Tennis stars adopt bizarre rituals to win matches
London: Tennis stars often stick to a raft of bizarre rituals when it comes to putting their best foot forward during games, which includes tying their trainers with specific laces to using the same shower every morning.
But Andy Murray insisted that he tried not to get drawn into adopting such superstitions for fear that it could damage his game.
As he prepared for his third round match at Wimbledon he said he did not have a specific routine, choosing instead to spend his free time walking his dogs, playing computer games and watching the football.
“As far as routines go, that’s about it,” a newspaper quoted him as saying.
“I don’t like to do specific things each day because if I did and something got in the way, it might have an adverse effect,” he said.
However, while some psychologists warn that such obsessions can be harmful, others claim that they can actually increase confidence and work like a placebo.
“They can be very positive. If players really believe that they can work then they can be very effective and actually enhance their performance,” Ken Way, a Nottingham-based sports psychologist, said.
“The problem is when it gets out of hand and they start to believe that their game will be damaged if they do not follow a certain routine,” Way stated.
A study by the British Psychological Society also concluded that such “coping strategies” could actually be beneficial to athletes and give them confidence.
Patrick Ofori, of the University of Stirling, interviewed ten members of the Ghana World Cup football team about their superstitions and religious beliefs and analysed their responses.
One player said: “My prayers give me self belief in my abilities and confidence to play without fear.”
Ofori said: “Coaches and psychologists should encourage athletes to own their rituals and integrate them into their wider coping strategies, because our findings suggest that superstitions and religious rituals can help immunise elite footballers against anxiety.
“They seem to increase their self-confidence and make them feel more in control of events too.”
Such research will come as welcome news to players including Rafael Nadal, whose own lengthy rituals failed to prevent him from being knocked out of the tournament on Thursday night.
Nadal appears to carry out an unusual routine before playing each point, touching the front and back of his shorts, both shoulders, his ears and his nose, in a specific order.
He is also rumoured to line his water bottles up in a row with the labels pointing in the same direction, and have a certain routine with his headband.
Novak Djokovic, the world number one, is believed to refuse to use the same shower twice in a row while Serena Williams apparently ties her shoelaces the same way every game, uses the same shower before a match, and wears the same socks throughout an entire tournament.
Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic has disclosed that in 2001, he became obsessed with watching ``Teletubbies`` on television every morning.
“It wasn’t only Teletubbies, you cannot believe how many things I had to remember every day,” he said.
When Heather Watson became the first British woman to reach the third round in ten years, she put it down to her daily breakfast of smoked salmon and eggs, with toast on the side.
The 20-year-old also said that when she changed ends, she always ran up to the ball boy to pass him her towel.
Not all agree that such practices should be encouraged. Dr Victor Thompson, an expert in anxiety, stress and confidence, warned that rituals can do more harm than good.
“For some people it’s like they are covered in Velcro, they just pick up more and more and a lot of them have no demonstrable effect on play,” he said.
“If the night before a match you had a pasta dinner with your parents, went to bed, slept well, woke up with a warm glow and played well, then you might on to think that all of those things helped.
“Before you know it you set up a rule that you need to meet your parents for the same dinner prematch at every tournament - these types of things can get in the way and cause a lot of stress,” he added.