Dealing with Pre Match Anxiety (Nerves)

One question that always comes up at the junior tournaments we travel to is: “How do we deal with nerves before matches?

Now it’s totally normal to be a bit nervous before you play, that’s the first thing to understand, but maybe a little bit of info about how they affect you would help before I give you my top tips for dealing with them.

Our bodies come with some amazing natural abilities, one of those is called the fight or flight response, this happens when we get nervous or feel threatened, most useful for running away from dinosaurs years ago, not so much use before walking on court to play a tennis match.

What Happens?

When our brain triggers this response two things tend to happen.

  1. We stiffen up a bit ready to run away from danger, or as tennis players call it “we get tight!
  2. We find it hard to focus our vision, great for spotting threats out the corner of your eye, not so great for watching a yellow ball moving at 120mph. “I wasn’t seeing it today!”

Top tips for dealing with nerves before a tennis match…

So these are my two top tips for dealing with nerves and can be done before matches at any event, you don’t even need a court – “I usually end up doing these in the car park”


old school, and easy, the trick here is to do it for long enough. I usually find 3 minutes is long enough to find your rhythm and burn off the nervous tension.

10 catches…

pass the ball side to side, must bounce before each catch, coach/parent/friend etc feeds the ball in, gradually make harder and harder for the player to catch by upping the tempo. This is a great way to get your eyes focussing on a moving target. I normally do 3-5 rounds before a match.

So, next time you travel to an event give these a try for yourself.

Tom Lewis, Head Coach – LFE Tennis Club

Withers Sports

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