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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Struggles with confidence plague tennis

    Freshman Alex Labrosse volleys during Arizonas 4-3 loss to California March 31. Labrosse and the Wildcats have struggled through a disappointing 5-17 season, and are riding an 11-match losing streak.
    Freshman Alex Labrosse volleys during Arizona’s 4-3 loss to California March 31. Labrosse and the Wildcats have struggled through a disappointing 5-17 season, and are riding an 11-match losing streak.

    In any sport, a team’s confidence plays a significant role. But in the game of tennis, mental strength is arguably one of the most important traits involved.

    A large fraction of the skills required for tennis lies inside the skull, according to UA head men’s tennis coach Tad Berkowitz.

    “”I’d say tennis is 25 percent mental, 25 percent ability and 50 percent conditioning,”” he said. “”The mental game in tennis is huge.””

    This proved true for Arizona this season. The Wildcats finished the regular season 5-17 and on an 11-match losing streak.

    While there are various arguments as to what caused such a disappointing season, many of the players said confidence played a significant role.

    “”Once we started losing, everyone lost some confidence and we started getting really down on ourselves,”” junior Bruno Alcala said. “”When your confidence level gets low, you don’t believe as much as you did before, so it’s tough.””

    Arizona’s problems began early in the season. After starting with a victory over NAU, the Wildcats lost four in a row to schools they felt they should have beaten. Berkowitz said he felt that was the first time he noticed his team’s confidence take a blow.

    “”Those are confidence-booster matches that we’re supposed to get wins under our belt, but we ended up losing those matches,”” he said.

    “”Once we played a few (Pacific 10 Conference) matches, the guys forgot how to win, and you see that in some of the scores.””
    – Tad Berkowitz,
    UA head coach

    “”Then what happened, once we played a few (Pacific 10 Conference) matches, the guys forgot how to win, and you see that in some of the scores.””

    Many of Arizona’s matches were highly competitive, as the Wildcats finished the season with nine of their losses coming by a score of 4-3. In most of these matches, Arizona had chances to change the outcome but was unable to finish off opponents.

    “”We didn’t get blown away very often at all,”” Berkowitz said. “”Even when we played UCLA and USC”” – the top two teams in the Pac-10 – “”we were in there every match. It was just one of those things that at the end of the season we forgot how to win and couldn’t quite finish teams off.””

    Many players used various strategies and techniques to calm themselves and refocus on their matches. Alcala said he tried to forget about the last point and focus on the task at hand.

    “”I try to tell myself, ‘Go a point at a time, don’t worry what the score is, just focus on your game,’ “” he said. “”I also try to move my feet to forget about the last point and focus on the next one. It’s tough to handle sometimes.””

    Each player has a different strategy for these situations. Junior Claudio Christen said he reminds himself of “”simple things”” to get himself refocused.

    “”You tend to get down on yourself and start talking and all that,”” he said. “”So I try to tell myself basic stuff, like footwork for example. Or on the serve, when it isn’t working at all, I tell myself to keep my arm up a little longer – just really simple things to try and get back on track.””

    For many of the Wildcats, the process of regaining confidence will begin at the Pac-10 Tournament, which begins tomorrow in Ojai, Calif., and runs through Sunday.

    Alcala said he expects to use the tournament to reassess where he is at tenniswise.

    “”I just want to play my best and see where I am at, because I’ll be playing against really good players every week (in the spring),”” he said. “”And I will also work on my game over the summer, because next year I’m going to be a senior, and I don’t want to have the same season as we had this year.””

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