Posts Tagged ‘Tennis’


Tennis Week – Sep 20, 2005 – Vince Spadea has a message for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Marat Safin and other members of the top 10 â€? make room for me. The 49th-ranked Spadea has guaranteed he will attain his highest career ranking ever ” top 10 in the world. Click for Photo of Vince Spadea and John Murray as Vince Makes the Guarantee in Boca Raton September 15

The 31-year-old Spadea, who has registered a 19-21 record on the season, recently began working again with his sport performance psychologist. He now guarantees that mental coaching will help him achieve his highest career ranking ever, top 10 in the world.

“Comebacks are never easy, but they are a part of sports, and Im quite ready and excited about this new challenge,” said Spadea, who owns career wins over Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. “I will return to my highest ranking ever. I guarantee it!”

Spadea, rarely a stranger to adversity, recovered from the longest losing streak in ATP Tour history, suffering 21 straight losses before resurrecting his career. Spadea claimed his first ATP Tour title in Scottsdale last year. He beat James Blake and Andy Roddick en route to victory. In his comeback, Spadea rose from No. 229 to a career-best No. 18 in the world.

Injuries and adversity returned this year as Spadea dropped to 49 this week even after reaching the final in Newport in July.

“Rather than get discouraged or depressed, its a gift that Im as high as 50 compared to where I was when I began the previous comeback,” Spadea declared. “My rise will again be accomplished with help from my sport performance psychologist, John F. Murray, who formerly helped me back from my longest losing streak.”

Spadea got the idea of daring to make a public guarantee after thinking about great accomplishments and history.

“Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl victory when no-one believed in him; the 1980 USA Hockey Team truly believed; nobody thought David would slay Goliath,” Spadea said. “Even my performance psychologist stuck his neck on the line and lost 64 pounds after he made a public guarantee.”

Spadea claims that his public guarantee will help strengthen his resolve and commitment.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.


Financial Times of London – Simon Kuper – Sept 17, 2005 – The Kansas City Royals were already the worst team in baseball, but on Tuesday they had their worst moment of the season. When a Chicago White Sox batter hit a fly ball, two Royals outfielders settled beneath it. Both began jogging to the dugout, each assuming the other would catch it. The ball dropped for a double. The Royals lost.

They aren’t even the years worst losers. The Royals recent 19-game losing streak, baseball finest in 17 years, was bettered last Saturday by the English football club Sunderland, who have now lost 20 consecutive Premiership matches, counting the last time they graced the division in 2003.

Losing is sports great neglected topic. All attention goes to the winners, but it’s losers who represent the human condition. The sports annual cycle is hope (this could be our season), disappointment (I cant find my form), renewal (theres always next year), and finally exit prompted by physical decay. The ‘parallels with life are uncanny. Today, when sport means big-market teams thrashing small-market teams, there are more losers than ever.They merit serious study.

This is not to forget the long-dead losers. Who could forget the 1899 Cleveland Spiders baseball team, whose owner shipped all their best players to his other club? Losing 40 of their last 41 games, the Spiders drew only 6,088 spectators all season, whereas Kansas City got 9,535 last Tuesday night alone.

Nobody has forgotten the 1962 New York Mets, who may have been a Marx Brothers tribute team. The Met outfielder Richie Ashburn, tired of always crashing into his Venezuelan shortstop when chasing the same ball, finally learned to shouœI got its in Spanish. When the next popup came, he yelled Yo lo tengo!. The shortstop duly stopped, and Ashburn was instead knocked over by Anglophone leftfielder Frank Thomas. A friend of mine, a Sunderland fan, admits: At a certain point you become so bad that it becomes comic. Almost.
Then there is Luxembourg’s national football team. When their manager, Paul Philipp, was finally released in 2001 after 17 years of losing more matches than any other international football manager ever, I asked him if it hadnt been depressing. I wouldn’t have missed a second of it! Philipp replied. At times we only narrowly lost to the big nations. And there had been the 1-1 draw with Belgium in the 1980s, the 0-0 against Scotland and, well, so on.

