Tennis is not only one of the most physically demanding sports but also one of the most mentally challenging sports. Coaching is not allowed, and if playing singles, it is just you and the opponent. For some people this can be intimidating and deter them from the sport. For others, this can be a large advantage on their opponent. In this article I will highlight some of the ways to improve the mental side of your tennis game, and give you a head up on your opponent.
First is the pre-match mental toughness. You always want to be prepared and focused mentally for the match and you should never be intimidated. If you think the opponent is better than you or you are scared to play them first settle down. Take a few deep breaths and then think of a game plan. Try to think about your strengths and their weakness, and try to utilize these to your advantage. Coming up with a plan before you take a step onto the court can help to calm your nerves, and play to your full potential during the match.
Next, is the mental aspect during the match. For most people this is the hardest part of tennis. Most people lose focus and become very frustrated when they miss a shot. In tennis you have to have short term memory loss. If you make an unforced error or miss that easy overhead on a break point you just have to forget about it. It does you no good to lose the next three points because you’re still caught up in the mistake you made. You also must refocus yourself after every point. Try to reflect on the last point. If you made a mistake, briefly reflect upon why the mistake occurred and then forget about it. If you hit a good shot, think about how you did it, and how you can win the next point. This will ensure that you are mentally focused and prepared for every point.
Another scenario that causes a lot of people frustration is cheating. Since most times people have to make their own calls, the prospect of cheating often comes into play. People have many different reasons for cheating. Some may simply think the ball was out. Others might want the point so bad that they will cheat for it. Others do it just to frustrate their opponents. No matter why your opponent cheats, it does no good to cheat them back. It just causes you to be mentally unfocused, and you will get so caught up with the cheating that you won’t think about your game plan. The correct way to address the problem is to ask a question to your opponent. Simply ask whether he or she was sure of the call or just nicely suggest that you thought that ball was in. This tells the opponent that you are also watching the lines closely, and most of the time this will deter the person from cheating again.
The final part of being more mentally tough is through post-match reflection. After every match you should look back on the match and reflect upon the outcome. You should look at the result and think about why it is that you won or lost. If you lost try to think about how you could have won, or how you could have made the match closer. A lot of people also like to keep a journal. After every match they write down who they played, the result, what they could have done to play better, what their opponent did well, and what their strategy would be if they played the opponent again. This way if they play the opponent again, or an opponent with a similar game, they know how to play him/her.
Hopefully this has helped with the mental side of your tennis game. Remember to always stay focused and to never get too frustrated. After reading this article, you should have the mental tools to defeat or neutralize an opponent, no matter how they play!