Confidence and momentum in tennis are close cousins. When you have momentum, you have confidence squared. Yes, momentum is a huge psychological advantage in any sport especially tennis. Players feel a sense of exhilaration when they have momentum on their side – it’s a huge boost to your mental game of tennis.
Although momentum can give your mind game a boost, it must be contained or it can lead to making mental errors on the court. In addition, when you feel like you are losing momentum in the match to an opponent, your mind game can go into the tank. Therefore, you have to beware of the some of the dangers that go along with this powerful confidence booster in tennis.
Momentum in tennis can lead to excitement or a thrill of playing well. This is a good thing for most players. The additional boost of excitement can cause the release of adrenaline in the blood stream. You get a boost of energy and you feel pumped up, juiced, and focused. For experiences tennis players, they interpret this as a very positive feeling. They welcome this feeling when playing well, but they must throttle the additional boost of energy.
You must be careful with the additional shot of adrenaline that comes from momentum. You don’t want it to cause you to play too aggressively or change your shot making. Seasoned tennis pros know when to throttle back if the adrenaline bug bits. Amateurs experience the same physiology when pumped up on momentum. You hit a great backhand to earn yourself a break point in the match. Your extra excitement and adrenaline helps you focus better, but you must account for the influence of adrenaline or you’ll swing to the moon.
The other potential problem with momentum is when you had it and lost it. Confidence can turn into panic during the match when your opponent turns the momentum in his favour. As one player asked, “How do I overcome a loss of momentum during a match? Often I win a number of games only to not win another for the rest of the set.”
Momentum and a big lead has it advantages and disadvantages. Your advantage in tennis is when you fly to a big lead in the first set. Your opponent might feel devastated and unable to compete with you. On the other hand, big leads for some players can cause big crashes with their mental game. We also think this has a lot to do with “comfort zones,” which we have studied extensively, but will hold this topic for another article.
If you get out to a big lead with momentum on your side, you might get complacent or protect your lead. Players who protect their lead – sit on their lead. They begin to play defensively – not wanting to lose points instead of continuing to play offensively and trying to win points. Most likely, if you have a habit of building up a big lead only to lose the set, you protect the lead and give momentum back to your opponent.
Therefore, our inner game of tennis tip for today is to continue to play on offense. Play aggressive tennis. Don’t sit on your big lead. Put the set away as fast as you can without rushing.