How to not be nervous during a tennis match?

In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous during a tennis match”. We will also see some tips on how to cope with being nervous during a tennis match such as accepting nerves as normal and part of the tennis match, focusing both physically and mentally, adopting rituals and repetition to help you regain your focus and concentration in the present moment, and some additional tips to keep in mind. 

People tend to get very nervous and anxious before playing a game or a tennis match. But in this blog you’ll get all the tips you need in order to stay calm when playing a tennis match.

How to not be nervous during a tennis match?

If you wonder ‘How not to be nervous during a tennis match?’, well let us start by the fact that feeling nervous from time to time is completely normal. You may do very well during practice or informal games but when you face a match you tend to feel very nervous and your game suffers the consequences.

Think about some of the most famous tennis players in the world, such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams, Chris Evert, Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, among many others. You may have watched many of their matches just to learn from them and if we do analyze their behaviour (i.e. body language) we could learn a lot from them.

Do you think they don’t get nervous during a tennis match? Sure they do even if they seem very confident and focused. Moreover, nerves are necessary to some extent since it allows people to compete at a higher level. For some players, the mental part of the game can be a challenging aspect to manage, even more than the physical aspect but there are ways to overcome it.

Accept nerves as something normal

First of all, it is necessary to accept and acknowledge nerves as something normal and part of our tennis match. 

As indicated on tennismentalskills.com, “Nerves are an inherent part of the game. Everyone feels them, including the very best players in the world. There is nothing wrong with you if you feel nervous at multiple points in a match.”

If we analyze the structure of a tennis match then we could understand that nerves are inevitable. Every time our opponent scores, it can create pressure and stress for the possible outcome if we don’t do anything to even the score or score more points. Consequently, feeling just a bit nervous will drive us to level up our game. 

Focus both mentally and physically

Let’s imagine the scenario of a player that knows how to play very well, knows all the rules, has the technique and the physical condition but mentally is not prepared for the match. What do you think the outcome will be? Moreover, we could also think about a player that is prepared mentally but is not physically prepared to play a match, we could have pretty much the same outcome.

However, being both mentally and physically prepared and focused at the same time during a tennis match is crucial. Being physically focused will allow you to swing through your shots with precision and being mentally focused will allow you to concentrate on the task at hand, subsequently, the idea is to train your mind and also your body.

Rituals and Repetition

As indicated by Paul Goodman, an enthusiastic amateur tennis player for over 35 years, “Rituals can be useful for resetting your mind and slowing yourself down so that you are not rushing, which is a common consequence of nerves. By ritual, I don’t mean in this case something religious or superstitious; I mean adopting a little routine that you do to restore your mental kilter.”

Subsequently, this means having your own way of re-focusing and concentrating again during the match if you are feeling nervous. For instance, if it is your turn to serve don’t rush into it, before serving feel the ball in your hand and bounce the ball a couple of times. Find something that allows you to slow down your mind and prevent overthinking about your shots or how bad you may be playing at the moment.

Being in the present moment

Thinking about the past or how many points you have lost so far will shift your focus and attention. The same principle applies if you are thinking about the future or what would happen, you’ll lose focus and could invade your mind with negative thoughts about what might or might not happen.

 Instead, focus on what is happening in the present moment and maybe anticipate your opponent’s movements. However, if you do lose your focus and find yourself thinking about the past or the future, use the space between points to concentrate and focus again on the match. 

Practice 

Practising will help you improve your technique and up your game but if you practice twice a month then it will be harder to manage the nerves during a match. If instead, you play matches regularly the feeling will become more familiar and easier to handle. 

Moreover, you could also take some time to practice relaxation techniques and deep breathing before, during and after a match. However, don’t be discouraged at first if your nerves affect your performance if you keep practising you will get much better managing them gradually.

