Aussie Open Take Away

February 23, 2012

My trip to the Aussie was awesome (thanks to everyone who emailed me with recommendations on things to do)! Here’s an interesting tidbit from the tournament – something that I think will help you win more matches.

  • Starpocket


    Before and during the match I focus on the ball.  See you at Indian Wells.

  • 57 years of tennis experience

    I assume that I’m confident prior to a match — it’s just not an issue, so not something I spend time thinking about.  I think mostly about execution points.  That is, I set no more than two specific goals having to do with how I execute — either how I execute a certain stroke in a certain situation or how I will strategically deal with a certain situation that I expect to occur.

  • Mariacnaughton

    Yes totally ! I get distracted during my matches, have to remind myself to focus and get back in the game.  I think about my strokes a lot… my forehand can be really problematic so it is hard not to think about it … but will see how I do trying not to think of it at all…. Thanks a lot for all your great tips and instruction.

  • Ken Yadon

    As a HS tennis coach, one of the things we have the guys do before a match, especially if we are driving to another school, is to close their eyes and visualize their best game.  I suppose it could be likened to meditating.  We felt that this would allow them to relax somewhat and to do what many good players might or probably do before they play a match.

    See you somewhere on March 8th.

    Ken Yadon

  • Ginnie Waxdahl

    Enjoyed your comments.  I actually had the opportunity to go to Australia 2 years ago although not during their open and not near there.  I was on the NE coast and got to snorkel over the reefs-which was certainly a highlight.  A few years ago my brother talked someone out of a jacket from someone who was at a tournament and I think one of the signatures on the jacket is Agassi, who is my all-time favorite.  Would love to meet him and Roger and the brothers before I die but I know that won’t happen so I make sure I watch all the tournaments and my entire family knows not to schedule anything during any of the opens!  I have DirecTV to get the tennis channel so I am happy!
    Wanted to let you know someone out here watched your video!!
    Sincerely, Ginnie Waxdahl

  • Indy

    This was a desperately rambling and unfocused presentation.  Thirty seconds worth of nothing in about five minutes flat. 

  • Indy

    This was a desperately rambling and unfocused presentation.  Thirty seconds worth of nothing in about five minutes flat. 

  • Kris

    Before a match I don’t really think about anything. During I usually think about what I did right or wrong in the previous point, or what I need to do to win, especially if I haven’t played them before. And after I think about what I did wrong so I can work on that. I don’t usually lose confidence unless its a tight match and one stroke is keeps failing me.

  • Jim

    I think about serving well and capitalizing on it.

  • jerry

    where do you get your great t shirts?

  • donspiegel

    Before a match, if it’s against someone I have played before, I think about the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and a strategy.  Once play starts, I just focus on the ball and keeping it in play. And hitting it to open space.

  • Lanelle


  • poppster

    I love the rock paper scissor analogy.  So many times, I see player A beat B, B beats C, and then they all ask “how can A get beat by C?”  It’s a funny game.

    In regards to focus, it’s all about trying to maintain unconscious consciousness, aka the zone.

  • Mavmonster

    I have studied the martial arts for 30+ years so I have a good handle on the zen of being in the moment. I love tennis but I’m a solid level 4. However, I find I don’t have the experience to shut down my thoughts and just be in the moment. My game is not instinctive enough to do that. What I try to do lately is limit myself to my key points. Keep my eyes on the ball (too often I come off to see where I want to hit it), Racket back early, and Follow through. This usually keeps me from out thinking myself or being too critical of mistakes.

  • Richard

    I sometimes worry before a match that I won’ t play well and I’ll be disappointed. But recently I’ve Done a better job focusing on strategy and not worrying about outcome. It paid off with a 3 set win in league play last night against a tough opponent.

  • Eka

    Thanks for the video .. I try to not project about my opponents .. I used to look them up, but I am not sure that was the best way to prepare… I want to go in with a clear head.. trusting my game…I do think about breathing cause I tend to hold my breath, move my feet and most importantly keep my eye on the ball.  If things don’t go my way I try to go back to basics .. eye on the ball .. and then continue until my confidence comes back.. Enjoy Indian Wells .. great tournament .. I am going to the Clay Court Championships in Houston for the second year… The Bryan Brothers are usually there and many others … 

  • Goose

    Pre-match I feel like Roger: “I can’t be beat and I have every shot in the book.” True or not it allows me to not focus on the match, but rather relaxes me going into it. In the match: Intensity and full throttle. Trying to relive the glory days where some shots look better in my head than in execution! haha
    It’s about the battle, the process, the thinking, the strategizing and the execution!

