As a player you should focus on how you win now. Players lose sight of this all the time. Coaches on the professional tour constantly remind players of their identities and how they win. How players win and lose now is fundamentally how they will continue to win and lose points, games, sets, and matches throughout their tennis careers. What we are referring to here is a player’s core style. His tennis game will continue to improve, develop, and perhaps gain dimension, but that core identity of who he is in terms of winning and losing has been confidently established as a personal definition of competition. There is a confident way that each of these players thinks that he wins and loses points, games, sets, and matches. This fundamental concept of winning started developing in the juniors. As players develop into top-level professionals, they just get better at these fundamental ways to win and lose.
There is evidence of this at the pro level. Year to year, the top pros play the big points repeatedly the same way. Under pressure, players, at whatever age or skill level, go back to how they were successful in the past--and especially in big matches. In fact, champions have figured out that winning or losing boils down to executing or not executing their games. This concept of how a player competes with her game--and especially, how she plays the key points in a match--needs to be addressed consistently and intelligently. When it is show time, the important issue is this: Are you going to be proactive and play your game, or be reactive and wait for your opponent to play her game?
This is an excerpt from World-Class Tennis Technique, edited by Paul Roetert and Jack Groppel.