Work in Sports
Currently ranked No. 34 in the world, 22-year-old Kristina Brandi is coming off her best season on the WTA Tour. Brandi captured her first WTA title in 1999, winning the $180,000 Heineken Trophy in the Netherlands. A resident of Tampa, Florida, Brandi is coached by her father, Joe, who played on the ATP Tour. Check out Brandi's diary every other week on CNNSI.com.
July 24, 2000
People ask me questions constantly as I travel, and they often fall into the same topics. The prevailing questions this month all seem to pertain to the "mind game" of tennis.
In past diaries, I have expressed my feelings about nervousness, preparation, and concentration.
Questions keep coming, however, about how the tennis pros feel when playing in front of large crowds, how we are affected by bad line calls and what mental exercises separate the top-10 players and the bottom-50 players from someone ranked 30 like myself.
The mental edge of a top-10 player involves consistency. This is the key to the elite door!
Many players can win a big match or have a golden day. Top players do this on a weekly basis. This consistency sets them apart from the others.
All players are big hitters but the top players make the big plays in clutch situations. They know how to adjust to the wind, heat, noise and other obstacles. They manage to avoid the dangers of a letdown after a big win which is another important factor. They learn from their mistakes and experiences and are able to maintain their intensity. All this physical acuteness stems from mental awareness.
I am learning that tennis is much like golf because it requires a high level of focus for days at a time. The responsibility of this concentration depends on me, myself and I. I have no support from teammates, nor do I have a coach to gripe at or blame!
Coaching is not allowed during a professional match. If I get what I perceive to be a horrendous line call, it's my own job how to handle it. I could go crazy and accuse the entire planet of plotting against me or I can just keep on playing while boiling silently inside.
Each player needs to handle bad luck and close calls the way that best keeps her on track in the match. Some players actually feel they are letting off steam if they yell about a line call and they can then play better.
Line calls on grass courts are usually final and are not often contested. Hard court calls can be slightly argued, while clay court "marks" can be argued with the enthusiasm of a trial lawyer.
If I argue and lose, at least I feel I stood up for myself. The fact remains, however, that we put the calls in the hands of another human being who can only call it as it is seen. Stuff happens. Period.
They way I see it, there is no free ticket. Hot sun, blisters, noisy crowds, swollen toes, delayed flights, cramps, food poisoning, lost luggage, and hot days all make a bad line call seem trivial.
Or is it just the icing on the cake?