  • Sirskip3

    Good information to consider.

  • Jamesls

    Greetings Mr. Will.
    Your comments are great.
    Before a match I played tonight, I decided to serve as “the best server” on the court. It did not matter if I faulted, I dismissed that entirely. The comments from my partners: You serve is impossible tonight!
    And all I thought about was hitting the serve without worrying about what will happen next. I already knew that the ball is supposed to come back so that part did not get in the equation at all. It seemed to free me and just play.
    Thank you.

  • Heiner

    Hi Will,
    thanks for that video. I believe your observations hit the nail on the head.
    Especially with the juniors there is a problem of letting go of technical or tactical issues during or just prior to the match. Have you got good strategies
    for these kids how to let go, as most of them are still learning a lot about technique and tactics which is probably in their heads even when competing?
    Many thanks.

  • Averybj South Africa

    Good Morning Will,  as a Lawn Bowls Coach interested mainly in the psychology side of the “Inner Game”  (and an ex-Tennis Player with 53 years of playing experience at a high level), I find your Posts most interesting and look forward to watching them.  I have learned a lot from your comments and
     use them in my sphere of Coaching.  I particularly liked this latest Post from the Aussie Open – some pertinent comments.  Keep it up.  Regards

  • Hans Stocker

    This is a very good video, discussing a topic I haven’t seen before! Thanks!
    I might see you in Indian Wells, if my application for the press room gets approved. I report for the “Total Tennis” magazine of Sarasota, FL.  Bob Luxembourg is the editor.
    Hans Stocker, Ph.D.      Cell.: (941) 539-3952

  • Hans Stocker

    BTW: I was at the Australian Open four times. I agree with you : great fans, best stadiums, reasonable ticket prices, great city, excellent organization.
    Temperatures can change from 100+ F to 70 F in the same day!

  • Michael Yow

    Thanks for the video Will. I try to not think too much on shot when it comes to knowing where my opponent is going to make the move. I made a lot of mistake making the wrong choices and also wrong technique. 

  • MAK

    during my matches ….particularly the important ones i find that m so scared of choking during the match that i actually end up not caring about it at all :l Is that even normal ??? o_0

  • Jay B.

    I was glad to hear this because I always prepare for my tournament matches trying to get myself in the best mental state as possible.

  • Julie Sibert

    As a doubles player, I find it absolutely critical to feel that my partner has confidence in me (and vice versa).

  • Kang

     This is very helpful. Appreciate your work!

  • Reritchie

    As a club player I ususally think about executing my strokes when I am about to play a match. I do this because the routine I need to follow, such as turning my shoulders, getting my racket back,moving my feet etc does not come automatically, yet. Some day I may have the presents of mind to think about the match on a higher plane but that day has not arrived. Thanks for your tennis lessons. My game has improved because of them.

  • Jeancallow

    Thanks, Will.  Interesting that I just gave my piano students similar advice as they are about to participate in a big festival.  The mental aspect is similar between disciplines.

  • Rick

    Thanks for the tip, Bill. It explains clearly what happened at the Sharapova-Azarenka match.  This is such a Head sport!
    Rick Ferrell

  • Alison

    I’ll be at Indian Wells the first weekend as well.  Can’t wait.
    Before a match, I usually focus on a particular strategy I want to employ.  Sometimes, if I’ve had recent problems with my serve, for example, I’ll prepare by telling myself that I will get more first serves in.  As for during the match itself, I do not usually focus on particular shots, which I guess from your talk is good, but I try to look for weaknesses of my opponents and take advantage of those.  I also try to keep my partner pumped up.

  • Steve

    Heard nothing new here, but this is nowhere near the best instruction on this topic.  Lots of emphasis on new  media for tennis instruction lately, but let’s not forget we still have books.  My favorite book on mental side of tennis is still the classic, Inner Game of Tennis.   I’d be interested to see a large poll result of favorite book on mental game of tennis.  In my opinion Tim Gallwey’s book is still best.  I return to read parts of it over and over and it’s very practical for both tennis practice and during matches.  

