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How mental toughness calms your tennis nerves


How mental toughness calms your tennis nerves

How mental toughness calms your tennis nerves while on the court to win you matches that you should win and others that seem unlikely, is not too difficult to demonstrate. You just need to have a look at the top and dominant pros and “promising” tennis players of the last decade.

A few of the dominant and highly experienced pro players have consistently won in major tennis tournaments. This they have done against some very technically tough opponents (and sometimes amongst themselves) even when they have stumbled in the early stages of the match.

Most of those wins have come about purely based on the mental toughness of the player. Their mental strength enables them to calm their tennis nerves and outwit tactical and tough opponents especially under critical pressure.

Tennis is arguably one of the hardest sport if not the hardest. It not only requires excellent skills and athleticism but also solid mental toughness. While out there on the court, you only have yourself for mental support unlike in team sports. While other solo sports like golf require excellence in atleast two areas, its not so with tennis.

More often than not, depending on the level of play or competition, like many other tennis players, you will will face off with opponents of relatively equal technical abilities and skills. Something more than skills and physical fitness is needed.

How mental toughness calms your tennis nerves:

Yes you will adequately prepare physically and technically as you should. Having the best rackets, best tennis shoes and having just the right game plan to execute and result into your win is just part of the preparation.

However, just like in life, situations beyond your control will occur; say

  • Fatigue as a result of the match taking too long when the opponent “unexpectedly” matches you technically. Fatigue affects focus and concentration,
  • When you strategy is ineffective,
  • When you feel a victim wrong calls by the umpire,
  • Unfortunately making unforced errors,
  • The unsaid mental pressure from your supporters and spectators seeing you error among others. Though they may not jeer you as per the spectators’ etiquette protocols, you feel the pressure nonetheless.

All the above can cause you anger, frustrations and work up your nerves and subsequently, intense pressure kicks in. At this point, due to tennis nervousness and unsettling anxiety, if you suffer tennis mental toughness deficiency, your game will not be as good as it ought.

Why you need mental strength and improve performance playing tennis:

You exhibit your mental toughness on tennis court by how you react to pressure and control emotions during critical moments in tennis matches.

  1. Helps you in correct decision making under pressure:

Mistakes at critical moments will always result to negative attitude affecting your concentration and focus. Unfortunately however, the negative attitude will not yield a positive response.

However, with mental strength of taking responsibility of that mistake, you’re able to plan and focus on the match.

  • Builds in you the right attitude:

You step on the center court with a plan to give it your all. True to self, you give 100% if not more. However, things don’t seem to go your way. They could be your errors or even “unfair” calls. Infact, it even looks “reasonable” to let the match slip away.

This definitely evokes frustrations, anger and despair. You are bound to have negative attitude towards the task at hand caused by the negative thoughts swarming your mind under that pressure.

However, if you have sufficient mental resolve, you are able to maintain the right and positive attitude. Subsequently, right attitude gives positive energies will push you to fight to the last point and possibly turn around the match in your favour.

  • Builds your self-awareness:

You are able to appreciate your capabilities and also understand and embrace your personal failings. With that, you discipline yourself to handle all the situations logically and appropriately on the court.

For your weaknesses, you are able to makeup for them when tested and still retain a clear mind and focus. This is possible despite the frustration and pressure.

The first opponent to know how to handle is YOU. Mental grit will help your overlook the setbacks and have the willpower to make amends.

Unfortunately, if you lack self-awareness, you lack predictability on how to respond to the ups and downs in the game.   

  • Develops the critical mental fortitude:

This is just having the ability to acknowledge and appreciate that there are areas you are good at, and make the most of them to your favour.

However, it’s also the ability to appreciate that there are things that will be out of your control in a match. These could be inform of superior strategy or even technical edge of your opponent over you.  

However, you are able to have the confidence and emotional stamina to face the diverse situations in the match without jeopardizing chances of giving your best, whether you win or lose.

