Posts Tagged ‘tennis psychology’

The Importance of Tennis Psychology and the Parents’ Role in American Tennis Development

John F Murray – May 10, 2013 – Special Report – With a country the size of the United States and the many resources available, you would think that a return to the glory days of the early 90s or the tennis boom in the late 70s and early 80s would be only natural, but the process has been sadly taking a lot longer than anticipated. The truth is that USA tennis has been outfoxed for years now by players and organizations in much smaller nations.

In 2008, the futility of American tennis coupled with the reduced talent on the women’s side, prompted the United States Tennis Association to reorganize its player development system, launching new programs including regional residential training centers, new national coaches to develop and train prospects, and an increased budget (upward of $100 million over 10 years). The plan was comprehensive and ambitious, and its goals were to generate new great players for the future.  While organizational changes were needed, the truth of the matter is that passionate parents still have a much greater influence on tennis player success than any political initiative.

Looking at the current WTA world ranked players in the top 60, Americans Serena Williams (1) and Venus Williams (21) are still up there, but this run will not last forever. After the Williams sisters we are left with only Sloane Stephens (17), Varvara Lepchenko (27), and Christina McHale (55). This is downright sad for a country of over 300 million and with the rich tennis history we have. By contrast, there are 7 Russian women in the top 60.  On the ATP Tour, the results are even worse. In the top 60, the only Americans are Sam Querrey (18), John Isner (21), and Mardy Fish (42). By contrast, Spain has 7 players in the top 60 and France has 6.

So if the organizations are not doing it as well as they could, what can tennis parents do? Maybe they need to be a bit more passionate. Some have even called it crazy! The sports psychology implications are immense.

The story goes that Richard Williams, upon learning of the opportunity that women’s tennis offered, just decided to make his next two kids into tennis pros. He hid his wife’s birth control pills when she did not want children, taught himself the game, and taught his kids on very rough courts in the hood before sending them to a tennis academy to finish the product.  His daughters succeeded beyond all possible expectations. And while they just continued to win, Richard just continued to show the eccentric behavior that led him to believe in his daughter’s chances in the first place.

Other stories are even more astounding. Tennis star Suzanne Lenglen was the product of a nutty father who withheld jam from her bread if she practiced badly. Lenglen won 31 Grand Slam titles. Jelena Dokic’s father and coach, Damir, admitted hitting Jelena (“for her sake”) and was eventually ejected from three major tournaments. Since Jelena stopped talking with her father, he has threatened to kidnap her and drop a nuclear bomb on Australia, where his daughter now lives. Maria Sharapova’s father, Yuri, is currently so hated for his coaching during matches and aggressive behavior that Anastasia Myskina refused to play in the Federation Cup if her countrywoman was named to the Russian team.

The stories go on and on. And while I would never advocate insane behavior in order to produce a champion, there is often a lot passion in that insanity, and that raw passion and desire needs to be fostered more in children at a young age. In other words, remove the abuse, but keep some of that raw passion and excitement for the game, and you will become a better and more influential parent in your kid’s lives!

Tennis, and all sports really, are sometimes not unlike combat. The late David Foster Wallace wrote that tennis “is to artillery and airstrikes what football is to infantry and attrition.”  Great players learn how to remain objective and reduce their matches and their opponents to targets that must be eliminated. It is that singular focus and the intensity that accompanies it that I believe helps make these players great.

Arthur Ashe once stated that if he didn’t play tennis, he’d probably have to see a psychiatrist. After all, you have to be somewhat over the top to submit to the nomadic lifestyle and brutal realities of professional tennis. This is the type of lifestyle that presents numerous challenges from a tennis psychology perspective. “If you want to win the French Open, which is like desert warfare, you better darn well have a coach like Jim Pierce who exposes you to some of the most intense training, but I always state that it cannot be abusive in a way that he was known to be abusive. No hitting, no screaming, no slapping. For every Wimbledon champion that is punched, there are probably 1000 players who did not make it because they were abused!

The intensity and uniqueness of passionate parents carries with it a sort of genius that I believe is indeed helpful in getting players to the top. Examples include Charles Lenglen’s decision to eschew the soft playing style of women in his time in favor of training Suzanne against men, and Gloria Connors’ insistence on teaching Jimmy a two-fisted backhand in an era of one-handers. In fact, my client for many years, Vince Spadea, who made it to the top 18, was trained by a father who decided that there were no two-handed backhands on the pro tour. He decided to create one in his son after watching Chris Evert play in the 1970s, and Vince’s backhand was one of the best on the tour for years.