  • Scottymeade1

    What do I think about during a match? I “TRY” to think about nothing…IE: I’m trying to think about not thinking. Sometimes it works…sometimes it gets in the way. All I know is that I play my best tennis when I’m not thinking about playing tennis. But getting to that mental stage is where I have a problem sometimes.

  • Jim

    Before a match I try to focus on what parts of my game are strong that I can use, and what parts are weak and how I might improve them.  During the match I try to think about what success either I’m having or my opponent is having, and what I can do to counteract his success.

  • Fineart Photography

    Going into a match I pick a point of emphasis such as toss point; watch ball to racket; split step.  After that live in the now. Forget past point – good or bad- focus on upcoming point.

  • Lv21put

    Great tip! I know I am guilty of thinking about the strokes I am working on during play. I will work on changing that. bs

  • Jeff Rakestraw

    Before every match, I try to remind myself… “HAVE FUN!” …Because TENNIS IS FUN!! (I worry about strokes and strategy AFTER the match, on the practice court and in neighborhood pick-up matches.)

  • Paul

    Nice.  Dennis Ralston coached me and one thing he said is you have to keep reminding your self is to “Move your feet!”.  My strokes are there but if you are not in the right position to hit them you are at a disadvantage on so many levels.  At this level of play it’s also about “Anticipation” so looking for patterns in your opponent’s game is always in my head on court.

  • Tamjb

    Recently had a coach remind me of going back to the basics and it worked for me. I focus on 1 of 3 things..and you can only pick 1 thing to think about at a time. The 3 choices are: 1) Decide where I am going to hit the ball back as soon as it leaves my opponent’s strings. The court is set up in my mind in 4 quadrants and as soon as the ball leaves their strings I pick 1,2,, 3 or 4 and then I hit the ball back to there.  2) Think only about what kind of swing I want to hit, either topspin, driving the ball, or slice. I have to decide once again as soon as the ball leaves my opponent’s strings, or  3) Focus on how loose I am in the terms of numbers 1-5, 1 being completely relaxed and 5 being completely tensed up. As soon as you hit the ball you think the number and if it is continually a higher number then I know I have to think only about relaxing..this is my favorite one.

    If I am only thinking about doing one of those 3 things all the other “chatter” in my head leaves. I quit worrying about my stroke, my footwork, my opponent, and everything else, and just focus on the ball and then it all falls into place naturally.  The first time I tried this is it totally worked and it was against someone who had consistently been winning against me.

  • Tim

    Before a match I try to stay relaxed and make sure I get a good warm up. Once the match starts the adrenaline kicks in. Handling the adrenaline can be a challlenge for me. During the match I would be guilty of thinking about the strokes if I am making errors. But once the next point starts I am pretty good about staying in the moment.
    I will be in Indian Wells on the 9th and 10th so I will keep a look out for you.
    Always appreciate your videos and emails. Thanks!


  • Alejandro Jimenez

    Before I play a match I try not to think about anything. Leave my mind in blank.  Of course I already known what i have to do, depending of my opponent. 
    During the game if everything is working out, I play one point at a time.  But when things are going wrong, I start to over thinking and that affects even more my game, I have to struggle myself into not thinking in order to get control of the macth again.  Sometimes It helps me start making the same movements before every service, or walk around something, etc. This clears my mind and helps me get back my concentration.

  • Mary

    I am a 2yr. rec doubles player; as an older woman who has served others-Off the courts-and now learning to ‘serve’ on the courts—I find myself getting too concerned with the mood  on the court.  If we call for linesmen there is an immediate shift to a negative mood.  I am competitve & want to win but I like to have fun–why I am in it. So Ian, if I could stay present and not worry about the mood I will be fine. Thank you forkind instruction.   

  • Bill Baker2

    Good Insight!!! I try to think about FOOTWORK, since I am a mature player.
    See you at Indian Wells!

  • Gdyna100

    Phisical, Mental, Emotional – practice. Mental Emotional ! What about globa feelings level is it important for player .

  • Bruce Wills

    Thanks will good advice.

  • Will Hamilton

    You’re welcome!