Gather what you need and be prepared

By gathering what you need we mean the items or things you need in advance before a match. If before a match you find out you are missing something it is enough to make you nervous about the upcoming match and not being prepared. If it helps, write a list of things you need to take with you before the match. For instance:

  • Balls
  • Rackets
  • Spare shirt, hat, other clothing
  • Drinks and snacks
  • A towel
  • Sunblock
  • Handgrip

Once you are about to serve, there is no way of turning back. This is why it is important to make sure you bring everything you need with you while also warming up to loosen up both mentally and physically. 

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The problem isn’t your nerves, but your response

You know and recognize to this point when you get nervous. Maybe you feel like you can’t move your feet, your muscles are tense, you struggle to breathe and your heart starts to race. The problem is not what you are feeling but your response to it.

As indicated in tennismentalskills.com, “Players who struggle with nerves (and most players do to some extent) are responding to their nerves in unhelpful ways which exacerbate the problem. They tend not to accept nerves as normal, and instead feel that nervous feelings need to be banished or resolved in some way.”

For instance, you may struggle with your nerves by avoiding feeling nervous which eventually, will make you more nervous in the process. When we don’t accept our nerves and put so much effort into avoiding them or trying not to feel nervous at all, it will end up exacerbating the problem. We often let our thoughts wander off, taking our mind off the game and the present moment, losing our concentration and focus.

Allow yourself to be nervous but as soon as you notice you are feeling nervous, try to refocus on the task in hand. One of the ways of doing this is engaging in mindfulness practices so you can always bring yourself to the present moment and stay focused.

Why is this blog about How to not be nervous during a tennis match important?

As we have mentioned through this blog on ‘How to not be nervous during a tennis match’, nerves are inevitable and are normal (to some extent), they may even help us level up our game. However, there are things we can do to manage them before, during and after the match. 

Remember to focus both mentally and physically, also adopt some techniques such as feeling the ball or making it bounce a couple of times before serving to regain focus and place yourself into the present moment. Practice by playing a few matches to get familiar with the feeling and learn how to cope with it adding your personal touch. Also, remember the problem isn’t your nerves but how you react to them so you have the power to use them to your advantage.

You might also want to know about some tips on how not to be nervous for lacrosse if you’re a sports person.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous during a tennis match

How do you stay calm during a tennis match?

If you would like to stay calm during a tennis match make sure to take a couple of long and deep breaths. This will help you to lower your heart rate and change your breathing pattern, helping you relax. It is recommended just before serving or while you are waiting for your opponent to serve.

How do I get rid of my nerves before a match?

Getting rid of your nerves before a match may be impossible but there are some coping techniques such as deep breathing, relaxing before the game to take your mind off by doing other activities, engaging relaxation techniques, mindfulness, positive self-talk and reminding yourself no matter the outcome you are allowed to make mistakes. Try to react positively when you make a mistake and convince your mind you believe in yourself.  

If you like sports, you would also like to know tips on how not to be nervous before your volleyball tryouts. The tips mentioned in the blog above are quite general for all sports and are very helpful indeed.

How do you win a tennis match mentally?

If you want to win a tennis match mentally, here are some recommendations:

Focus on one point.

Think about your goal and concentrate.

Use positive thinking.

Stay confident but not overconfident.

How do tennis players recover after a match?

Tennis players recover after a match by warming down, riding a stationary bike or walking for 10 minutes to help remove the lactic acid that has been accumulated into their muscles. Also, they are commended to hydrate immediately after the match preferably with water or a recovery-specific drink.

What should I bring to tennis practice?

There are a few essential items to bring to tennis practice:

– Water bottle to stay hydrated

– A skipping rope

– Extra overgrips

– Sunscreen 

– Hat and wristbands

– A bag

– Extra tennis apparel

– First aid kit

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References 

Goodman, P. (2020, Feb) 10 Ways to Calm Your Nerves When Playing a Tennis Match. Retrieved from howtheyplay.com.

Tennismentalskills.com: “Mindfulness-Based Tennis Psychology”

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