The truth is that losing builds character. Winners never quit, says the clich, but its easy not to quit when youre winning. Only when youre losing does getting out of bed require courage and persistence, especially if you are a professional athlete. These people are born winners. They were stars at school. They have mansions and groupies. Then suddenly they feel worthless. Losing, in short, teaches them about life for normal people. When I put this to my friend the Sunderland fan, he muttered: The difference is that in football you lose in very stark fashion: you get no points. Losing in life is a little more nuanced.

That is why losing in sport “ no ambiguities “ is the best practice. I realised this while studying economics. It was bewildering. One day I was trying to figure it out with a friend – a woman who could do everything “ when she broke down crying. She had never failed before. I felt morally superior, because sport had taught me losing. Driving with teammates to a soccer game around that time, a new song came over the radio: im a loser baby (so why dont you kill me?) Within 30 seconds the whole car was singing along. Loser became an anthem. As Beck, the singer, later noted: “The vacuous 80s pop song has a sense of winning and being on top. In fact, its worse: the mass media are a conspiracy to promote the ideology of winning.

Losers should embrace losing. I think it was Darlington soccer fans who chanted, “You thought you had scored, you were right, you were right,and in the 1980s, while the Columbia University football team was losing 44 straight, the band would play the Mickey Mouse Club theme when the players ran out.

When losers win, they know how to appreciate it. They arent instantly off on lantern-jawed quests for the next trophy. Instead they release in the moment. Nick Hornby, in his fan’s memoir Fever Pitch, describes supporting Cambridge United the day they won their first match in six months. “In the last five minutes, with Cambridge thumping the ball as far into the allotments as possible, you would have thought that they were about to win the European Cup. At the final whistle the players (most of whom had never played in a winning team) embraced; and for the first time since October the club DJ was able to play, Ive Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.

However, if you find that losing just isnt for you, you can change. Adequacy is always lurking around the corner, like a mugger. John Syer, a sports psychologist formerly with Tottenham Hotspur football club, told me that in a losing streak players forget what winning is like. But they can learn to visualise winning. “There are few athletes who have not had an experience of winning, says Syer. “The obvious thing is to go back to a past occasion and remember what it was like. Most athletes do visualisation very well because they are in tune with their own bodies.

Some losers become winners. The tennis player Vince Spadea lost 21 straight matches in 1999-2000, but rebounded to hit 18th in the world this February. John Murray, Spadea’s sports psychologist, told me an athlete can acquire confidence even if reality “ lost matches“ tells him otherwise. The trick is to ignore that reality. Murray explains: you have to believe you are the author of your thoughts and feelings. You have control over the mental world you want to create. You are not controlled by the past. He sighs: Animals will catch the ball jumping out of the pool, because they dont have mental baggage. We human beings have mental baggage.

This week Spadea came up with a guaranteed: aged 31, battling injury, ranked 59th and sinking, he pledges to make the top 10 for the first time ever. Its the sort of magnificent disregard of reality that ruins a good loser. Click for Photo of Vince Spadea and John Murray as Vince Makes the Guarantee in Boca Raton September 15

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

C’MON, SMASH SOME RACKETS! – Sept 2, 2005 – Patrick Hruby, Page 2 Columnist – Wasteful, infantile, wantonly destructive. All of this is true. Yet to hear Bud Collins tell it, there’s an even better reason tennis players are discouraged from smashing their rackets.

“It can be dangerous,” the longtime tennis commentator says.

Collins laughs. He speaks from embarrassing experience. Once, while playing in a South African senior tournament, he flubbed an easy shot. Up went his blood pressure. Down went his wooden racket, right into the court.

“I threw it,” Collins recalls. “I didn’t realize it would have a life of its own. It bounced over the fence. A parking lot was there. A guy was getting out of his car. It hit him.”

Mardy Fish. C’mon Mardy … you know you want to … do it for the people! Wait. Hold up. The racket hit a guy in the parking lot?


With apologies to American Express — which really should be seeking our forgiveness for those annoying Coach K ads — there’s something missing from this year’s U.S. Open. And it ain’t Andy Roddick’s mojo.

Nearly a week into the tournament, we’ve seen Serena Williams lose a $40,000 earring, defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova lose in the first round and British hope Andrew Murray lose his lunch on the court. Twice.

Which, admittedly, was pretty cool.

So what’s missing? Try a first-class meltdown — the singular, glorious sight of a ticked-off player rearing back, blowing up and sending his or her oversized boom-stick to graphite Valhalla.