  • Will Hamilton

    Looking forward to it!

  • Will Hamilton

    You’re welcome Mary!

  • Will Hamilton

    We’ll be lurking around the practice courts Tim, so keep an eye out for us.

  • Will Hamilton

    Hey that’s a really cool piece of advice.  What’s the name of the coach that gave it to you?  Might give him or her a shout out in a future video.

  • Will Hamilton

    Good in-match thought process – always keep reassessing the situation.

  • Will Hamilton

    Hey Scotty… Yep, being “in the zone” means you’re nothing thinking too much and the game just sort of comes naturally.  Easier said than done getting there though =)

  • Will Hamilton

    Me too!  We’ll be around the practice courts mostly so if you see us come say hi!

    Thanks for sharing your routine.

  • Will Hamilton

    Yep, that match was all mental.

  • Will Hamilton

    Hey Jean!  I agree.  You coming to the PTR Symposium this year?

  • Will Hamilton

    Glad we’ve been able to help!

  • Will Hamilton

    Thanks!  I enjoy putting this stuff together for you.

  • Will Hamilton

    Ya doubles adds another wrinkle with your partner.  As much about keeping your partner in good spirits as it is about staying positive yourself.

  • Will Hamilton


  • Will Hamilton

    Well fear of choking is very common.  But ending up not caring as a result… No that sounds a bit unique.  But hey if it works… =)

  • Hannibalg23

    I play once or twice a week, so I tend to think a little too much about strokes. but I have to agree with this report you brought from australia. there is this guy I play  with at the park and I really don’t like lossing to him. and I play better against him than other guys because I tend to concentrate more on the game rather than the strokes. thaks for this video, it really helps to set ther right mind set.

  • Lulu

    Thanks for the video about preparartion, for me i am so nervous before a match that i usually start all my matches love 3 by the time my nerves calm down.  do you have any other tricks?  I have been trying to think about my game plan but it doesn’t calm me very much

  • Rfloresrm

    I personally have a problem, i play awesome at training but when i get to the court my strokes get weaker and my confidence disappears, so i would like you to tell me what should i do to have the same confidence i have in the training, in a match.

  • Kevin

    Right now I’d say my number one mistake is thinking about the trickiest place to hit the ball, to the point of messing up my execution.

    I’m about 3 years into a changeover to semi-western after 30+ years of playing eastern. These days, if I just let what’s automatic happen, I take a semi-western swing with an eastern grip or vice-versa. Oh well. Can’t go back now.

  • Greg

    Good bit.  I think about what I how I want to structure the points in the match.

  • Peterzak

    Good insights, as usual, but too long.

  • kelsey

    I like the idea of just being in the moment when you are playing, or getting ready to play a match. 

  • Nathaniel

    I used to think about my forhand cause it wasn’t as good but now I think about my backhand and is it going to go in is it going to go out

  • Nathaniel

    my forhand is really strong it is just i have trouble thinking where to aim my backhand and a lot of the time it goes just a little to far

  • ben

    Confidente is a player’s strong beleif in his abilities and a beleife that he can accomplish any task, whether is beating an opponent, winning a critical point or successfully hitting a particular shot. A player can build confidence trough constistent practice and training,to the point where he knows what shots he has perfected and beleives he can execute those shots in a match whit little or no errors. playes can develop confidece in varies areas of the game, including specific shots, pyisical fitness, movement or tactics. Confidence in one’s tennis means a player has hit enough balls during practice and mastered the stroke well anough that he knows what he can do, he owns the strke and truly beleives he ones it.

  • Altaf

    Generally agree but sometimes when you are changing your style or trying to get rid of a bad habbit, it helps to think about the form you are executing from time to time.  For example, I had a very large back swing on my forehand and i spend about a month and changed it to short back swing.  During a match i had been going back to the large back swing but when i started to consiously think about it and start relaxing and taking short back swings, i started playing much better :-)

