Josh's Fresh Take: September 2018 Edition

Keeping Your Cool

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.
The tennis world recently witnessed Serena Williams’ conflict at the US Open earlier this month with the umpire, Carlos Ramos. Whether or not you think that Serena or Carlos were in the wrong, one can agree that at times they both lost their cool. Carlos lost his cool in a sense that his punishment might have been a bit harsh, especially when you factor in Serena’s exact point that male athletes often get away with much worse behaviour. And Serena lost her cool with her reaction of calling Carlos a “liar” and “thief” and demanding an apology. (If you are reading this and do not know what I am talking about, I suggest that you stop reading and watch this conflict on YouTube). More or less, what I am exuding to is the fact that both individuals had lost their cool at times during the match. What I mean by this statement is that emotions got the better of both individuals. They had lost their focus and became frustrated. Carlos was not as obvious as he was not yelling, but by the punishment that he handed Serena, it was evident that he was shaken by the instigation.
For Serena, it meant that it cost her a game. For Carlos, it damaged his reputation as an umpire in the tennis world. In a match, as soon as you lose your focus your opponent has already won. Not only does it affect you, but it also gives your opponent an opportunity to strike; to notice they are in your head and ultimately give them the extra added confidence to win.
After Serena’s conflict with Carlos, it was clear that she would not be able to come back and win the match. To be fair, she was already down prior to the altercation with the umpire. However, any chance of coming back was completely gone.
This major conflict between a tennis superstar and a reputable tennis umpire in the final of the US Open made me think about the tools an athlete must have in order to stay composed. If we are witnessing this happen to one of the greatest athletes of all time, then the chances are it can probably happen to us as well. So what kind of strategies can one have when they become frustrated in a match? When you are down a point, a game, or they have just doubled faulted, what would you do? This week I got in touch with a couple current and retired UBC Tennis Coaches, Dana Radivojevic and Kenny Yamashita. I wanted to hear from some tennis gurus about what strategies they use to stay cool.
Both Kenny and Dana stressed the importance of having a routine! This is something that I have mentioned before in previous Fresh Takes. This cannot be emphasized enough; you must have a routine! Dana mentioned that she has a routine in order to “re-focus and reset after each point, no matter what the situation (winner or losing)”. For Dana, it is as simple as bouncing a ball on her racket against the ground several times before she serves. This lets her calm down and forget the previous point before moving on to the next. Kenny only lets himself have 3-5 seconds to be frustrated after a point and then he moves on. During this time, he often adjusts his strings to calm down and re-focus before the next point. Kenny also mentioned that it is important to “not rush and to re-establish your rhythm”.
This is something that I can definitely relate to. I often get caught in the moment when playing someone who has a quick serve routine, which makes me feel like I also have to rush. I have to be ready quicker because I do not want to make my opponent wait for me. But you are just as important! Do not start the point until you are ready as well. There is nothing worse than losing a point only to quickly lose the next. Take your time! Do not rush! Re-establish your rhythm.
Another important strategy is to breathe! It might sound like common sense and incredibly obvious, but you would be surprised how often players hold their breath during and after points. Breathing lets you relax your body and mind. Make sure to take nice deep breaths before every point, if you need it. I promise you will feel more refreshed and in turn you will be fresh.
Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.