Ask any coach the question, how can I prepare myself better for a competition and my guess is that the answer will be close to, "it starts on each and every day you come to practice!".
Even though I fully agree with this answer, the purpose of this article is to bring out some key points that might help you when a competition is just around the corner.
During the match
Routines are important not just because they enable us to increase our capacity of focus on a task that matter which becomes vital in moments of more pressure where our thoughts usually drift towards the scoreboard and external factors we can't control (such as the croud, other player...). If instead you have a strong routine (something tat you do always, not just when you think you need it) then your mind is no longer drifting away from what's important but instead in something you control and is tennis related!
Whatever your routines might be will leave you here some key moment during the match where your focus and atenttion when put into the correct direction will give you a big advantage
1. In the warm-up try to get a "grip of your opponent", finding out his strenghts and weaknesses as well as his/hers overall state of mind in that day
2. During the first games, keep the ball in play more than usual so you let your levels of initial stress reduce as well as testing the qualities and weaknesses you spotted before in the other player
3. Use the routines in between the points during the whole match to keep your head in the game
4. Follow the match plan it was given to you by your coach and focus on making it work
After the match
This is the part where most fail, since there is no pre-established routine, what happens after the match most of the times is determined by the score in the game. If they win, there is nothing to go through, in case the result was not in their favor very few can speak about the match and take the opportunity to learn with it simply because they are not used to do that!
Here are some routines/questions you can implemment after a competition situation
1. Start by calming down both body and mind with a light run followed by a stretching session
2. Make a small evaluation of the match
- What part of the pla worked and failed
- Why did it work (or not)?
- What can you improve?
- If practicing some specific skill in practice did yo manage to use it in competition?
- What are the 2 big lessons you take from this match?
3. Rest and make sure you recover fully to restart your work again in your best shape
DISCIPLINE = ROUTINES
ROUTINES = CONFIDENCE
CONFIDENCE = SUCCESS