How To Play Better Tennis By Staying Present

Tennis Psychology

Refocusing After Mistakes

Do you find it difficult to focus after a mistake on the tennis court? Or can you let it go quickly and get to the next point?

Every tennis player knows they need to focus on the present point… but think of that time when you were afraid of losing a match…

Your opponent was ranked high and had a lightning fast serve…

You felt nervous and seemed to be a step behind on every point…

You just couldn’t get to balls that you normally returned with ease.

You became so frustrated that you let the match get away from you.

Focusing on the present is the only way to play your best tennis.

If you are focused on previous points or mistakes, you become overwhelmed with negative emotions (frustration, anger).If you are focused on the outcome of the match, you become highly anxious.

Playing in present, focusing on what you want to do, allows you to play poised, confident and loose.

Playing in the present is a common characteristic of elite tennis players.

Noah B. Gentner, Ph.D interviewed two elite tennis players to gain valuable insight into their experiences with sport psychology in his research, Building on the Positives: Two Tennis Players’ Experiences with Sport Psychology (The Journal of Excellence, 2004).

One theme that emerged was that these elite tennis players relied on a present focus to help produce their best results on the court.

Both players spoke to the importance of focusing on the task at hand and playing the match one point at a time.

[Interviewee]: “In tennis, I tried not to focus on, ‘If you lose this match,’ I tried to focus on playing one point at a time and not if you lose this match it’s the end of the world.”

One of the most important aspects of maintaining this present focus seemed to be the need to eliminate distractions on the court.

Eliminating distractions appeared to be a key component to establishing a present focus.

There also seemed to be a need to ignore any distractions related to an opponent’s ranking or record. Eliminating such thoughts proved to be another way to increase their focus on the present.

[Interviewee]: “One thing that I was able to learn was not focusing on the player but mainly focusing on their weaknesses and what I can do to, take their weaknesses and try to use them as my strengths. That’s mainly just playing at that time, you know, playing at that time at hand and trying to do things where I can exploit their weaknesses more than everything else and not think about ranking or not think about how good they are.”

Playing in the present increases your effectiveness on the court, aids in eliminating distractions and helps maintain confidence levels.

Try these tips to improve your ability to focus on the present:

  • Tip #1: Focus on what you want to do instead of what just happened or what might happen. Develop a strategy prior to the match and stay focused on your game, your strategy.
  • Tip #2: Try writing a cue word (“focus” or “now”) on your wristband or racquet. Between points read that cue word to remind yourself of playing in the present.

Successful tennis players have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in tournaments. We’ve developed Tennis Confidence: Mental Toughness For Tournament Players to help you do this.

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