Becoming Mentally Tough in Tennis
What separates one tennis player from the next often has less to do with physical abilities and more with their mental skill set.
When you think of a “tough” athlete, we often describe his strength and physical ability to withstand the vigor of the game. The “tough” athlete takes several steps in training to assure his physical strength during competitions.
Mental toughness is quite similar.
Mental toughness is a resiliency to persevere through difficult circumstances and drive to consistently achieve more.
Just like “toughness,” “Mental Toughness” is a skill developed through a consistent training of the mind to work for you rather than against you.
Australian LLeyton Hewitt is a 32 year-old tennis player who has improved with age. Hewitt burst on the tennis scene at the age of 15 when he became the youngest qualifier ever for the Australian Open.
Hewitt won his first ATP title in Adelaide the following year at the age of 16 becoming the youngest winner in a decade on the ATP tour. Hewitt’s promising career was interrupted for long periods between 2007 and 2013 due to toe, foot, hand, hip and back injuries. Last year, Hewitt finished ranked a disappointing No. 61.
Recently, Hewitt competed in the 2014 Brisbane International. Hewitt exhibited his mental toughness and competitive spirit by upsetting rival Roger Federer, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, to win Brisbane International title. Hewitt’s victory was his first title since 2010.
Hewitt commented that the victory reinforces his belief that he can still compete at an elite level:
“[The win] just gives me a lot more confidence going out there believing in how well I’m hitting the ball at the moment and that I can matchup with the best guys.”
Hall of Famer and tennis analyst Chris Evert credited Hewitt’s mental toughness for his impressive performance in the twilight of his career:
“It is very rare you see a player over 30 play the best tennis of their career and also mentally be as intense… Older players are not that hungry but not Lleyton Hewitt. It is astounding for me. He is as intense, even more intense, than he has ever been. It is incredible to me to see this. He has such a great appreciation for the game right now.”
What has added to the mental toughness of Hewitt?
- Overcoming injury has helped Hewitt believe he can prevail over other adversity and has taught him to never succumb to negative situations.
- Due to his long layoffs, Hewitt has worked harder and is in better shape mentally and physically.
- Hewitt understands that his athletic career could be over at any time, so he has stayed focused in the present and has a deep appreciation for the opportunity to compete.
- The experience of pushing forward despite circumstances has transferred to match play where trailing a set does not adversely affect the next point Hewitt plays.
Developing Mental Toughness in Tennis:
- You need to recognize that Mental Toughness is an attitude that requires effort to develop.
- You must exercise you Mental Toughness by viewing adversity as a challenge to be overcome.
- You should realize that adversity provides experience in overcoming obstacles that can be transferred to competitions.
- You must realize that there is power in the present and stay focused in this moment, not weighed down by the past or worried about the future.
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