Buffalo News – Oct 14, 1999 – Charlie Garfinkel – Have you ever imagined yourself performing in a tennis match without error, as effortlessly as Pete Sampras or Serena Williams?

Have you ever had a feeling of the utmost self-confidence just before playing in a tennis match?

Have you ever set short-, medium-, and long-range goals that pertain to your overall tennis performance that you expected to reach?

Do you ever have so much fun playing tennis that you never wanted to stop?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, the book, “Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game,” (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 237 pages, $ 18, 1-800-956-7739, www.josseybass.com) by Dr. John Murray, Ph.D., is for you.

Murray is an internationally known tennis professional who has written a book that will lead you toward a better understanding of your game, improvement, and a greater enjoyment of tennis. The book will help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses and will help you win the game against your toughest opponent — yourself. Murray’s book includes a list of 100 questions that helps you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. He then shows you how to interpret your scores and improve your mental and physical game.

The book has seven chapters that deal with your personal needs, attention control, imagery, confidence, energy control, goal setting, and playing smart tennis. Although all of the chapters are excellent, I especially liked the chapter on confidence.

Murray stresses that you don’t have to be the greatest tennis player in the world to have confidence. Even at the recreational level, players should walk and look confident, do positive things and not get upset.

Here are 14 points that Murray stresses to build confidence:

1. Give your absolute best at all times. If you do happen to lose, don’t be despondent over it. Use it as an excellent lesson for your next match.

2. Enjoyment helps you learn fast. Regardless of the results of your match you should play to enjoy each and every point.

3. Never give up. Even if you are losing big, anything can happen. Most people remember the Steffi Graf-Jana Novotna Wimbledon final of a few years ago. Novotna was up 4-1, 40-0, in the third set, and seemingly could do no wrong. Suddenly, the whole match changed. Graf staged a remarkable comeback and won the match. 4. Believe in yourself. This will improve your performance on and off the court.

5. Imagery frequently helps. Thinking of hitting the ball the correct way and imagining yourself as the winner of the match will greatly enhance your mental game.

6. Try to improve your physical fitness. Keeping your body in top physical shape will give you the feeling that your body is prepared and ready to play.

7. Don’t always play players that are equal to, or better than, you are. You need to play against weaker players occasionally to keep your confidence up. Some players will never develop the confidence that they need because they are usually overmatched.

8. Make a long list of your physical and mental strengths. Go over the list regularly to see where your strong and weak points are. Although you should work on improving your weaknesses, don’t neglect to compliment yourself on the parts of your game that are really outstanding.

9. Try to get rid of negative thoughts. For instance, if the score is 5-0 in the third set, many players will think to themselves, “I am really nervous. I just have to win this next game.” Instead, you should be thinking, “This is why I love playing tennis. I really play my best under pressure.”

10. Develop more than one strategic plan against your opponent. If you have a game plan prepared and it isn’t working, have a back-up plan ready. If possible, scout your opponent before you play. Developing a list of their strengths and weaknesses before you play could make you feel more confident before you walk on the court.

11. Have good body language throughout the match. Be confident at all times. Don’t hang your head between points. Don’t make comments such as “I’m terrible” or “I can’t play this game.” The way you act and feel will go a long way in determining how you will play and succeed in your match.

12. Practice on improving your weaknesses. Use your practice time wisely. Work hard and on the parts of your game that need improvement. This will give you the confidence to play in the same manner when you play an actual match.

13. Don’t give your opponent more credit than he or she deserves. They might be playing extremely well. However, focus on your own strength and performance.

14. Learn to enjoy playing against tough competition. Learning to play against tough competition will make you a better player and will also help to improve your own confidence.

“These tips and principles really work,” Murray said. “I’ve helped both elite and recreational athletes use them, and they’ll work for.