In addition to smart and passionate parents, the role of the mental coach or sports psychologist is crucial. By helping the parents stay sane while they develop their kids’ talents, and by helping the players themselves develop their confidence, focus and energy control, the machine becomes a controlled passion rather than a passion ran amuck with abuse. Add in solid technical coaching and a great fitness program and you have the recipe for success.

If American tennis is ever going to return to the glory days of past, and it should with the immense resources we possess, there needs to be a return to passion on the part of the parents infused with the latest tennis psychology training, coaching, and fitness available. The United States Tennis Association can only do so much. Like many areas of human development, the lessons learned in the home are the most powerful and the most lasting. School cannot even compete with what is learned at home.

Ditch the abuse, retain the passion, and invest in sports psychology to the hilt, and in 10 years this country should have 10 players in the top 40 on both the men’s and women’s tours. I hope you enjoyed this tour of the world of tennis psychology.

Evert Tennis Academy Partners with Dr. John F Murray!

Press Release from Evert Tennis Academy - Evert Tennis Academy Partners with Dr. John F Murray! – December 29th, 2012 - Boca Raton, FL – Evert Tennis Academy has joined forces with Dr. John F. Murray, world renowned sport psychologist from Palm Beach, Florida, to enhance the Mental Toughness component of their high performance program.

Dr. Murray has worked with a wide variety of Olympic, professional, amateur, junior athletes, as well as business executives and corporate groups, to enhance personal performance and well-being.  Dr. Murray earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Loyola University New Orleans, after which he coached tennis worldwide throughout much of the 1980s with USPTA and PTR certification.  He returned to graduate school in the United States in 1991 and obtained two Master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, specializing in both clinical and sport psychology.

Murray has published several books, including The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History and Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game, in addition he has written hundreds of articles and contributed to thousands of stories in the popular media including Tennis Magazine, Tennis Week, and Florida Tennis. His work has been featured in ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated.

“Chrissie and I are both very excited about the partnership and believe it will benefit the development of ETA students as well as enhance our full-time program,” said John Evert.

For more information about Dr. John F. Murray, please visit his website at http://www.JohnFMurray.com

 

 

 

No. 2 Odesnik Wins Over Lexington Fans by Topping No. 1 Ward

Sports psychology and tennis news from the world of sports psychologist John F Murray at JohnFMurray.com:

Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships – July 24, 2011 – Jim Durham, Lexington Challenger Media Director, Lexington, KY – Second-seeded Wayne Odesnik showed many flashes Sunday of why he was ranked No. 77 in the world two years ago, clamping down on top-seeded James Ward 7-5, 6-4 for the 17th annual Lexington Challenger men’s title.

Odesnik was the man on a mission – trying to get back under that 200-ranking mark (he’s No. 206 currently) and then take aim at the sub-100 territory again. “I hope I’m on the way back…I’m trying. Starting with Futures (this year) and no ranking – from nothing to 160 is an exceptional run for me,” said Odesnik, referring to his expected new ranking Monday.

Ward had two break points at 4-4 in the first set, and three more (love-40) at 5-5, but couldn’t cash in. But, when Odesnik had Ward on three break points (love-40) at 5-6, he seized set point with a sharply flicked, high over-the-shoulder backhand.

“I was more solid on the big points…(in fact) in the big moments, I served well all week,” Odesnik said. A disappointed Ward, who had beaten Odesnik earlier this year, allowed, “This was still a positive week for me…a good first week in the States.”

Indeed, after looking like a man with a plane to catch while spotting Odesnik a 5-0 lead in the second set, Ward rediscovered his pride and ran off four straight games. But, the eventual winner again claimed a couple of those “big points” to close out this USTA Pro Circuit event.

Just as big for him, he said this week, was winning back the respect of tennis fans and fellow players that he lost in 2010 when he was charged with possession of HGH when entering Australia and then banned briefly from the tour. BIG for him has been the support of “my team” – including coaches Guillermo Canas, a former Davis Cupper for Argentina, and Juan Pablo Sangali (Canas Tennis Academy in Key Biscayne, FL) and sports psychologist John Murray.