  • David

    The Mind!  Your friend or your enemy.  How to control those wild horses.
    First, you need to know how to relax.  Many methods.  Find one that works for you.  One used by Pete Sampras and many others now is the tongue.
    Just before serving, stick it out as loose as possible and breathe out.  Another used by Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish is the blowfish push of air in the cheeks held just before hitting and then releasing.  Another is thinking spaghetti, loose and wiggly, just before serving. Another is looking to the sky and finding a focus point like the top of a tree or building or cloud before serving.  It´s all about letting go, relax, feel the rhythm, get in the mood like when you listen to music you love.  Those wild horses in the mind would really like to be released to the stream to lap at the water and eat some green grass.  Not that you are they but in a sense you are.  Except don´t eat any grass by the river.  Visualize and release.  Let the muscle memory do the work.  Just get in the mood, relax and go for it. Tennis is a dance, hear the music and flow to victory.  There is more to you as a tennis player and person on the court than you have ever realized.  Get in touch.

  • Andrew

    YAY for being Australian! What I think about during a match is just keeping my mind held together and putting alot of spin on the ball. Before a match I don’t think much about anything.

  • Amir

    before a match, i always worries about  my backhand and my opponent playing style, also i will try to relax a bit before serving,then later during the match, if i’m winning, i will try not to complacent and be focus, if losing, i’ll try to find a way to make a comeback :)

    thats it :)

  • Carguill

    before the match. confidence is very importat to me. this is what you can change o fix. the way you play is difficult to change during de game

  • Marat

    Hi Will.
     It may sound strange but i very confident in my game when i am playing with the guy who will win me in 95 %. and it is always the best tennis i play

  • Niallahern68

    Hello Will, Great instruction,confidence is a huge issue in the game and it comes and goes during a match.Controlling the negative emotions that creep in can loose a match very easily. The idea of playing in the moment is correct but sometimes i have forgotten the score because of it.

  • Kate5778b

    Thanks Will – glad you enjoyed your trip to Australia.

    I say ‘hit’ on my opponent’s serve which calms me down, reminds me to breathe on the return and after that, basic counting of the rally which relaxes me and takes the focus off playing my opponent and instead, playing the ball.

  • Greg

    I just prepare to play “within myself” knowing that I can play at this level but that I will play better if I am relaxed and don’t focus on winners, errors, etc.

  • Greg

    I just prepare to play “within myself” knowing that I can play at this level but that I will play better if I am relaxed and don’t focus on winners, errors, etc.

  • Cricket

    Confidence is my biggest problem. My husband is a fighter pilot and he tells me the same thing; play in the moment! Pre match should be a pre-brief of what you will be up against & reflecting on your skills. Once in the battle (match) EXICUTE. So easy but yet so hard.

  • Cricket

    Confidence is my biggest problem. My husband is a fighter pilot and he tells me the same thing; play in the moment! Pre match should be a pre-brief of what you will be up against & reflecting on your skills. Once in the battle (match) EXICUTE. So easy but yet so hard.

  • Anonymous

    I am confident in my fitness and the ability to run down almost every ball, and I can outlast almost any opponent.  I do tend to panic in the midst of points when my quality of shots go down and my opponent is at the net.  I have recently begun listening to a song on my iPod that helps me focus before my matches.  When I feel nervous or unfocused during the match, I “hear” that song in my head, and it helps me to relax and focus.  

    When I am winning, I focus on stretching my lead with solid, powerful groundstrokes, preferably to the baseline corners (usually ad-side because most of my opponents have weaker backhands than forehands), and I will come to the net if I get a short ball and I can hit an approach shot to the corner.  If I am down in a game, or even in a set, my focus changes to “safer” shots and just getting the ball back…make my opponent hit one more ball, one more ball, one more ball until she makes an error.  Because I know I can outlast, I usually wear my opponent down.  My game is definitely transitioning from a what I believe you would label as a “pusher” (many opponents have called me a back board player), to a more aggressive game.  I am making more errors than I used to, but my points are shorter, and I am hitting more winning shots.  I’m winning because of my offense more than my defense now.   It feels more like I’m playing tennis.

  • Chris

    I seem to start a match well, not thinking too much about my serve or groundstrokes. Then with some success, I start thinking about my shots, get a little more tense, footwork gets more tentative, somehow trying to make sure to duplicate my early success. It’s at that point my game often seems to break down.   

    On another note, when I watch some pros hitting the night before on youtube, it seems to help me the next day.

