Updated: Oct 15, 2021
When the draw in a tennis tournament is being made players wait anxiously for it to be finally posted. They want to know who they've been drawn against in the first round. They're eager to see who's seeded and who will meet who in the rounds beyond the first round.
Looking ahead to potential matches in the future, trying to predict future opponents is a very common habit. When the draw has been viewed, very quickly, a judgement is made in the minds of players, parents and coaches whether they have a "good" draw or a "bad" draw.
When a player says they have, what they would term, a "bad" draw, they are possibly focusing on the rankings of other players, the seeding or how they have fared against these potential opponents in the past. By making the decision in their minds that their draw is "bad" they've already stacked the odds against themselves, they feel like they've had bad luck and for some it is a way of having their excuse already prepared if they lose. Announcing they've got a bad draw creates lots of negative vibes that the player could do without in the competitive arena.
On the flipside - In the past I have often heard kids say to me that they have a "good" draw and are therefore relaxed and looking forward to playing.
There's nothing wrong with feeling relaxed. Sure, if you have beaten the player you’re due to play many times, you’re going to feel more confident and relaxed. In my experience though, players saying they have a "good" draw tends to lead to complacency with preparations for their matches, especially in the younger age groups.
Playing someone with a much lower ranking shouldn't mean you allow yourself to switch off and just go through the motions to get the win.
For a player to grow and thrive, they should try and get the most out of each and every match they play, whether they're playing a very tough opponent with a much higher ranking or someone who they can win against easily.
No matter who they're playing it's important that a player develops a habit of preparing and planning diligently for each match. The majority of their focus should be on their own game, their own goals and what they are trying to achieve. Sure enough, if they know the player they're going to play then making plans to combat their strengths or exploit their weaknesses can be part of their tactical plan.
The easier matches are a good opportunity to try and develop the weaker areas of their game. Focusing on working on aspects of their mental game is useful in these situations seeing as the pressure of "winning" is greatly reduced. It's easy for players to lose their concentration when they're winning easily, so these type of matches are perfect opportunities to work on maintaining focus and practice resetting after every point.
When a player comes off court after these "easier" matches, knowing they have worked on something in particular that will improve their game, they will feel more confident knowing that they are developing and making progress all the time.
Players should develop the practice of preparing the same way for each and every match no matter who the opponent is, seeded or not! (Using the mindset that a seed is just someone with a number beside their name is a helpful response to anyone who gets obsessed by seeds!)
I like to say to players that there is no such thing as a "good" draw or a "bad" draw. My mentor drilled this into me when I was a player. A draw is a draw, and no matter who you're up against, you make every effort to play to the best of your ability. You have respect for every player whether they are considered weaker or stronger than you. You prepare for each match the exact same way and you have specific goals set out for yourself for each match.
There’s little point in jumping ahead and trying to figure out who you might play in the rounds ahead. There are nearly always surprises in tournaments anyway!
Stay in the moment, play one match at a time and one point at a time. Work on being present as often as you can, resetting after every point. Put in your maximum effort and you will develop and learn no matter who you're playing.