Mind games keep players on the ball at U.S. Open

Thu Sep 4, 2014 2:11pm EDT
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By Simon Cambers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It is a question that is asked of tennis players in almost every news conference; "What were you thinking when…?”

As in every sport, tennis players constantly strive to be “in the zone”, that state of mind when everything goes perfectly without any conscious thought.

Most players truly get in the zone only a handful of times a year. Otherwise, they have to cope with the wanderings of the mind that can affect focus and at worst, lose them matches.

While amateurs might find themselves thinking bizarre thoughts like: “did I leave the oven on?” or “what will I tell my friends if I lose this?”, professionals are better at staying in the moment.

But there is still the odd time where the mind goes AWOL and then anything goes, as Roger Federer explained a few years ago.

"Sometimes if you have a song in your mind, sometimes you're thinking of what's going to happen tomorrow, what's the plan for tonight,” he said.

“All those things happen. We're human at the end of the day. We're not a machine and go from like point to point like RoboCop. I have to remind myself to focus."

Balancing being concentrated with being relaxed is not easy but professionals play so many matches that they improve with age.   Continued...

Roger Federer of Switzerland looks over at his opponent Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain during their men's singles match at the 2014 U.S. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton