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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Caving

March 2022

Happens all the time. It's happened to all players, world-wide, at one time or another for sure.

You've even seen tour players fall victim to it right on television, in front of millions of worldwide viewers, when up against a clearly better player that day. Not unusual at all for club players everywhere to embody it. The negative body language. The game face gone. They eye of the tiger long gone. You can't actually see the negative thoughts, but they are surely there as well. The woe is me mind set on full display.

They have resigned themselves to losing.

One of the special components of tennis is that there is no time clock. You cannot be timed out as in so many other sports – think Tom Brady in this year's NFL semi-final playoff. As most know, and have no doubt experienced, a match can quickly pivot from what appears to be an inevitable defeat to an unexpected victory – interestingly victory typically belongs to those who believe it the longest. One point, one shot could turn it completely around. And suddenly you're back in a match that looked hopeless.

Caving, dictionary defined as "…ceasing to resist," it's not quite the same as "tanking." That's where players accelerate losing by overtly not trying at all, zero. Caving is more nuanced. It's still trying but losing hope due to being outclassed by a better player that day. Still putting forth effort, but not enough to embrace at least the possibility of prevailing in the end.

Not believing. Negative outlook.

Rafael Nadel never caves

When is the last time you saw Rafa Nadal cave? That would be never. Whether a Grand Slam final – look no further than his 2 sets down come from behind recent win over Danill Medvedev at the 2022 AO final - or a lower level ATP 250 event. Doesn't matter. Right down to match point against, he'd still be believing. Fighting more and more, tooth and nail to the end. Actually relishing the fight. He is the all-time poster boy of mental toughness.

Even the greatest fighter of an earlier generation, Jimmy Connors, succumbed to caving on a rare occasion. I witnessed it first hand in an ATP major final, at his namesake Jimmy Connors Tennis Center at Sanibel Harbour Resort - versus an overwhelming backcourt performance by the Ivan Lendl backcourt machine circa 1986. He stopped believing.

Yet, that same Connors, who was once seemingly totally down and out to Swedish star Mikael Pernfors 6-1, 6-1, 4-1 in the 1987 Wimbledon 4th round, roared back to win 1-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, kept believing.

Never give up. Always maintain an engaged body language, and display an undeterred game face – reflections of what's going on inside your head. That in itself will be influential in providing a positive outlook and a better functioning body chemistry balance – yes you can biochemically influence your Self and your performance. And, every once in a while provide that turn-on-a-dime, magical result.

 

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Past Essays

  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • 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
    [read more]
  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
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  • January 2022 - The Knees
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  • 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
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  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
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  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
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  • May 2021 - The Focus
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  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
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  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
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  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
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  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
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Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays

2020

  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
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  • 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]

2019

  • 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]

2018

  • 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]

2017

  • 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.