Tennis players of all level will experience a certain level of stress and nervousness when competing. Dealing with this stress and remaining calm can be a difficult thing for new players to learn, but it is vital if they want to succeed and compete at a high level.
High levels of stress lead to a rise in counterproductive emotions which can negatively impact a players performance. These negative emotions can be controlled, however, as the level of stress rises this task becomes far more difficult. Therefore, a key part of remaining calm during a tennis match is to reduce the underlying stress that is placed on a match or competition.
Reducing stress in tennis
Stress in sport is often born through the fear of failure and an individuals desire and passion for success. All athletes will strive for success every time they compete and it is their fear of failure that results in a higher level of stress when competing. One of the most common reasons athletes will fear failure is their perceptions of what others will think of their failure. Many tennis players will worry what their peers, coach or family will think if they lose a match or competition and will believe they have let them down or disappointed them. This then further adds pressure and unnecessary stress to the match which will lead to an increase in emotions and a potential drop in performance.
Managing these perceptions is the best way to reduce the stress placed on a match and help a player remain calm. While you may feel that you have let everyone down if you lose, more often than not this is not the case. Realistically most other athletes will be more concerned about their own game than yours and your victory, or defeat, will not be a top priority for them. Once you are able to understand that you are playing for yourself and realistically most people aren’t concerned about the result of your match you will place less stress on yourself during the match.
Once a player learns to reduce the initial stress they place on themselves before a competition they will find it easier to remain calm during a match. Below we’ve picked out some of our top tips for remaining calm during a tennis match.
Preparation is key
As the saying goes failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Preparation is absolutely vital as you know that you are physically ready to give everything and compete to the best of your ability. However, preparation is also a key part in the mental side of any sport as it helps to calm your nerves and fuels your confidence. Making sure that you have everything you need before the start of the match is a simple and easy way to reduce any added stress. Realizing on the day that you have forgotten something can throw you off your game and distract you from the task at hand. Simply writing out a list of everything you need to take helps to make sure that you are fully prepared, meaning you can focus 100% on the match.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure you use your time wisely before a match to warm up and physically prepare. Warming up is a great way to get rid of any nerves and get focused on the game. When warming up don’t obsess on playing the best shots, take the time to go through your game and make sure physically ready to compete.
Pre-match rituals or routines help athletes get into the right frame of mind and help players to take their time and make sure they aren’t rushing their game. Nervous players will often rush their shots which will lead to a drop in performance as they aren’t taking the time to plan their shots. Having a set of motions or a routine that you go through before every key shot or at the start of the match helps to reset your mind and ensure that you are fully focused on the match.
For example, when serving you have control over the speed of the match and you can use this to your advantage. Taking a few seconds to compose yourself, calm your nerves and focus on your next shot. A simple ritual here could be bouncing the ball a few times before playing your shot or tapping your racquet on the floor. These simple movements give the player enough time to regain their focus and settle their nerves before the next point.
Adopt a positive state of mind
Nervous players can often develop a negative frame of mind as they become self-critical and begin to doubt their ability. Players who lack confidence and doubt their ability will not be able to perform to the best of their ability. By adopting a positive state of mind a player is less likely to feel nervous about competing as they have confidence in their ability to win. We’ve previously discussed how players can improve their confidence in detail.