How to Develop a Mental Game Plan

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A tennis mental game involves the factors beyond tennis strokes that affect the outcome of a tennis match.

A tennis mental game involves the factors beyond tennis strokes that affect the outcome of a tennis match. These mental tennis tips reveal the need for proper mental tennis training.

US OpenThe tennis mental game consists of physical strength and mental fitness.

No matter how skilful you are, physically winning a tennis match can still be out of your reach if your mind is not conditioned. Here are some of the tennis mental game techniques for every player in order to condition their mind to win tennis matches.

Visualisation and self confidence

Visualisation is a big part of the tennis mental game. Sports Psychologists are using visualisation to train athletes to strengthen their mental tennis game. Visualisation means your mental ability to create events or happenings in your mind. In other words, you can visualise yourself attaining your goals to serve excellently in tennis, or improving your skills in tennis games or simply to imagine yourself better than you are in your present condition for you to be able to build your self confidence or self belief. In the end visualisation can help you peak in your tennis games.

Every tennis player should do visualisation exercises prior to a tennis match. Spend several minutes prior to a tennis match visualising that you are going to play the best tennis match you ever played in your life. Imagine yourself playing in the court with excellent first service and second service percentage. You can also visualise that you will be able to use powerful ground strokes to make your opponent more vulnerable. Above all, visualise yourself winning the tennis match no matter who is your opponent.

Visualisation does not come easily by just imagining things. In doing this you have to use all your senses. The sense of touch that you can feel how you grip your racket and how you toss you ball when you serve. Use your sense of hearing to imagine that you hear all the cheers of your supporters or boos of your opponent’s supporters. And most importantly, you should make use of your sense of feeling, seeing and hearing to hear to the shouts and the cheers, the different colours and the warmth feeling the spectators give you in the court when you hit your winning ball. By doing this training every day, as time goes by you will start to develop your self confidence.


Self hypnosis is another part of the tennis mental game. Today, at full time junior tennis academies, they designate specific parts of the training day just for mental tennis training. One of the methods used to train elite players is self hypnosis and self talk on court.

In playing tennis, what you feel or what your emotions are during the match are big factors that affect your game performance. This means that during tennis matches, your thoughts and your emotions should work hand in hand for you to be at your best. Many professional players use this in their mental tennis training to achieve their goals as you see them talking to themselves on court.

On one hand, what you say when you are on court does affect the way you play your tennis games. This is because normally the words that come out from your mouth are expressions of your real thoughts and your real emotions deep inside your head, and therefore these expressions tend to manifest itself both externally and internally.

One way for players to develop positive self-talk can even be done during practice or during the match itself. To win tennis matches you have to introduce positive self-talk. Tell yourself that you have the skills and techniques to defeat your opponents. Tell yourself not be frustrated or angered when you miss a hit. Tell yourself not to complain a lot when a line man or the referee makes a bad call, because it will just distract your concentration.

And above all talk to yourself to concentrate and focus on your game with the goal of winning it. This technique of a solid tennis mental game is crucial especially when you are down in a match, because it can help you motivate yourself. This is very important in tennis matches considering once you are on court, you work all alone (especially in Grand slam tournaments) from the beginning of the match until a winner is declared. Therefore, your self-motivation by talking to yourself is vital.

Mental Tennis Strength

Mental tennis strength is a crucial attribute to be a winning tennis player. Not only does a player require the skills and technique necessary, but winners must also possess mental tennis ability.

Developing your mental strength is very important in every tennis match. No matter how good you are in every physical attribute in a tennis match, your chances of winning tennis matches are limited if your mental strength is weak. Mental strength means your ability to focus on every single match and every single point without a lapse. Hence every player must train themselves accordingly for the tennis mental game.

How to train yourself to develop the mental tennis strength you need every time you face your opponent?

One way to do it is daily and constant practice, and this is what all professional players do. They still practice playing tennis regularly no matter how good they already are. They practice when there are no upcoming tournaments and they practice more when a tournament is fast approaching.

During practice, maintain your objectives of winning every point to the best of your ability. Don’t take the practice for granted because generally your performance in practice reflects your performance in the actual games.

The second part of the tennis mental game is to include critical games situations in every practice you do. Mental tennis strength is more crucial when you are pressured to win points. Like for example in tiebreakers, a situation when you are down with your service game at 0-40, or you are in a situation that you only need to win two to three points to win a match. These are just examples where the right mental tennis training is crucial for you to stay focus and aim for a point in every hit.

The Championships - Wimbledon 2010: Day Four

In every tennis game, it is possible that a match can go for a very long time like the longest match in tennis history between Isner and Mahut in 2010 Wimbledon. If both players did not have the proper mental tennis training, neither of them would be able to finish the match. The best way to do this is to keep practicing for long hours until such time that you think your physical body can’t do it anymore but your mind is still willing to persevere.

Relaxation techniques

Nervousness and anxiety are common emotions that players feel before each game. In addition, many players are very emotional when they score a point or worse when they make an unforced error. Some examples of this are the throwing balls to the spectators, banging of racket to their head or even breaking their racket with their bare hands. Every time players do this, they spend more of their energy in their emotions and most of the time they lose focus of the game.

Hence relaxation techniques are very important to minimize these negative emotions before and during the game.

  • Breathing techniques
    Mental tennis training also involves learning how to control the body. Taking beep breaths is one way to relax your tense mind and muscles. This tennis mental game aspect is very important to do before and during the game. The players should always remember to take deep breaths. Experts suggest to inhale and exhale slowly, which calms the body. Notice some players taking their time before each serve; this is the best time to relax your mind and body by taking a walk to the fence and back to service area. Deep inhale and exhale will also help players to overcome their strong emotions while on court.
  • 10 Minute pre-match silent moment
    In this tennis mental game technique, all you need to do is find a quiet place to be alone to contemplate for at least 10 minutes before you go on court. Just sit and relax and close your eyes and clear your mind of any negative thoughts. Then after five minutes of sitting, stand up and do the inhale exhale exercise until you are ready to go out to the court.

Control Body language

Body language or body posture reflects any player’s mental and physical condition, and to be in proper posture will tell your opponent that you are tough and strong enough to defeat him. The most important part of mental tennis training is learning to control body language. However, if you show your opponent that you are not conditioned mentally and physically through you body language, then it will boost your opponent’s confidence to defeat you.

Hence in every game, each player must always condition their mind that no matter what your real condition is you should always project that you are in your best condition. Like for example if your opponent sees that your shoulders are sagging when you are down, it will create more encouragement to your opponent. But if you continue the game with your head up while calming yourself, your opponent would not be able to take advantage of you.

Mistake management skills

Every player makes mistakes, but a great player converts every mistake into an opportunity to improve his game plan. To convert every mistake into an opportunity does not only need physical skills, but the player has to have the cognitive approach to do it. Like for example, if your technique is not working with your opponent’s approach, then you have to be mentally ready to accept it. At the same time, be mentally alert to analyze the situation and come up with the right counter attack.