How Tennis Players Can Focus Better Under Pressure

Pressure in Tennis

How to Focus Well Under Match Pressure

Tennis players know that focus is important to playing the game. The one-point-at-a-time mantra is chanted by every coach and top-ranked player.

Focusing is the mental game skill that brings your talent to light and allows you to play to the best of your abilities.

Let’s examine focusing and, in particular, how it affects the pressure to perform…

Julie M. is a skilled 14 year-old player with hopes of hitting the pro circuit one day.

Julie has all the physical tools to achieve her dream… powerful and accurate serve, great footwork, strong strokes, quickness and agility on the court and a great work ethic.

According to her coaches, Julie has the physical abilities to make the jump to the next level.

Julie wins her fair share of matches but she tends to choke when she feels more pressure upon her shoulders.

When Julie focuses on the expectations placed upon her, the pressure gets to her.

All Julie can think about, when she feels pressure, is, “What if I lose?” or “What if I fail?”

This is the precise point, when Julie takes the focus off her game and focuses on a growing sense of pressure, that Julie falters during matches.

If you are to play well during tough matches, you must learn to deal with pressure or what to focus on to play a tougher brand of tennis.

French tennis player Caroline Garcia knows just how focus affects pressure and performance.

Garcia is playing on her home turf at the 2017 French Open. Expectations have been high for the French players to succeed, since the last Frenchwoman to win the French Open was Mary Pierce in 2000.

To add to the pressure was Garcia’s first experience at the French Open in 2011…

Garcia was leading Maria Sharapova 6-3 4-1 in their second-round match-up when her game fell apart and she lost the next 11 games in a row to lose the match.

At this year’s French Open, Garcia dealt effectively with pressure when she staved off Hsieh Su-Wei and prevailed in her third-round match 6-4 4-6 9-7.

Garcia credited her ability to stay focused as to why she managed the pressure of the big moment.

GARCIA: “I have experienced a lot of things at the French Open and this is helping me. At the beginning of the match today I was a bit stressed but then I just thought about my game. If we play on [center court] with [rival] Alize, I’m ready. If you want to win a grand slam, you have to be able to play on the big courts.”

In terms of pressure, there are a few factors at play that can help you perform at your peak in big matches:

  1. There is always a feeling of more pressure prior to or at the beginning of a match.
  2. If you want to play your best tennis during big matches, you must be able to manage pressure and expectations.
  3. Pressure is normal; every tennis player experiences some level of pressure. If you understand the source, it won’t freak you out so much.
  4. Focusing on your tactics and strokes–instead of outcome and reaching expectations–takes the focus off the importance of a match.

Top Strategy to Focus Under Pressure:

Whatever you feed grows. If you obsess about losing, pressure and anxiety will increase. Focus on a game strategy and performance will improve.

Define what you want to focus on for the match and write out your overall game plan for the match. Anticipate situations (for example, losing the first set) and your plan to cope with those situations.

By letting go of meeting expectations and worrying about outcomes, you will feel a greater sense of control and a decreased sense of pressure.

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