Performance = Current Potential – Mental Interference—Ti #34

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Hello and welcome to the 34th issue of Tennis inbox. Have you ever pulled out one of your racquets and while playing with it thought that it felt off compared to the others in your bag? It might be suffering from poor quality control. Even though the frame might say that it should weigh 300 grams on its side, its actual weight could be entirely something else. In other words, its specifications might be nothing like the others you have. Why does this happen? How can we fix it? I had this problem, so I spoke to three racquet technicians who offered their expert opinions.

Click here to read that article →

Onwards to the issue!

Adelaide steals the show

As all eyes focus on the Australian summer of tennis, Adelaide, a small city in South Australia has come into some good fortune: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Serena Williams have all chosen to quarantine there.

Plans for a Melbourne quarantine were thrown into disarray after penthouse owners at Westin Apartments, one of the locations players would have quarantined at, threatened litigation. In other words, property owners were uncomfortable having players share their apartment buildings while the international arrivals were going through the process of quarantine.

Amidst coverage of this issue, and with hotel rooms being scarce in Melbourne, it seems top players elected to quarantine in Adelaide instead.

And this is what residents of South Australia will get out of it: Appearing on Tennis Channel, CEO of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley said, “It would be a benefit if they played an exhibition tournament just before they came to Melbourne, so the premier (Steven Marshall) has agreed to host 50 people in a quarantine bubble and then have those players play an exhibition.”

So in exchange for quarantining in South Australia, top players will put on a local exhibition event. Sounds like a decent trade-off. The event will also feature Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka. Based simply on the quality of players quarantining in a city, Adelaide has come out on top.

Speaking on health protocols, Tiley added:

“The conditions of the quarantine will be the same (as Melbourne), with players only allowed out of their rooms for five hours to practice and train in a bio-secure bubble. They’ll be in a different hotel and a smaller cohort and travel direct to Adelaide. We think this is a great opportunity to actually launch before we go into the season.”

Maria Sakkari’s roll cut short by Aryna Sabalenka’s roll

Greek player Maria Sakkari went on something of a roll at the WTA 500 tournament in Abu Dhabi, defeating Coco Gauff and scoring upsets over Garbine Muguruza and Sofia Kenin to reach the semifinals.

Unfortunately, Sakkari’s roll was cut short by a player who is on an even more impressive roll: Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian had won two tournaments in a row and on Friday took down Veronika Kudermotova 6–2, 6–2 for her 15th consecutive win and third tournament in a row. That’s nuts! Sabalenka said of her performance after defeating Sakkari:

“I think I’m putting my focus on the right space, I’m just focusing on the right things and this helps me to, first of all, not think about all these wins and secondly to keep winning. I think I need to keep focusing on my game, on my movement on the court and try to do everything I can in the moment and I think that works really well with me.”

That seems to be the right way of handling matches. But as she racks up more and more wins and her streak gets longer and longer, I’m sure it’s going to get more difficult for her to stay in the present and not think I’ve won the last 20 matches in a row… I can’t lose this one now.

Change of Ends with Nathan de Veer

Nathan de Veer is a Peak-Performance & Mindset Expert, specialized in helping competitive tennis players worldwide play freely, confidently, enjoy matches, and win more. He played for DePaul University at the #1 position as the captain and competed on the Futures circuit.

What part of their games do promising juniors most neglect to work on?

Their (subconscious) mindset. The best players agree that the mind is the most important factor when it comes to playing well in matches and winning. I’d like to see mindset as a serve. We know it’s the most important shot in the game. Imagine if you’ve never hit a serve because you don’t know how to train it or because it feels uncomfortable. You’d lose a lot of matches because you would be extremely underdeveloped. This is the case with mindset for most competitive players. 

If you could change one thing about the way that tennis is taught today, what would it be? Why?

The formula Performance = Current potential – Mental Interference shows that how well you play, is always a consequence of your mindset. You can find evidence from matches and see that you played better or worse based on how you felt and what you were focused on.

Instead of telling players to work on X or improve Y, I’d help them reduce their mental interference (doubts, pressure, unsatisfaction, overthinking, etc.) and increase the awareness of what they want to improve to accelerate their results.  

What is one piece of advice that you would give to your students which seems counterintuitive or runs against the prevailing norms in tennis?

I’d ask them if they are able to feel how fast their breath or heartbeat is going between the points. This lowers the brainwave state and helps them play better. 

As a gift for you

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This seems like a great opportunity—I hope you take Nathan up on his offer!

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#789 Harrison takes out #22 Garin. Also: mask trouble

No, not Ryan Harrison, but his younger brother. Christian Harrison, who has often flown under Ryan Harrison’s shadow, achieved the biggest win of his career on Saturday by defeating 1st seed at the Delray Beach Open and world #22 Cristian Garin 7–6 (3), 6–2.

The 26-year-old has hovered in and around the top 1,000 for the past few years while dealing with consistent injuries and achieved a career-high ranking of #198 in 2018. While it’s not common that someone ranked in the 700s could defeat someone in the top 30, the result goes to show the depth of professional tennis and just how many players there are who can play at the highest level of our game.

Harrison went on to make the semifinals, eventually losing to Hubert Hurkacz 7–6 (4), 6–4.

Also, according to journalist Ben Rothenberg, “Christian Harrison was fined $3,000 for not doing his on-court interview after his second-round win in Delray Beach (refusing because it required his wearing a mask)….” After being fined, Harrison subsequently wore a mask for the rest of his on-court interviews as he progressed through the tournament. Harrison later clarified his position in the following tweet in response to Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated and Rothenberg:

ATP TV doesn’t broadcast Antalya Open… other places do

ATP TV, the streaming service provided directly by the ATP, did not broadcast the ATP 250 Antalya Open. According to their website, this is because “This tournament… is not being distributed with streams of a satisfactory standard for Tennis TV on its various platforms.” If tennis fans wanted to watch the action over in Turkey—which featured players like Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, David Goffin, and Alex de Minaur (who won the tournament)—they had to stream the tournament through various other websites.

Searching for a way to watch Antalya made me think back to a time where tennis lovers had to hunt on the internet to find a way to stream tournaments around the world. Streaming tennis today is a lot easier thanks to Virtual Private Networks, ESPN+, ATP TV, and various other broadcasters, but some tournaments are still difficult to keep up with. I guess it’s better to focus on the positives and be thankful that we have so much tennis to watch—even though it might be a pain to figure out where we can watch it.

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