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Get an Early Head Start and Win More Later in 2022
— January 4, 2022 —
Ruth Dobson-Torres By — January 4, 2022

Get an Early Head Start and Win More Later in 2022

It’s 2022. It’s the New Year, and it’s a new tennis year for those of us who love-love tennis.

Though we’re only a few days into the New Year, many of you may already be tired of reading and hearing messages about New Year plans and resolutions. 

Maybe you’re experiencing message fatigue because you already have all of your 2022 goals outlined? Or, maybe you’re tired of reading and hearing about New Year plans and goals because you don’t have a clear idea about changes that you may need or want to make to improve your life in 2022?

Well, if you don’t have specific plans to improve your tennis game and match win record figured out yet, it’s not too late. You can start by asking yourself the question, “Where should I begin?” Or, you might consider following the advice of former ATP tennis pro, top tennis coach and ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert, and ask yourself a slightly different question, which is: “When should I begin?”

In his book, “Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis – Lessons from a Master,” co-authored with Steven Jamison back in 1993, Gilbert advises tennis players who want to win more matches to improve their mental game focus – including beginning mental preparation early before matches and considering, “the match before the match begins.” 

Specifically, Gilbert shares pre-match actions to improve your match-winning odds, including: 

  • Evaluate Your Opponent and Think About the Match
  • Know Your Opponent’s Strengths & Weaknesses & Plan Your Related Response
  • Establish a Game Plan of What You Want and Don’t Want to Happen
  • Have an Equipment Checklist of Match Items (examples: water, two rackets, energy food, Ibuprofens, towels, and more.) 
  • Do On-Court Dynamic and Static Flexibility Stretching to Warm & Stretch Your Muscles
  • Have a “Microwave Warm-up” with Your Opponent (with specific seconds and minutes allotted to practice your volley, groundstroke, overhead, toss, serve and service return)
  • Use four “Nerve Busters” to Address the Jitters (“Breathe like you’ve got asthma,” “Get happy feet,” “Read the label,” and, “Sing a song”)

Gilbert also recommends grabbing an early lead at the start of a match by:

  • Never serving first (exceptions: “The Wind in your face” and “The Sun at your back”)
  • Starting your match “like Ivan Lendl” by controlling it initially
  • Playing the first two games correctly and sensibly without unforced errors 
  • Utilizing “the First Pit Stop,” i.e., sit down and think after the first game

Winning Ugly” was a 2021 Love-Love Tennis Book Club selection and includes many more strategies beyond these pre-match tips to help you improve your mental game. If you’ve already read the book, revisit it…now. And, if you haven’t read the book, check it out…now

Because remember, it’s early 2022, and the advantages you create now can give you a head start for match success later.

Ruth Dobson-Torres

About the Author

An amateur USTA tennis player, Ruth Dobson-Torres holds a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With 28 years of corporate marketing experience, Ruth’s experience as a blogger is extensive. Besides corporate blogs, Ruth has authored 141 posts on her personal blog at

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