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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Consistent Intensity Separates Sharapova, Azarenka, Ferrer from Field

Consistency is an elusive quality that in tennis separates top players from the field. In the first round of the US Open Maria Sharapova struggled to find her consistency against Heather Watson, making 58 unforced errors in 3 sets. It looked like a real possibility that Sharapova would flame out in the first round in what was to be a great opportunity to win a Slam. Maria stuck with it and worked her way out of a set and a break deficit. This is no surprise, Maria is a great competitor.

David Ferrer lost the first set against Igor Andreev of Russia 2-6. Like Sharapova instead of going away Ferrer picked up his intensity and is virtually missing no returns as he is battling back against Andreev in the third set.

Victoria Azarenka brought the intensity level from the start in her first round match against Johanna Larsson; pumping herself up between points and moving her feet. Azarenka's preparation and intensity gave her the big lead early on, winning the first set 6-1.

Almost every player on this planet wants to become more consistent. Watching Sharapova, Azarenka, and Ferrer should offer some ideas on how to improve consistency.

If the goal is consistent performance then a player needs to have consistent habits that lead to these performances. Sharapova is notorious for having a consistent routine. However, what this routine has allowed her to do is be ready, intense, and energized for each point. Sharapova does a great job of staying focused and battling because she is disciplined to her routine. Victoria Azarenka also showed great consistency of intensity today, which is not a surprise. She is constantly imploring herself. Consistent routines create a more consistent level of intensity, energy, and focus. Azarenka does a tremendous job of moving her feet and getting into position. Players that are not ready to play don't move their feet as well.

Being consistent takes discipline. The discipline to prepare for each match in a consistent matter that helps the player reach their optimal physical and mental state. The discipline to have an energized warm-up and to not allow themselves to be distracted. The discipline to keep the energy, effort, and intensity level up in a 2 to 4 hour match by bouncing on the toes and keeping the eyes focused on the court. The discipline to stick with a game plan that works and the discipline to adjust when needed. The discipline to stay positive and focused despite missing shots they would normally make.

The consistency of intensity that Sharapova, Azarenka, and Ferrer bring to the game makes them a threat to win every match they play. They are consistent winners because of their consistent habits and energy, and should be playing in the second week of a Slam once again because of these habits.

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