How mental fortitude makes you calm and overcome tennis nerves in a match:

Just as you prepare to be in top shape physically and technically before a match at whatever skill level, take time too to learn how mental toughness calms your tennis nerves. Additionally, learn how to stay calm while playing tennis;

Before the match:

  1. Adequate preparation:

This has no replacement. When you feel adequately prepared, you are confident on the court and suffer less of tennis performance anxiety. Your nerves will not get the better of you. This you do way before the match day.

Part of the preparation is covering all your bases by ticking off all the boxes on the equipment and accessories needed.

On the match day, ensure you are physically and mentally fit for the challenge. Remember adequate warming up before stepping on the court puts you in the right frame of mind and body to handle the rigors and the nerve wrecking eventualities of the match at hand.

2. Develop the correct mind set and match approach:

When under pressure, you somewhat will make mistakes which are not good for your nerves. If your mind set is not in the correct shape, you become unnecessarily and distractively too critical of yourself.

This attitude affects your game only because you don’t know how mental toughness calms your tennis nerves in such critical times. Otherwise, you will work to develop it just as much as you do in the gym.

3. Have a working repetitive habit(s) or ritual(s):

These are habits specifically unique and routine to you when you need to “call yourself” to focus on the issue at hand without distraction. They are sort of “reset mode” triggers which should act like “automatic deletion” of the events past, whether good or otherwise.

Tennis nerves, anger and frustration will rise when you make mistakes or you feel like you are not in control of the match or even that your strategy execution is not working. Therefore, you’ll need to know how to manage and calm you nervousness.

The ritual will help to “restart” yourself as though you are stepping on the turf for the first time and ready to give your best and win the match. It lowers the anxiety.

4. Get help with tennis psychology:

If possible, you could seek assistance from a sports psychologist who’ll help you by teaching and guiding on how mental toughness calms your tennis nerves. Most, if not all professional players have them as part of their coaching team.

You’ll also get help on, first understanding yourself and how you react to different situations, especially those painful and beyond your control. Compare, learn and reconcile your reactions with the psychologists recommended reaction.

Further, you’d benefit by learning how to prevent competition anxiety and nerves when pressured on the court. Some critical areas of focus will most assuredly be:

  • How to beat tennis nerves and
  • How to stay calm while playing tennis.

Additionally, a good tennis psychology book would be a great addition to your library for reference till you get it right.    

5. Increase your exposure in competition:

Nothing beats practice. You can attest to the fact that you have continued to perform better with every game compared to your very first competitive match. This is because self-confidence is built gradually and you become less nervous with every game.

While at it, you are able to exercise and build emotional and mental grit as you loose, make mistakes and even salvage matches.

During the match:

1. Don’t make abrupt changes:

Sometimes, your strategy execution may not be holding. You are making unforced errors one after the other and you think the match is slipping away from your hand. This will definitely work up your nerves and dent your confidence and attitude.

While you may feel the nudge to try out new execution means, it’s highly advised against to try abrupt changes. You could wait till the changeover. You could just be in the wrong patch psychologically.

At end changes, it’s a good and less nervous time to quickly assess whether it is time to flip or rejig strategy and execution altogether.  

2. Take good deep breaths and loosen the racket grip:

A hard and tighter than necessary grip mostly is an early sign of nervousness on the part of the player. At this point, almost all your critical muscles are unnecessarily stiff making your reaction instincts slower and error prone.

Your breathing pattern will undoubtedly change when tennis anxiety checks in. The breathing is a great way to relax your mind and body enabling you to refocus on the match at hand by calming your nerves.

 Conclusion

Tennis is as much a mental game as is a physical one. Most times, how mental toughness calms your tennis nerves is only visible when you overturn a match on its head to a win.

Well, you may not always win. But it would be great to loose, not because you succumbed to pressure, tennis anxiety and stress which killed your fighting power and the unnecessary bad decisions you make out of nervousness.

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