Venus Williams defeated Flavia Pennetta 7-6 (1), 6-2 to win the Zurich Open title last weekend. Williams’ Zurich Open title was her second since 1999 when she played as a teenager.
One sign of a good mental game of tennis is the ability to raise your game under tournament pressure. Venus Williams said after the match that she likes to perform when the pressure is looming:
“I like playing when there’s a lot on the line; I really wanted to win this final, regardless of the fact it was the last year for the tournament or that it would put me in a very good position to qualify for the Sony Ericsson Championships. I haven’t played there in so long – I’ve had a lot of issues since then and I’m happy to finally be healthy and hopefully getting to go there, depending on what happens with the other players this week coming up.”
Williams went on to say that pressure is a positive motivator for her. You hear a lot about how pressure in sports can cause athletes to choke, fold, and under perform. But Williams has a different take on the effects of pressure on her tennis game:
“I love the pressure. I need it in my life. It is great to come here and play my best tennis of the week in the final against someone who is playing as well as she is.”
The top athletes in the world raise the level of their game when they feel under pressure. Venus Williams is one of those players. Williams loves playing when it means something to her. But it can also cause her to under perform when she does not have the proper incentive.
Many tennis players might crack under pressure. They under-perform or tank when matches get tough. Williams is able to use pressure to step up her game, improve her focus, and win matches. She needs the added incentive to help her dig a little deeper and give a special effort.
Venus Williams’ ability to enjoy and play well under pressure distinguishes her from other players. Playing well under pressure is one of the secrets to Williams’ tennis success, but it might also hold her back when she feels under-challenged by circumstances.