performance. But did you know that controlling momentum is a key ingredient? According to experts, many players lose a game even before it’s over, and this is because they let the other player dictate the pace of the game. The following tips will enhance the chances of you winning over your opponent.
1. Play harder after losing a point.
When you start losing, your morale diminishes with every serve especially if you keep dropping points and serves. However, some player seemed to become stronger after losing a point. The most notable are Jimmy Connors, Rafael Nadal, and Layton Hewitt. It’s no wonder that they always seemed to recover from a slump and ended up winning the game. According to experts and coaches, you should aim to play harder after losing as this improves your momentum and also has a psychological effect on your opponent.
2. Have a winning mentality
Usually, when a player is behind by a huge margin let’s say 5-2, 5-1, he/she will naturally slow down. The losing player will focus more on the upcoming set rather than the current one. A good player will note this and will take advantage of your low morale or hasty decisions which include serving fast, losing concentration, or trying to conserve energy for the next set. As the old adage states “it’s never over until the old lady sings.” By playing as hard as you began, you can easily overwhelm the other player and may catch-up or destabilize him/her on the following set thus regaining control.
3. Take it slow when behind
As many tennis players will tell you, there is always the urge to catch-up with a player who is ahead. They will serve faster, run quicker, and prefer to play closer to the net. The desire to gain a point usually overpowers game control. Unfortunately, this normally puts you in a bad position and leaves you exposed both mentally and physically. A good player will slow down the game to frustrate you, and also aim at extending the play period. When trailing your opponent, you need to remain calm and most importantly slow down.
Momentum is what separates winners and losers and unless you know how to use it to your advantage, you’ll end up giving your opponent the advantage. Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal are some of the great tennis players who stand out when it comes to using the momentum to their benefit. They will know when to play fast so as to overwhelm the opponent, slow down the game to regain their composure, and also to gain a psychological advantage. Just like them, you can also be in charge of the game. Simply, follow the above tips on obtaining momentum.
As any player or coach will tell you, one of the greatest fears of any player is advancing age. With it come symptoms like slower reaction, increased susceptibility to injuries, slower speed and weaker mental and physical capabilities. It’s no wonder that younger players always seem to be the top. This situation is no different in tennis as we can clearly observe. However, if the latest standings and performances are anything to by, then the tide seems to be changing. The older players seem to be outperforming the younger players. In fact, most are regaining their form after a poor show in the previous years.
Currently, Roger Federer is the top-ranked player in the ATP standings. The 36-year-old champions have won 20 Grand Slam singles titles and are in very good shape. Before his amazing return, his performance had dipped and many a person couldn’t picture him being in the top 5 leave alone being the best-ranked player. This observation has many people concluding that the return of the aged players is currently happening and defying the old thinking that an aged player stood no chance against the younger and more versatile player.
This scenario also applies to Raphael Nadal (Rafa), who currently trails Rogers Federer. And if he continues his great form and Roger drops a few points, he may surpass the world number one. Rafa, just like Roger, has made a comeback and is doing pretty well. He is also not young but performs like a well-oiled machine. The Grand Slam champion has had some rough years dealing with injuries, which are usually the career ender for most players including tennis players. However, he seems to have regained his earlier form and is giving younger players a run for their money.
Aging players performing well doesn’t just apply to men but to women also. Serena Williams, before giving birth, was at her peak. She topped the rankings and currently holds the record of having won the most Grand Slam titles (23 in total). Like her male counterparts, she isn’t young either, as she is 36 years old and seems to be slowly making a return after a hiatus to give birth. Before her amazing performance, many people believed that she couldn’t really perform as she did in her 20s as age was a hindrance. However, many were left wagging their tongues as she demolished the competition.
Ken Rosewall from Australia went down the history books as the oldest player to win a Grand Slam. At 37 years old, he beat his rival, Malcolm Anderson during the Australian Open finals in 1972. The same year, Andres Gimeno from Spain, aged 34 years, won the French Open while Andre Agassi won the US Open aged 32 years. Other great players who enjoyed success at an advanced age include United States Jimmy Connors (31 years), Pete Sampras also from the US (31 years), and Rod Laver (31 years) Arthur Ashe from the US (31 years) and John Newcombe (30 years). Clearly, we can say that the return of aged tennis players is happening.
It’s common to see tennis players making all kinds of excuses during a game. Some will argue with the umpire about a wrong call, others will accuse the other player or crowd player of inappropriate actions, while some in worst case scenario, some will even feign an injury. All these are usually done to gain a mental advantage over the opponent, which at times works. However, as a player, you need to be wary of a player who does this and also to refrain yourself from doing this.
The truth is that no one goes to the tennis court to come out a loser. Every player wants to win and will do anything just too achieve this. Unfortunately, making excuses isn’t a good way to win. Many players use excuses to mask an underlying problem rather than dealing with poor play or accepting the other player outdid them. They will look for a scapegoat to play to the crowd. Many players have failed to complete a match claiming they are injured; others blame a bad call and find it better not to deliver their best.
