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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It

By Jak Beardsworth

Not my line, but a good one! And one to be heeded.

It's credited to the always thoughtful and insightful Tennis Channel commentator, Leif Shiras, a former Princeton #1 who reached a career high of World #31 during his playing days.

His off-the-cuff remark during a recent telecast should register with those club players who believe that they should only be seeking matches and practices with players better than themselves as the best way to improve. Just yesterday I experienced a well-intentioned lesson client spouting the same belief.

Picture of Garbine Muguruza at US Open Tennish Championship September 2017


Ideally, one should seek out three (3) distinct classes of opponents or practice partners:

  1. Ones that are clearly superior to you, but with whom you can at least stay on court
  2. Ones that represent a very equal playing skill level
  3. Ones whom you can control and have a clear advantage over

If you're exclusively seeking players undoubtedly better than you – that's assuming you can get them to play or even hit with you – your confidence will suffer greatly over time as a result of getting repeatedly thumped, and you will incrementally develop a negative view of your game.

Not good, since, just as in real life, at the end of the day you generally get what you expect. That goes for on the court as well.

Playing against, or practicing with, relative equals represents real value in that it triggers and develops match play toughness under pressure – no temper tantrums, no tanking, overcoming choking – since the outcome is up for grabs and can go either way on a given day.

Seeking out those who are not up to your skill level, but who can still compete or practice with you positively can build confidence. That acquired confidence fosters a positive attitude towards your game and a continually nurtured self-belief. So yes, go with Shiras and "take it wherever you can get it."

Winning breeds confidence. Confidence breeds winning. It's all about previous experiences.

Definitely make it a point to mix in practice hitting sessions with your matches, or even a ball machine session can be just the thing to keep you grooved and in your zone. After all, the best players on the planet practice practically every day under the watchful eye of their coach to create and maintain clean ball striking, energized movement, a positive mind set, and sound strategy and tactics.

And it's never a bad idea to schedule the occasional tune-up with your favorite pro who can keep your mechanics on the straight and narrow with a little tweak here and there, and also be objective with you about your game subjectivity.

Finally, especially in the hot summer months all over – here in Florida that means months of days with the heat index hovering around 100 - don't forget to pre-hydrate well before play, and hydrate/sip on every changeover during play, or take frequent breaks if practicing. Wear a light weight, white ball cap in the sun – visors don't do it ladies (there goes the hairdo) – and avoid dark shirts or tops that absorb heat. Lay the sunscreen on heavy. And, for heaven's sake, breathe out, exhale, grunt, or whatever you want to call it, on every single shot to fend off going into O2 debt. Waiting to drink until you're thirsty (too late), breathing only intermittently or worse yet not at all will also undermine your game and possibly your health.

By the way, experiencing a serious loss of conditioning makes this all-important confidence factor unattainable.

Copyright© 2019 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"
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  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
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  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
    [read more]
  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
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  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
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  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
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  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
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  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
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  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
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  • March 2022 - Caving
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  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
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  • January 2022 - The Knees
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Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
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  • 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.