How to Perform Well Under Pressure

Tennis Psychology

Playing Composed Under Pressure

Most tennis players encounter pressure during matches.

What is pressure?

Pressure occurs when you feel like you should win, have to play well or worry about the consequences of losing. You can feel increased pressure during critical moments in the match (e.g. third set tiebreaker). You can also feel pressure from parents or coaches who expect you to win matches or play well. When you react negatively to pressure, you can underperform.

Pressure is based on your expectations about how you think you should perform in match.

Expectations are set unreasonably high, making it difficult to reach them. Examples of expectations might include playing with the perfect technique or strategy or not having any unforced errors. When you are not performing up to your expectations, you feel added pressure. You can tighten up, play tentatively and try to avoid mistakes.

We received a few questions about playing under pressure:

  1. How to play under pressure?
  2. What am I supposed to do when I become tight in the match?

To play well under pressure, you’ll need to stop focusing on the results of the match. You don’t want to obsess about what might happen.

“What if I lose the next point?” “What if I’m down in the 3-4 in the set?

The key is not to get head of yourself or dwell on what might happen and instead focus on execution.

The bottom line is that thinking about results doesn’t help you execute. The minute you notice you’re focusing on results, you’ll want to refocus on what’s important. You’ll want to think about your strategy for the next point, how you will play to your strengths or your target for the upcoming shot. You’ll want to play each point as if nothing happened before, as if it is the start of the match.

Pressure can cause players to tighten up. You don’t want to panic when you feel tight, which can cause you to tighten up even more. Between points you can take some time to relax your muscles or take a deep breath.

Relax your racquet in your non-dominant hand or shake your arm to release the tension. Direct your focus to your strategy for the next point. When you divert your focus away from how tight you feel or the results, you will be able to perform better in the moment.

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If you’re not performing up to your potential in matches, most likely your mental game is holding you back. Are you so frustrated with your performance you feel like giving up? Does your confidence evaporate when you play in tournaments? Are you tired of working hard in practice and not getting any results in matches?

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