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Beat Your Toughest Opponents

Mental toughness in tennis

An Article on Mental Toughness in Tennis by Tomaz Mencinger.

Developing mental toughness in tennis is usually a lengthy process. There are exceptions of course -- for example, if you were a successful athlete in some other sport where you learned how to be mentally tough.

Most players do not have any basic knowledge about sports psychology that would at least give them some solid foundation in mental toughness. Tennis competition by itself is already mentally demanding for various reasons. Unless you are training tennis with an experienced coach you are in for tough and often painful experiences.

Experienced coaches understand the demands and pressures of the tennis game and can design drills and games that make it easier psychologically for a beginner and intermediate player.

But there is no perfect way of developing mentally tough tennis players without emotional pain and ups and downs. It takes time for a player to get used to pressure and to playing successfully under psychologically demanding conditions.

A player needs to experience painful losses in all sorts of situations like:

  • leading 5:1 and then losing a set 5:7 or 6:7

  • losing a match when already having a match point

  • losing a match when winning the first set

  • losing tie-breaks

  • getting too upset because of bad line calls and losing focus and consequently the match

  • being too sensitive to outside annoying conditions like wind, noise and consequently losing concentration

  • beating a top player in the tournament and then losing the next round to a much weaker opponent

  • choking in the finals of the tournament and being unable to play his best

  • and others

These are all situations that a player has to experience and that cause him emotional pain and disappointment.

And how does then one develop mental strength, and what are the differences between mentally strong and mentally weak players?

The main difference is that future champions learn from their mistakes and their weaknesses and look to improve on them. They have a positive outlook on life and on their selves and they are focused on what they want.

They see these mental lapses and failures only as a part of the journey. They don't make assumptions and conclusions that since they made a double fault on the opponent's match point that they will never win in a similar situation.

The players who continue to have psychological problems on and off the court are more negative oriented. They have made the same mistakes as the champions in the past, but they allow these mistakes to stay with them and define their future.

They make the unfortunate and sad conclusion that when a mental weakness happens they will be forever mentally weak and that they are unable to win big matches.

These are the beliefs that a player develops through his mistakes, and he allows these beliefs to guide his career and his life on a not so successful and enjoyable journey.

These negative and limiting beliefs can develop only from a very negative and pessimistic mindset that the player has from general look about life and himself. This is an important part of tennis success, especially if you are a tennis parent and want to help your kid become successful and happy tennis player.

The player will face all sorts of trials and problems in his tennis career. Every #1 player in the world – whether male or female – has lost many very important matches and faced a lot of frustration and disappointment. But they were positive, persistent and determined that these setbacks are only temporary and that this is the price on has to pay to be finally emerge at the top.

There is no way you can completely separate tennis and life experiences. If you want to develop mental toughness in tennis (and life) you will inevitably face trials and failures. But with a positive approach and focusing on your goals instead of avoiding mistakes you can become satisfied and mentally tough in tennis and life.

About the author: Tomaz Mencinger is a tennis coach and mental toughness coach. He works with players on their mental tennis game to help them reach their tennis goals.

Tennis Articles by Chris Lewis:

Sorry Pete, But That's No Sacrifice
On Court Tennis Coaching: Should it be allowed?
Are Tennis Champions Born? Or Made?
Wimbledon Center Court -- What An Experience

Other Articles by Chris Lewis:

A Tribute to Maria Montessori -- An Article on Child Education


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