8 November 2019

Building mental toughness

Rob Hawksworth

After 20 years out of the game, Rob began playing again with his brother, joined the Sheffield Tennis League and has played 12 rounds in 3 years. It's improved his game and his fitness and taken him within a whisker of meeting Rafa Nadal in the spa

I started playing tennis back in the 1980s with my dad. We spent many sunny Sunday afternoons on the local park courts followed by Wimbledon on TV. I remember great matches between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg! Great days! Between the ages of 20 and 40, I didn't play tennis but 5 years ago my brother Michael asked me if I wanted a game. I reluctantly said 'ok', and after a few sessions realised I could still hit a decent ball. 

After about a year of playing only against my brother, I decided to enter the league not really knowing if I was good enough. Turns out I was good enough, and so is anyone as the leagues consist of all levels. I've always preferred singles and so joining the Local Tennis League was preferable to playing in a club, which are usually doubles orientated for some reason. 

I love being outdoors in the sunshine having a tough physical and mental battle over an extended period of time; often 2 hours or more!

Having experimented with different styles of play, I have concluded that a fast attacking game is what I am better suited to. I will try and force a weak response from my opponent by playing powerful or awkward base line shots and work my way to the net for the kill! 

Playing in the league has improved my game without question! The competition has motivated me to stay fit and to practice. Also, match play itself is a learning experience; being under pressure and still able to hit good second serves and hard top-spin baseline shots without the body tightening up takes many matches to achieve. The mental side of tennis is such a huge factor in determining the result of a game, so staying relaxed and keeping nerves at bay is vital and comes with the experience of playing many different people and finding yourself in many difficult situations. 

Finally winning a match against one of my rivals after saving 9 match points was a particular highlight, which also resulted in me winning the league for the first time. Was a grueling and tortuous match, but a great memory now! 

Also, through the Local Tennis Leagues I was able to visit the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy for a week in October to play a seniors (over 30s) social tennis tournament. It was a fantastic experience and I met many wonderful people from other local leagues, played at a higher level than I have ever done before, had great coaching and enjoyed excellent food, spa, gym and accommodation. Basically a tennis paradise, which I hope to return to next year! Apparently Rafa Nadal was in the spa on my last day but unfortunately I missed him. Next time! Would I recommend the league? Absolutely 100% YES!!!!!!!!

The next round of the Sheffield Tennis League starts on 16 January, 2020. Join here by Monday 13 January. For information on the next tournament visits to the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar see here.