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3 Ways to Develop Mental Toughness in Tennis

February 21, 2023 2 min read
3 Ways to Develop Mental Toughness in Tennis 3 Ways to Develop Mental Toughness in Tennis

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    Article by Ashley Neaves - The Tennis Mentor; Sweatband.com Ambassador


    To be successful in any competitive sport, you need to be mentally tough. Having the physical attributes, tactical knowledge and technical ability can only get you so far… If you want to win, you need to develop your mental skills too!

    In today’s blog I have 3 tips that will help you to develop these skills. Although they’ll be coming from a tennis perspective, all three of them will be transferable in any sport and even into day to day life. 

    1. Reframe negative thoughts

    Tennis player

    First, it’s important to understand that negative thoughts are normal and they are going to creep into your head. The problem we face is that thoughts affect our feelings and in turn, our feelings affect our behaviours, usually resulting in a poor performance. 

    To turn this around, you need to recognise when these negative thoughts appear and think of a way to reframe them to become positive. Some examples:

    Negative thought - 
    “My opponent is much better than me”
    Reframed - “I have nothing to lose!”
    Negative thought - “My topspin backhand isn’t working”
    Reframed - “I can use my slice instead”
    Negative thought - “My opponent is cheating”
    Reframed - “My opponent feels threatened”

    2. Don’t linger - Let it go

    Tennis player

    Another issue that players can have is lingering in the past, whether that be thinking about your last match against your opponent or the last shot you hit in the previous point. Lingering in the past is only distracting you from the present moment, which is clearly where you should have 100% of your focus!

    This works in both positive and negative scenarios. You could be annoyed at an easy forehand you dumped into the net to get broken in the last game, or thinking about that epic tweener you just hit. Although you could look at the positive thought as a good thing, it’s still taking you away for being present.

    If you catch yourself thinking about past points, find a way to snap out of it and back into the point in front of you. It could be a physical cue like a tap on the thigh or a fist pump, find a way that works for you.

    3. Add pressure to your practice 

    Tennis player

    The most effective way to develop your mental skills (and any skills for that matter) is purposeful practice.

    Try to tailor your practices to work on parts of your game that you need to develop. If you struggle in tiebreaks, play more tiebreaks. If you find it tough to convert close games, play practice sets with games starting at 30-30. If you hit too many double faults, play a practice match with only one serve per point. The more you practice in your areas of weakness, the more confident you’ll feel when the situation next arises.
    I hope those tips help you in your next practice or match. Just remember, that your opponent is also human and will be feeling negative sometimes… at least you now know what to do!

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