How to Stay Mental Tough When Losing a Match

Mental Toughness Can Help You Recover When Losing

Do you give up in matches when you believe you can’t win?

At what point do you give in when you are losing during a match?

The previous questions may sound odd. It’s not like you would walk off the court just because you are losing. Every tennis player plays until the last point unless injured or sick.

The question is not whether you continue to play when you are behind in a match but whether you compete until the last point.

Many tennis players, when down a significant margin, believe their chances of turning the match around are zero.

Your attitude, effort, and focus change when you believe a loss is a foregone conclusion. Instead of battling for points, you bide your time until the match ends.

A tennis player who responded to our Mental Game of Tennis Needs Survey asked the following question:

“When I lose the first set 0-6, I tend to give up. What can I do to stay focused for the rest of the match and keep fighting for points?”

Resignation occurs when you are not present in the moment. When you are shut out in the first set, your mind oscillates back and forth from the past to the future.

For example, you think about the past points and games you lost (the past), and then your mind jumps to the conclusion that you can’t win. You think about previous mistakes, unforced errors, and missed opportunities and expect more of the same in the upcoming games.

Intense negative emotions flourish when you focus on negative moments in the match. Stewing in early mistakes brings about frustration, anger, and hopelessness. This is the point where many players believe competing for points is a lost cause.

The key is to battle for one point, the current point. Instead of thinking you must win a game, change your mindset and commit to playing one point at a time. Instead of thinking you have to win four points to win a game, think of it as winning one point four times. Immerse yourself in the present.

While battling for each point does not guarantee a victory, giving up does guarantee a loss.

At the 2024 Mutua Madrid Open, WTA player Madison Keys lost the first eight games in the quarterfinals against Ons Jabeur. When Keys finally got on the scoreboard, she raised her arms triumphantly. Soon after, Keys went on a seven-game run to turn the match around en route to a 0-6, 7-5, 6-1 comeback victory.

KEYS: “The key was to get a game. Once I did that, I feel like I finally settled in and relaxed a little bit and allowed myself to play some good tennis.”

Adopting a present-moment mindset minimizes negative thought distractions and relaxes your body, allowing you to put your full effort and energy into playing one point at a time.

Keeping your head in the game, and staying mentally tough is crucial when trailing significantly. If you immerse yourself in negative thoughts, such as “I have no chance of winning,” then losing is a relative guarantee.

Interrupting the negative thought cycle is crucial. A cue phrase such as “one point,” “this moment,” or “one swing” can bring your attention back to fighting for each point in the present moment.

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Improve Your Mental Game for Tennis

Tennis Confidence 2.0

Tennis Confidence 2.0

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