How to Beat Nerves in Tennis

Performance Anxiety in Tennis

You’ll notice several myths about nerves that players buy into in the tennis world.

  • Myth #1: Top-ranked tennis professionals win because they are not nervous.
  • Myth #2: If I am nervous, I will play poorly.
  • Myth #3: I’m just a nervous person. Nothing I can do to help me play better tennis.

Let’s examine these myths one-by-one.

The first myth is: “Top-ranked tennis professionals do not get nervous.”

Some younger players believe that top-level players have achieved their status in the sport because they don’t get nervous. The truth is that EVERY tennis player experiences some degree of nerves. That is worth repeating, EVERY tennis player experiences some degree of nerves.

The second myth states: “If I am nervous, I will play poorly.”

Since all tennis players get nervous, that means nerves are normal. The winner of a match experiences nerves and the loser of the match experiences nerves. The difference is that players that play their best have learned to manage their nerves.

The third myth is: “I’m just a nervous person. Nothing I can do to help me play better tennis.

While it can be true that some people are more nervous than others, there are effective mental strategies that every tennis player can learn to manage their nerves and play their best tennis on a consistent basis.

Managing nerves is a mental skill that all athletes can develop through mental training. Mental skills cannot be learned overnight just as a powerful two-handed backhand cannot be learned overnight.

With commitment and practice you can learn to play your best tennis by regulating your emotions and using a small degree of nerves to fuel your game.

An example of how to manage emotions can be seen in Belinda Bencic’s play at the 2019 Dubai Championships.

Bencic entered the Dubai Championships unseeded then proceeded to beat four top-10 ranked players en route to winning her first WTA title in three-and-a-half years.

In the Finals, Bencic beat former champion Petra Kvitova 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 and she did so by regulating her nerves.

In other words, Bencic was able to manage her nerves by focusing on her match strategy point by point, rather than focusing on winning a title.

BENCIC: “Yeah, actually surprisingly I was feeling less nervous than yesterday, even in the second set. Petra was playing very good. I started to miss a little bit, as well, because she was putting pressure on me. This third set, I was not thinking about the victory at all. That’s why I was calm. That was my mental plan actually.”

You don’t have to allow nerves to cause you to beat yourself. By learning to embrace nerves, you can a high level of tennis.

Tip for Managing Nerves During a Tennis Match:

Tennis players become even more nervous when they focus on how they are feeling when nervous–or worry about the result of a point or a match.

The most important thing when feeling nervous is to continue to trust your swing and not start to push the ball back–especially if you have the lead

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1 thought on “How to Beat Nerves in Tennis”

  1. My son is a top player but cannot perform any longer in matches when there is a crowd watching. He plays USTA and an all conference player in high school. He is 17 however he is as tight as a drum when playing matches now. He still wins but says he only gets 20% of his ability to come through because he’s so tight. He loses to better players because of tightness. What can we do

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