Exclusive tips from Alexis Castorri, a sports psychologist who works with Andy Murray. Castorri, whose clients have also included Ivan Lendl, tells The Tennis Space ‘How to play your best tennis’.
Every athlete should have a repeatable ‘routine’ or ‘system’ which they use before competing. The mind and body work together, so devising a system that progressively relaxes and then sharpens the focus in preparation for competing. For each person this is different, the point being develop one that works for you and then STICK to it (e.g.:
dynamic stretches, followed by cardio, followed by deep stretching, followed by visualization of performance, etc.).
Developing awareness of who you are, your personality strengths and the areas needing improvement, is the first step towards identifying goals. I am both a psychologist/therapist as well as a sports psychologist. Therefore my interest is first and foremost the person. I prefer to ‘use’ an innate strength a person already has within them, to assist in attaining their life/sports goals. Your entire life should be a reflection of who you are, what’s important to you, and what you bring to the table that we can tap into to attain success!
Relax the body and remove any tension before the match. “I’ve been in practice over 25 years. Back in the ‘early’ days with my tennis clients, no one was doing any form of stretching outside of a few quick movements with their racquets. For me, it just made sense that to relax the body and remove any tension was important for both mental and emotional preparation, so I recommended yoga, which no one was doing at the time. I still believe in this concept and therefore recommend a good 20-25 minutes of stretching before performing.”
An essential truth to performing well: You won’t play at your best when you are focused on outcomes. “Focus instead on the specific task at hand (e.g.: coming in on the right ball, staying low through impact, etc). When your mind starts tracking/ wanting to know how the match is going to turn out, you have stopped PLAYING THE MATCH. You have stopped competing, you have stopped doing everything you can to perform at your best.”
The pre-match goal is not having a clear mind, but a mind filled with the right thoughts. “I advise having a mind FILLED with the right thoughts, which for each player may be a bit different, but generally should include:
- a strong focus on what they want to accomplish out there today
- some sense of their game plan
- a feeling of commitment to keep the mind on one thing at a time in the most positive way possible
- making sure they use the time between points to motivate/inspire themselves