Mental Toughness in Tennis – 9 Secrets to Winning More Tennis Matches
There is a vast amount of literature on mental toughness in the bookstores and on the internet. Specifically, there is also a lot of information about mental toughness for tennis. Most of these are from renowned sports psychologists in general terms, rather than elite top tennis players and coaches who have played at the highest level. This article seeks to definitively address this gap by being written by the top tennis coaches in Singapore from TAG International Tennis Academy, where the top tennis players in Singapore and the competitive tennis juniors in Singapore are developed. Engaging the best private tennis coaches for tennis lessons and putting yourself through a comprehensive high-level tennis training program that encompasses focusing on the mental toughness aspects specifically for tennis is a key ingredient for your overall success to winning more tennis matches.
Authorities on Mental Toughness (General)
In our opinion the best general book on Mental Toughness is “Champion-Minded – An Athlete’s Guide to Achieving Excellence in Sports and Life. Mindset | Preparation | Motivation” by Allistair McCaw. A review of the book deserves an entire page by itself, but it is not the main focus of this article. It is a book written in general sporting literature, the principles and theories as they apply to sport and competition. It is a very good starting base to understand sport psychology in general. It does not specifically apply to tennis.
In Singapore, the leading authority on mental toughness would be Edgar Tham of SportsPsych. Edgar is Singapore’s pioneer Sport & Performance Psychologist. He was employed by the Singapore Government as its very first local sport psychologist in 1995, and he was team consultant and traveling psychologist to numerous national teams preparing for the SEA Games, Asian Youth Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Youth Olympic Games, Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, World Championships, and ASEAN Armies Rifle Meets (till 2001). Tham is the author / co-author of the following publications:
Mental Toughness Strategies of the World’s Greatest Athletes, with Dr Daniel A. Weigand, Health Sciences Academy, USA, August 2010
In the Zone: The Mindset for Peak Performance, Singapore Sports Council, July 1997
Authorities on Mental Toughness Specific to Tennis
There are two key sources (in addition to this article) where there is very good information relating to mental toughness specifically for tennis. The first is Jeff Greenwald, who is the author of “The Best Tennis of Your Life”. Greenwald was a former world-ranked pro on the ATP Tour, and the No. 1 ranking player men’s 35-age division on the ITF Tour. You can visit his website here.
The second is Craig O’Shannessy. Craig O’Shannessy is widely recognized as the world leader in teaching and analyzing tennis strategy. O’Shannessy’s expertise is as a data analyst for the ATP Tour, creating “Brain Game Tennis” to teach players, coaches and fans the patterns of play, and winning percentages that dominate tennis. Craig has coached on tour for 20 years, developing players such as Kevin Anderson, Amer Delic, Rajeev Ram, Melinda Czink, Jesse Levine, Brendan Evans, Marcel Ilhan and many more. While not specifically a mental toughness expert, his website has a paid course known as “Between the Points”, which focuses on the mental toughness aspects of the game and the routine for competitive tennis players to go through in between points to be mentally tough and ready to play each point for his or her fullest potential.
Authority on Mental Toughness Specific to Tennis in Singapore – Coach XT, Head Coach TAG International Tennis Academy and Senior Coach of the ActiveSG Tennis Academy
Coach Tan Xu Teng, or Coach XT or Coach X as he is referred to by his trainees, is the Founder of Singapore’s leading tennis school, TAG International Tennis Academy. He is also the Senior Coach of the ActiveSG Tennis Academy and Singapore’s number 1 tennis player in the Men’s Open Category in 2018 and was the #56 world-ranked player in the Men’s 35 Division of the ITF World Tour. He has developed several competitive junior tennis players to the number 1 position of their respective age group rankings in Singapore, and is well-known in Singapore for proving that champions can be developed with the right approach and training methods as he continually brings his trainees to fulfill their potential and achieving the top ranking. His track-record in Singapore and his Academy’s hotbed for producing top players was so successful that he was invited to present his work at the prestigious WTA Coaches Conference in 2018 in Singapore, where he shared his paper “The Little Things that Make a Big Difference in the Development of High Performance Juniors.”
Mental Toughness is a Skill that can be learned.
Many tennis players struggle badly with the mental aspect of the game. They can play like a superstar in training, striking the ball cleanly and fearlessly into the corners close to the line, but yet when it comes to matches, they play like a timid mouse. Or in a closely fought match, when the match is on the line at the business end of it, they are suddenly overcome with nervous and fear when the match is there for the taking, playing with nerves that the ball cannot clear the net, sails long, or lands meekly in the middle of the court for opponent to hit easy winners. Do these tennis match situations sound like you? If so, you need to start working on the mental toughness aspect of your tennis game.
Secret #1: It is a skill that can be learned.
The good news is that mental toughness is a skill that can be learned, and the tougher you get mentally, the bigger you’ll dream, and the more fun you’ll have on the tennis court. Mental toughness is essential to becoming great not just in tennis, but in all aspects of life.
Secret #2: In preparation, you must work harder, be more committed, and be more consistent than your competitors.
Many players think they are working harder then they are, and that they are more competent than they actually are. It is important to understand that self-deception is never a way to true success. As a self-preservation survival instinct, the mind makes the body give up when it has about 30% reserves left in the tank! That is a lot! It is important to train very hard to the limit to keep increasing the capacity of the tank, and also know just where the bottom of the tank truly is, and not less well before that. That way, in competition, you know just how much you have to give.