Frankly, tennis fans deserve better.

“I haven’t seen one [smashed racket] yet this year,” says Carl Munnerlyn, a locker room attendant at the National Tennis Center. “Nothing broken. Nothing mangled.”

Munnerlyn knows cracked rackets. In over two decades at the U.S. Open, he has handled more splintered grips and bent frames than he can count, professional athletic instruments violently transformed into masterworks of nonrepresentational modern art.

But the last few years? Not so many.

“You definitely see less of it,” he says. “I think players are under more control. They come in knowing they can get beat at any time. Losing doesn’t bother them as much anymore.”

Don’t worry, be happy. Sigh. First hockey goons, now this. To paraphrase Pete Seeger: Where have all the smashers gone?

Once, colossi such as John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase roamed the tennis terra firma, striking fear into the hearts of equipment manufacturers everywhere. Racket abuse became open-air theater. No one was immune.

Back in the 1950s, Collins recalls, former American No. 1 and noted tennis good guy Barry MacKay chucked a racket clear across a lake in Adelaide, Australia.

“Well, it was more like a very broad river,” Collins says with a chuckle. “Probably 100 yards. Either way, that was an impressive feat.”

Sadly, such feats have become the stuff of tennis legend. Today’s players are more likely to emulate Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras, stoic craftsmen who never found fault in their tools.

Take Roger Federer, the sport’s top talent. A tempestuous racket-mauler in his youth, the defending U.S. Open champ now sports a calm, unflappable demeanor. Asked at Wimbledon when he last smashed a racket, Federer couldn’t remember.

His most recent toss? Try this spring, when the frustrated Swiss let his racket fly during a match against Rafael Nadal in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Tellingly, the racket didn’t break. No way it would have cleared 100 yards.

“It’s more challenging now,” Collins says. “Wood was much easier to smash.”

Maybe so. But how about a little pride?

Don’t get the wrong idea: Tennis still has a few hardy souls willing to put the kibosh on harmless inanimate objects. Injured Aussie Open champ Marat Safin — a man who once totaled 50-plus rackets in a single season and reportedly played with graphite shards embedded in his arm — could be the greatest smasher ever. Frenchman Richard Gasquet was tossed from last year’s U.S. Open qualifiers after nearly beheading a line judge with a heaved racket.

Players ranging from Andre Agassi to Serena Williams have been known to abuse their equipment, if not always in public. Munnerlyn recalls a well-known player’s recent locker room eruption.

“He came in after a match, set his bag down, waited about 10 seconds,” says Munnerlyn, who declined to give a name. “He took out one racket. Bam! Bam! Bam! Smashed it against the floor.”

Out came a second racket. And a third. Munnerlyn shakes his head, eyes wide at the memory.

“Three rackets, trashed,” he says. “I’m thinking, ‘Stop! Stop! Don’t break that!’ Throw a pillow underneath or something.”

More common, however, is the pillowy sportsmanship exhibited by Kevin Kim during his Wednesday afternoon loss to Switzerland’s Michael Lammer.

Marat Safin. Marat Safin’s racket tantrums are legendary.
Tempted to crush his racket, the 27-year-old Californian held back. The reason?

“I didn’t need the extra attention,” said Kim, ranked No. 70 in the world. “And I don’t want to get fined.”

Racket smashing isn’t cheap. Kim once was fined $1,050 for tossing his stick at a minor-league tournament in Tennessee — more than double the $500 Safin was docked for racket abuse at last year’s French Open, and a far cry from the $15 Collins says it took to replace a splintered wooden racket.

Smashing also is against the rules. Five years ago, Goran Ivanisevic was disqualified from a match after he smashed three rackets and had nothing left to play with. More commonly, a cracked racket results in a code violation — and a point penalty, if the offending player immediately switches to a new stick.

As a result, Kim explains, racket-breakers often will play a point with a busted frame.

“Sometimes you might win those points,” he says with a smile. “Sometimes if you crack it, it’s still playable.”

To avoid the above indignities, Kim adds, he limits his smashing to practice. Good for his temper. Bad for our amusement.

