Winning in tennis involves more than just getting that fuzzy neon ball over the net. Those who truly want to win a match learn that mental control is as essential to the game as a well-strung racquet.
The men’s tennis coach at City College, Brandon Lupian, is very aware of the extreme focus needed to take control of a court.
“By this point (players) arrive knowing how to hit the ball, but not everyone arrives with the right mentality,” said Lupian. “Growth in that respect has gotten better.”
The Knights were able to demonstrate this mental resilience at a windy home match on Feb. 3. Powerful gusts that knocked over garbage cans and disrupted service tosses couldn’t stop City College from securing a 6-3 victory at the season’s opening match.
Fullerton started strong during the opening doubles games. Their aggressive forward movement dominated the top court, leaving City to defend their opponent’s powerful volleys from far behind the baseline.
Yet the Knights endured the close first set by consistently wearing down their looming opponents. Eventually the tables were turned as City’s solid ground strokes forced Fullerton back to the baseline and earned the Knights a victory on the top doubles court.
The team’s top ranked player, Miguel Danet, took control of his court with great agility and topspin during the following singles matches. His skilled shot placement psyched out his opponent who kept recklessly deflecting the ball deep outside the lines by the second set. Although he took both sets at 6 games to nothing, Danet confessed that he too faced some mental obstacles.
“Getting focused at the start of the match was the hardest part for me,” said Danet.
This was Danet’s first official match for the City College Knights though he’s been practicing with the team for the past month. His involvement in tennis was disrupted last August after being hit and injured by a Lincoln Navigator. Danet admitted that his serve could use some improvement along with his focus during game play.
Returning player Wil Contreras had faith in the team’s abilities despite this year’s group being mostly newcomers.
“This is the strongest team I’ve seen in two years,” said Contreras.
Coach Lupian agreed that his team is physically prepared, however he is more concerned with aiding his players’ personal growth while at City College.
“Tennis skills are just a small part of the big picture,” said Lupian. “These guys have the physical attributes to be good players, but that’s only 10 percent of the game. The rest is about mental preparation and attitude.”
Marlon Thompkins applied this philosophy of mind over matter by coming back after losing his first singles set. His determination won him the second set along with the 10-point tiebreaker that followed.
Thompkins admitted that he also had trouble focusing during his match despite making it look easy.
“The biggest obstacle was my own brain . just thinking too much,” said Thompkins.
Even players at the professional level, such as Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray, succumb to mental defeat in a match. Murray’s fits and tantrums during the tournament final – including telling his mother in the stands to “shut up” – set him back just as much as Novak Djokovic’s superb agility and shot placement. Coach Lupian wants to train his players to avoid such mental defeat.