Favorite or Underdog: How to Get the Most Out of Your Tennis

Favorite or Underdog: How to Get the Most Out of Your Tennis image

                                                Favorite or Underdog?
                                      How to Get the Most Out of Your Tennis
    There are rewards to playing competitive tennis. Naturally, the most basic one is winning the match. However, it is the contention of this post that focusing only on a W is most likely detrimental to both your inner level of satisfaction and your ability to improve your tennis. This is because short-term risk-taking, which can result in a loss, is also the foundation for long-term improvement. 
    Tennis players learn early on that too many unforced errors inevitably lead to losses. Being averse to losing, matches often become a downward spiral of pushing, once both players dig in their heels and refuse to miss. Inevitably, their matches become like WW1 (no high-tech weaponry) and are personally unsatisfying as well as offering no more than a 50/50 shot at winning. Basic principle: what separates players across levels is primarily that the stronger player has weapons which can ultimately force errors or hit winners. If the better player slows down to a significant degree then this difference disappears. He/she effectively nudges themselves down a notch. Hence, I can say that this is about a 50/50 match.
    Let’s look at the potential rewards from the 2 different positions of “personal power” before the match begins.  Since tennis involves a “pecking order”, it make sense to look at this from both roles, i.e. are you the favorite or the underdog in any given match? And, within these roles, are you going to be the Winner/Loser and are you going to play Scared/Confident? The findings are interesting. To understand the categories, you need to match up the the combination of the two different dimensions. For example, if you are the Underdog, and you played Scared and Lose, the description gives you your reward. First, if you are the Underdog:
L and Scared:  

Very unsatisfying. Reaffirms your static place when compared to your opponent. So, this is both a Loss and it feels yucky.

W and Scared:  

Always good to get a W, but the odds here are against you by maybe 100:1. You can’t beat a better opponent by playing scared unless they have their worst day ever.               

L and Confident:

Although, you’ve LOST the match, you’ve gotten to see moments of what you can do to make it competitive against a strong opponent. This is a building block for the future.     

W and Confident:

You actually WIN this match by playing confidently. You see that you belong on the next level of tennis and your belief for the future is rising.

    A quick look at these outcomes for Scared or Confident make it crystal clear that Confident is the only way to play when you are the Underdog! For two reasons: It gives you your only real chance to win; and it provides an opportunity to grow as a player. Now, let’s look at Favorite:

L and Scared:

This is the worst box of all. You are better and it’s the only chance they have. Your timidity beat yourself.

W and Scared:

This, for many players, is the box most often checked. If all you care about is the W and nothing else, then this is the box for you. Very little inner satisfaction and no growing of your game.

L and Confident:

This will almost NEVER happen because you are a better player … and you are asserting yourself in the match.

W and Confident:

You’ve now got an official W and some confidence to keep improving.! It’s not quite like defeating a better team, but you are still building for the future.   

    It’s also clear that Confident is the way to play when you are the Favorite. Can anyone see my trick here? It doesn’t matter if you are the Underdog or the Favorite. The rewards are overwhelmingly in the Confident boxes. It’s time to take up the challenge and give yourself no choice as to how you are going to play: CONFIDENTLY! This is how you get the most out of your tennis! 

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