It’s match day. In only a few hours you’ll be on court, butting heads with your arch nemesis, the person who blasted you in straight sets just a couple of months ago.
But this time, you promise yourself, the outcome will be different. This time, you imagine, YOU will be the one who emerges on top. This time, your imagination tells you, VICTORY and REVENGE will be yours.
And then you imagine that – having won the match, having become the champion of champions, the Federer of Federers, the Nadal of Nadals – you will get a colossal ticker tape parade, a key to your fair city, a day in your glorious honor. Heck, even a reality TV show will be yours. (You tell yourself: “Step aside, Kim Kardashian. I’m … like … the newest and … like … the baddest … like … celebrity in town.”)
Like whoa, champ. Wait a minute. Don’t get ahead of yourself; you’re daydreaming. Your match hasn’t even started yet.
So, let’s calm down. Meantime, we know this much: You’ve practiced sufficiently in the weeks leading to the match. That’s great.
But maybe, just maybe, this go-round you can do some things differently in the HOURS preceding your match. You’ve got to use that time properly to best prepare for battle.
First off, let’s review your typical pre-match ritual:
The last time you played your rival, you awoke only an hour or so before the 10 a.m. match. You raced to the tournament site, leaping from your car and sprinting through the parking lot to the check-in desk. There, you chugged the last bit of your Mountain Dew and you swallowed the rest of your M&M’s. You gave yourself no time to hit practice balls, no time to stretch your muscles. No wonder you lost 6-2, 6-2.
Look, I’m no nutritionist, but how about skipping the Dew and Skittles and, instead, eating an egg, a piece of whole wheat toast and a banana? Also remember to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before the match.
It’s also important that you give yourself enough time to get an on-court warmup – say, 15 to 30 minutes worth. During that time, work on your movement and practice all the shots, including serves, serve returns, overheads and approaches.
Before your mini-workout, it’s always worthwhile to stretch. A light jog around the parking lot or courts is never a bad idea either.
Try also to prepare yourself mentally for the match. How about listening to some of your favorite music to relax or to psych yourself up?
Take time to review strategy. Remind yourself, for example, to stay low, to watch the point of impact, to keep your feet moving. If you’ve played your upcoming opponent before, remember what tactics worked and didn’t work in those previous encounters. If you know little about your combatant-to-be, seek the counsel of others who are more familiar with that player.
Use the five-minute pre-match warmup to gain additional knowledge. Try to gather intelligence on your enemy’s shot selection and patterns, ball spin, court movement, service pattern, etc. You also should be able to tell if one wing (forehand or backhand) is weaker than the other.
But, hey, aside from strategy and tactics and all that stuff, the MOST important pre-match ritual in my humble estimation: Remember to use the facilities.