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How to prepare for a tennis match

TENNIS IDOL: Serena Williams

WHETHER YOU’RE a long-time player or only just starting out, preparing for a match takes discipline, hard work and determination.

You will want to head out onto the court on match-day feeling like you have done everything you possibly can to train your body and focus your mind on the big game ahead.

Here are the most important preparation methods to build in to your daily schedule to ensure you will get the very best out of your game:

Get plenty of rest
If you’re following a strict, demanding training schedule in anticipation of the big match, it is important to get plenty of rest to allow your body to recuperate.

Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep every night and rise at least three hours prior to your training slot or the actual match to ensure you will be feeling energized. If you have difficulties getting to sleep at night – perhaps due to nerves or excitement – there are a few simple things you can do to make it easier:

- Have a nice soothing bath with essential oils; this will also help to relax your muscles following a tough day of training.
- Avoid screen time at least an hour before you go to bed; staring at computer, phone or TV screens affects your melatonin production, tricking your body into believing you’re not yet ready to sleep.
- Swap your screen for a book; reading reduces stress, calms your breathing and clears the mind.

Eat healthily and regularly

A healthy diet is extremely important for tennis players and sport fanatics of all kind - check StyleCraze for tips.

Due to intense training schedules, it is vital to keep to strict eating hours to avoid intestinal cramping and an overall feeling of heaviness during training sessions and matches. On top of that, it is important to keep your body fueled with proteins, complex carbs and vitamins to keep your energy levels up.

Don’t just keep to the three main meals of the day but build in plenty of healthy snacks in between too. Here is a list of ideal foods to eat while you’re preparing for a tennis match:

Breakfast: overnight oats topped with fruits, seeds and nuts; alternatively: whole-grain toast with avocado and a hard-boiled egg.
Late morning snack: homemade granola bar or banana.
Lunch: chicken breast with brown rice, mushrooms and a side of salad.
Afternoon snack: hummus with carrot and celery sticks.
Dinner: salmon filet with spring potatoes and a side of salad.
Snacks for match-time: nuts, bananas and plenty of water.

Pack your tennis bag the night before the match

If you’re prone to getting nervous ahead of a big match, make sure you have prepared everything you need the night before to allow yourself plenty of relaxation time beforehand.

Go through your checklist to ensure you have everything you possibly need:

- Newly strung racket
- Fresh towel
- Fresh clothes to change into after the game
- Spare shoes, just in case
- Sweatband, visor or cap
- Sunscreen
- Healthy snacks and water

Make sure you have one of the top tennis racquets such as one by Head, Babolat or Wilson to go into battle well equipped!

Practice how you want to play

If you have been playing for some time, you have probably developed your own playing style by now. Take the weeks ahead of the match to hone your playing style to ensure the utmost confidence on the court.

If you know your opponent, study their weaknesses and playing style to come up with strategies that will help you come out on top. Ask a tennis friend to play with you and film yourselves so you can review your own weaknesses and iron them out as best as you can.

Practice self-love

You may think the practice of self-love has more of a place in yoga than it does in tennis, but you’re wrong – self-love is a practice we should all tend to and always.

Being overly critical of yourself and pushing yourself through important moments in your life – such as a big tennis match – by ways of negative mantras won’t get you anywhere.

Instead, make a point of focusing on all your best qualities as you walk out onto the court. Remind yourself that you are strong, and you deserve to win – after all, you have spent weeks working up to this very moment. If you lose, don’t allow your brain to bring you down; focus on letting it talk you up by repeating to yourself: I did the best I can, and I will learn from my mistakes.

Find a way to incorporate meditative practices into your training

When we speak of meditation, the image of a cross-legged yogi-type comes to mind. This type of deep meditation isn’t for everyone but there are plenty of other meditative practices you can incorporate into your training to ensure you’re feeling calm and focused ahead of a match.

Moving meditation is a meditation style that combines movements with rhythmic breathing; examples thereof are yoga, Tai Chi and pilates. But you can even turn your daily bike ride or a walk into a form of moving meditation by simply practicing mindfulness. Choose a scenic route, preferably a natural environment like a forest, the beach or open fields.

Then take turns in focusing on three specific things:
- All you can see
- All you can touch
- All you can smell

Focusing on these three elements of your bike ride or walk will help you stay in the present as opposed to stressing about all that could possibly go wrong during your tennis match. It will ground you and focus your mind on the positive.

Watch your tennis idols

We all have that one tennis pro we look up to, so why not look to them for new styles and game strategies to inspire you? Look up clips of past matches that really excited you and motivated you to perfect your own playing style.

Make notes of any new things you may notice in your favourite tennis pros’ game approach and implement these tactics during your next training session to see if the same works for you. If these styles don’t work for you, stick with what has worked for you in the past.

Study your opponents emotional cues and keep your own in check

Once the day of your big match has come, remind yourself to study your opponents’ emotional cues and keep your own in check. If you’re starting to feel defeated, don’t let on – your opponent will pick up on it and use it to their own advantage. Instead, focus on what your opponent’s facial expressions and emotional cues are relaying to you.

If they frown every time you serve them with a specific move, repeat it – they’re obviously feeling challenged by it which could work out nicely in your favor.

Prepare to celebrate your wins and losses

Regardless of the outcome of the match, prepare to celebrate! Even a loss is a win, after all, it was your own hard work and determination that got you through this intense training period and out on the court and that in itself is cause for celebration!

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