Tennis Psychology: Avoid the Ranking Game

Tennis requires a lot of skill – how well you can execute your shots – but tennis also involves a powerful mind game. Some players panic and lose confidence when they look at the rankings or seeds of their opponent in the tournament. They expect to lose even before stepping onto the court.

I see this all the time with my tennis students I coach on the mental game. A common mental game mistake tennis players make is to compare themselves to their opponents. It’s not a good habit to get into. They compare their rankings. They compare their serve with an opponent’s. They worry that they don’t stack up. They get put on their back quickly…

How does that affect your tennis confidence? You begin to question your ability, doubts flood into your mind and you play tentatively. Lo and behold, you were right – you can’t compete with your opponent. The key is to stop making any comparisons and focus on your strategy for the match. Focus on your game plan and how you will raise your level of play.

Some tennis players are able to win matches with mental toughness and just by getting the ball back – frustrating their opponent. When an opponent prefers a fast pace, slow the pace down and get your opponent frustrated. Your opponent may get impatient and go for a winner too soon.

Strategy is a major part of the game. Players with poor technique and a strong mind game can pull out a win in matches because they know how to get the job done. They know how to capitalize on their opponents errors, frustrate them more and get them thinking about their game.

You should not pay attention to player rankings unless you want to set yourself up for mental game suicide. Playing a higher ranked player can cause you to lose confidence. Likewise playing a lower ranked player can cause you to ease up and let your opponent sneak the win away from you. Approach each match as if you have no idea what your opponent’s ranking is. A ranking will not tell you how set a game plan. Therefore, rankings don’t help you win the match or formulate your strategy.

The bottom line: The players with the best technique or the highest ranking aren’t always going to win tournaments. Your tennis confidence and mental toughness can overcome the strengths of your opponent. Don’t get sucked into the rankings game. Try to avoid comparing yourself to your opponents and rely on your strategy and think positively about the upcoming match.

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