13 September 2019

Many happy returns - how to come back after a break from the game

She is one of the most inspirational players in tennis and now Kim Clijsters has announced her return to the pro circuit. We welcome her back and discover that managing a return to the sport you love is not just for Grand Slam winners!

Four times Grand Slam singles winner Kim Clijsters is one of the best-liked players of her generation and we were delighted to hear this week that she intends to return to the circuit in 2020. She is no stranger to comebacks, having returned to the sport after the birth of her first child and winning the third tournament she entered - the US Open 2009! 

If you haven't joined a round of your Local Tennis League for a while, now is the time to follow Kim's lead and get back on court. Here are our top comeback tips.


The long absence

Not been playing for months, even years? Here's our essential checklist:

Equipment: Don't worry about your tennis clothing, but do worry about your racket and your shoes. At the very least get your racket re-strung, but if it has been years since your last match, consult a specialist shop about the best racket for you. You will have changed and so will racket technology.

Don't play with clapped out tennis shoes. You need the extra support and grip that proper tennis shoes bring (remember LTL brings you a mighty 25% off a new pair of Mizuno shoes and all tennis equipment).

Join the league. We would say this, but playing in a league really is the best thing you can do. Yes, a lesson with a coach or a hit with a friend will give you an idea of where your tennis is, but only by playing matches will you begin to sharpen your tennis skills. You need the variation of play that comes from meeting different opponents and you need to recapture the winning experience. Even if you lose, it is still the competition that will lift your game.

At Local Tennis Leagues we don't put returners back in the bottom group, we take an assessment of your likely playing standard to give you the best match-ups we can. Win your group and you will climb the league. Do less well and the group will be adjusted next time. 

If it has been a while since you played and filled in our Playing Standard Questionnaire (when you were the UK's equivalent to Andre Agassi) let us know what you think has changed by email or through the contact form and we will make a note in our planning file.

Don't obsess about playing people only "of your standard" or "better than you". Many returners feel it belittling to play someone they know they might previously have beaten. Put these thoughts aside. These matches can be confidence builders or wake up calls. They can give you the chance to use and practise more of your shots or, if you do find the matches harder than you expect, to rebuild your competitive edge. Bad style and poor shots can't be caught like a virus from your opponent, but they can illuminate the path to improvement.

The injury return

Be careful and do consult a medical professional before you start if you are in any doubt.

Assess your fitness. Again, let us know if you suspect your fitness will have suffered and we will make allowances when placing you in a group. We have had players who have returned to the league having being forced to switch their playing arm and have suggested a lower group - a sensible and understandable precaution.

Pace yourself. Don't cram all your matches into the first few weeks. Spread out your matches if you need a bit more healing time (though be careful about giving away walkovers).

Limit your expectations. You don't have to be winning straightaway for your tennis to be on the right track.


The match comeback

It's a different sort of comeback, but even during a match in tennis you always have the chance to put what's happened behind you and start all over again.

Comebacks don't just happen, you have to seek the opportunity and recognise the possibilities. If you are down (but not out) remember the old adage of playing one point at a time. Each point you win - or even make close - can lead to the momentum shift that can turn a match around. Actively note what is happening in the match. Commit the positives to memory. Allow yourself to feel good about your tennis. Even if you lose the match, identifying the comeback momentum will help you to victory another time.


You are always welcome to play in the league

Don't forget, you are always welcome back to the league, however long a break you have taken. The leagues are there for you whether you play each and every round, or just a few.

Start your comeback by closing the league nearest you. If you need any help finding or creating a Local Tennis League account, just let us know.

Pic by James Boyes reproduced via CC 2.0