Can he return to the Top 100 and climb back into the 70s or higher? “I’m not focusing on ranking…but on enjoying tennis.”
Ward (at No. 202) also appears to be a man who won’t be kept “down on the farm.” The British Davis Cupper said he’s striving for that next level, “working on things…because sometimes you have to take a step backward to go forward.”
And, yet Ward would not admit to any real holes in his game. “If there was one thing I was bad at,” he said, “I’d think Wawrinka (currently No. 16 in the world) and Querrey (now no. 50) would have picked up on it.”

Where to NEXT? Odesnik is headed for the qualies of the ATP in Washington, D.C. And, he and Ward both will play the Binghamton (NY) Challenger.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the world of tennis and sports psychology.

You can be mentally as tough as Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, and Roger Federer

LA Tennis Examiner – July 8, 2011 – Rich Neher – Reviewing “Smart Tennis – How to play and win the mental game” by John F. Murray, Ph.D., 1999, 237 p.

Ever since I heard legendary tennis teacher and researcher Vic Braden (jokingly, I assume) say, “Tennis is 100% mental”, I became interested in tennis books written by experts in the mental aspects of the game. My reviews of books in that genre have allowed me great insights in the mysterious and often masochistic ways our own mind is trying to sabotage our tennis game.

The Inner Game of Tennis, written 1974 by Timothy Gallwey, ended up #5 on my Top 10 all time favorite list of tennis books and I have since realized that numerous serious coaching professionals are followers of many of Gallwey’s teachings. Dr. Allen Fox’s book Tennis: Winning the Mental Match (Overcome your emotions, fears and nerves and build confidence for success in life and on the courts) specifies 3 big problems in tennis: Anger, tanking, and choking. He discusses those problems and suggests ways to overcome them, in addition to a bunch of real helpful tips for winning the mental match.

More recently I came across a booklet written in 1999 by John F. Murray, Ph.D. that caught my attention because Vic Braden is quoted on the back cover as follows: “Smart Tennis is a must for players at all levels – from the beginners to Wimbledon champions! An outstanding book for understanding and improving your mental game.”

Dr. John F. Murray has an extensive background in playing and coaching tennis, writing and lecturing on sport psychology and tennis, and providing psychological services. A graduate of Loyola University (New Orleans), Murray is certified by both the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). He taught tennis in Munich, Germany, before joining the Peter Burwash organization and teaching in Europe, Hawaii, North America, and the Middle East.

Dr. Murray’s accomplishments are numerous, like his contribution to the psychology of tennis, an award winning sport psychology column titled Mental Equipment. He is also a member of Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Sciences) of the American Psychology Association, and of the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology.

The author welcomes the reader to an “exciting personal journey… to help identify your own strengths and weaknesses to help you win the game against your toughest opponent – yourself!” He adds, “As a tennis player and coach I was often dismayed by the lack of high-quality materials on the mental aspects of the game.” Murray also discovered there were few qualified sport psychologists with an understanding and love of tennis to communicate this knowledge. “To my knowledge this is the first written by an author combining expertise in tennis, sport psychology, and clinical psychology. This book shares my enthusiasm in all three disciplines.”

The first chapter is all about understanding your personal needs. The author’s so-called Whole Person Approach is represented by the acronym ACES, four ways in which mind-body skills are expressed in tennis and other performance situations. ACES stands for Actions, Cognitions, Emotions, and (physical) Sensations.

Tennis Mind-Body Checklist (TMBC)

Designed to help the readers understand themselves better, the TMBC consists of 100 questions with simple True/False answer requirements. A point matrix helps create a Skills Profile and an ACES Profile, en route to finding a Need Type.

Example: If the lowest score on the ACES Profile is E (Emotions), and the lowest score on the Skills Profile is C (Confidence), the resulting Need Type is E-C. The abbreviated description of E-C amongst the 20 listed Need Types reads: You should examine your feelings on the court and how they affect your expectations for success. For example, after winning an important game, you might be elated and need to guard against overconfidence. If you lack confidence, you might re-create feelings you had during previous successes. You will find help for this in Chapter Four!

