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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Rituals Anyone?

By Jak Beardsworth

If you asked the typical club player what percentage of the time spent when playing a match is actually in between points, they undoubtedly would be surprised, if not shocked, since it's about 70%! For example, a one-hour match would consist of :42 minutes not playing, and a mere :18 minutes playing the points.

That is precisely why, how one manages that in-between time – head-to-toe focusing on the task at hand - is absolutely essential and has a great deal to do with how successfully you'll perform during the contested points: physically, mentally and emotionally.

  • Physically keeping your engine running, staying energized - not standing around absolutely motionless, watching an adjoining match on the next court, or worse yet, just daydreaming
  • Mentally staying on top of any necessary strategic and tactical tools to enable your strengths and deny the other player(s) theirs
  • Emotionally maintaining a positive, "can-do" attitude, especially when in the face of adversity

Anyone who has observed Rafael Nadal is well aware of his elaborate mannerisms. His ticks and quirks are second to none and precede every single point prior to serving or receiving, as well as other habits well before that, such as his penchant for adjusting which way his courtside water and electrolyte bottles are facing after each use during changeovers.

He is the ultimate creature of comfort.

Although these seeming superfluous traits are often viewed, rightly so I suppose, as somewhat extreme compared to his peers on both the ATP and WTA tours, where they are also utilized similarly. In Nadal's instance, they are all too commonly made fun of by the less-enlightened among us; some who, not so coincidentally, often have seriously underdeveloped, if you will, play prep habits (if any, at all). Would you believe that a local ladies league opponent of one of my lesson clients openly complained about her methodical ball bouncing prior to launching her serve, which she angrily perceived as unsportsmanlike and possibly against the rules?

Ignorance is bliss.

Yet, for some time now, since way back in the 80's, Dr. Jim Loehr first articulated the value of these so-called between-point eccentricities, coined the phrase "Mental Toughness," and became the MT innovator of the day. I should know since I was the beneficiary of working in association with Dr. Jim Loehr at the Jimmy Connors Tennis Center at Sanibel Harbour Resort, one of the top 10 tennis centers in the country at the time. Today, they are an integral part of any sports psychologist's playbook. Lately, they are often a valued part of a player's team, now referred to as a player's "performance coach" or "mind coach."

Although used in all sports in various manifestations at the highest level, in tennis they are commonly referred to as rituals.  A Merriam-Webster definition is: "a customarily repeated act or series of acts."

Interestingly, you, everyone, unconsciously makes use of them on a daily basis. Life examples are putting your clothes on, brushing your teeth, making your morning coffee; these can all take place in the very same order, without fail, every time. It's about order from routine and the comfort, harmony, sense of well-being, and the ensuing positive attitude, that we then experience as we embark upon the challenges of our day.

Since you all have observed these rituals whenever you've watched a professional match on television – some of you are already, smartly, copycatting them. That's called "modeling," or more colloquially "monkey see, monkey do." Some of you have made the effort to see players in person at the annual Miami or Delray Beach Pro Tour events only a few hours away, so it's really not necessary to describe the rituals here. For all, they are addressed in detail in both of my books, More Than Just the Strokes and Tennis Game Theory, and in a newly posted Jim Loehr inspired video text – "The 16 Seconds Cure" of between-points-strategies, which is on my website homepage as well.

In the meantime, if you truly aspire higher and seek game improvement, I highly recommend that you begin to include cultivating these proven "Mental Toughness" techniques into your game while placing your own signature on them, and with the same reverence that you probably already address to your ball striking skills. Keep in mind, they are especially applicable to doubles players who are particularly challenged by being involved in only half of the in-point action, compared to singles.

These now well-established difference-makers will absolutely enable you to play your better brand of tennis on a more consistent basis.

The resurging Angelique Kerber and her recent trouncing of rival Maria Sharapova at the 2018 Australian Open (after a disappointing 2017 campaign) was aptly described by the always insightful NY Times tennis writer, Christopher Clarey, this way,

"She looked re-energized: calm between points, yet eager for the tussle once play began."


Copyright© 2018 by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

COMMENTS WELCOME: JB1tennis@comcast.net

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Past Essays

  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
    [read more]
  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner – The "Switch"
    [read more]
  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
    [read more]
  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
    [read more]
  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
    [read more]
  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
    [read more]
  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
    [read more]
  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
    [read more]
  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
    [read more]
  • March 2022 - Caving
    [read more]
  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
    [read more]
  • January 2022 - The Knees
    [read more]

Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
    [read more]
  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
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  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
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  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
    [read more]
  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
    [read more]
  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
    [read more]
  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
    [read more]
  • May 2021 - The Focus
    [read more]
  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
    [read more]
  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
    [read more]
  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
    [read more]
  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
    [read more]


  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
    [read more]
  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
    [read more]
  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
    [read more]
  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
    [read more]
  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
    [read more]
  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
    [read more]
  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
    [read more]
  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
    [read more]
  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
    [read more]
  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
    [read more]


  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
    [read more]
  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]


  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]


  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.