I´m sure you´ve felt nervous before or during a match. It´s actually one of the most requested article topics we´ve received over the past days.
Mastering the mental part of the game can even be more challenging than the physical or technical part for for players.
Match nerves are very normal and you shouldn´t mind too much about feeling them. Believe it or not, even the best players in the world feel match nerves. For example, Rafael Nadal goes to the bathroom 4 to 5 times before his match. The difference is how you respond to them.
Many mental factors can play on your a role on why you are having match nerves, such as: worrying about making mistakes, worrying about what others will say about you, intimidation of your opponent or having the feeling of letting the people around you down. This can make it hard to concentrate on what is really important, the match!
These fears can lead to tension in your muscles, this will result in not playing your best tennis. Many players will feel really tired, even when you didn´t run too much yet. Just because of what´s going on in their mind.
Some players even totally change the way they play. While they are normally attacking players trying to push their opponent back, during a real match they suddenly start to play defensive with a very low swing speed compared to playing in practice.
Like most emotional experiences, also nerves can be overcome if you are thinking the right way. Continue reading so we can help you to deal with your match nerves, making you stop choking on those big moments during the match!
Accept that match nerves are normal
You simply can´t avoid match nerves. As said before, even the best players in the world feel nerves.
Players that really struggle with their match nerves often don´t accept the way they feel. With all the game points, break points, deuces, advantages and match points you will have a lot of stressful moments during your matches. At these stressful moments you want to play the best tennis you can, but you can only do that when you are in the right state of mind. Accept that you feel nerves but try to deal with them properly!
Tip NR. 1: Rituals and repetition
Rituals can be a great tool for resetting your mind, it helps you focus on the task ahead. I´m not talking about something religious, just some small rituals like bouncing the ball 3 times before you serve or looking at your strings in between the points.
For example, John Isner and Denis Shapovalov are tossing the ball between their legs before they start serving. Sharapova doesn´t step on the lines in between points.
While Nadal is probably the most famous example I can think of. Fixing his water bottles, using his towel even though he doesn´t have any sweat to wipe away.
And ofcourse his serve routine. Many people say his serve routine is tooooo much, it might seem like that but it really helps him to be as focused as possible. It has worked well for him for many many years now.
Using rituals like these makes these players feel relaxed and comfortable in their minds. They have done it over and over again, they will feel strange if suddenly they won´t do these things anymore.
Tip NR. 2: Be in the moment
Be in the moment! If you are thinking what happened last point, last game, last set or even last match, you aren´t focused on what is happening right now!
Let´s say that you´re thinking about the fight you had with you mother 2 days ago, no way that you are going to play your best tennis.
Don´t think what might happen the next 2 games, fight hard for every point that you are in at the moment of playing. If you are able to stay focus on the now, good things will happen that match. This isn´t just true for your tennis match, this will work for basically every part of your life.
Tip NR. 3: Play matches regularly
Let´s say that you play a tennis match every 3 weeks. I´m sure you are going to feel so nervous before and during the match. When you play so little matches, it´s like a new experience for you every time.
You might practice 5 times per week, but a match is something totally different.
You will be able to deal with nerves way better if you faced them more often. If you play matches more often they will become a part of your normal life and slowly slowly will make you feel less nervous.
Tip NR. 4: Don´t focus on other people
As said before in this article, many times match nerves come from what others might say about you or your game. Don´t let fear for making mistakes reducing the fun you should have on the court. It´s ok to lose a match, it´s all part over your learning process.
Remember to focus on yourself, everyone has to run his own race!