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What an impressive first set by local tennis player Michael Venus yesterday against Tommy Robredo in the Heineken Open.  This event is New Zealand’s annual ATP tour event attracting some of the world’s top tennis players.

Michael Venus played much of the first set looking like he could be a top 10 world ranked player. He certainly has the technical ability to achieve that if he can muster the self belief, the critical part of the top two inches.  The reality is that it is our deep seated unconscious beliefs that restricts or creates our performance.  In his case he did not really believe he could win.  This was illustrated by the way he jumped in the air wildly celebrating after winning the first set. At that point his match was over.  He had achieved his goal.  It was then very difficult to get back ‘in the zone’ as shown by the result.  If he really believed he could win, he would not have been so exciting by winning just one set.  He would have been happy sure but knowing he still had much more to do.

Rubin Statham was similar yesterday, he won one set against a good opponent but the reality is while he had the desire, drive and hope at a conscious level, it is our unconscious stuff that creates our performance.  Hence he lost in 3 sets.

Sasha Jones is another example of a great NZ talent; she has the game to be a top 50 player.  Like Michael Venus she has the ability to be one of NZ’s greatest players but the real question is does she have the top two inches.  I will reserve my opinion as I do not know how much focus and commitment both have on doing off court work on developing the top two inches.  Can they both make it to the top? Of course they can but will they do it?  Well only time and those two inches will tell.

The other annoying misconception the commentators have on the way Micheal Venus lost is that he needed more experience to be competitive at this level.  That of course is partly true, it helps of course but it is also not the experience that he needed in-order to win, he needed the self belief he could really do it!  This can certianly come from experience but only if this experience is positive experience.   The key point is you do not need the experience to gain the self belief. You can develop the belief with off court mental skills training.

An example of having the belief without the experience is Marus Daniel at this same event last year.  The key is belief and expecting deep down at the subconscious and unconscious levels you can win.  Another example of  strong self belief was Martina Hingis when she won her first grand slam at aged 15.  She had the belief she could do it and expected nothing other that success.

Top tennis players practice sometimes 6 hours a day and how much of that time is specific to building the top two inches?  Well you probably know the answer to that. Most players very little which seems crazy when you could estimate that 80% of their performance is determined by the top two inches.

The state of NZ tennis is not the lack of talent and ability it is the lack of true self belief.  You can only ever perform as well as you truly belief at a deep unconscious level.  So NZ tennis need to focus on the inner confidence and self belief to build the next generation of champions.

Some people start their sports career with that belief, Hingis, Riche McCaw and Dan Carter for  example, others like Rat Rafter develope this belief as they mature. Rafter never was a top ranked junior in Australia yet matured to be one of the best. It can be done but not by focusing on technique only. The balance is different for all players but the principle is universal.  If you don’t fully believe you can do it, you will not, under pressure you will tighten up and fail.

Make a commitment today to creating your goals and get ‘in the zone.’

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