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What tournaments should I play?

Dec 19, 2021
This is a very common question I receive. I think a good way to approach this question is by determining what outcomes one is looking for by playing tournaments. What do tournaments mean to a given player? That answer can vary immensely. It can be fun, prestige, belonging, love for competition, prize money, etc. The level of development the player is at will also always play a leading role in this process.
If tournaments are sought to improve any ranking, then the answer is very simple; play the tournaments that provide points for that specific ranking, be it UTR, USTA, ITF, WTA or ATP. Certain competitions require a certain level to be accepted in.
If you are playing tournaments to improve then the answer is different. Look for tournaments where you have a wide variety of competitors. You need a lot of players that have a similar level to you to learn to compete – winning and losing are both sides of the same coin. You need players that have a better level than you so you learn to defend efficiently. And you need players that are weaker than you so you learn how to control the match, close and gain confidence.
I see very often players competing consistently in tournaments where the level is too high for them and they are losing easily in the first round. I personally feel as though this is a relatively comfortable position to be. The player has no performance pressure as losing to a better ranked player can be “ok”. So playing without the uncertainty of “will I win or lose today” is too comfortable. On the other hand, playing tournaments that are too easy just to get the trophy, can also become limiting for the player because their capacities don’t really need to be stretched. As we see a good and healthy mix is needed to create a healthy “practice” for development.
As a professionals it is different again. Also, here it will depend on if you are just starting out or if you are already an established player.
Things to consider are surface the player performs best on, level of the tournament, psychology (confident or not), physical state (coming back from injuries, tired because of too much competition).
Well, I probably didn’t answer the question directly as the first thing to consider is the individuality of each layer, but I hope to have shed some light to this interesting, controversial and important aspect.

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