Subsequent chapters provide direction for improving identified areas and further enhancing areas of strength. Chapters 2-6 are discussing related issues, such as Staying Focused, Your Mind-Body Time Machine, Confidence, Energy Control, and Goal Setting. Example: Under Steps to Eliminate Fear, Dr. Murray writes: When struck by fear during a match, realize that your opponent probably feels the same way or worse. Focus concretely on what you are going to accomplish and then just do it. Practice beginning matches at 15-40, 4-5 in the final set. Learn to love this challenge. Maintain an aggressive style of play rather than becoming tentative. Your best tennis comes when you are relaxed, poised, and full of belief in your abilities. You cannot control the outcome and you cannot always win, but by confronting your fears head on you’ll develop greater confidence.

Competition Management Playing Smart Tennis

I enjoyed Chapter 7: Competition Management Playing Smart Tennis, because I am being assured as my self-understanding increases and mind-body techniques improve, playing smart tennis becomes more natural. I also learn that my automatic pilot takes over and allows me to perform naturally. In Tennis Nutrition 101 the author warns that too many carbohydrates (pasta, breads, fruit, veggies) can lead to a sugar crash and complete exhaustion. Fats provide a more long-term energy source. Balance is the key to healthy nutrition. Both food quantity and quality should be closely regulated.

At the end, after teaching how to cope with injuries, the writer expands on tips and tricks during and after the match, such as point and changeover routines, momentum management, challenging your eyesight, explaining a match outcome, and taking stock of your mind-body skills. One of Dr. Murray’s students sums it all up. I am more excited about tennis than ever before, not only because I made it to the semifinals but because I have finally found the key to mental toughness. Sport psychology teaches you to ignore the distractions and concentrate instead on becoming the best you can be!

One of Dr. Murray’s biggest supporters is retired touring pro and former Top 20 player Vince Spadea. Born in Chicago and now residing in Boca Raton, Florida, Spadea was under Murray’s coaching care for 10 years. He says: “Dr. Murray was great in helping me come back from the longest losing streak ever of 21 straight losses, and we worked for ten years together on a fairly regular basis. He traveled with me to the 2007 Australian Open, and as my appointed coach (filling in since I was not with my regular coach) I beat Igor Andreev – a top 10 player – in straight sets, and we had other big wins together as well. Many of the same mental coaching principles he used with me can be found in his book Smart Tennis, but it was more than knowledge that really helped me get back to 18 in the world and top 10 in the champions race, it was also the fun and passion of having a common mission and goals with my sports psychologist … of constantly coming back to the mental game, and practicing it with imagery and other techniques. Smart Tennis players are wise to take the mental game as seriously as they do technique and physical strength.

I like this book because it gives me so much more than any book on stroke production or doubles strategy ever could. It focuses on my own abilities to make a change and cope with challenges on the tennis court. It is like a secret weapon in my arsenal of fighting tools on the tennis court. It is like the book I don’t ever want my opponents to read.

Dr. Murray’s web site is located at www.JohnFMurray.com and you can send an email to Dr. Murray at: johnfmurray@mindspring.com.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of tennis sports psychology.

Sports Psychologist Dr. John F Murray Appearing on Tennis Channel Next Two Weeks

DR JOHN IS ON THE TENNIS CHANNEL OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS (PREVIOUSLY RECORDED): Dr. John F. Murray to appear on the Tennis Channel in episodes 3 and 4 of “Fit to Hit” with host Danielle Dotzenrod. Episode 3 starts July 26.

FROM THE TENNIS CHANNEL ABOUT DR. JOHN F MURRAY
—>BEFORE EPISODE 3 OF “FIT TO HIT” (begins July 26, 2010) – Sports Psychologist, John F. Murray will show us why setting goals can do wonders for our game.
—>BEFORE EPISODE 4 OF “FIT TO HIT” (begins August 2, 2010) – If you’ve ever found yourself on a losing streak, you’ll want to watch…we will talk to the sports psychologist, John F Murray, that helped Vincent Spadea come back from the longest losing streak in history!

Sports psychologist: Anxiety often root of performance problems

Sports psychology feature on Dr. John F Murray below:

Palm Beach Daily News – April 10, 2010 – John Nelander – When their tennis skills are tumbling, or their slice is careening out of control on the golf course, most people think of three solutions: practice, practice and more practice.

But there’s a mental aspect to all sports, whether you’re a professional athlete or just a weekend duffer. Some people who are serious about improving their performance are looking to sports psychologists for help.

A sports psychologist won’t turn you from a 100-shot, 18-hole hack into a par golfer. But a fresh mental approach to your sport can help maximize whatever talent you do have.

