Tennis is 80% psychological, 20% physical – we’ve put together some tips to help you younger players on your journey to becoming a Tennis Champion.
What’s Your Game Plan? Factors to Assist Mental Toughness in Tennis
Tennis brings plenty of challenges for you to face as a young tennis player on their journey to becoming a World Class Tennis. Here are our Best 10 Tips for Mental Toughness in Tennis.
1. Envision Being Strong
The first tip for mental toughness is to see yourself being strong.
When you have a strong image, you subconsciously get your body to live up to that image. The body is in the habit of fulfilling whatever images you have in your head – that is the power of the subconscious.
See yourself as a weak player – you will be. See yourself as a strong player – you will be.
In tennis, this means that you should be envisioning the last time you won the point or hit a good shot. Remember it, and feel good about it. Stay in the moment.
So, you should start your days by envisioning a really good and productive day, because your mental image of yourself and of future events, plays a large part in determining your level of success. If you can see yourself as focused, productive and capable – you will be, both in training and in your tournament.
2. Have a Ritual
Having a simple ritual that you perform before each point helps condition the mind to link that ritual to a successful point, and also prepares your body for the point. This helps clear your mind and makes you more focused, so improving your mental toughness in tennis matches.
It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop – the more you do the ritual, the more your mind associates it with success; and the more success you have, the more effective the ritual becomes.
It’s such an effective technique that all professional tennis players have one – be it bouncing the tennis ball, or twirling their hair before a point. Watch Rafa Nadal and see his pre-serve preparation ritual, the same every time. It gets him ready to play and perform.
3. Focus on the Court, not the Surroundings
The human mind has the tendency to latch onto points of interest, be they a bystander waving a flag in the crowd, or the flash of a smartphone camera.
Whenever this happens, you end up using a small percentage of your mental energy and attention to process what you see – and this can often distract you from focusing on what you should be doing.
In your match, the way to overcome this is to keep your eyes on the court and not be influenced by outside distractions.
4. Don’t Overthink
In tennis, this can be to simply look at the ball – and stay focused on it, so that other random thoughts stay out. In a game like tennis, it’s all about minimizing errors – because he/she who makes the most mistakes, loses.
5. Don’t Be Swayed by Your Opponent or the Crowd
In every tournament, there’s you – your opponent and then, in some cases, there’s the crowd.
If you let them, the crowd or your opponent will try to influence you with comments or rogue calls. Especially when your opponent sees an opportunity to take the advantage.
If you surrender to them, you end up playing a reactive game, rather than a proactive one. You essentially end up playing their game, rather than your own.
This means that you may end up making shots and plays that you normally wouldn’t. To avoid being swayed by the opponent or the crowd, you need to 1) have a ritual, and 2) keep your eyes within the court.
6. Focus on the Positive
During training or more importantly the match, things may go wrong.
If you dwell on the negative, it can impact immediately on the shots or points that follow.
Instead, remember that the game is not over, and that you can (and should) be focusing on creating the next winning shot and points.
This is the mindset of a champion!
If you make a bad shot, instead of focusing on that or trying to analyse it, dismiss it and go into your next shot clean and positive. Save the analysis for post-match with your coach!
Breathing is a universal technique that applies to almost everything we do. In tennis, players run around a lot and this makes them short on breath and in particular, short on oxygen. And we need oxygen to make good, calculated, composed strategic shots.
So breathing slowly between points helps players regain composure, helps them relax, and this in turn improves their technique and power.
8. Be in a Supportive Environment
While a lot of these tips have focused on your own solo, mental game, it is worth remembering that it takes at least 2 people to play a match. And let’s not forget about your coaches, parents and the other players in your environment.
In tennis, you need to pick your buddy hitters, coaches and supporting team (positive parents!) well, because you must surround yourself with a mentally strong, supportive team who provides the challenge and positivity to help you grow through these trials. This empowers your mental toughness in tennis. You must avoid picking up bad mental habits from negative players.
9. Learn to Let Go of Stress
Stress is inevitable. Sometimes nothing goes right, and it looks like you’re going to lose. What you need to do is learn to let it all go.
A simple technique in tennis is to envision all that stress going into an (imaginary) tennis ball – and then throwing it away. This is a conscious choice that we can make – a choice that we’re going to be mentally tough. Other techniques include turning your back on your opponent and spending a few calming seconds at the back of the court re-centring the strings on your racket whilst you re-compose yourself.
10. Have Fun! Enjoy the Moment
Roger Federer is one of the greatest tennis players of all time, and one of the reasons why he is so good, is because he enjoys tough matches and challenging opponents – he sees it as fun.
If we learn to have fun when we play, not only will the entire experience be more pleasant… but we’ll also become better players because of it.
You never lose, you learn, which means you win in the long term. Every loss is an opportunity to grow as a player, to see where you need to make improvements and learn from the mistakes made.
If you have any additional suggestions you have tried and found helpful, please do share them in the Comments section below or send us a message on WhatsApp +44 7849 502790