Perfection is the goal for a lot of tennis players. But in the end, this pursuit can be a heavy weight that pulls your game down.
The need to be perfect has nothing to do with talent.
Whether you're a 1.5, 3.5, 4.5 or college, satellite tour or pro tour player, the trap of perfection is just as damaging to your game as it is for anyone else.
Everywhere I go, at some point, someone will say to me that they strive to be perfect on the court. Some strive for the perfect swing and others strive to play the "perfect match."
Did you ever notice how many imperfect performances there are in the world of sports? While amateurs and aspiring pros work diligently to be "perfect" in every way, the truth is that the performance of champions is not without its errors.
You only need to look as far back as the 2009 U.S. Open Championships, Wimbledon or Australian Opens. You'll see shots flying all over the court. You'll see missed forehands, double faults, poor approach shots and shoddy net play.
You'll find the same thing happening in other sports as well. Baseball players are considered highly successful when they get hits on three out of 10 at bats. Perfection? Hardly. A batting average of three hundred is considered a lofty feat in baseball.
Great pitchers don't throw perfectly all the time either. They can miss their targets, give up home runs and walk opposing batters and still win ballgames!
You'll find that all sports are riddled with imperfections by imperfect people and teams that can go on to be icons of greatness in their respected fields.
The point is that great tennis is about doing something better than your opponent. It's about knowing how to work with imperfection better than they do.
Perfection is not the key to being your best. Sure, you may want to strive for your best possible game, but it's working with the reality of your imperfection that brings you to your highest and most consistent performances.
Here are some important keys that can help you work with your imperfection more effectively:
Being imperfect is closer to reality than being perfect is. Champions don't fear "looking bad" because they are too focused on the task at hand. It's the effort and commitment they make that pulls them through. Golfers hit poor shots, tennis players blow easy shots, hockey players get knocked down and basketball players miss easy shots and so on. What they do AFTER that is what makes them perfect with their imperfections.
Reduce Your Pressure
By accepting that you are imperfect you will decrease the amount of self-induced pressure you experience. Now you are fulfilling your obligation to express your talents to the fullest! (Which means you will experience the good, the bad and the ugly at times!)
Tolerate Your Errors
I find that a lot of tennis players don't tolerate their errors very well. Being imperfect means that you are able to tolerate your own errors and mistakes. It doesn't mean that you like them or look forward to them but it does mean that you tolerate them. When you tolerate them, you don't waste energy being angry and frustrated. Tolerating your errors means you acknowledge them and move on to refocus on the next moment that needs your attention.
Practice and strive for perfection knowing that accepting your imperfection is the key to the freedom to give your "all" to the game.
To your best tennis!
David Breslow is a former competitive player, teaching professional and Director of Mental Toughness at the USTA National Tennis Center and now works as a Peak Performance Specialist.