Having fun while getting a head-to-toe workout is what tennis is all about. However, the enjoyment of the sport can dissipate when you start to feel stressed during a match. Making mistakes, such as double faulting on your serve or hitting balls long, can open the door to nervousness and anxiety. Once your confidence goes, your entire game can quickly unravel. Keep your chin up, though. Practicing mental strength strategies will help you turn the court into a largely stress-free zone.
Develop a game plan before going into the match. No matter if you are playing against your best friend or in a competitive league, start the match with a tactical plan. For example, think ahead of time about the placement of your serve, how you will mix your shots up and when you will take an offensive or defensive approach.
Maintain your practice session rituals. Many players find that confidence isn’t a problem during practice, yet once in a match self-assurance can be tough to find. However, using practice session patterns, such as the number of times you bounce the ball before serving, can help to keep you calm and focused during a match.
Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. In his book, “Tennis: Winning The Mental Match,” former pro tennis player, author and sports psychologist, Dr. Allen Fox, encourages players to accept that no matter your skill level on the court, you will make mistakes some of the time. Focus on traits that you are able to control, such as your effort level and attitude, rather than the aspects that you do not have any power over.
Slow down when you start to feel stressed. Working yourself into a frenzy is a common response to a rising anxiety level. However, this can actually cause the problem to become worse. Instead, slow down; take a little more time than usual between points to collect yourself. Breathe deeply by inhaling and exhaling through the nose for a count of five. Think about your game plan and visualize how you want the immediate point ahead of you to play out.
Focus on your breath. Exhale every time that you hit the ball. Muscles need oxygen to function properly and holding your breath in can cause your muscles to become tight. Exhaling through your mouth each time that you strike the ball can help your muscles to relax.
- Tennis: Winning The Mental Match: Allen Fox
- USTA: Improve Your Game
- Tennis Welcome Center: Tennis: A Total Body Workout
- Remember that playing tennis is fun and it’s not always about winning the match. Focus on the benefits of the sport, such as healthy exercise, enjoying the fresh air and spending time with friends.
- Consult a sports psychologist if you are unable to control your stress level during a tennis match.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.