No matter the cause, the decline in public racket pulverizing is a shame. And probably unhealthy. Frustrated tennis players can’t vent to their teammates. Or scream at their coach. Tackling isn’t allowed, and haranguing the chair umpire only goes so far. So they steam and stew, each one a pressure cooker in wristbands.

Angry player. Highly breakable object. Something has to give. Playing in San Diego, Taylor Dent once lost to someone named Maurice Ruah. Not good.

“I walk off the court, line up all my rackets on a tree,” recalls Dent, pantomiming a baseball swing. “One after another, six in a row, until there was nothing left. I just left them there. See you later. See you tomorrow.”

Did Dent feel better? Absolutely. Always does. During a March tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., he dropped a 6-1 first set to Cyril Saulnier.

Dent blamed his racket. Forcefully. Racket wrecked and spleen vented, he rallied to win the match.

“It can help you play better,” he says. “John McEnroe was the perfect example. He would throw the racket sometimes, throw a tantrum, and it would help him out.”

More help: While most junked rackets end up in the trash, Dent signs his, then donates them to charity. All’s well that ends well.

“That’s why I do it,” he says with a laugh.

In another sense, crumpled frames bring fans and pros together, physical manifestations of our common immaturity. The average club player can’t relate to Roddick’s Teutonic serves, Agassi’s whiplash reflexes, Federer’s otherworldly touch.

But racket smashing? That’s as natural as throwing a golf club. When Borg broke a racket as a boy, his parents kept him off the court for six months. He never cracked one again. His famed temperament? It was learned.

“I play tennis, and I’ve broken some rackets,” Munnerlyn says. “Sometimes, I’m about to and I catch myself. I think, ‘Hey, I don’t get free rackets like [the pros].'”

None of us does. Which is part of what makes their newfangled restraint so infuriating. Psychic Uri Geller bent a racket with his mind.

Nadal can’t crush one with his pumped-up arms?

Thankfully, the U.S. Open junior tournament starts next week. So there’s hope. In the meantime, though, we’re still waiting for a handle-shattering, shard-scattering eruption. Because when the best racket-smashing story from this year’s tournament belongs to Collins — well, it’s enough to make a fan want to break something.

“What I’d like to see is somebody tear one apart with their bare hands,” Collins says. “With wood, you’d have a chance.”

Wait. Hold up. Tear a racket to pieces? By hand?

Now that would be pretty sweet.


Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships – Newport, Rhode Island – Jul 10, 2005 – Vince Spadea defeated Paul Goldstein 7-6(6), 6-2 in the semifinals and advances to today’s finals vs Greg Rusedski, the 2004 champion

Two 30-year-olds will meet in an ATP final for the first time since 2003 when 30-year-old Vince Spadea plays 31-year-old Greg Rusedski in the title match of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships in Newport. The last all-30-year-old final on the circuit was in San Jose
in 2003 when 32-year-old Andre Agassi defeated 30-year-old Davide Sanguinetti.

Spadea reached his first final of 2005 and the fifth of his career with a 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Paul Goldstein. Serve was held just six times in the 20 games between the second seeded Spadea and seventh seeded Goldstein. Spadea went up a hold, breaking Goldstein twice in the first three games of the match to go up 3-0.

The players exchanged breaks, allowing Spadea to hold a 3-1 lead. A pair of breaks and a hold from Goldstein allowed him to rally and level the match at 4-all. Another exchanges of breaks, and then a pair of holds pushed the set to a tie-break. Spadea jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the breaker, but once again Goldstein rallied, tying things up at 5-all. Spadea would prevail to claim the opening set.

Holding serve in the first and fifth games of the second set and breaking Goldstein three times allowed Spadea to go up 5-1 lead. The players xchanged breaks to end the set. Both players double faulted four times, and Spadea hit the lone ace of the match. Spadea won just 48 percent of his points on serve, compared to 38 percent for Goldstein. Spadea converted all eight of his break chances, while Goldstein got six breaks in nine attempts.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.


Palm Beach Post – May 24, 2005 – Charles Elmore – PARIS â€? Here, truly, is a clash of the old world and the new. Albert Costa won the 2002 French Open. He grew up on clay courts in Spain. He likes to play cards, and supports soccer teams in Lerida and Barcelona. His favorite movie is Ben-Hur.

