What Are Your Emotional Triggers During Matches?

Playing Confidently

How to Manage your Emotions During a Tennis Match

Tennis is a game of emotion. Therefore, it is not enough to be skilled physically.

To perform at your peak, you must be proficient in the mental skill of emotional control.

Emotional control doesn’t mean being unemotional while you are playing. Rather composure is the ability to balance your emotions.

Emotion changes throughout a match. Win several consecutive games, and you will be riding a wave of positive emotions.

However, if you drop the first set due to several unforced errors, you may experience anger and frustration.

Playing in a second-set tiebreaker may elicit feelings of fear and anxiety, and bad line calls can foster feelings of rage or helplessness.

When it  comes to emotions and performance, you should understand several key points:

  • Managing emotions is more than being in a “good mood” before a match.
  • Emotions can change rapidly while competing.
  • Negative emotions can intensify quickly during a match if ignored.
  • Negative emotions adversely impact decision-making, focus, and problem-solving.
  • Negative emotions can affect motivation and willingness to take risks or chase down balls.
  • Intense emotions influence your physiology and can cause slight alterations in your swing.

Therefore, peak tennis performance requires constant conscious emotional vigilance.

Successful tennis players know their triggers and the circumstances that can lead to intense emotional reactions.

These players still will experience a flash of intense emotions when they blow a set or double-fault.

However, they quickly recognize that the path they are headed down is counter-productive. This realization helps them take a breath, mentally reset, and prepare to play the next point.

At the 2023 Australian Open, 39th-ranked Jenson Brooksby reeled in his emotions after losing the third set to beat No. 2 Casper Ruud 6-3, 7-5, 6-7, 6-2.

After the match, Brooksby credited his victory to his ability to mentally reset after the third set and regain his composure and focus.

BROOKSBY: “I was getting a little more frustrated out there that I didn’t close it out, and my mentality was changing a little bit. Those are the situations you have to handle sometimes in matches, and you’re going to face them. I think the biggest question is: How do you respond? I just told myself to reset.”

Playing at your peak demands the awareness of when negative thoughts and emotions start to simmer. Once you become aware of when your emotions are teetering on unproductive, you can hit the reset button and re-immerse yourself in playing in the moment.

Managing emotions starts with knowing your triggers. You can identify your triggers by reviewing past matches to determine common themes when your emotions hurt your ability to perform.

Ask yourself, “When do my emotions tend to get the best of me during matches?” What challenges or mistakes contribute to me getting upset while I play? What particular emotions hurt my play most?”

Once you know your triggers and how you react, the next step is to work on a new reaction to each trigger.

You will be better able to recognize and prevent negative emotions during matches when you know your push buttons and how to react better to each.

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