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Sunday Morning tennis column: Staying focused during the pandemic




El Salvador’s professional tennis player Marcelo Arévalo González, current world number 610, practises volleys using his mattress while in lockdown

So, here we go again! For the third time in about 18 months, the players are at home again. Everyone is, no doubt, frustrated, upset, and probably a little cautious as well.

Coaches keep instructing the players to stay fit and to stay focused during these lockdowns. Online fitness and consultation sessions are conducted. But none of it matches the feeling of getting out of the house and playing on a playing field.

Some ideas for players

But, unfortunately, there is no end in sight. Therefore, the players and the coaches have to make the best out of a bad situation.

With this in mind, given below are some ideas for the players to make sure that they stay focused and to make sure that they stay in love with the game.

Reading about the game

Most players and coaches are extremely busy during normal times. Practices, matches, and physical training and, of course, at normal times, school takes up a lot of their time.

Therefore, they do not get much time to read any books, whereas these days, the players as well as the coaches have a lot of time on their hands.

As such, this is the best time that all parties will get to read and learn about the game. Tennis is a game of solicitude. Therefore, each little nugget of knowledge gathered from any area will be vital to them, especially in a tough situation in a close match. As such, this time can be very well utilised to read about the game as much as you can.

Studying tactics

Studying tactics is another area where the players as well as the coaches need to sit down at a table and do on their own. This will extend towards watching videos of your rivals, or even international players, and trying to understand their tactics in a particular match.

This can even extend further to writing specific tactics down against your known opponents. This will be very useful in the Sri Lankan context where there is a limited player-pool at tournaments.

The tactics thought of, studied, and written down can then be practised on court when the players get back on court in due time.

Doing visualisation techniques

Visualisation is probably the most important of mental training exercises any player can do. And there is no better time to practise those visualisation techniques than during this time.

If the players devote a small part of their time each day, perhaps in the morning and the evening, they will find that they are benefitting immensely from their practices.

Therefore, the players certainly need to look at this aspect during these times. When visualising, it is vital that the players do the visualisations in as detailed a way as possible.

Improving mental-training knowledge

Mental training is probably the most neglected aspect in any sport in Sri Lanka. And there are various aspects of mental training which some of our players have no knowledge about at all.

This is the best time for the players to read, learn, and improve their mental aspects of the game. For example, self talk, positive and negative thoughts, deep breathing and goal-setting are some of them.

Players can use this time to learn about all these aspects and also learn their practical application during this time. If in fact the players use this time to learn about these aspects, this would be time well spent indeed.

Working on shadow drills

Players might not be getting on court these days. But on the other hand, the players can certainly use this time to work on their shadow drills.

When players get on court, sometimes they would perhaps not have the necessary time to do the shadow drills that they need to do as they have a limited time on court.

But, during this time, they can do these shadow drills, preferably in front of a mirror, so that they can observe themselves doing them, as much time as they want to.

This would not only alleviate the boredom but would make the players release some of the mental pressure that they might be feeling for lack of physical exertion.

Staying fit

The most important thing to do these days is to stay fit. Even players living in condominiums can do exercises to stay fit. They can certainly do a lot of skipping, footwork exercises, and even some coordination exercises in a very limited space.

Therefore, there will be no excuse for any player who turns up on court after this lockdown in a bad physical condition.

If that happens, the only conclusion to draw is that the players have only themselves to blame. Therefore, staying fit should certainly be in their considerations during this time.


These are unusual times. It is of no use whining about that time and spending it. Instead, the players and the coaches need to make sure that they are ready to go as soon as they get back on court.

If that is not the case, it will be time wasted. Whilst these unusual times require unusual solutions, it is up to the individuals to make sure that they use the time afforded to the best of their ability.

If that happens, one day the players and the coaches might even be able to look back on this time… fondly.