I’m sure you’ve heard it by now: You have to slow the game down in your mind. But how in the heck do you do that? I find myself all too often frantically and defensively hitting a ball back that came so fast, I could not do anything offensive with it. I might take a swing at something that could have been dinked, and knock it out of the court.
But, I noticed another phenomenon, too. When I’m tired, or not all that interested in the game, or when it will be easy to win, or in a situation where competition isn’t everything, I play much better. This isn’t true if I am yakking up a storm with the other players, or people on the periphery. But, I sometimes find myself in a quiet mood, and it’s almost like I’m an observer on the court. I almost automatically do what I have to do – return a serve, come to the kitchen, lean over to return an angular dink, and so on. And I’m good – compared to the usual, more frantic way I play.
Taking that a bit further, I tried to replicate the situation. I’ll fake yawns before a match, which sets off some of the same physiology as if they were real. I’ll just remember the slow, disinterested, observer mode, and try to wear it, like a T-shirt. And sure enough, the game slows down in my mind. I seem to just arrive where I need to be, without a last-second run or stretch, and return the ball more accurately. I see the holes around the opposing players better. I suppose some would call it a sort of walking meditation. Whatever it is, I find it is easy to get that mood with just a bit of practice. Wear that when you play, and you’ll play much better.