| By Nicole Melch

As we all know, no matter our level of skill, tennis is a “mental game” and often won in the head. Anyone who has ever picked up this wonderful, yet sometimes unbelievably frustrating game will know exactly what I’m talking about. Learning a specific stroke or technique and mastering it to its fullest in practice is one thing, and going out in a match or a competitive situation is another thing entirely. This is when the psychological aspect of tennis comes into play and what separates the true champions from the rest of the crowd. You might ask yourself now how to achieve such a state of “mental calm” in order to rise to the next level of play and accomplish victories you never thought you could pull off.

Let me talk about a few simple techniques that have proven to be very helpful in certain stressful situations on the court. The moment we feel nervous when playing key points, games or matches, our muscles tighten up and make it even harder for us to function properly. Therefore, it is essential to counter those feelings, thoughts and hormones appropriately or not allow them to arise in the first place. I find it extremely helpful to create and maintain a good routine or certain rituals. This can be a certain order of doings at the change over, a routine of picking up a few balls between points, wiping your face on your towel, adjusting your strings, fixing your shirt or loosening up your legs while waiting for the next point by jumping around a bit.

Another good technique is to tell yourself to play one point at a time, to remind yourself of your game plan or reinforce a specific strategy in your mind, talk positively if you just lost a point or messed up a play to shake off negativity and tension. Most importantly, keep telling yourself to focus on the next point, that “you can do it: and to stay active and aggressive on key plays because your body will automatically tense up and you will need to be in charge and counter those hormones. It is a fact that the player who stays more active and composed will win most key plays and it’s only a matter of keeping your mind occupied in the right ways and at the right time.

Nicole Melch

<p>Nicole Melch was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. She has won multiple national and international junior, as well as adult tournaments, turning pro in 1997. She was recruited for the Austrian Fed Cup team in 2001 and reached a WTA career high of 280th in the singles ranking and 220th in doubles. She has been a USPTA Pro 1-certified trainer since 2002 and teaches full-time at Little Silver Tennis Club in Little Silver, N.J. She may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:abonic@hotmail.com">abonic@hotmail.com</a>.</p>