The Benefits of Being Mentally Tough
Would you characterize yourself as a mentally tough tennis player? Are you able to quickly rebound from adversity or tough situations and raise your level of play? Or do you dwell on your mistakes and choke when under pressure?
Many tennis players do not understand the meaning of mental toughness or how to develop it.
Mental toughness is the unwavering decision to move forward despite the circumstances.
Mental toughness is a disciplined skill that keeps you moving in the direction of your goals.
Mental toughness is a mental skill characterized by grit and resiliency which helps an athlete overcome obstacles and adversity.
Mental toughness provides an athlete with the confidence that he can cope with a variety of difficult situations, which significantly increases the likelihood of success.
Novak Djokovic, 26, is a Serbian professional tennis player who recognized the need to improve his mental game. Despite winning six career grand slams with over 540 victories and a No. 2 world ranking, Djokovic sought to gain an edge over his opponents by increasing his mental toughness.
After two devastating losses to Rafael Nadal at the US Open and Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2013, Djokovic hired Boris Becker in hopes of developing his mental toughness:
“That’s one of the reasons Boris is here, because of the big matches and grand slams. I felt I dropped two or three titles in the last two years I could have won. I felt there was a mental edge I was lacking.”
Djokovic realized he needed to improve his mental game instead of just sharpening physical skills and ramping up conditioning.
“We’re not significantly changing anything in my game… no one-handed backhands, stuff like that… The biggest part he [Becker] can contribute is the mental approach.”
Mental toughness is a mental skill that requires commitment, consistency and focus to develop. Djokovic sought to develop greater mental toughness through disciplined effort.
For you to develop mental toughness, you want to rise above negative self-talk and focus on what you need to do in the moment. Mental toughness is going a step above what is expected and provides a huge advantage over your competition.
Tips for Developing Mental Toughness in Tennis:
- You need to stop buying into the negative talk in your head. Everyone athlete has doubts from time to time. The key is to be aware of when the direction of your thoughts becomes negative, then find the evidence that supports that you can accomplish your goals. (For example, “I never seem to be able to win a championship match,” then look for the positive evidence, “I have beaten this opponent previously… I have been improving my serve…”)
- You can amp up your level of work. If you can take pride in outworking your competition in training and focus on doing it better, you will be mentally tougher during critical moments during matches.
Djokovic recognized the importance of hiring a knowledge coach to emphasize mental training.
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“Maggie had such a great weekend. As always, after she works with you she just seems more grounded and focused. She’s less likely to look around and get distracted during her match. She’s more focused on one point at a time. Also, as a parent, I’ve learned to encourage her process goals and not outcomes. Consequently, she played well and won her first doubles match, upsetting a seeded team in a really really close match!”
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