In September, I started playing tennis again. I wrote a few posts back then about it and especially the mental aspects of tennis. (See here and here.) Now, some time has passed and I wanted to provide an update.
In my first match in September, I had experienced a lot of anxiety and played very poorly. After that, I focused a lot on breath between the points and on watching the ball during the points. This improved my performance, but I also started noticing another bottleneck. After many points, I noticed that I had been holding my breath during the point. And I also noticed that a fear of making an error had come up. Afraid of missing shots, I would tense, play timidly and often not swing through fully.
My mantra became to play relaxed and confident. Hitting fully, but being unattached to whether the shot succeeds or not. I progressed in that direction, although slowly.
In my last match though, it was quite remarkable how far I've progressed in these last months. I played against an opponent, who didn't play particularly well, but he played consistently. We played long rallies. I tried not to make errors, but lost most points. And after a while I was down 1-6, 0-5.
Even some games before I had decided to play very aggressively. To hit shots fully and be okay with making errors and losing the match being over fast. But then I was hitting better and in the end, I turned the match around and won it.
For me, the best part was that whether I one game from losing the match or pulling ahead, I didn't feel or play very differently. Fear still creeps in on many points, but it is much diminished.