Mastering the mental game: Thriving under pressure in tennis

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Wilson Blade 9

Introduction

Tennis is a captivating sport that offers both fun and physical activity to players. However, when players step onto the tournament court, they are often confronted with the dark side of tennis—an overwhelming amount of stress. The pressure and stress in tennis can be more challenging than even the most formidable opponents or shots. In this article, coach Marcin Bieniek will explore the significance of managing stress in tennis and provide effective strategies to help players perform at their best under pressure.

The impact of stress on tennis performance

Unleashing the mental barrier

In the highly individual sport of tennis, players face the daunting task of managing every aspect of their game on their own. From executing precise shots to taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions, there is no external support to rely on. While this self-reliance can be empowering, it can also become overwhelming, both physically and mentally, especially during challenging moments in a player’s career. To avoid feeling powerless, players must understand what they can do to navigate stress effectively.

The role of mental skills in stress management

Stress undoubtedly stands as the primary factor hindering many players from performing at their best during tournaments. Stress creates tension, negatively impacting a player’s performance. Players may move slower, react poorly, make incorrect decisions, and struggle to maintain focus on key aspects of their game. It is crucial to recognize that the inability to cope with stress and perform effectively stems from a lack of mental skills. Therefore, players must consciously develop and improve these mental aspects on a daily basis to be prepared for the challenges they will face in tournaments.

Strategies for building resilience

Testing boundaries

Most practice sessions follow a predictable routine, which can lead to complacency and comfort for players. To develop resilience and become accustomed to stressful situations, players need to be placed in uncomfortable environments where they no longer feel as secure as before. Introducing tests can create this challenging environment. For instance, pushing players to hit a certain number of consecutive forehands without a miss within a minute or achieve a high percentage of successful second serves in ten attempts can add tension to regular practice while providing valuable data to identify areas for improvement.

Embracing penalties

While a positive coaching and learning approach is ideal, introducing penalties during exercises can be beneficial. However, players must understand that their focus should remain on the goal rather than avoiding penalties. For example, the player who loses a tiebreaker has to do 20 push-ups or the one who loses the final rally has to collect all the balls. These penalties present players with opportunities to handle stress effectively and perform with the right mindset even in uncomfortable situations.

Prioritizing quality over quantity

Under stressful conditions, the number of unforced errors tends to increase significantly. Players must be aware of this and work on their mental aspects to maintain consistency, even when their bodies feel tense. During practice, prioritizing quality becomes paramount. Players must comprehend that finishing a drill should not be the sole objective; instead, they should focus on executing each action correctly. Shifting the orientation of drills from time-based (e.g., 10 minutes) to quality-focused (e.g., 10 high-quality rallies) is an effective adjustment that promotes mental engagement and cultivates satisfaction with the execution of each action. This approach also helps players develop the ability to maintain focus on their goals, a crucial element in delivering high-quality performance consistently.

Conclusion

Stress is a formidable opponent in tennis that can make or break a player’s performance. If you want to thrive in this sport, it is essential to prepare for and effectively manage stress. By implementing slight adjustments to your regular practice routines, you can cultivate resilience and mental fortitude on the tennis court. Remember, success in tennis goes beyond physical skills. It is equally important to develop your mental aspects. When you step into competition, your lethal forehand will work effectively only when your mind is prepared to deal with stress. Embrace the challenge, prioritize mental training, and unleash your full potential as a tennis player. With the right mindset, you can conquer stress and excel on the court.

To learn more from coach Marcin Bieniek, join his on-demand video training program and get a 30% discount with the code WTBPROMO. Also, visit our Tennis Tips page to learn how to ace your game on clay courts, pick the right toss for your serve, improve your backhand, hit stop volley, reduce net errors, respond to drop shots, change bad habits in your tennis, and much more.

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