According to experts, excuse-making is among the commonest techniques used by tennis players to mask bad performance. They use it to cover up their anger, stress, anxiety, which obviously, influence their bad performance. A good player accepts that there are days that their game will be off, and instead of looking for a scapegoat, they will focus on the underlying cause. Was it that they weren’t psychological prepared? Were they dancing to their opponents who dictated the pace or momentum of the game? Or are they yet to recover from an injury? These are some key questions that need to be addressed instead of making excuses.
Excuse making may seem an easy way out of poor performance but is counterproductive. In fact, players who usually complain lose more games than they win. This is because it is easier to find fault with nothing rather than first accepting the poor show, analyzing the likely problem, and then seeking a solution which may take a long time and effort. Making excuse is symbolic of weak character, moral deficiency, and inability to put oneself to the test. This affects both inexperienced as well as skilled players.
It can be frustrating to deal with a player who is complaining on the court or making bad utterances. Actually, quite a number of players do this just to get to a winning player. This is because a brief altercation may make you lose your focus on the game or may anger you. It’s also a good opportunity for the player to catch a breather and slow down the momentum. The key to keeping ahead of your rival is to maintain a past face for him/her not to recover. But, if there is a break in-between, then this can derail you allowing the other player to catch up.
As a tennis player, you should avoid making excuses because of poor play. Instead, you need to ascertain why you performed that way and how to deal with it. If you are playing against an individual who’s making excuses, you should always stay alert as this may be a gimmick for you to lose your momentum and focus.
“Is the personality and success of a tennis player related in any way?” This question has been asked quite often. In fact, it has always raised debate among analysts, critics, coaches and the normal person. Some people are of the opinion that the character of the player goes a long way in dictating how well he/she plays. On the other hand, some people say that it contributes only a small fraction.
Finding the right answer will help mold the next generation of tennis players in much easier manner. A parent, trainer or coach will know if a beginner is poised to become a great player or not.
According to IBM Watson, a firm that for many decades has been researching player personality and performance, many players do share many character traits. For instance, Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, and Martina Navratilova are the best returners tennis has ever seen. One common trait amongst them is that they are all very thoughtful and introspective. They normally don’t play to the crowd and have a selfless nature. This has also been observed in Petra Kvitova and Jana Novotna, who are also great returners. They maintain their calm even when under pressure and never seem to show emotions.
Having an altruistic nature makes the player not only reliable but also more driven compared to other players. But, this character seems to vary with gender as women players tend to be more agreeable than their male counterparts. A good case in point is between Serena Williams and Andy Murray, who both are great returners but Serena seems to be calmer even when on a losing edge. This can’t be said about Andy, who has been described by some media as being aloof, grumpy, sour or even ill-tempered after a loss.
In a study on elite tennis players, it was observed that players who choose to avoid closeness in relationships were more successful. They are more focused, didn’t easily get distracted by the crowd, and can easily change the pace of the game. Self-sufficiency, discomfort, and autonomy drive a player to perform better and are also more resilient. An extrovert, on the other hand, was easily swayed by emotions or the crowd. Having changed her citizenship, Martina Navratilova faced a home opponent who was enjoying lots of home support. Nevertheless, considering she was more of an introvert, she maintained her game and the negative environment didn’t really affect her much.
Reasons, why introverts seem to perform better, was because the game as described by Andre Agassi is very lonely. You have to make a decision by yourself and you can’t afford to dance to the environment. A player who remains calm makes quick decisions, and can handle pressure is more likely to succeed since he can vary the momentum to suit his/her play. This is critical particularly when playing away from the home support. An individual who feels uncomfortable around other people is more likely to succeed compared to one who loves the crowd. This possibly explains why Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal perform well.
When talking about tennis, one name that comes to the minds of many people is that of André Agassi. In fact, while growing up, many of us simply loved watching Agassi play. He brought a sense of excitement to a game that has somewhat lost its thrill. I remember his explosive speed on the track, the long iconic hair (which apparently was a wig), and his bubbly character. You also can’t forget his prowess when it came to returning serves. The BBC one referred to him as the “Greatest Service Returner” which was actually true. His marriage to Steffi Graf, regarded as the greatest female tennis player can never escape mentioning.
After the release of his autobiography “Open”, I was excited to get insights about this great tennis player and Hall of Famer. In this book, he practically talks about everything tennis right from childhood. The player categorically states how his daddy shaped his path to becoming a great payer and it wasn’t easy. His father who was also his trainer was hard on him and wanted him to hit the ball harder every time. According to the book, he would make about 2,500 hits in a day using a machine invented by his father who was a boxer. Talk about resilience!
