Back to Back Issues Page Newsletter--Do Tennis Players Benefit from Superstitions or Routines?
October 22, 2014

Do you have any superstitions regarding your tennis play?

Do you have a pre-match routine you follow before tennis matches?

Do you know the difference between superstitions and pre-match routines?

In the world of tennis, players engage in various rituals, routines and superstitions. Often these terms are used interchangeably but routines are quite different than superstitions.

Serena Williams is one of the most successful female tennis players of all time who follows a strict set of behaviors for tennis tournaments.

SUPERSTITION: Serena wears the same pair of socks throughout a tournament run.

ROUTINE: Serena bounces the ball five times before her first serve.

Highly-ranked Maria Sharapova also engages in a unique order of actions during tennis matches.

SUPERSTITION: Sharapova avoids walking or standing on court lines.

ROUTINE: Prior to her serve, Sharapova turns her back on her opponents, walks away from the baseline and fiddles with her racquet strings.

What is the difference between a routine and a superstition?

Superstition is the belief that something has significant power or “luck” with no logical reasoning behind it.

A routine is a sequence of actions that prepare you physically, emotionally and mentally for a match or point.

Superstitions are developed in hindsight, after an athlete has a particularly good (or bad) performance.

A routine is a designed, pre-planned and used to help you focus and prepare--they are based on science, not luck.

In short, superstitions are unfounded, illogical beliefs while routines are a series of conscious, deliberate actions that guide a tennis player’s behaviors before or during matches.

What are the benefits of a pre-shot routine?

A routine gives you a sense of control over what you are doing.

A routine internally signals readiness and prepares you for the current point.

A routine helps you release the last point and focus on the present moment.

A routine helps you to manage your emotions during the ups and downs of a tennis match.

A routine focuses your thoughts and behaviors on what you are currently doing and your strategy for the next point.

What are the components of a pre-shot routine?

Your between point routine should be personal and comfortable for you.

Your routine can include: a cue for releasing the last point (playing with your strings), your stance (placement of your feet and body position), bouncing the ball and designated number of times, focusing on the feel of the ball or racquet handle, getting into a rhythm (rocking side to side), honing in on your target, deciding on your type of serve, repeating a phrase to yourself, etc.

Try these tips to develop effective pre-point routines:

Tip #1: Develop a pre-point routine for both serving and receiving. In training, practice your routine consistently, on every point. Make it a habit and part of your game. The goal is to help you focus on preparation for the next point: Plan, Visualize, Focus.

Tip #2: When playing, commit to this routine no matter the score, no matter what what happens during the course of the match and no matter who you are playing against or what happened in the last point.

Before I end today's newsletter, let me share with you a light hearted video of Novak Djokovic impersonating Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal. You will see that tennis pros have their own routines that are so obvious. This video was captured in 2007. Now in 2014, their routines are still the same.

Enjoy the video.

To your tennis success,

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