How to Play a Seeded Player

November 14, 2005 04:07 PM

by Dr. Robert Heller

You know the drill. You sign up for a tournament and to your dismay; you learn you have to play one of the top seeded players the very first round. You think to yourself how it’s not fair or that you just have bad luck. As you take a deep sigh and shuffle back to the clubhouse prior to your match, you are already planning what you will do the rest of the day after your lose. If this sounds somewhat familiar Dr. Heller has some suggestions, which you might find helpful.

First of all, lose the attitude! Stop assuming that you have lost the match even before it has begun. Otherwise, you lose your energy, play half-heartedly and hand your opponent the match on a platter. Take your seeded opponent off of the pedestal and remember that many a top seed has lost to an unseeded rookie early on in a tournament. Make him or her earn the right to move on to the next round. Try your hardest and play your best.

Secondly, recognize that on any given day, your game can be really on and your opponent’s game can be off. Once the match begins you are playing an opponent, not a ranking.

Third, consider that your game style may not be your opponent’s favorite and that his style of play might actually play to your strengths!.

Fourth, remind yourself that all the pressure is on your opponent. After all, she’s the seeded player so she’s “supposed” to win. If she wins, no big deal, but if she loses, you’re the hero that slayed the dragon! With no pressure on you to perform, you can play relaxed and just go for your shots.

Fifth, if you get off to a good start, you may put doubt in your opponent’s mind and he may play more tentatively or become upset with himself.

If it turns out the seeded player is truly stronger than you in all key areas, then you can be thankful at the opportunity to compete with a better play from which you can learn something from and aspire to be like in some respects. The match can highlight your strengths and weaknesses and motivate you to continue to train, play and improve. You now have a baseline from which you can compare your performance the next time you meet this opponent.

So next time you face a seeded player, look at it as an opportunity to raise the level of your game. Enjoy the competition; try hard for each point and you will earn your opponent’s respect win or loss.

Dr. Robert Heller is a psychologist, sports psychology consultant and certified tennis instructor based in Boca Raton, Florida. He is the author of the 2-volume mental conditioning CD-Rom program, “TENNISMIND.” For information on sports enhancement training, workshops and other services, contact him at (561) 451-2731, or visit