The root cause of most athletic performance problems is anxiety, says John Murray, a sports psychologist who lives and works in Palm Beach. You can boil it down to fear.

“People tend to think about results, and that causes fear, because they’re afraid of losing, or looking bad,â€? says Murray, who has an office in the Paramount Building. “They’re afraid of letting themselves down or their team down.â€?

The enemy is the old fight-or-flight response. As Murray notes: “It’s the same response that would occur if a snake was about to attack you.

“It’s an inappropriate response in this day and age, but our bodies haven’t caught up with that. To break that response, you have to get in and do some serious techniques, like classical conditioning and relaxation work.â€?

The key is not to fight the anxiety response — it’s to make sure it doesn’t get turned on in the first place. A coach isn’t doing an athlete any favors if he stands on the sidelines screaming: “Focus! Focus!â€?

Imagine this calming routine on the tennis court: You’re at the service line. You bounce the ball once, take a deep breath, and then exhale. “Imagine a perfect serve, and then let it rip,â€? says Murray. “I don’t want people to think more, I want them to think less. I want them to be on auto-pilot.â€?

Action versus anxiety

The potential for anxiety to affect an athlete varies with the sport. In general, the more time you spend actively engaged in competitive activity, the less anxiety will be a factor.

Golfers are particularly vulnerable, because only about 1 percent of the time on the course actually involves swinging the club. That leaves 99 percent of your time to worry about what your next shot is going to look like.

For every hour on the tennis court, 15-20 percent of your time is spent engaged in a point. That still leaves plenty of time to lose your focus.

“Contrast that with a soccer match,â€? Murray adds. “There, you might be engaged in the sport 80 percent of the time. In NFL football it’s 33 percent, which is why I say American football is a more mentally demanding sport.â€?

New discipline

Sports psychology is a relatively recent discipline. The American Psychological Association’s Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology will mark its 25th anniversary next year. There are about 800 members nationwide, says Jennifer Carter, president-elect of the organization.

In its very early days, sports psychologists worked mostly with pros or serious amateurs. Now, she says, more weekend athletes are taking the extra step. “It’s usually about self-talk — how the athlete is coaching himself,â€? says Carter, who works for a group practice in Worthington, Ohio, called The Center for Balanced Living.

“People have this inner dialogue going. We say about 200 words per minute to ourselves. If you’re involved in sports, it doesn’t help if you’re consistently critical of your own performance.â€?

Like Murray, most psychologists use imagery to help people picture success on the field, she adds.

Murray has a general psychology practice as well, but 90 percent of his clientele has sports or performance issues — and there can be performance issues in business, too. He sees a lot of high school athletes brought in by their parents who are hoping to see their kids score an athletic scholarship.

He also works with some NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins. He’s worked with major league baseball players and NCAA basketball stars.

“I’m still waiting for the phone to ring off the hook from the NFL,â€? he says. “Why isn’t it? Because NFL coaches are sort of control freaks, and they want to do it all in-house. But my passion is to help an NFL team win a Super Bowl one year.â€?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this feature from the world of sports psychology

Ground Strokes Canada Cover Feature: Dr. John F Murray, Author of “Smart Tennis”

Ground Strokes Canada Magazine – December, 2009 Issue – Lin Conklin – Cover Feature on the Author of “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game” Dr. John F. Murray. To read the full article, please click at this link. You may also click the images below to see them larger but they are bigger and easier to read here.

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY AT THE DELRAY BEACH INTERNATIONAL TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS IN 2003

Sports Psychology Column – Apr 1, 2003 – By Dr. John F. Murray – It’s been a while since I’ve posted an article! It’s great to be back this month to talk about sport psychology in Delray Beach, the closest tournament to my home, for the third straight year.

I recently attended the International Tennis Championships of Delray Beach. Writing about this event and working with players here the past few years, I think I’m starting to enjoy Delray Beach more than the US Open! The tennis is so up close and personal, players, coaches and fans intermingle freely, and the practice courts are as interesting to watch as center court on Sunday. Thanks again go to Co-Tournament directors Mark Baron and Fred Stolle for this gift of superior tennis, and to Lisa Franson for her wonderful efforts and for keeping us all in line in the media center.

Some of you may have noticed the increase in awareness among players and coaches about the essential role of sport psychology in player development and performance. Everyone is collaborating to offer the best in mental training to the players. Players benefit most from a team strategy where coaches, parents, sports psychologists, physical trainers, and others work more as a team for mutual success.

