Hope you all enjoyed the weekend! Here is part two of the series, “Playing Your First Tournament”. It’s all about actually playing the match. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed writing it and I know it will help you play your first actual tournament match!
Playing the Match
You’ve set your goals, packed your bag and checked in to the tournament. Good for you and welcome to tournament tennis! Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for since the day you first picked up your racquet has finally arrived! They’ve called your name and you’re headed out with your opponent to begin your tournament career! I’m excited for you and in this article we’ll discuss how to play that very first match, which you can use for every match for the entire tournament (after that you’ll be a veteran!).
Normally, you’re allotted a certain amount of time to warm-up with your opponent (10-15 minutes) and this is a great time to learn a LOT about your opponent, if you use your time wisely.
I’m going to assume that you have never played this person before and probably never have seen them play, so you have no idea what their strengths and weaknesses are. So here’s what you do. Feed a soft ball down the center of the court and watch what shot they select and you will learn their favorite groundstroke EVERYTIME! It’s that simple. You’re probably a little nervous so try and hit balls about medium pace as deep as you can and try and hit the same amount of forehands and backhands as possible. Then move to the net and hit as many volleys and overheads as possible and cooperate as best as you can to see that your opponent gets these same opportunities (in other words, don’t rip winner after winner in the warm-up!). It’s bad etiquette and bad sportsmanship and just not nice! The last few minutes are devoted to serves. Try and hit an even amount of serves from BOTH sides (ad and deuce) and hit a couple of returns of serve. Now you’re ready for your first match! Excited yet?
Playing The Match
Here’s the joy of playing your very first tournament. You will probably draw a seeded player who has some tournament experience and probably some success. Don’t let this phase you one bit! He/she has to still play their game and you have to play yours. Here are a few tips on playing your match.
- Keep your feet moving always. This will help you forget about the obvious nerves and give you something to focus your attention away from those ‘first match jitters’.
- Don’t go for too much too early. It’s important to develop a rhythm and be consistent early. You don’t have to rip a winner on every ball to be successful! Missing too many balls too early in a match will cause you to become frustrated, which usually spells doom for a tournament tennis player.
- Try not to force your serve down someone’s throat. A well-placed first serve is far better then continually hitting second serves all day.
- Always know the score of the game prior to the serve. This will help to avoid conflicts.
- Play your opponents calls. Always be fair when calling your opponents shots. If you can’t call it out, it must be in. If you feel like your opponent isn’t making calls very well, don’t argue with them. Ask them if they are sure of the call and play on. If it continues, don’t argue. Stop play, go to the tournament director, and ask for a referee.
- When the match is over, go to the net and shake hands. If you won, try not to ‘rub it in’, because you’re going to probably see this person again. If you lost, wish them well and don’t feel too bad (I know you did your very best!)
- Make sure to grab the balls (if you won) and don’t forget to take them with you when you report your score to the tournament referee or director. If you lost, help your opponent collect the balls and head on home!
Concluding your first tournament
No matter who you are, everyone finishes a tournament. When you are finished playing in a particular tournament, always go to the tournament director and thank them for all their help and for running the tournament. Most tournament directors at the junior club level are teaching pro’s so maybe they’ll give you a pointer or two.
I hope you enjoyed playing your first tournament! I know I’ve enjoyed being your Internet coach for your very special experience! No matter how you finished, this is the one tournament you will always remember! In part 3 of this series, I’ll help you evaluate your results that hopefully will make your next tournament much more enjoyable and successful!
Part one of this series is here