scott swainston

Coaches’ Corner: Closing the Match

The Ivan Lendl IJTA, one of the world’s premiere tennis academies, has taken up residence in our “Coaches’ Corner” series to dish out instructional tips and on court analyses straight from the Academy’s top coaches and directors.

By Scott Swainston, Asst. Director of Mental Training at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy

Just four points away from winning a highly coveted match, you suddenly become uneasy and technique you have practiced thousands of times seems completely foreign. Your grip feels slippery, heart is pounding and mind is racing 100 miles per hour. What if I lose? What will people think?

The basis for these fears and the physical symptoms they create often come from an intense feeling of uncertainty. To put it simply, the future scares us. We often wish these moments were on our DVR so we can fast forward to the end result. What separates elite players from those who struggle with closing a match?

The first step to improving your mental game for clutch moments is to embrace the challenge and uncomfortable feeling. If you come into the match knowing you will face adversity, you will be prepared when the match gets difficult. Enjoying the moment allows you to relish the opportunity for crucial moments.

The second aspect to performing in high-pressure situations is establishing a game plan prior to the competition. Understand what it takes for you to compete your best from start to finish. Examples include active feet, sticking to patterns and being patient. As the match comes down the stretch, you will already know what it takes to be successful with simple mental reminders.

The last key to closing a match is working on managing your attention. The tendency is for your mind to race from one scenario to the next. Learning to better manage your focus will not necessarily eliminate all of those thoughts. However, paired with your keys to competing, using your attention allows you to get back to the match and what you need to do to win.

A strong mental game starts with understanding how to enjoy feeling uncomfortable. Better tennis, more learning and more enjoyment will follow.

About Scott Swainston
Scott Swainston is the Assistant Director of Mental Training at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Scott received his Bachelor degree in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and Master of Science in Sport Psychology from Georgia Southern University.

Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Ivan Lendl’s desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. Lendl subscribes to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.

For more information:, 888.936.5327.