  • John

    During a match, the worst thing I can do is to anticipate a success. Let’s say the score is 3-3 and I lead the game 40-0. If I start thinking 4-3, then for sure I will lose the present game despite my lead. If I think: “Argh, now is the time when things usually go wrong,” then I keep my focus on the point at hand and have a better success. It is strange that negative thinking like that is necessary to stay focused. 

  • John

    During a match, the worst thing I can do is to anticipate a success. Let’s say the score is 3-3 and I lead the game 40-0. If I start thinking 4-3, then for sure I will lose the present game despite my lead. If I think: “Argh, now is the time when things usually go wrong,” then I keep my focus on the point at hand and have a better success. It is strange that negative thinking like that is necessary to stay focused. 

  • Fmplayer

    Nice vid as usual 😉
    In other words, our brain can do only one thing at a time. We are either in the WHAT or in the HOW. We can beat the guy on the opposite side only if we are aware of what he’s doing and can think about what we have to do. It means that you just can’t think about technique or anything else …

  • Henrysito4

    I think all the time in the score, and the wAy to break my oponets Game

  • Henrysito4

    I think all the time in the score, and the wAy to break my oponets Game

  • Altaf

    Good point David.  However, i think its a combination of staying relaxed and focused at the same time.  Often when you get into a relaxed mode, you loose your focus and concentration and on the flip side when trying to focus and concentrate you become more tense.  The idea is to get into a zone, where you relax but also stay focused :-)

  • Anna

    I only play doubles and I am a senior (ie over 60) but hope to play for a long time.  I have written positive affirmations about my game and read them before a match which helps a lot.  It is during a match I drift off to something other than tennis and wished it was over…. I enjoy results with all my projects and do not like the process to get there… I apply the same thought process in a match, hence, it is hard for me to enjoy the moment or focus during a match.

  • Steve Perryman

    Novak and Rafa are probably easier to analyse …. Roger is different ….. at the twilight of his career he seems to play as much because he loves the game and new challenges …. a loss doesn’t diminish him or wain his interest … it just seems to fuel him …. a very unusual pschology. Other players have quit or faded away once the going got tough.

  • Kenni_sherwin

    Always good advice,be focused and confident.I like the shirt.Will u be at the Sony Ericsson?Ill look for you.

  • Jdog1126

     Great – thank you!

  • Brenda Zachel

    id have to say that i always think about not double faulting. before and during match play. when i double fault, my confidence level just keeps shrinking everytime i miss a serve.

  • Nichole

    It depends on my opponent. If I know that they play well then I can be intimidated and basically in my mind the point is already lost. I am aware of this and have to work really hard not to start like this cause a lot of time during the game it can suddenly dawn on me that “hey, she’s not better than me, I can win this”, but often this realization comes a little too late.

  • paul kormann

    a match is won …on the car ride to the courts…strategy is everything !!!at least thats what brad gillbert says…his book is great…winning ugly

  • Betty

    I am doing exactly what you just said not to do during a match, that is I tend to think of my stroke production a lot.  I am trying not to do that but is hard. I do not know though what makes a good game plan.  What should be included in a game plan?


  • Bob

    Although I speak for myself, this may apply to many nonprofessional players, the greatest weakness is conditioning. Most players are not thinking confidence because most times loss of points is tne inablity to get to a ball on time and get in position to hit effectively.  All things being equal, the winning player is more in better shape than the opponent. 
    You might give us a video on conditioning in the future. Thanks.

  • Thiago

    Several times, after missing my first serve, I start to think what gone wrong, and what should I do to improve. Also… if I’m in a critical position, I start thinking things like “If I miss I lose the game, or the set, or the match”. it’s hard not to.

  • Stavroula

    Thanks for giving that kind of info.We all know, that today psychology is the first aim.

  • Mvsysco

    i am always thinking about technique mv

  • PDF

    Before the match I visualize the contact point(s) on groundies, serve and volleys and see myself keeping my eyes and head still while I make contact. Once in the match – before serving I’m reminding myself to keep the grip and wrist loose and “hit up to the ball”. Before returning I’m reminding myself to time the split step.

  • Rossella Cardia

    I find very hard to think of strategy especially when I ‘ m playing for a tournament . Actually in these occasions I’can”t think at al !! ?? It”s such an awful feeling ! All changes when I play with someone I have already played with .

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