Samson DubinaWalking into a tournament, I asked my friend, “So, how are you playing today?”

“Oh, it’s just not my day,” he moans back to me.

Many players go into tournaments with extremely high expectations of playing much better than they have every practiced, much better than they have ever played in a practice match, and much better than they have ever played in a tournament before.  These players are dreaming.

In most tournaments, I play around 50-80% of my full potential.  When I’m playing 100%, yes, I feel amazing.  But there are other factors that hinder me from playing my best.  Different playing conditions can hinder my performance – different balls, different lighting, different tables, different floor, slight wind currents, strange playing-style opponents, and thousands of other distractions.  Also, my preparation can hinder my performance – uncomfortable bed, lack of sleep, fatigue from travel, damaged equipment, and many other elements. 

With these thoughts in mind, realize that you will probably be able to play at 50-80% of your full potential.  Stay positive.  Do your best to understand that your opponent isn’t at 100% of his level either.  Have confidence in your game.  Instead of merely focusing on your game, look at your opponent and think of ways to make him play poorly.  Do your best to play your strengths against his weaknesses.

If your backhand loop isn’t working, then serve and receive more often to the wide forehand.  Work the forehand and middle and avoid playing too many balls to the backhand.

If your serve continues to go too long, then be ready to block or counterloop after your serve.

If your block is inconsistent, fight harder to attack first and force the counterlooping rallies

If you are missing too many serves, consider pushing long and playing rallies instead of trying to be so precise on your serves.

If your opponent is blocking you down, consider changing your placement and varying the speed and depth of your attacks.

If you are missing too many opening loops, consider getting in better positioning with your legs and spinning the ball more.

There are literally thousands of ways to win even if all of your weapons aren’t working to the full potential.  This main key is to stay positive, believe in yourself, use your strengths, be willing to adjust your strategy, and play your best to win!