Champions do not give in to pain, because they have made a commitment to do everything it takes to win. This commitment to themselves is a promise to do whatever it takes to succeed over pain and suffering and making all the sacrifices needed to reach their goal – Winning more tennis matches.
Serial winners are also consistent. They have a very clear mental picture of what they want, why they want it, and how to move closer to their target objective. They invest large amounts of their time training hard on the tennis court, long after everyone else has called it a day. Champions Have A World Class Work Ethic
The most ideal way to improve this is to hire a best private tennis coach for yourself. An experienced private tennis coach will be able to develop a safe and effective training program to push you to your physical limits while continuing to develop your physical skill set. TAG International Tennis Academy is well known to have some of the best private tennis coaches in Singapore. Mental toughness training for tennis is often neglected but it is in fact one of the most important aspects of achieving success in the game.
Secret 3: Champions Have Immense Concentration (which can be developed)
Champions are famous for concentrating their energy and efforts on what they want and blocking out anything else. Champions concentrate on the achieving their goal with obsession. It is important to write down the single most important goal you want to achieve in the next twelve months and make a commitment to concentrate on achieving it–no matter what it takes.
Winners have clearly defined goals so that it is mentally very clear to them what the seek to achieve. One of the secrets of success is daily exposure to your goals.
Secret #4: Winners stay in the Present.
Thoughts and feelings of gratitude seem to elevate the performers’ consciousness to a higher plane. Athletes call it being in the zone. Psychologists refer to it as a state of flow. It’s a process that begins by letting go and mentally detaching from the end result or outcome of any task. The focus is on being in the present, as opposed to doing.
Secret #5: Winners use Mentors who are experienced themselves and are able to help you develop this aspect.
The best private tennis coaches can turn a small flame of desire with you into an inferno. Champions are well known for being the most open to world-class coaching. Having a good coach that can improve your fundamentals, tactical knowledge, and application of these skills in specific situations. Tennis is a game of repeating patterns and who understands this in a match and can come up with the solution to who is doing what to who and crosses the line of the final point of the match wins. To win more tennis matches, in addition to working hardest in training, is important to seek out the best tennis lessons in Singapore for high quality tennis training with the best tennis coaches in Singapore so that your efforts are fruitful. Never neglect mental toughness training in your tennis lessons.
Secret #6: Discipline
Champions always choose Discipline Over Pleasure. Discipline keeps you focused and keeps you performing at a world-class level. The decision and willingness to pay any price and bear any burden in the name of victory was made long before the game started. This subtle difference in thinking is a huge advantage. Each and every day, the great ones reinforce their success habits, such as exercise, proper diet. How badly do you want to win more tennis matches, and how much are you willing to be disciplined and sacrifice to achieve your goal? Give nothing less than your best on the court, and also off the court to achieve mental toughness in tennis, and also in life.
Secret #7: Keep Progressing
One important secret to mental toughness in training is to continuously push yourself to progress. A key trait of winners is their ability to determine what they want, why they want it, and how to get it. They are mentally organized and this shows up in every aspect of their performance.When pros determine what they want, they burn their vision into their minds on a daily basis. They become obsessed with attaining the goal at almost any cost. At this stage, persistence becomes the primary factor in their success.
Winners resolve weaknesses fast and move on to solving bigger, more complex problems in their game. To win more tennis matches, make sure you dedicate yourself to undergoing the best tennis training possible.
Secret #8: Winners use self-talk and Visualistion to Program themselves.
Serial winners in tennis use two primary methods of reprogramming. First and foremost, they alter the language they use when they talk to themselves. They create self-talk scripts and repeat them daily until the change takes place. The second thing they do is use the power of mental pictures, or visualization training, to adjust how they experience events. The combination of these two change processes has a powerful effect on the mindset of the performer.
The stages of mental evolution after creating a world-class vision: The first stage brings them increased mental clarity, which occurs as a result of putting their dreams on paper. The second stage is an intensified focus on the vision, which occurs as a result of the performer thinking about the vision morning, noon and night. The third stage turns their intensified focus into a burning desire, which is often fueled by the frustration of seeing and believing the vision is reality on the mental plane but not yet on the physical plane. Champions often develop incredible visualization and self-talk skills that convince the subconscious the vision they project on the movie screen of their mind is real, when at the same time the performers’ conscious mind knows it’s not. This creates what psychologists call ‘cognitive dissonance’, or two thoughts (cognitions) that are inconsistent. Since the human mind hates to be inconsistent, it drives the performer to take action and make the vision a reality. This success-driven behavior creates the final stage, which occurs when the vision turns into an obsession. Most of the time it’s a healthy obsession, which means the performer is thinking, strategizing and moving closer to her vision every day.
Secret #9; The Great Ones Are Obsessed With Strategic Advantages
At the highest levels of a tennis game, there is really only a razor’s edge separating the good from the great. A razor’s edge in many different areas, add up to a series of critical subtleties that makes all the difference. Champions understand the importance of aggregating marginal gains in tennis training and advantages in tennis games to enable them to win more tennis matches. The most ideal way to improve this is to hire a best private tennis coach for yourself. An experienced private tennis coach will be able to develop a safe and effective training program to push you to your physical limits while continuing to develop your physical skill set. TAG International Tennis Academy is well known to have some of the best private tennis coaches in Singapore.