In his path today stands Vince Spadea, ranked No. 41, who came of age on the hard courts of Boca Raton. Along the way, Vince acquired the occasional urge to bust a rhyme.

Spadea offered this Roland Garros rap by e-mail in response to a request from The Palm Beach Post:

“Ladies and gents will be jumping the fence to catch a glimpse of Vince at the French, he’s so intense, doesn’t give you an inch!

I went from sitting on the bench with a dollar and fifty cents, to a corporate account at Merrill Lynch,

But let me know what yous think, when you see them dragging me off the links, at Roland Garros,

‘Cause Spadea will break you down, like a broken arrow, a golden pharaoh, fighting to be the hero at Roland Garros,

I’m tennis’s Robert DeNiro, and I’m representing South Florida, champagne pouring out, that don’t rhyme?

Shore it does, trying to keep up with the Joneses like Norah does… “

Sure, Costa knows how to slide on clay.

But can he hip-hop?

Spadea has advanced as far as the third round in Paris three times.

He offered this breakdown of today’s first-round matchup with Costa: “He’s a clay-court specialist who has been on tour for as many years as I have. No doubt there are better draws out there, but at the same time, he has dropped his ranking and performance a great deal from his win at Roland Garros, has showed signs of apathy, injury and inconsistent results on all surfaces, including clay. I see this as a good opportunity for me to see how well I can play against a well-established clay-courter. I know I’ve made improvements in the past year, and I welcome this challenge.”

Costa has won two of three times they met, but interestingly, Spadea won the last one, in the same year Costa won the French Open, 2002. Spadea triumphed on hard courts during the round of 64 at Tennis Masters Canada 6-3, 6-1.

Shoulder tendinitis kept Spadea out of action recently for about three weeks. He has packed plenty of Fig Newtons and Balance bars to keep his energy up.

“My biggest challenge going into clay-court events, especially Roland Garros, will be the grueling physical and mental demand it places on me,” Spadea said. “There are no free or easy points on clay. The three out of five sets at Roland Garros forces your fitness level to be at the highest standard. It’s just a war of attrition on clay. Difficult to win pretty. A strategy adjustment I need to make is to hit my strokes with more topspin for consistency and play percentage tennis, and use angles and drop shots to win extra points.”

A new Web site,, features photos and updates on all matters Spadea. Among the links is one to sports performance psychologist John F. Murray of West Palm Beach, who has worked with Spadea.

This is the sort of advice Murray says he gives athletes looking to regain confidence after an injury: “Adapt your style to the injury. Set difficult, yet realistic, goals on how you want to play the upcoming match based on the possible effects of the injury. For example, if your shoulder is hurt and you cannot serve hard, you might plan to play a gritty match with many long points and win the battle of attrition. If the injury affects your forehand but your serve is fine, you might plan a more aggressive serve and volley game where you end points sooner. “

Another way of putting that might be: break you down, like a broken arrow, a golden pharaoh, fighting to be the hero at Roland Garros.

Costa is ranked No. 72 but holding every former champion’s suspicion that he has one more title in him.

By this time tomorrow, one of these two men, representatives from the old world and the new, will be tapped out or rapped out in Paris.

“Peace out, I gotta start jump roping, before I leave Paris without the crown at the French Open… â€?spadea”

Because at the end, only one man can be Le Shizzle.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS – Feb 5, 2006 – Vince Spadea’s sport psychologist, Dr. John F. Murray, on his student in Delray Beach: “Vince is striking the ball down here cleaner and earlier than I have ever seen before. It is amazing. This is the result of many months of increased work ethic and seriousness, and in part due to the determination that comes from wanting to make good on a contract he signed with me last year to guarantee to reach Top 10 with sport psychology.

This exemplifies the power of goal setting and commitment — basic tools in psychology 101. I am confident that Vince will indeed make Top 10 if he stays injury free and doesn’t waver in his focus. He might even make Top 5 playing this well.”…

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.


Sun Sentinel – Aug 28, 2004 – Charles Bricker – With her father, Mahesh, frequently calling out from behind the sideline fence, “Come on, Tiger,” Shikha Uberoi, 21, of Boca Raton, qualified for her first Grand Slam by defeating Vilmarie Castellvi 6-4, 6-2.

