Mental Toughness in Tennis: Lessons from Serena Williams

Tennis Psychology

Are You Mentally Tough?

Can an injury help an athlete develop mental toughness?

No, an injury cannot help you develop mental toughness, but learning to respond appropriately can help improve your mental game.

When you compete, you must learn to overcome challenges and persevere. This helps you reach higher performance levels and strive for your potential.

Injuries happen a lot in sports. They can challenge your mental toughness and help develop the inner strength to handle other types of challenges and adversity.

For example, how does a muscle grow during weight training?

The weight you lift places a stress on the muscle causing the muscle to adapt and become stronger. Lifting weights doesn’t cause the muscle to grow, but the act of lifting the weight challenges the muscle’s current status. The growth of muscle is a result of progressively challenging the muscle over time.

The same is true for inner strength or mental toughness.

Each time you face adversity, you are forced to push past the challenge.

Ultimately, you become mentally tougher.

Serena Williams, currently ranked #1 in the world of women’s tennis, has faced many challenges throughout her career.  Serena has battled through injuries including a serious foot injury in 2010 and a in the beginning of 2011, which threaten her tennis career.

Serena’s comeback from those injuries has culminated in her top singles ranking in the world and one of her best seasons on the tour compiling a record of 73-4 and earning over $10,000,000 in prize money in 2013.

Serena, who is seeking her fourth singles WTA title, credits her comeback from injuries for developing her mental toughness:

“I didn’t think I would play tennis again after that [pulmonary embolism].  I thought unfortunately that I just wanted to try to survive that moment and then move on. Then I ended up playing again. So I think that definitely built a lot of character in me, and I think it built even more mental toughness. It made me realize I could overcome a lot of things, and obviously had a lot of help, as well. I think all that really, really made me feel like I can do it.”

You can either rise to the challenge of adversity or quit tennis altogether, and some players do quit.

What’s important is to view adversity as a challenge and not something that will end your career. This way, you will look to push past adversity and stay determined. When you try to overcome adversity, you build mental toughness. As you overcome adversity, you build inner strength and confidence to handle other tough situations including pressure situations during critical times in competitions.

3 Tips to Develop Mental Toughness in Tennis:

  1. Start developing the habit of finding the potential positive in adverse situations.
  2. Challenge yourself to remain patient and determined to overcome adversity.
  3. Never quit when the going gets tough, especially on yourself.

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