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Luca Mandalino

The 4T Method.

Testing - Teaching - Training - Testing.
Scientific and technological setting, measurement of the real values technical and athletic.
Optimization and customization of the player's training.

luca mandalino
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Chapter three.

Advantages of the 4T method in the fundamental psychological dynamics of competitive tennis with regard to the players’ technical and athletic levels.

There are many topics that have something to do with the psycological dynamics of competitive tennis. Just consider the various techniques to manage emotional tension, to be practiced before, during and after a tennis match; in this chapter we confine ourselves to analysing them only in relation to the 4T Method and to the players’ technical and athletic levels.
The activities of the 4T Method are to be used to structure a correct mental preparation thanks to which it is possible to take the court with very clear ideas and to face in the best possible way the psychological dynamics of a competitive match.
The technical and athletic test, carried out at the end of the cycle of activities of the 4TMethod, enables us to obtain the real pragmatic levels of the player which, once they are analysed, make us understand how far his potentialities allow him to venture in total safety.
Thanks to an analysis of these levels it is possible to establish a playing strategy and according to which schemes it should be implemented.
In this way, the competitive player will be in a position to express himself in “full awareness” during a match and face his opponent, from the very first game points, with the necessary “self-determination” which will allow him to manage psychological pressures  in the best possible way.
To be able to interpret psychological dynamics correctly may turn “important matches” in our favour.
The first values to be analysed summarily, are the technical and athletic qualities  which determine the playing level of the two opponents, thanks to which it is possible to establish an elementary theoretical profile of the match.

There are three  elementary theoretical profiles of a match:

  1. A and B have an equivalent playing level or almost equivalent.
  2. A has a much higher playing level than  B
  3. B has a much higher playing level than A.

The first profile concerns “important matches”,  the psychological fight between two players contending a technically balanced match can sometimes create a particularly tense atmosphere which even the spectators can easily sense.
These matches are  “important” because, beside the fact that they occur more frequently, they are loaded with emotional tension and they give us the best opportunities to test our abilities.  To prepare them properly can reward us with a definite improvement and an advancement in the ranking.
It often happens that a player who shows full awareness and self-determination right from the beginning, precisely because he knows to where he can venture, wins over less prepared opponents, who are made shy by his personality and who play in a condition of psychological suffering, do not play at the best of their abilities and lose the match.
The final result can be overwhelming , or the match can start in a balanced way up to an indicative  score of 4 all in the first set, to then end up 6/4 - 6/0, in which case, in tennis jargon, you say that the defeated player has “loosened up”, to indicate his emotional and technical breakdown in the second set.
When a player “loosens up” he loses the ability to keep control of his own game and he is often visibly confused.
Besides, when important and decisive points of a balanced match are played,  a peculiar situation may occur concerning the “short arm”, a definition given to the arm of players who are inhibited by excessive nervousness.
Nervousness, in this case identified by the fear of making mistakes, can worsen the state of indecision and hesitation regarding the strokes to play.  This causes the player to lose his synergic action, and brings him to make gross and glaring mistakes, thus increasing more and more his state of psychological suffering.
The “short arm” handicap penalizes especially players who are less prepared to play a balanced match; a proper preparation, can reduce and sometimes cancel the possibility of becoming a victim of this type of match, because the awareness of one’s own technical abilities and self-determination represent the best formula against nervousness.
To that end, when we feel the emotional tension growing it is very useful to use a specific tactical scheme which has been previously studied and practiced, based only on playing geometries which bring us to avoid playing strokes with which we are less confident, so as to systematically relieve the emotivity in excess by hitting the ball with greater force, speed and determination, thanks to our best automatisms.

The second and third profiles refer to matches in which we find ourselves in a distinct superior or inferior situation compared to our opponent and where the interpretation of the psychological dynamics is simple and crystal clear; when our opponent is much stronger than us, we have nothing to lose by playing calmly.
The opportunity is useful to make good use of the strokes which we are good at, using trajectories with little risk, “practicing them during the match” at a playing pace higher than our standard, without having to fear of putting up a poor show.
When it is us who are much stronger than our opponent, we can, once again, take the opportunity to “practice during the match” by carrying out the strategy, the technical schemes and strokes which will be useful to us in our next “important match”.
The expression “practicing during the match” offers an excellent opportunity to answer a question which is often put to us by beginners, for instance, after they have watched a match which ended 6/4 - 6/3 between number one in the world and a player who can in no way worry him.
The question is: “why didn’t he give him a score of  6/0 - 6/0, given the enormous technical difference ?”
Certainly not for an excess of kindness, he may not have played the match well, but most likely it is because he “practiced during the match”.
They often use easier matches to prepare the more difficult ones, taking the risk of losing an extra game, but always keeping control of the important points.
It is a common saying that to play against much stronger opponents considerably helps us to improve our way of playing. I consider some clarifications necessary here.
Playing “by practicing” and trying strokes and angling with somebody who is much stronger than us, gets us accustomed to a higher ball speed, to receiving sharper shots and quicker and angled services which consequently improves our reactions; moreover, we polish and speed up the technical gesture.
This is not the case when we frequently play  “competitive matches” against opponents who are much stronger than us. We often lose very quickly without having any opportunity to carry out  the slightest strategy or tactics.
An average level player who wants to optimize his competitive training should therefore carry out training sessions on strokes and angling against players of a much higher level and play practice matches with slightly stronger players against whom he usually loses with an approximate score of   4/6 - 4/6, venturing to the limits of his technical abilities by carrying out the strategies and related tactical schemes that he studied beforehand.
In this way, after carrying out the technical learning and training activities together with the technical-athletic quality test with a strategic and tactics analysis, the player who practices regularly can, by playing practice matches according to the mentioned indications, reverse within a few months the score with those players against which he kept losing and acquire a greater ability in managing psychological dynamics.
By training methodically and by acquiring awareness and self-determination we can avoid being deeply disappointed when we suffer a defeat in important matches,  with the regret of not having  prepared ourselves adequately for those events.

Finally, what I call the “gladiator’s instinct”, regarding the competitive mental preparation, is to be simply aware that in a tennis match there is no draw, either you win or you lose; therefore, when we find ourselves playing the decisive points of the match we must draw on all the psychophysical energies available, and while forcing ourselves to remain calm, make the right decisions and carry them out with extreme determination; the saying “calmness is a virtue of the strong” is good advice.

After all these considerations, logic would recommend competitive players to prepare themselves scrupulously and to play each single match as if they were playing the finals of the Wimbledon Tournament, in order to maintain an exponential growth trend of their potential, without omitting two important aspects such as the athletic preparation and nutrition which, for obvious reasons, are not included in this manual.

I would like to conclude with a slightly rethorical recommendation to beginners, to young competitive players, to their coaches and to their parents:  “Let us never forget that tennis is a game, except for professionals, and that, whatever the circumstance, it must be practised with intelligence, dignity and serenity".

Previous Article Chapter two.
Next Article Chapter four.
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