I’m always refining my understanding of what it means to perform well mentally. Much of this is acquired through talking with the best players and observing their play. Last year in Delray Beach, for instance, players shared their insights with me about how to close out a match, something I call the “killer instinct.” This year, I looked for action, watching for on-court examples of mental strength. I’ll share these in the article. Let’s take a look at how players in this year’s singles matches displayed or failed to display six of the important psychological skills. Whether you’re a coach, player, or parent, these examples will help you reach a higher level in all your pursuits.

Passion

Robert Kendrick displayed enormous heart and passion, winning six straight matches and reaching the semi-finals before falling to eventual champion Jan Michael Gambill. He truly seemed to be having fun out there with his winning personality and love of the game. His talents will only get better with than kind of attitude. Passion is a good starting place for many accomplishments.

Resiliency

Paul Goldstein, Michael Llorda, Ricardo Mello, and Robert Kendrick all showed amazing resiliency in bouncing back from the adversity of losing a set to qualify for the main draw. Goldstein earned his berth by roaring back from a first set loss to win strong 6-0, 6-1 against Frantisek Cermak. Kendrick overcame a first set loss to Michael Russell, Mello recovered from a second set loss to Jose De Armas, and Llorda came back after losing 1-6 in the first set to Alex Bogomolov. These players are all filled with an abundance of resiliency. The message is to never give up – no matter what the score – and see adversity as opportunity.

Emotional Control

It’s very important to keep the emotions in check – and anger is a common problem at all levels. In first round action, Nicolas Kiefer became visibly angry a few times on critical points against Jan Michael Gambill. Leading 2-1 in the second set, his obvious anger disrupted his play and lead to two careless errors on ensuing points. Later with the score tied 4-4 he again lost his cool, smacking flowers with his racket. End result, Gambill’s relative emotional control persevered, and Jan Michael went on to win his second Delray Beach title.

Focus

Marcello Rios made it to the semi-finals with a fine display of focus, taking out Morrison, Verkerk, and Lee before succumbing to the surprising Mardy Fish. One could see the focus in Rios’ eyes the moment he stepped onto the tournament site. He looked like a man possessed, on a mission to win! His focus continued well into the tournament as he resisted visual distractions left and right, he held off serving and returning until he was completely ready, and he controlled his eyes in between points be focusing on the strings. Proper focus needs to be practiced just like a forehand or backhand.

Confidence

Mardy Fish, for his part, gained a ton of confidence from the support of his friends, family and local buddies painted with the letters F-I-S-H-Y in a cheering section. He earned his first final of his career and gave Gambill a run for his money in the second set. In the press conference following the match, Fishy showed why he is a force to reckon with for many years to come. He was not only confident on court, but modest in describing his abilities afterward. This talent will continue to rise.

Killer Instinct

Flavio Saretta seemed to lack killer instinct after winning the first set in the quarters against Gambill. Many would later say that he tanked the final set which he lost 6-0. While I am not one to judge whether this is true or not, it was curious that Saretta’s head dropped, his intensity wavered and his sense of urgency in the third set appeared nonexistent. When you are up you have to know how to close out an opponent. When you are down, keep on fighting. Love challenges, especially when the going gets rough, and you’ll be in a great place mentally.

If you want a suntan and some great tennis in March, come down and to the International Tennis Championships. Delray Beach is a great resort town by the sea with cozy restaurants and a European downtown feel. The tennis is up-close and excellent. Keep pushing your mental skills to a higher level and I’ll see you again soon!

This was an article on sports psychology.

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY AT THE DELRAY BEACH INTERNATIONAL TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS 2002

Sports Psychology Column – Apr 2, 2002 – By Dr. John F. Murray – South Florida was recently invaded by some of the top tennis players in the world in three consecutive tournaments. I had the privilege to work with players and cover the International Tennis Championships of Delray Beach for the Tennis Server. I also made it to the new $50,000 Challenger of North Miami Beach (won by Vince Spadea) and the NASDAQ 100 on Key Biscayne (won by Serena Williams and Andre Agassi) in which I interviewed four top players for a story in USTA Magazine. In this edition of Mental Equipment, I focus on the highlights of the Delray Beach event.

