Peak performance in tennis, or anything else for that matter, requires mastery of the mind. That’s a lesson that Timothy Gallwey has been teaching his tennis pupils for years.
Any sort of competition has two components:
To conquer the Inner Game, we must look a little deeper. In each of us exists two different selves, Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 is your conscious mind and Self 2 is your subconscious. The key to peak performance rests in improving the relationship between Self 1 and Self 2.
The modus operandi of Self 1 is to doubt Self 2, despite Self 2 embodying the potential you have developed through years of practice, learning, etc. Quieting Self 1 involves slowing the mind - thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, and fearing less. We must learn to see our experience without judgment, and instead, we must see what is happening instead.
To do this, we must learn to trust Self 2. In the context of sport, this means not taking for granted the automatic processes that take place within our bodies. Acknowledge the miracle that these functions exist, and remember that experience precedes technical knowledge. People don’t become experts at tennis (or many other things for that matter) by simply reading technical instructions. They have to lift up that racket and practice.
Learning and watching from pros is a powerful technique, but don’t assume that how the pro swings is how you should be swinging. Use these outside models to aid your learning, but remember that natural learning comes from the inside out.
To sum up, the usual way of learning is as follows:
Gallwey instead suggests, we learn as follows:
Focus is effortless and relaxed - it is the act of keeping the mind present. You can do this by picking one thing to focus one, and sticking with it. The only way of building this muscle of presentness is to practice.