10 Things that Make Tennis one of the Most Mentally Demanding Sports Around

June 27, 2015

 

 

1. It is an Individual Sport

An individual sport is automatically more stressful that a team sport because it is all about “you”.  Each player has to confront the situation alone.  There are no substitutions, and no chance to spread the blame for a loss.

 

2. There is no Coaching

Tennis is one of the few sports where there is no coaching during competition.  You are out there alone. It is truly one on one.

 

3. The players call the lines

Except for the largest tournaments in the world, most matches are played without a referee.  Each player calls the lines on their side.  In other words, you are at the mercy of your opponent.

 

4. You have a lot of time to think

In general the work/rest ratio in tennis is about 3 to 1.  That is, of the time on court, one is actually playing about one fourth of the time.  The rest is time between points and between change-overs.  A match is a constant back and forth between being fully engaged and preparing to play, which requires special mental skills.

 

5. There is no time limit

A match ends when a player wins two out of three sets or three out of five sets. This can take 1 hour or 5 hours. In most sports you can “run down the clock” when you are ahead.  In tennis, the match is not over until you win the last point, which requires players to maintain their intensity and concentration from the first point to the last, without knowing how long they will be on the court.

 

6. The unique scoring system promotes pressure

The scoring system in tennis promotes frequent momentum changes during the match. A player can win three points in a row but if he/she does not win the game point he/she can still loose the game.  Similarly, 5/0 40/0 is nice, but it is not a set. Different points acquire different levels of importance, depending on the score, creating a great variety of pressure situations within every match.

 

7. The circumstances change every time you are on the court

Every time you are on the court, you are not only battling the opponent but also the conditions: wind, sun, different surfaces, indoor, or out door courts, etc. No two matches are the same. Players have to constantly adapt.

 

8. Even at the top of the game “losing” is an integral part of the game

Even when things are going great players lose almost every week.  If you look at the professional players’ records, you will find that only the players at the very top of the game (to 50 in the world) have a winning career record. Everyone else loses more than they win, forcing players to become incredibly resilient.

 

9. You need to perform at your best for several days in a row to win a tournament.

Tennis is one of the few sports where one competition can last up to two weeks (Grand Slams), and players have to compete for several days in a row, back to back, with very little time to regenerate.

 

10. Tennis does not have an off-season

In most sports the competitive season is very well defined and athletes have several months to recover and train.  Tennis is played year round and in order to succeed you have to remain fully engaged the whole year.

 

All of this adversity makes tennis a very unique and challenging sport, but at the same time one of the most  formative sports around.

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