While I tend to view tennis from a somewhat nontraditional mental lens, more players are explaining that the mental game cannot be ignored. I interviewed many top 100 players again this year. I began by asking each player how important (in percentages) they felt their mental game is to success on the ATP or WTA Tour. The lowest response was 70% while the highest was 99%! While many players are working with a sport psychologist or practicing mental skills regularly, a surprising number still take a more casual and irregular approach to mental training even though they acknowledge the extreme importance.

Called the Citrix Tennis Championships the past couple years, and now seeking a new title sponsor, this tournament never ceases to thrill. Stephan Koubek captivated the crowd two years ago with his passionate three-set victory over Alex Calatrava, while Jan Michael Gambill fought off Xavier Malisse in the finals last year after surviving multiple match points. Would one of these two fighters prevail” or would there be a new champion in this beautiful town on the ocean?

Mark Baron and Fred Stolle co-directed another fine week of tennis for this growing International Series event. Another round of applause is due tireless media director Lisa Franson. Thanks go out to Cliff Kurtzman and the Tennis Server for media credentials, and I again appreciate all the players who spent time talking tennis. I also enjoyed discussing injuries with ATP trainer Bill Norris, and enjoyed meeting Director of Sales Ivan Baron, and Iggy Jovanovic from the ATP.

Marius Barnard is a solid doubles player who has been on the tour since 1988. We talked for 30 minutes about his career and the trials and tribulations of travel and competition. He is an impressive person who is beginning to ponder what life will be like after tennis. I enjoyed his views on the mental game and motivation, and how he sometimes performs better when he stops trying so hard. He expressed a possible interest in becoming a sport psychologist” and we need more of them. If you’re reading Marius, call me anytime. I will trade you sport psychology tips for an improved backhand topspin!

I really enjoyed talking with Michael Llorda, Stefan Koubek, Kristian Pless, Paul Goldstein, Scott Humphries, Andrei Stoliarov, Michael Russell, Mardy Fish, Jeff Morrison, Nicolas Massu, Leander Paes, Davide Sanguinetti, Jarkko Nieminen and Tom Vanhoudt. I enjoyed picking many of their brains for their keys to mental strength.

I focused this year on the topics of match preparation and closing out the opponent (the killer instinct).

Top seeds this year were (1) Roddick (2) Gambill (3) Koubek (4) Massu (5) Sanguinetti (6) Burgsmuller (7) Nieminen and (7) Hipfl.

Qualifying Rounds

The qualifying rounds are often more fun and competitive than main draw matches. The top four qualifiers, earning entry into the main draw, were American Chris Woodruff, Feliciano Lopez of Spain, Alexandre Simoni of Brazil and Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands.

A rising star among the youngest crop of players is Eric Nunez who lost in the first round of the qualifying tournament to Simoni. Nunez won the first set 6-1 and almost won the second, losing 7-6. In the third set he was ahead 4-3, seeming to dominate in many ways, before he had to retire due to muscle cramps. Watch out for this pesky American from Florida. He is coached by his father, Colon, who coached Andre Gomez to a French Open championship over Andre Agassi in 1990. In my humble opinon, this kid Eric has the raw tools to be great.

Feliciano Lopez is another rising Spaniard. After qualifying with wins over Scott Draper, George Bastl, and Filippo Volandri, Lopez went to the main draw and dispatched of Chris Woodruff and Michael Russell before falling at last to Anthony Dupuis 7-6, 7-6. What a great showing! Watch out for him too.

Main Draw

Local favorite Andy Roddicks star continues to rise. Seeded number one due to a tremendous 2001, Andy did not disappoint, rolling over Davydenko, Lee, Llorda, and Dupuis to reach the finals. His emotional maturity is improving and his serve and big forehand are getting better too. As he approached the finals he appeared extremely tired. He admitted that he was fighting a nasty cold (or something) and later would cancel his upcoming tournament appearance – stirring up a minor ATP controversy for not flying to the event to be examined by the tour physician. When I spoke with him briefly after his win over Dupuis, I can attest that he looked ready for a 13-week vacation totally exhausted hacking cough so I kept my distance. What more to say? Tennis and the travel can be brutal on the body?

