A tennis match can be a rollercoaster ride. Players have moments when they feel everything is going right, and shortly thereafter, everything can go wrong. It can change again and again.
Being on the brink of winning the match is not an easy situation. If the player is any good at all and they are behind, they will not go down without a fight. There is also a natural tendency to either relax, or press too hard, when you can taste the victory. The best players realize that the match is never over until you walk up to the net and shake hands (or, these days, touch racquets).
Mentally, if you reach match point, your goal should be to play the point the way you would play the first point of the match. If you are not successful, the goal is to put yourself back in that position. Even if you are ahead 5-0 in the set, a player needs to approach each point as if it were the first point of the match.
Use the ideas that have worked in the past. Do not focus on the outcome or get too excited about the opportunity to win. If you do not win the point, the game, or the set, you need to regroup and keep playing every shot and every point the best that you can. Tennis is such a great sport because there is always the chance to come back when you are behind and to make up for your missed opportunities. You will not always win the match, but you will learn from the experience, and likely put yourself back in the winning position in the next one.
Keep playing one point at a time and stay focused on the present rather than what has already happened.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org