It’s the first time since 1996 that a woman of Indian heritage (Laxmi Poruri) has been in the main draw of the Open and no Indian woman has won a round here since Poruri in 1989.

Shikha and her 18-year-old sister, Neha, both were in qualifying, but Neha lost in the first round.

GO SHIKHA AND CONGRATUALATIONS! You are the best! Dr. John F Murray After she qualified she wrote to Dr. John F MurrayDR. MURRAY!!!

How are you? I believe you are in London now. I wanted to tell you that I won two 10k events back to back. It was great!!! I was in complete control of my mind and completely relaxed. I wanted to thank you for your support and belief in me. Thanks for everything.

Shikha Uberoi – WTA Tour Tennis Professiona


Mental Equipment Syndicated Column – Jul 1, 1997 – Dr. John F. Murray – Although tennis and other physical activities are usually considered excellent forms of stress relief, the serious competitive athlete often experiences stress similar to an ambitious corporate executive or overworked waitress. Too much stress can wreak havok on your mind and body. The bottom line is a less pleasant experience, impaired performance, or even potential health problems. This month, the spotlight is on learning to cope with stress through relaxation.

Players who shine in practice often crumble in tournaments because they manage stress poorly. Although an optimal arousal level must be maintained for peak performance (See my September 1995 article on Optimizing Arousal in Tennis), prolonged and excessive arousal is rarely positive. Failing to prepare for stress is as unacceptable as forgetting to bring spare rackets to the match! Still, many players never invest in stress busting tools.

There are as many relaxation programs on the market as there are diets. Most involve some combination of deep breathing, pleasant imagery, and muscular movements. I’ll touch briefly on Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), the “gold standard” of relaxation techniques, developed in the 1930’s and aptly used to defeat a variety of physical and psychological ailments. PMR, and its many varients, is used to help athletes prepare for competition as well as to relax during play.

PMR trains the individual to identify the relative contrast between muscular tension and the opposite sensation of complete calmness. By progressively tensing various muscles and muscle groups for several seconds and completely releasing and relaxing, the individual gradually learns to induce relaxation on demand in periods of high stress. Recognition of the contrast between tension and calmness is fundamental to the success of PMR.

There are two basic spinoffs of PMR that I’ll recommend for tennis players. The first involves a pre-match relaxation routine whereas the second helps in coping with stress in the heat of battle. A warning … these methods will only work if regularly practiced and perfected. I’ll outline them briefly, but remember there is no substitute for the guidance of a qualified sport psychologist in helping meet your individual needs.

10 Minute Pre-Match Routine

Minute 1

O.K., the big match is upon you. Before the warm-up, find a quiet place and comfortable sitting position. Relax totally with eyes slightly closed.

Minute 2

Inhale for about 6 seconds deeply and slowly, then exhale for about 10 seconds. Continue this breathing pattern throughout the routine.

Minutes 3-8

While inhaling, tense a muscle group and hold it tight for the duration of the inhalation. Totally relase all tension upon exhalation. Study, interpret, and examine the contrast between these two sensations (tension and relaxation). Spend about two minutes for muscle groups in each major region of the body (upper, middle, and lower). Vary the exact muscles used as you see fit … but focus on the difference between unpleasant and tight tension, and its opposite, total calmness.

Minutes 8-10

Now that your awareness of relaxing sensations is heightened, visualize yourself performing to perfection (For help with this, see my August 1995 article on The Essence of Imagery in Tennis). After you are finished, stretch out and fire yourself up for a great perfomance.

On Court Routine

Now you are deep in the heat of a match and feel that stress is intruding:

Accept that you are “stressed” but re-interpret the sensations as normal and exciting consequences of caring.

In between points, breath deeply and slowly while tensing those muscles that have been most affected by the stress (often shoulder muscles). As before, release the tension immediately upon slow exhalation.

Recall your pre-match routine (the pleasant sensations elicited by the procedure) and image your next point to perfection.
Now your mental equipment includes two very simple means of coping with stress in tennis (and other situations as well). Remember to practice these techniques often for them to work. There are countless programs for managing stress … are you using only one?


Mental Equipment Syndicated Column – Aug 1, 1995 – Dr. John F. Murray – Would you like to improve your overall quickness on the tennis court? If so, some physical means are available through improved conditioning, agility and footwork. After that, you may need to choose faster parents to gain a sizeable physical advantage, since genetic factors (e.g., muscle characteristics) place an upper limit on your movement ability.