The 400-page paperback outlines Agassi childhood in the Las Vegas. Right from childhood, he was introduced to tennis, which was all he seemed to do in his free time. And with his father always pushing him to hit harder and play better, Agassi claims that he had a dislike for the game at the young age. He admits that he knew so much about tennis but little about himself as a person. The constant playing eventually paid fruit later in his life as he won 8 Singles Grand Slam titles, 17 ATP Masters 1000, 33 ATP titles, 1 Summer Olympic Gold, among many others.
Many readers get to find out more about Andre Agassi’s use of crystal meth, a fact that he a publically admitted, rivalry with Pete Sampras, who is one of the greatest tennis players. Consumers, however, say the information isn’t as detailed as they would have loved. Andre also talks about marriage to his first wife Brooke Shields and then later to Steffi Graf, the greatest female tennis player to date, and Reyes, his right-hand man.
Although raked as the seventh most successful tennis player when it comes to career match wins (870 matches) as per the Open Era, Andre says that many people still viewed him as an underachiever. In fact, he says that he started gaining fame and respect after retirement. He continues to mentor young players to date and also participates in many philanthropic activities.
Open is without- a -remarkable story about one of Tennis’s Greats. He added panache to the sport and inspired many young players. The book also talks about real life challenges the player faced including marriage to Brooke Shields, his model ex-wife, and current wife, Steffi Graf, using crystal meth and steroids and being viewed as an underachiever despite his talent. This book is certainly worth a read.
Birth and Early life
Francisco Segura was born on June 20, 1921, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He was the first born of seven children born to Fransisca Cano and Domingo Segura. Francisco spent part of his early childhood in Ecuador and later moved to the US in 1930 where he would later acquire US citizenship and became a dual citizen of the two countries. Segura was popularly known in the sports industry as Pancho was born prematurely and almost died at birth. He had a tough childhood, having suffered malaria, and hernias. It is a miracle how Pancho ended up being a renowned sportsman having suffered different health complications that were life threatening during his childhood.
With a height of 1.68 m tall, and bowed legs from rickets he suffered in childhood, Pancho ended up terrorizing his opponents on the field with his speedy footwork and incredible work rate. By the age of 17, Pancho had participated in many Latin America tennis games, won titles and consequently winning Gardnar Mulloy scholarship from University of Miami. For three consecutive years, he won National Collegiate Singles Championship from 1943 to 1945. During these years, he was ranked third in America. In 1946, Segura won US Clay Courts and the US indoors but made it to the semifinals of several US Championships, at Forest Hills, NY.
It was in 1947 that Pancho turned professional and became an instant crowd darling because of his infectious humor, deadly playing style and irresistible winning smile. For Segura to turn professional was a matter of opportunity meeting preparedness because tennis promoters Jack Harris and Bobby Riggs tried signing Ted Schroeder for the preliminary matches of the Riggs-Kramer tour but failed and instead opted to sign Pails and Francisco for the Australian Amateur championship and their weekly payments at the beginning was $300.
Segura professional career was not all success because his career was overshadowed by Gonzales and Kramer but one main highlight of his career was that he played and defeated many world great tennis players. His game stood out in the annual US Pro Championship where he won three titles in a row from 1950 to 1952 defeating Gonzales two times. By the time Segura was 41 years he had tasted four defeat in the hands of Gonzales and once in the hands of Butch in 1962.
Pancho spent most of his professional career playing Kramer in the 1950s and 1960s before tennis became open in 1968. His double fist forehand was so powerful such that Wimbledon champions Lew Hoad and Kramer named his shot the best single stroke ever produced in the world of tennis. Despite the fact that he had stunted growth and awkward bandy-legged gait due to childhood complications went ahead to be among the greatest sports personalities that graced the tennis game in the fifties and sixties.
In one of Pancho interviews, he said people questioned who he was when he entered the court but that was never going to damp his spirit because he had the passion for the game. It is true his passion drove him to achieve great heights rising from amateur South American tournaments to playing at Wimbledon one of tennis’s greatest stage. In the interviews, Segura would laugh how he played games for a wager tying the five dollar bill on the net due to lack of trust with the opponent.
After being exposed to different games on his first tour, Pancho developed to be a dangerous opponent that count beat anyone in the game. His strengths when playing was second serves when he would beat opponents. Pancho played the last United States Pro at 44 in 1962 and in 1970 he played the last US open single game.
Life after his tennis career and Death
After retiring, Pancho went into coaching and was a regular attendee of the Grand Slam championships. He was a great admirer of Tim Henman and Rodger Federer playing styles. Pancho went ahead to teach Beverly Hills Tennis Club and most of his students were Hollywood stars. Others he coached include Stan Smith, his son Spencer Segura, and Tracy Austin. On November 18, 2017, at the age of 96, sadly, Segura died out of Parkinson’s related complications at his home in Carlsbad California. At the time of his death, Pancho had risen from poverty by winning double championships, six US Pro Singles and become one of the best coaches in tennis having coached Jimmy Connors who won eight major champions.