After eight days of beautiful weather in NYC, rain hit the Open and cancelled two straight days of play. I remember being at the Open in 2002 with long rain delays. Not fun for the fans. And, can't be fun for the players either. There was some controversy over the delay. Several players including Nadal, Murray, and Roddick were frustrated that they sent on to the court when the conditions were slick and more rain was coming. They felt the tournament was putting the fans' interests ahead of their own safety.
It looked like the situation particularly was getting to Rafa Nadal who started very slowly and ended play down 0-3 to Gilles Muller. Nadal was not only frustrated with having to go on court, but actually came out late to the court because he was not given enough warning before being called. Probably the responsibility lies with the player and the tournament staff, but at the same time the player needs to be ready to go when called. Otherwise, they feel rushed and not as confident going in to the match. This very well could have happened to Nadal.
Dealing with rain delays are part of the competitive tennis players world. Sitting around waiting is part and parcel of tennis. How you handle it is crucial to performance on the court. Biting your nails as you wait is not the best way of preparing for the match. And, losing your focus completely while joking around with others, watching television or playing video games will not have you energized enough to restart the match. It is a happy medium you are trying to reach, not too anxious but also energized.
The question is how do you prepare to find the right energy and focus when you do not know the start time because of the rain? There are several key things to factor in as you plan for the rain delay situation.
1. How do I tend to react when I have to wait for my match? Do I get more nervous or to unfocused?
2. How can I "Shrink" my normal preparation routine so that I can be ready to play and confident with 5-10 minutes of preparation?
If you tend to get nervous find things to occupy your mind and keep you relaxed. Playing cards and listening to music are good examples. You just don't want to get involved in something that requires a lot of mental or physical energy. You want to be relaxed and ready to get charged up when the time comes. Make sure your equipment is ready to go including having enough change of clothes, wrist bands, towels, etc. And, surround yourself with people who are going to facilitate your routine not those that are complaining, are needy of you, or don't understand or "accept" your needs.
If you tend to relax too much use activities that keep you relaxed, but don't get your mind totally away from the tennis match. You may want to do more visualization than a player that gets nervous or talk more with your coach the game plan. The key is to have a trigger that gets you back in to match mode.
Players need to create a "shrink" routine that are the essential things you need to do to be ready to play. Importantly in a rain delay situation you need to be able to do this routine in as short as 5-10 minutes. The question is what are those few things that really get you ready? Dynamic warm up? Visualization? Favorite song? Talk with your coach about game plan? Get in your final check points so you are ready to rock when you hit the court.
Learn more about these ideas in the USTA Mental Skills and Drills Handbook