Updated: Feb 8
Have you ever wondered why you lose tennis matches very often? And you have no idea how you lost them?
In my experience as a tennis coach and my research on tennis players, I have found there are actually 6 main reasons why players lose their matches. Apart from the opponent’s being far superior to you and you are being unable to do anything to win the game, these 6 reasons are actually things or issues that you can solve, and eventually you’ll win those matches.
Knowing these reasons why you lose tennis matches to your opponents and the necessary actions that can go a long way towards making you a better tennis player. So, I’m going to discuss these 6 reasons and suggest some actions that you can take to overcome them.
Know these 6 reasons why you lose tennis matches to your opponents.
#1 You did not train like playing a match
Reason number one concerns your practice sessions. Whether you are training with one practice partner or training with a club, do you model your practice sessions on a match setting? The most common practice sessions that I’ve seen among recreational players involve hitting baseline to baseline for a long time and then starting to play a set or two. Well, think of the missing elements here. Where is the serve and return practice? Where is the approach shot practice?
These sessions don’t help much to prepare a player for match play. Remember, your opponent is not going to make you comfortable. He is going to move you around and get you out of your comfort zone. Therefore, lack of practice sessions is the foremost reason why you lose tennis matches.
Plan your training sessions with a purpose. Think hard about the different match situations and deliberately practice them. An effective and simple session could be: firstly, practice how to serve and then to return; secondly, practice serve plus hitting the first return shot to get your footwork going; thirdly, practice ground strokes – hitting center, cross court, and down the line; fourthly, practice approach and volley shots. Lastly, play simulated matches.
#2 Lack of proper warm up (physically and mentally)
The next reason why you lose tennis matches is the lack of proper warm up. The warm up that I’m referring to consists of both physical and mental warm up.
Have you gone to a match when you were in a rush, reaching the competition venue just ten minutes early? You settled in, checked your watch, and then headed to the court to warm up with the opponent. The official shouted to you, “Five minutes to warm up!” After hitting a few groundies, volleys, and serves, the five minutes were up, and you started the match. How did you do in that match?
I doubt you performed at your best level, and you probably lost the match.
When you go into a tennis match in this state, your body and mind are not ready. There was no proper warming up, such as a dynamic warm up and mini tennis. Your state of mind was not good because you were rushing. There was no mental rehearsal for the game that you were going to play.
“Mental rehearsal?” You might be wondering what that is. It could be setting goals before the match, so that you have something to anchor you during the game. It could be visualization exercises, to see yourself performing the serves or ground strokes at a high level, etc. These are mental practices to help you get mentally ready, and they can help when the match is not going your way.
Arrive at the competition venue one hour in advance.
To do this, you need to plan ahead. Think of the possible traffic delays, and schedule your traveling time accordingly.
If you are able to book a court to practice on, great. Warm up your body and start your practice. You can practice your ground strokes, volleys, serves, and returns. Play some points to get the intensity going.
If you do not have the luxury of doing all this, find a good spot to do your dynamic warm ups and do skipping to get the rhythm going.
I also want you to ‘warm up’ your mind, by thinking about your goals and your strategies. Your goals could be, “I want to attack 70% of the shots to my opponent’s backhand and attack the net if I see a short ball,” or “I want to focus on getting 60% of my first serves in.”
When you prepare your mind and body in this manner, you are geared up for more victories.
#3 No strong serve
If your service is weak, you’re going to lose your tennis matches. Instead of using your serve as a weapon, your serve is a liability. Remember, if you can’t hold on to your service games, you can’t win the match.
Many recreational tennis players tend to neglect practicing their serves. When it comes to playing matches, they are satisfied with popping the ball over to start the point going. Well, that’s okay if you just want to have fun. But if you seriously want to win tennis matches, you’ve got to work on your serves. Not having a strong serve is the next crucial reason why you lose tennis matches.
Get a basket of balls and practice your serves every session. Deliberately practice your placement: T area, out wide, and middle to jam the returner. Work on the height and spin as well, so that you have a more consistent second serve.
Next, try to create a serving-under-pressure kind of situation. Visualize serving at different scores, 30-0 up or 15-40 down. The key is not to do anything different at these scores. You should keep your emotions in check, whatever the score.
Come on! Earn some cheap points with your serves!
#4 Poor footwork
Poor footwork can also cause you to lose matches. Some players are great ball hitters but they are poor movers. Are you one of those who can hit the ball ferociously, but because of poor footwork, you miss many opportunities to hit winners? Other players with poor footwork tend to stretch for the ball; they fall back when they contact the ball, or are never in a good strike zone. The end result is often gifting the opponent a short ball to attack, and then they have to scramble for the ball again. Now you know that having a poor footwork explains why you lose tennis matches.
First thing to check is whether you have adopted a split step before every shot. This step is to help you change direction quickly so that you can get to the ball efficiently.
Learn the different stances: open stance, neutral stance, and closed stance, and practice them with different types of shots. I love to feed my students different types of balls so that they can practice the different types of footwork.
Don’t forget about the recovery steps. Always go back to the center or near to the center with cross-over steps or side-shuffle steps.
#5 Not staying true to your game
Next: are you staying true to your game? You will never see Rafael Nadal play serve and volley against his opponent or see the great Pete Sampras play a pusher game against his opponents. Why? Because they have their own style of game and they stay true to it. They will always make the opponent play their game. Period.
Most club players, however, tend to change their style to suit the opponent. That’s a very wrong move. You are playing to the opponent’s strength with your weaknesses – a recipe to why you lose tennis matches.
Develop your strength and play to your strength. If you have a fearsome forehand, find ways to set up your weapon. If your game style is to play a pusher game (not my favourite kind of player), stick to it, and frustrate the opponent till he cracks. Write down your strength on a piece of paper, and use this as a tactic in your matches.
#6 Unfit to play long matches
Your level of fitness is crucial to your success. Do you have what it takes to maintain your fitness level in a 3-set or 5-set match? Look at the 5 setters of those grand slam matches. They typically last about 3-4 hours. The players are still able to serve at top speed and rally consistently against their opponents.
How about you? Are you able to last the match consistently from the first set to the last set?
When I was out of shape, there was a vast difference between my performance in the first set and the second set. My movement in the first set was usually fluid, and my shots were crisp and solid. My service speed was good, and my second serves tended to kick up high.
When the fatigue set in, in the second set, I could feel the energy getting lower. My movement slowed, and chasing after the ball became a toil. The knees were getting achy, and I couldn’t load my knees and serve to my fullest potential.
Well, needless to say, the results were usually not in my favor. Now, you understand why you lose tennis matches.
Do something about your fitness level! Whether it is losing some weight or conditioning your body, these will sure help in your tennis. Remember, keep fit to play great tennis, don’t play tennis to keep fit.
My recommendation is to do high-intensity workouts such as Tabata workouts. I have described these in another post, so make sure you check it out.
If you feel that you have no time to do all these, perhaps you may want to relook at your schedule. If you still can’t find the time, how about waking up slightly earlier to exercise? You can do a quick 10-minute workout before your breakfast. Research shows that high achievers make good use of their mornings to do things that are positive for their mind and body. If you want to be a successful tennis player, think about how to better use your mornings.
Identifying the reasons why you are losing all those tennis matches can greatly help you to zoom in and work on those areas. If you find yourself having to tackle a few issues, focus on just one aspect and improve on it; it will bring you a significant change in results. Tennis is a long-term development, and you must enjoy the process of becoming a better player.
Q: What is your number one reason for losing your recent tennis match? Did you do anything about it?
Share your answers in the comment box below. I look forward to seeing your responses.