Anne Keothavong, the world number 72, on how to deal with your angst, and why, if you’re going to smash a racket, you need to smash it as hard as you can.
Let loose, and scream, don’t squeak. Get it all out.
“Sometimes, you have to let loose with your frustrations. If you’re going to swear and you’re going to get a warning for it, you might as well do it at the top of your voice. Or if you’re going to smash a racket, do it as hard as you can. That way, it’s much more satisfying, and you’re getting your money’s worth. If you’re just going to squeak it out, and get a warning for it anyway, that’s not really worth it. If you’re going to get a warning, make the most of it. When I was younger, I used to smash rackets. But, these days, I don’t. If I do ding it, more often than not, it cracks straight away. I don’t know whether it’s my technique. Some players can chuck their rackets and they’re fine to play the next point. When I chuck mine, it tends to break. People need to vent their anger. It’s difficult to keep everything all in. If you need to crack a racket, then crack a racket, but I wouldn’t now. I would rather scream. I get more satisfaction from screaming out than from breaking a racket. I mutter things under my breath. I’m not sure I would want a mic at the back of the court. As I’ve got older, I’ve learnt to control my emotions a lot better. You don’t mellow out, but you learn to control your emotions a bit better.”
Don’t stew over a bad shot or bad linecall.
“Let it out, but once it’s out, move on to the next point. You have to get on with it. Don’t let it drag. Everyone gets frustrated on a tennis court, whether that’s because you’re playing badly or because of something the umpire has done or your opponent being highly irritating and unsportsmanlike. You have to focus on what you’re out there to do, and that’s to win the match, and you have to give yourself the best possible opportunity to do that. Ranting and raving isn’t going to make that happen.”
Ignore your opponent.
“There are lots of players who are going to get up to all sorts of tricks, whether that’s time-wasting or disagreeing with the umpire just to be difficult, or whether it’s loo-breaks, or making inappropriate comments aimed at you. Without naming names, there are one or two players who are just outrageous with everything. They’re abusive to ball-kids, umpires, opponents, just making gobby comments and generally just being unhappy people. You have to ignore it. Focus on yourself and somehow block it out.”
Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the crowd.
“You have to use a hostile crowd to your advantage, and use it to spur yourself on. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of a crowd, even if they’re not supporting you. You want to get on with it. Don’t challenge the crowd, and be argumentative. If they’re not supporting you already, that’s going to make it even more difficult for you. It’s great to have a home crowd on your side. For a British player, playing at Wimbledon adds a different sort of pressure. The more support you get as a player, the better. You want to know that the people who have paid for their tickets want to see you do well. Try to use that to your advantage. Whether a crowd is on your side or not, it’s important to stay in your bubble.”