In the opening round of the TGF ITF World Tour J5-junior competition in Accra, Ghana, Raphael Nii Ankrah of Ghana faced up against French player Michael Kouame. Kouame could not control his emotions after losing the match to Ankrah in three close sets (2-6, 7-6, 6-7), and he allowed the mental tension to overcome him. It prompted Kouame to slap Ankrah after the final handshake. Ankrah maintained his composure and never let his emotions control him, or it might have resulted in a major altercation.
The French player admitted to slapping his opponent since the game was stressful and intense when questioned by the media. He later apologized in public. He gave his word that he would reflect on his un-sportsmanship and shameful conduct. When competing in a significant tournament, one must have mental toughness to handle the stress they go through mentally. Ideally, these factors could be controlled with the correct mental preparation before every competition.
Why does a player have to go to such an extreme length for losing a match? What is the big deal? In tennis, mental preparation is as crucial as physical fitness. Tennis players who are skilled in both the physical and mental aspects of the game can compete and win many matches. These players have greater ambition while playing and even in their training.
We have seen famous pro players lose their cool and abuse their racquets. They are humans too. They won’t go to the extreme to slap their opponent after losing a match. Mental training can help players remain composed during important tournaments.
What should the French player have done instead of smacking his opponent? A better choice he could have made is to give himself a brief pep talk as he approached the net for the handshake. Telling himself that whatever happened, happened, and swearing to himself that he would reflect on the mistakes he made in the game, would perform better in his upcoming matches and hopefully defeat the same opponent if given the chance.
We should never let our adversaries see how we are influenced by our emotions. If so, the opponent will apply the same strategy to appeal to our emotions the following time, and we will be defeated despite our hard effort. And it will be like giving away a match because the energy spent on frustration doesn’t improve your game. Being angry steals your mental capacity to evaluate what you need to do better. Anger clouds your ability to analyze what patterns your opponent is using. A clear head is the way to stay mentally alert to what your opponent is doing and how you can capitalize on it.
In conclusion, try to respect your opponent, respect the ref, respect your racquet, as these are ways you can earn the respect of others. Some matches are very frustrating, and mental training can help you handle your frustrations on and off court. Every match is an opportunity for growth!
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