When you step on the court to play a tournament or practice match, do you experience a lot of pressure? Maybe you feel tentative during points and hope that your opponent makes an error, instead of going for your shots. If you play better in practice than in match play, then you need to work on the mental side of the game.
In this post I want to share some extremely effective and easy to implement tips on this topic with you. Today we start with two very important tips:
Tip #1: Accept Your Nervousness
The first important step when you are nervous and tight in a match is to accept your nervousness instead of fighting it. When we feel nervous we want to get rid of that feeling which only makes it worse.
The next time you are in a pressure situation in a match, say this to yourself instead: “Ok. I am getting nervous now. This is a normal reaction that happens to everyone, including the best players in the world!” This is a much better way of dealing with the situation than telling yourself things like: “You need to relax or stop being so tight!”
Tip #2: Focus On Breathing
When nerves begin to kick in, your breaths become shallow and your muscles become tight. When this occurs, you should focus on breathing for two main reasons. Firstly, focusing on breathing allows you to become more relaxed and stay in the present moment, i.e. focusing on the next point. Secondly, it stops you from overthinking. Instead, it allows you to focus on what you physically feel, i.e. inhaling into your stomach and exhaling.
We highly recommend you practice this off the court to prepare for your matches! This can involve sitting down comfortably on a chair and focusing on breathing in and out for 10 minutes a day. Novak Djokovic and many other top athletes practice these kinds of mindfulness exercises regularly these days.The more you practice breathing techniques, the quicker you can bring your focus back to the task at hand (the next shot) in a match.