Tennis Strategies for Staying Calm When Under Pressure

mental strategies for tennis

Mental Tennis Strategies for Staying Calm Under Pressure

Anyone familiar with tennis knows that the sport isn’t just a physical battle; it’s equally a test of mental strength. As the great Billie Jean King once said, “Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquillity.” Maintaining that tranquillity, especially within high-pressure situations, is what often sets champions apart from the rest.

We emphasise this mental aspect of the game as much as the physical. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the mental tennis strategies that help you stay focused and composed during those nail-biting matches.

The Importance of the Mental Game in Tennis

While the thrill of a powerful ace or a skilfully executed drop shot is undeniable, tennis matches often boil down to mental endurance. A player can have a perfect technique, but if their mind wavers under pressure, it can be their downfall.

Moments of distraction, anxiety, or self doubt can lead to missed opportunities and unforced errors. This underscores the necessity for mental resilience in tennis.

Strategies for Maintaining Composure

Players discussing mental strategies
tennis players discussing mental strategies

Breathing Techniques

It might sound overly simplistic, but controlled breathing can be a game-changer. Deep, rhythmic breaths can help lower your heart rate, calm your nerves, and clear your mind. Try this: before a crucial serve or return, take a moment to inhale deeply, hold briefly, and exhale.

This will help calm your nerves, your mind and body and allow you to fully prepare for the next point ahead, whilst forgetting the events of the previous point.

Stay in the Present

Avoid dwelling on past mistakes or anticipating future plays. Instead, focus on the current point. Treat each point as a fresh start. Playing with a one point at a time mentality, is like building a house, one brick at a time. Little by little, it develops into the house you want, but it has to be built slowly and methodically. Playing point by point allows you to accumulate points, then games, then sets, which slowly transitions into match wins.

A whole match might seem difficult to win, but taking it a point at a time breaks it down into easy to manage small building blocks.

Use Positive Self-talk

Replace negative thoughts like “I can’t mess this up” with affirmative statements such as “I’ve got this” or “I’m prepared”.

This shifts your mindset from fear of failure to confidence in your skills. Backing yourself, your ability is a very important skill to have and it can often be the difference between winning and losing.

Develop Routines

Having a set routine or ritual, like bouncing the ball a certain number of times before serving, can act as a mental reset button, giving a sense of familiarity and control.

A great example of this is Rafael (Rafa) Nadal and the rituals he goes through leading up to points he plays.


Before the match, visualise success. Imagine yourself executing perfect shots, winning points, and, ultimately, the match. This not only boosts confidence but prepares the mind for the task ahead.

Manage Your Emotions

It’s natural to feel a rush of emotions during intense moments. Recognize these emotions, but don’t let them control your actions. Remember, every point in tennis offers a chance to turn things around.

Why Choose Cagney Tennis Academy for Mental Conditioning

  • Expert Guidance: At Cagney Tennis Academy, our coaches don’t just train players for forehands and backhands; they equip them with the mental tools necessary for competitive play. With over 150 years of combined coaching experience, they understand the mental challenges players face and offer tailored strategies to combat them.
  • Holistic Training: Our philosophy centres on developing the complete player. Physical drills are complemented with mental conditioning exercises, ensuring players are ready both physically and mentally for their matches.
  • Real-world Scenarios: We incorporate pressure situations in our training drills, simulating real match scenarios. These “constraint led” drills help players get accustomed to high-stress situations, making them better prepared when it really counts deep in the final set.
  • Personalised Attention: Every player’s mental game is different. Some may struggle with anxiety, while others may grapple with focus. Our coaches offer personalised strategies, ensuring every player’s unique mental challenges are addressed.
  • Supportive Community: Cagney Tennis Academy isn’t just a training facility; it’s a family. Fellow players and coaches offer a support system, providing encouragement, sharing experiences, and helping each other navigate the mental maze of competitive tennis.

Tennis, while unmistakably physical, is profoundly mental. It’s often said tennis is 10% physical and 90% mental. Those moments when the score is tied, the crowd is roaring, and everything hangs in the balance are where matches are won or lost in the mind. It’s in these moments that the training, techniques, and mental tennis strategies come to the fore.

For those in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, seeking to sharpen not just their groundstrokes but their mental game, Cagney Tennis Academy is the place to be.

With our holistic training approach, seasoned coaches, and a nurturing community, we aim to mould players who are as mentally robust as they are physically skilled.

Experience tennis training that understands the true essence of the sport, contact us now for our adult and junior tennis lessons.