How to Control Nerves in a Tennis Match (4 Effective Strategies)

Do you want to know how to control your nerves in tennis?

Nerves are a part of playing competitive tennis. Even the best players in the world feel nervous, it is not a problem unique to club players. But, elite players have developed strategies and use techniques that allow their ability to flourish when it matters most, and we can share their secrets with you.

Why controlling your nerves is a key to better tennis

Being nervous is a stress response, even when doing something we love, a match situation raises the stakes and puts our record on the line. Competitive tennis somehow creates nerves and we can often perform differently.

But even the best get nervous, imagine being Novak Djokovic with millions of people watching you on the biggest stage trying to win a Grand Slam. Yes, Novak will be nervous but yet he will hit the most sublime forehand, and you can too with our help.

4 Steps to Control Your Nerves in Tennis

Nerves can affect anyone and they can ruin your tennis. The good news is, anybody can learn how to control their nerves on the tennis court and we’re going to show you how to do it.

Here’s how you can control your nerves in tennis!

Step 1: Having a solid foundation

Compare a tennis match with an exam situation, and consider practice and revision as the same thing. Would you ace an exam having watched Netflix all week? The answer is no and that exam room would be nerve-racking, knowing that you are ill-prepared.

The same principle applies to controlling your nerves in a tennis match. Preparation is a cornerstone habit for handling nerves in a match so take time to think about your mental and tactical approach.

Maybe grab a lesson, a hitting session or at the very least snag some time on a hitting wall – and practicing alone is a strong option too. And think about being physically ready with a few gym sessions or maybe some yoga, and undoubtedly make sleep a priority.

Knowing that you are physically ready and well-rested makes a massive contribution to feeling less nervous in a tennis match. With your ‘revision’ in the bag, you can begin to control your nerves.

Step 2: Visualize your success

Elite sports people swear by visualization as a method to prepare and avoid nerves. For tennis players, this approach enhances our preparation, especially when practicing.

When practicing imagine yourself playing with this same degree of freedom in a match situation. The shots you hit against your buddies can be replicated when it really matters, so feed off these and know that you have this same capability in any circumstance.

But maybe the most impactful form of visualization is done just prior to sleep, to help program the subconscious mind overnight. Many elite performers spend time before sleep going through a match situation in their mind’s eye.

They will vividly visualize stepping on court, go through their routines and most critically imagine themselves hitting the purest of shots, visualizing the feel of the sweet-spot being found on every shot, seeing the ball hitting the lines as if it were real. This will be done in granular detail and every nuance will be positive, even if that seems unrealistic.

So, as you next go to bed, spend time visualizing the best version of yourself playing the most sublime tennis possible until you fall asleep. This strategy is legitimate and scientifically proven, a branch of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), a widely recognised and adopted component of sports psychology that has been proven to help with confidence and will reduce nerves in a tennis match.

Step 3: Building a strategy

Scientifically, nerves are a stress response created by a perceived threat. In the instance of tennis, that threat is the fear of losing and what that means for our pride, record and reputation. Negative consequences can fill our minds and overtake our thoughts.

But instead of mulling over the what-ifs, what if you had a clear strategy to focus upon, the best resources possible to help control your nerves in tennis? Fear not, the Bros have you covered with our proven singles strategies that remove uncertainty, replacing it with a clearly defined blueprint that is a genuine confidence builder.

Our Singles Tactics Course is also a game-changer when it comes to confidence. We address every aspect of what it takes to win a tennis match, giving you a tactical knowledge you can rely on when you do start to feel nervous.

Step 4: Practice good breathing

Now that we are fully prepared, let us consider breathing as a key component to help control nerves in a tennis match.

You may think breathing is an involuntary ‘non-negotiable’, but there are different breathing methods and mindfulness of how we breathe can significantly help us to control our nerves.

Anxiety increases our heart rate and our breathing shallows. This inhibits the transfer of oxygen to your muscles and will serve as an impediment to the type of fluid movements that are required to execute good tennis shots. And in extreme circumstances, the tension created by improper breathing can even result in injuries.

Being mindful of your breathing and changing it can really help to control your nerves in a tennis match. There is a fantastic subscription-based app called ‘Breathwrk’ which is highly recommended for complete mastery of your breathing, but at the very least start to develop a self-awareness and maybe consider a tactic employed by Navy Seals to help them in tense situations – ‘Box Breathing’.

‘Box breathing’ is something we use when pressure intensifies and it works. You simply breathe-in to the count of four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe-out for four seconds, before holding again for a further four seconds and repeating – it may sound simple but this technique recalibrates (slows-down) the nervous system and is a very useful in between a change of ends.

Once your nerves are under control, it is time to get even better

Having followed our steps to control your nerves in tennis, and with a clear and reassuring strategy in place, why not troubleshoot any area of your game that nerves have had an impact upon?

Maybe your nerves have hampered your ability to move and your footwork needs work? We have a course for that!

Or, perhaps nerves have previously compromised your ability to serve well? A very familiar casualty of being nervous. Well, why not take one of our courses to regain your serving mojo? And if your second serve has become a token gesture we can really recommend our Kick Serve Course.

Ultimately, mastery over nerves is more than just feeling at ease, it is a gateway to playing exceptional tennis when it matters most.

Controlling your nerves in tennis will win you more matches

Ultimately, mastery over your nerves is liberating. You can express yourself and demonstrate the skills acquired through lessons and practice. So once you can control nerves in a tennis match, you can really attack any area of your game.

Nerves are normal and their presence shows we are passionate about tennis and care about the outcome, so do not be ashamed for having them. Instead, embrace nerves and be reassured that by following our guidance, you can perform your absolute best, irrespective of the stakes.

And if you have a specific ‘achilles heel’ that often gnaws away at your confidence, something like your serve, backhand or return, do not worry – the Bros have a wide range of ‘shot specific’ courses that will equip you with the specific skills necessary to turn fear into faith.

And for further reading on the tactics and techniques to build your confidence, check out these excellent articles from the Bros.



Now start controlling your nerves to win more matches!

Want Some Help with Your Nerves?

Let's start with your tactics! When you have a clear blueprint for how you want to play, then it's much easier to overcome those little doubts that pop into your mind. Our Singles Tactic Guide is the perfect place to start!

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