Preparation is one of the most vital components of developing a winning mindset. Renowned tennis legend Arthur Ashe once stated that "An important key to success is self-confidence, and an important key to self-confidence is preparation." If you want to perform your best on match day, one of the best things you can do is take some time beforehand to adequately prepare for the competition. The key is to prepare in a way that will prime your body for an intense match without stepping over the line into over-training. Not quite sure where to start? No problem! Below are four pre-match practices that will help you safely prepare for the big day.
1. Stretching and Flexibility
It's absolutely necessary for you to enter into your tennis match feeling limber and loose. About a week before your match date, start implementing a daily stretching routine to loosen up all of the major muscles used during the average tennis match, including your back, shoulders, thighs, hamstrings, calves, hips and forearms. Spend about 15 to 20 minutes a day on your stretches, and on the day of the match, try some light jogging or jumping rope in addition to your stretching routine to really get your muscles warmed up.
2. Strength Training
If you normally incorporate strength training or weightlifting into your tennis training routine, it's a good idea to ease up on this aspect of your regimen at least three days before your match. You don't want to run the risk of having sore or not-fully-recovered muscles when you're on the court.
If you're going to perform any strength training exercises at all, keep them very light, which basically means limiting your routine to body weight exercises only (e.g., push-ups, air squats, etc.). This will help you avoid injuries and keep you feeling your best for match day.
Diet plays a very significant role in your performance during a match. About three or four days before match day, eat at least two bananas a day to boost your potassium intake, as potassium is a key nutrient for muscle performance.
On the day of the match, eat a healthy breakfast (e.g., minimal grease), and make sure to fuel up with adequate protein and carbohydrates as well. Some foods to consider along these lines are eggs, oatmeal, pasta, fruit, yogurt, muesli, cottage cheese and salad. You definitely don't want to feel stuffed or heavy while you're out on the court, so make sure to eat at least two hours before your match.
Bring a couple of bananas or power bars with you in case your match runs longer than expected and you need a quick energy boost that won't weigh you down. In addition, staying hydrated is vital to your performance, especially if you're playing in hot temperatures. Be sure to drink plenty of water, and avoid sugar-rich sodas or energy drinks that actually dehydrate you.
4. Tennis Practice
Play every single day of the week preceding your match, but be sure not to overdo it with any marathon sessions. Instead of practicing two or three hours at a time, break up your practice sessions into several smaller segments (e.g., three times per day), hitting around for about 30 to 45 minutes per session. You don't want to wear your body out, but rather give it frequent breaks in order to stay refreshed.
On the day of the match, be sure to arrive early--at least 60 minutes before your match begins--and engage in a light hitting session on the court just to get a feel for the court's surface, as well as to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. You'd be surprised at how many subtle factors can play into your on-court comfort; the best way to avoid any nasty surprises or unnecessary distractions is to get accustomed to your environment early on.
If you notice anything amiss with your equipment--i.e., grip, shoes, strings, etc.--now's the time to make the needed adjustments in order for you to feel comfortable during your match. In addition, it's always a good idea to bring extra equipment in case you need to switch something out.
Many tennis matches are lost before they even begin due to inadequate preparation. Be sure to use the tips listed above to help you properly prepare for your match, so that you can approach the competition with a clear head, healthy body and confident mindset.