Number two seed and defending champion Jan Michael Gambill looked very ready to win again. He thrilled the crowd in his first match against serve and volleying Wayne Arthurs. Amazingly, he fought off match point to prevail (as he did last year against Arthurs after being down 3 match points!) 6-7, 6-3, 7-6. It was guts and glory as usual. When I mentioned to his father and coach that many think Jan Michael likes to play from behind, Mr. Gambill replied” “anyone who thinks that does not know his game.” After his second annual Houdini Act, Gambill went on to win over rising American Mardy Fish and Andre Sa from Brazil.

What happened to Stefan Koubek? Two years ago he won the event and my story on him prompted my Smart Tennis Sport Psychology Tour 2000! He’s had a great year so far (see Australian Open), but he ran into the hard hitting American buzz-saw named Michael Russell. Koubek played well but Russell was incredible – pounding low forehands and backhands and matching Koubek shot to shot with powerful blasts from the baseline. In my opinon, Koubek has matured mentally since his breakdown in the finals two years ago, but no luck this time around.

The fifth seed was a friendly and soft-spoken veteran named Davide Sanguinetti from Italy. He made it to the finals of this event about 6 years ago. He began by winning a tough first round match over Christophe Rochus 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 then easily beat Kristian Pless 6-3, 6-2 before defeating Paradorn Srichaphan from Thailand in three sets. This led to the semi-final match against Gambill.

Semi-Final 1

Andy Roddick over Anthony Dupuis 7-6 (4) 6-4

Dupuis, ranked 82 in the world, was only able to break Roddick’s big serve once in the match, in the sixth game of the first set. The second set stayed on serve until the final game when Dupuis double faulted. Overall it was an impressive performance by both the Frenchman and the Boca Raton prodigy. Roddick has so much raw power. With improved strategy and refinement, this guy is unstoppable.

Semi-Final 2

Davide Sanguinetti over Jan Michael Gambill 7-6 (8) 6-3

This was a close match and a funny one too. Sanguinetti’s Lotto shoes fell apart (the rubber broke off the bottom) at 5-4, 15-0 in the first set and he was forced to borrow the the shoes worn by Iggy Jovanovic from the ATP Tour. I’ve never seen anythink like this in a professional tournament. Showing the calm and relaxed style of his boyhood hero Milslov Mechir, along with some pretty nasty low groundstrokes delievered with an old- fashioned eastern grip, Gambill had to work extra hard to avoid mistakes with that two-handed on both sides style. Davide took full advantage. As Gambill later said “I thought his game would break down with the pressure but it didn’t.” Flat and low shots are hard to combat when that is not the norm on the tour. Jimmy Connors retired a long time ago. In a showcase of talent, the relaxed Italian master with the slow and low shots overcame the pressure-loving American blaster.

Final

Davide Sanguinetti over Andy Roddick 6-4 4-6 6-4

You gotta love this match for the welfare of the game. Never count out a clever marksman and assume the young gun will win easily. Give Andy credit for the fight despite his illness. This was a fun match to watch. Roddick later would say “it’s hard to rip the ball against him because he keeps it so low.” He went on “I tried to get in a groove and bully him around, but this took a lot of energy and I could not keep bluffing it.” Sanguinetti wore out the young Roddick with his soft shots, control, and persistant passing shots and angles saying “I knew he was frustrated and I took the pace off the ball to see what would happen.” He attributed his great success not to talent, but to a grueling 6-week workout routine that improved his confidence. By winning, Sanguinetti was the first player on the tour with two championships in 2002.

Summary

If you want a suntan and some great tennis in March, come down and to the International Tennis Championships. Delray Beach is a great little resort town by the sea with cozy restaurants and a European downtown feel. The tennis is up-close and excellent. Keep pushing your mental skills to a higher level and I’ll see you again soon!

This article was on sports psychology.

That was Best Match in Tennis History

Special to JohnFMurray.com – John F. Murray, Ph.D. – The match is not even over, and Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach sports psychologist has already declared that Roddick/Federer in the Wimbledon Final of 2009 is the best match in tennis history. “It is not even close,” said Murray. This was a battle for the ages, and both players went beyond human in this epic struggle to see who would crack first.

Murray posted frequent tweets on the website at Twitter.com and at one point declared that if the match went another 30 minutes it would be the best ever. Well it did … and the declaration came well before 1 PM New York time … this was the best.

“This will be a match we will watch forever, said Murray, and the pressure play will be studied carefully and help help raise the mental performance of competitors in all sports.”

There is not doubt that this match was a case of the player who had performed best in the area of sports psychology!