Tackling the Mental Aspect of the Game
Tennis is a mental game — but just like the physical aspects, it can be trained to help you become an even stronger player.
It’s completely natural to have feelings of anxiety, doubt or just plain intimidation on the court. In fact, these emotions can even be a good thing…they show that you truly care about the game!
Left unchecked, however, these feelings can sabotage your performance. That’s why we went to CA tennis coach Lyndall Jordan for her expert advice on dealing with pressure and mastering the mental aspect of the game!
Dealing with pressure
Because tennis is a game of many errors, it can be pretty high-stakes. Typically, you’re dealing with this on your own (unless you’re playing doubles). There are no coaches or time-outs.
When we’re ill-equipped to handle this pressure, it can result in:
- Delayed reactions
- Slowed-down footwork
- Shots landing short
To help you reframe your perspective on the pressures of the game, Jordan suggests considering a quote from tennis great Billie Jean King: “Pressure is a privilege.”
“Challenge yourself to see pressure as an opportunity,” says Jordan. “When you can do this, you’re action-oriented and will play with a sense of purpose.”
It’s also all too easy to forget that your opponent is feeling similar pressure and anxieties. When you overcome your own feelings of insecurity and focus on your opponent, you’ll be amazed at the difference in your mental state (and thus, your physical performance).
Tips for overcoming pressure
- Move your feet more. Exaggerate your movement.
- Take your time between points. Rushing leads to carelessness and an increase in errors.
- Be aggressive and consistent
- Apply pressure on your opponent, but remain steady
- Try to keep balls deep, cross-court and attack the balls that land short
If your anxiety is still getting the best of you, experiment with different techniques off the court to see what relaxes you. There’s countless options, such as meditation, mantras, massage, aromatherapy, deep breathing, and yoga, that can help you with stress management. Many of the world’s best players also embrace visualization to prepare for victory and boost their confidence.
What to do between points?
After the point is over, it’s important to properly relax and refocus for the next point. We know it can be tough not to dwell on the previous point, but relaxation is key for recovery. It’s also counterproductive to rush into the next point.
Here’s a few of our best tips to elevate your game:
- Once the point is over, immediately set your racquet into your non-dominant hand as this will help alleviate some of the stress and tension.
- Do not get distracted. Use a towel or move your strings around to keep your focus.
- Use your change over time wisely. You have time to hydrate and eat a snack. Do not feel the need to rush to the other side to get started.
- Stay moving! Jordan prefers to bounce around between points, as it helps her transition into the next point.
Jordan’s final piece of advice is the simplest…but perhaps the hardest to master. With practice, however, it feels more and more natural.
“Simply play one ball at a time,” she says. “Focus on the moment, not on the past or the future. The more present you are, the more clearly you’re able to evaluate your options and prepare to execute them properly.”
Improve your mental game with CA
At CA, we’re dedicated to helping you sharpen your physical and mental game — and we have lots of fun while we’re at it! With 10 indoor courts and a variety of programs, CA is here to keep you on the top of your game all winter long. Learn more on our website.