‘Firsts’ can be enormously overwhelming for some tennis players:
- The first time you break into the Top-10 in the rankings
- The first time you advance to the finals of a major tournament
- The first time you find yourself a set up against a highly-ranked opponent
It can feel like you are being swallowed up by the moment.
- “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m winning. She is so much better than me.”
- “I should never have advanced so far in this tournament.”
- “How in the world did I become the top-seed?”
- “I wouldn’t be winning if he was playing at his normal level.”
- “I got lucky!”
In those big moments, some inexperienced athletes just can’t seem to find the confidence necessary to play to their previous level of play, let alone raise the game up to the next level.
The important thing to perform confidently in big moments is to “act like you belong”. It’s not luck that landed you in this big moment; it is you that propelled you to where you are. YOU did the work… YOU put in the effort… YOU refined you technique… YOU spent a tremendous amount of hours developing your tennis game.
YOU are the reason you are where you are today.
Giving yourself credit for your successes is necessary to develop high confidence… It’s the key to performing big in big moments. Viewing your progress as “earned” breeds success.
An inspiring example of confidence in action can be seen in the play of Coco Gauff at Wimbledon in 2019. Gauff was only 15 when she competed at Wimbledon. Not much was expected of Gauff as she entered a tournament comprised of the best tennis players in the world. Though not given much of a chance to even advance past the first round, Gauff went on to defy expectations beating her idol Venus Williams (6-4, 6-4) in the opening round, winning her second round matchup against Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets (6-3, 6-3), then pulling off a dramatic victory in Round 3 against Polona Hercog (3-6, 7-6, 7-5).
Though Gauff was eliminated in Round 4, her confidence was evident from the moment she stepped on the court. Gauff knew “she belonged” among the best in the world and that belief helped her produce some of the most memorable moments in the tournament.
This “I belong” mindset helped Gauff win her first WTA match at the 2019 Miami Open.
GAUFF: “But I think just putting in the work definitely raised my confidence because I knew how hard I worked and I knew shots I could make and what was possible.”
It was the same mindset Gauff carried to Wimbledon that helped her stay calm, play confidently and prevented the moment from getting too big.
GAUFF: “I hope they learned from me that anything is possible if you work hard, just continue to dream big.”
In order to play big, you need to believe big and that will give you the confidence necessary to play your best tennis at that moment.
Tardio Tip: Developing the Confidence Habit
What did I do right today? It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing our mistakes, faults and shortcomings. Though those things do exist, so do your successes, strengths and rebounds from adversity.
To develop the confidence habit, record two things you did well each day. Compile these successes in a notebook. Review your confidence notebook each day. Not only will you develop the habit of finding successes and strengths, your game will also improve dramatically.
Related Article: Playing Big in Big Moments
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