What may surprise you is that quickness in tennis has less to do with the ability to move, or even run as fast as Forest Gump, than mental skills! Although physical proficiency is desirable, and necessary at the higher levels of play, mental superiority in the form of anticipatory skills is far more meaningful in achieving quickness in tennis.

Visual scanning research in racquet sports has shown that experts differ from novices in eye fixation patterns and perceptual strategies. For example, whereas experts focus consistently on proximal cues (e.g., angle of racket prior to contact, position of server’s shoulder), novices display less controlled fixations and focus on more distal cues (e.g., position of ball after contact). The ability to attend to relevant proximal cues and interpret them accurately is the hallmark of superior anticipation … and quickness.

In short, tennis quickness involves being prepared, knowing what kind of shot to expect from early visual cues, and acting accordingly on that knowledge. If you have poor anticipatory skills and are constantly late in reacting to your opponent, your world class speed will be useless.

Can anticipatory skills in tennis be taught? The exciting news is that a pioneer study here at the University of Florida shows that the answer is yes! In this study, novice and intermediate tennis players learned to make faster and more accurate decisions regarding the type and direction of shots following a mental quickness training program. Further research is certainly needed, but these results are encouraging.

In my opinion, there are two areas of knowledge where improvements will lead to enhanced anticipatory skills and greater tennis quickness. The first, already discussed, involves helping players recognize the meaning of appropriate proximal cues, and implementing this knowledge in game situations. The second area is more traditional and involves reviewing the fine points of timing and court positioning as they relate to the type of shot hit, position of the player, and position of the opponent. Very few club players have mastered these skills. While watching the US Open, it appeared that some professionals would benefit from refinement in this area as well.

I hope this brief review has helped you realize that quickness in tennis involves far more than swift movements or a new pair of Nikes. Quickness may not be directly observable, since the processes contributing to it (e.g., scanning, recognizing, interpreting) are mental operations. Don’t worry though, the difference will be clearly evident in the score!

Using the Weapons of Sport Psychology in Tennis

Mental Equipment Syndicated Column – July 1, 1995 – Dr. John F. Murray – Let’s talk optimal performance. Whether you play or coach tennis professionally, or just slug it out on the weekends, there is a wealth of exciting news available for you from the world of sport psychology. Are you keeping up-to-date on the fascinating developments in this field? If not, you are depriving yourself of key tools that would raise your tennis expertise to the next level.

Sport psychology was defined by Singer in 1978 as “the science of psychology applied to sport.” Sport psychologists provide two major types of services: (1) performance enhancement strategies, and (2) counseling for a variety of issues affecting the athlete. Although not all tennis players have access to a qualified sport psychologist, much can be learned from the available research.

Psychology as a scientific discipline began in 1879, making it one of the youngest of all sciences. Sport psychology is younger still, with only 30 years of extensive research. In fact, it wasn’t until 1985 that the Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology was recognized as a subspecialty of the American Psychological Association. Although still in its infancy, this field already has much to offer. Many research findings have still not been communicated to the player and coach in an easily available format. Much knowledge is just waiting to be tapped! It is my opinion that the complete tennis player and coach of the 21st century will require all the benefits sport psychology has to offer to stay on top.

In this introductory article, I have briefly outlined several areas involved and services provided by the sport psychologist. Look for future articles to explore specific techniques to optimize your performance on the tennis court.

Let’s look at a few domains where sport psychology plays an active role:

(1) Touring professionals and coaches
(2) National team programs
(3) Sport organizations
(4) Youth development programs
(5) Student players and coaches
(6) Families of athletes
(7) Players coping with injuries
(8) Recreational programs

Here are some typical services provided by the sport psychologist:

(1) Imagery training
(2) Arousal management/attentional focus
(3) Substance abuse management
(4) Eating disorders/weight management
(5) Relaxation training
(6) Motivational strategies
(7) Competitive pressure management
(8) Programs to cope with retirement from sport

In closing, sport psychology has much to offer tennis players and coaches at all levels. If you are looking for a competitive edge, or trying to help your players achieve at their maximum level, turn to the science of sport psychology!