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7 Mental Skills Every Tennis Player Needs Plus 7 Techniques You Should Be Using

Are you getting a big enough edge over your competitors with your mental strength? Do you want to learn techniques you can use to get an advantage? Read below.

This post will tell you the key mental skills you need to be a successful tennis player plus provide you with the best techniques that top athletes use to become mentally tough.

You need mental skills to be successful, to be mentally tough and perform like you do in training. To perform at your potential whatever level you are, you need a strong mind.

All the top tennis players have certain mental skills in common. What are they?

1. Playing one point at a time: You need to be able to focus on what to do in the present moment. You have to be able to let go of mistakes quickly and avoid worrying about what may happen in the future. If you can’t do this you will make more mistakes and lose points. This is a distraction and you need to be able to refocus quickly. If you can do this you will make less mental mistakes, refocus before the next point and stay focused on your game plan and making corrections.

2. Serving out matches: In order to win matches this is very important. Mentally you need to focus correctly and overcome the fear of making mistakes. It is important to play to win and stick to your strategy. You have to be able to produce your best serves when you need them most. If you can do this you will be less frustrated, more confident, win faster and more often. It can be hard to stop yourself from thinking ahead, maybe you act like you have already won or you worry about letting your opponent back in. If you do this you can’t close out matches; it gives your opponent an advantage and makes it harder for you to win.

3. Managing your personality and emotions: As you know when you play tennis it is all about you. The best players are able to manage their personalities and win the battle with themselves. They are able to use their emotions to help and not hurt performance. You need to be able to manage your personality and the thoughts and emotions that come with this. You need to keep yourself under control. If you can do this you will not be held back by your mind and can maximize your potential. If you can’t do this you will make more mental mistakes and lose to worse opponents. You will beat yourself and make it easier for them to win.

4. Focusing on the process and not the outcome: It is easy to get distracted by the score and the outcome of the match. You need to be able to focus on the process of playing. This means focusing on how to play well and your game plan. If you can focus on what you need to do to play your best, you can improve even the smallest details and you will be more confident. Focusing on the score means you are focused on things out of your control. You will become more frustrated after mistakes; you won’t be focused on strategy, and you won’t be able to make your shots.

5. Ignoring distractions and staying focused on the court: There can be a lot of distractions when playing including your opponent, the umpire, your coach, parents and supporters as well as noises happening around the court. You need to be able to block out everything that is not relevant and focus only on the important details. This will help you perform at your best. You need to focus only on the things in your control which is just you, your play, your game plan, your confidence, etc. By doing this your mind can completely focus on playing well and you will make less mistakes. If you get distracted by irrelevant things you will make more mistakes, not be able to make corrections or focus on your game plan and lose more points.

6. Performing under pressure: As an individual sport it can be easy to feel the pressure as it is all up to you on the court. For example in the final rounds of a tournament, serving out the match, playing in front of important spectators or against a better opponent. You need to be able to stay composed and calm in these situations. If you can’t do this what often happens is more nerves, tension and multiple mistakes. You may hold back (hitting easy shots or balls into the net) and not be able to perform like you know you can. If you can embrace the pressure you will perform your best at the most important times and have fun!

7. Confidence: You need belief that you can perform your best in any situation. You need to trust your shots and not doubt your game plan after a few mistakes. If you are confident you will be able to make your shots, bounce back quickly from mistakes and be aggressive when needed. You will play to win and not worry about what others think. You will play free and like you have no weaknesses. If you don’t have confidence the opposite of this happens. Your shots are worse, you hold back, you miss more serves and lose more points. You don’t play like you do in practice.

7 Key Techniques You Should Be Using:

1. Routines: These are used to get in the zone when competing. They include key mental strategies that work very quickly. Two key routines that can help tennis performance are:

  • Refocusing routines to use after a mistake or any time you get distracted.

  • Pre-serve routines to mentally prepare and get in the zone for every serve. You will consistently get first and second serves in and, where you want them.

2. Focusing Points: These are specific techniques that focus your mind correctly and help you play one point at a time. They can include:

  • Cue words which are short phrases focused on technique, improving your mood or refocusing quickly when distracted.

  • Eye control

  • Focusing on sounds

  • Centering: Refocuses you by using breathing.

3. Emotional Game Plans: A complete plan of techniques to control thoughts, body reactions and behaviors. The purpose is to release emotions effectively and use them to help your performance. They can be developed for any emotion including nerves, frustration, sadness or fear.

4. Relaxation: Using techniques to return to a calm and composed mindset. For example deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, centering and rhythmic breathing. They can be used for quick periods such as in-between points, right before serving out a match or during longer periods such as before a tie-breaker or after you have lost a set.

5. Thought Control: It is important to have self-awareness of your thoughts and how they affect your performance. Once you identify negative thoughts you need to use techniques to stop, control or change these thoughts. You need to use positive or helpful thoughts to get into a winning mindset.

6. Visualization: This is a powerful technique for tennis players. You should use all 5 of your senses and develop personalized scripts. Three main uses are:

  • To rehearse serves or important shots

  • To increase confidence

  • To mentally and physically prepare in-between games

7. Process Goals: You should set 1-3 goals for each match you play and review them once you finish. This keeps you focused on the process and not the outcome. It also makes sure you are continuously improving. Goals should always be SMART and focus on areas such as technique, strategy or mindset.

If you would like more customized tips and an individualized mental training plan you can Contact Me here. You can also find out more about my services and why you should work with me on my Services Page here.

If you want to get more tips and exercises, sign up for my free newsletter here. You will receive my free e-book: Top Ten Mental Mistakes Athletes Make In Competition: What Every Athlete, Coach and Parent Need To Avoid To Improve Mental Toughness. Plus you get the strategies top athletes use to become mentally tough and get an edge over their opponents.

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Zoe Littlewood, M.A. -
Sport Psychology Consultant & Mental Skills Coach

Zoe specializes in working with individuals, teams, parents and coaches to produce performance enhancement, mental toughness and a winning mindset.

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