Mind Game for Beating Weaker Players

Tennis Psychology

The Pressure To Beat Weaker Opponents

Does your player get tight, tense, or worry about playing someone who she is supposed to beat?

Many tennis kids I’ve talked to feel more pressure to win when they are supposed to win, others expect them to win, or when playing a lower ranked player.


You would assume your tennis player would have more confidence knowing they can beat an opponent that might not be as good?

Here’s a recent question from my tennis psychology survey about this very issue:

“My daughter feels more pressure and plays scared when she thinks she should or is supposed to beat players not as good as her. How can she play her best when she feels she should win the match?”

This mental game of tennis challenge comes down to the player’s expectations about what should or should not happen in a match.

She focuses too much on outcomes and worries about what other will say or think if she loses a match she is supposed to win. Often it’s the player’s assumptions about what others expect from her that are the problem.

What’s the mindset to overcome this mental game challenge for kids in junior tennis?

  1. I would want her to stop paying attention or giving energy to her opponents’ ranking or seeding. Approach every match to perform your best each point and every shot without dwelling on winning.
  2. I would want your daughter to stop focusing on the outcome of the match. This is the main source of stress for her – thinking too much about the outcome and what ifs…. “What if I lose and embarrass myself?” “What will my coach think if I lose to this player in the first round?” You get the idea… Stop projecting the match outcome and focus on your strategy for the first game. Don’t get a head of yourself.
  3. I want her to have confidence that the better player will win. If you think you are the better player, take confidence with you into the match without the expectations of who SHOULD win or not win. Confidence without expectation is the ideal mindset for success. Pure confidence in your skills says you are prepared and ready to play your best. Confidence makes no assumptions about who should win the match. It only prepares you to play your best on every point.

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2 thoughts on “Mind Game for Beating Weaker Players”

  1. Enjoyed article. Question: I recently had a weaker player display deliberate antics when I was serving or returning serve. For example, when I was returning serve (one of my strengths), this player swung her racquet in a very large half-circle in my line of vision.

    Should have I called a let? And how do I mentally handle this deliberate distraction?

    Unfortunately for me, It worked for her – I was so taken by surprise by the behavior, I lost concentration and became internally upset that she was resorting to such antics.


  2. Cindy:

    I’m not sure how the half circle was in your line of vision, but anyway… You have to focus on your plan for the return instead of giving your opponent your energy and getting upset over it. The key is to focus on something else more powerful so you don’t even notice what she is doing.

    Patrick Cohn

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