Sports Psychology Column – May 1, 2003 – By Dr. John F. Murray – Andre Agassi just became the first man to repeat as champion of the NASDAQ-100 in Key Biscayne with his 6-3, 6-3 thrashing of Carlos Moya.
He left the tournament 18-1 on the ATP circuit this year, leading all players. What is it that makes this special individual so mentally strong? What kind of audacity does he possess to keep on pushing for greater and greater heights at age 33? By reviewing Agassi’s on-court performance, and then listening to his post-match comments, let’s shed light on the mindse of a very rare master who constantly finds ways to play smarter tennis. Enjoy the clinic!
Andre Agassi just became the first man to repeat as champion of the NASDAQ-100 in Key Biscayne with his 6-3, 6-3 thrashing of Carlos Moya. He left the tournament 18-1 on the ATP circuit this year, leading all players. What is it that makes this special individual so mentally strong? What kind of audacity does he possess to keep on pushing for greater and greater heights at age 33? By reviewing Agassi’s on-court performance, and then listening to his post-match comments, let’s shed light on the mindset of a very rare master who constantly finds ways to play smarter tennis. Enjoy the clinic!
Agassi found a way to dominate Moya in most phases of the game. Let’s start with the accuracy of his serve. His 69% first serve percentage, 8 Aces, and 1 double fault all reflect pure excellence and flawless execution on a very windy day. His service accuracy was his biggest weapon rather than dominating pace. Moya actually served much faster at 119 mph. Agassi only averaged 104, but he was deadly accurate.
Coaches are right on in saying that consistency is a huge weapon in tennis! Consistency in making the correct decision on where to hit the serve. Consistency in executing the shot. Consistency in hitting more winners than unforced errors. Agassi had 28 winners to only 13 unforced errors, whereas Moya had 14 winners to 20 unforced errors.
Agassi was also more aggressive on his groundstrokes, slightly more accurate on his approach shots, and dominant once he got to the net, winning on 93% of his approaches.
The bottom line is that Agassi played better tennis. But that is just what you see. What was going on in his mind? What kind of attitude did he take to this match long before he hit any balls? This is the unseen advantage that is often overlooked.
Let’s go to the post-match press conference and identify some sport psychology principles present in Agassi’s mindset:
Turning Adversity into Advantage
The wind was a beast. Agassi didn’t see it that way. He said “today was certainly a great day for me, serving-wise. I think specifically because it was breezy. Any time you can get a good percentage of first serves in, especially on key points, in windy conditions, it’s a big advantage. I did that well today.” What an amazing attitude. Something we can all learn from. Rather than making excuses, how about realizing there is a silver lining in that cloud!
Staying Hopeful and Confident
The way we frame things is often more important than the supposed actual reality. Agassi stays very positive in his thinking. Asked about the upcoming clay season, he said “I feel great about how I feel mentally a very positive going on to the clay season, hopeful that everything is going to stay together.” Henry Ford once said “whether you think you can or think you are right.” Agassi thinks like Ford did, and how you should too.
Not Over-thinking in a Match
Despite all the great mental tips and suggestions, once a match begins it auto-pilot time. Its much better to just play tennis and let habits take over than to over-think. Agassi said “I try not to assess how I’m playing until after the fact. And then after the fact, I can look at it and be objective.”
Focusing without Fear
Agassi knows what it means to stay focused without letting fear intrude. In discussing the number of matches he had to play in a row in close proximity he said, “there’s nothing really about it that you worry about getting through so many matches, so you just focus on executing opportunities that you do get and try to create as many as possible.” So many players worry. Keep it simple and keep the focus on what you are doing now.
Remaining Extremely Confident
Agassi assumes someone else is going to have to play well to beat him! Listen to this comment “I’m thinking about preparing myself properly to be at my best for Paris; to make somebody play a great match to beat me. It’s as simple as that.” Wow. Enough said.
Throw out all the mental tips in the world if you dont work! When asked if he had found the fountain of youth and was just not telling anyone, Agassi smirked and said “No, no, it’s hard work.”
Agassi blew away Moya with a precise combination of physical and mental superiority. If you look at his accuracy and consistency in executing shots, then review his attitudes and insights, you soon realize that the mental game is much more than a few clever suggestions to play smart tennis. The thoughts, feelings, habits and sensations actually control the actions. When it all works together brilliantly, you get Agassi, an ever improving legend in our midst.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into sports psychology.