Nerves are a part of being a tennis player. It's also impossible to compete without experiencing some stressful moments on court. But you need to know how to deal with nerves and stress, and find a way of feeling a little calmer, if you're going to perform at your best. Here is insight from from WTA legend Chris Evert as well as thoughts from current players Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.
Mark Hodgkinson
May 9, 2018

Focus on having fun

When you're taking pleasure from being on court and competing, and not just from the results, you're less likely to be overwhelmed with stress. ‘When you’re stressed you can’t move your body, or hit the ball. I’ve experienced that," Halep told wtatennis.com. "But if you’re more relaxed on court, and you’re taking pleasure from your tennis, you’ll be able to play your best." 

Make the most of the changeover

"Sometimes as I wait on the chair before a key moment, such as when trying to serve out a match, I don’t think at all. Other times, I will think about a movie I’ve just watched," Azarenka told wtatennis.com. "Other times, maybe I’ll remind myself of what I need to do during the next game, or I’ll be trying to get myself pumped up, or, if I’m getting too excited, I’ll be telling myself to calm down."

Victoria Azarenka, Madrid, Mutua Madrid Open
Victoria Azarenka (Jimmie48/WTA)

Know your own mind - and body

"Some people are paralysed by nerves. They start double-faulting, or their feet feel as though they are made of lead," Evert told wtatennis.com. "If you have a problem with double faults, hit second serves on your first serve, so at least get the ball in. If your movement suffers when you’re nervous, try to stay on your toes at all times, and make exaggerated movements." 

Take some responsibility and become mentally tough 
"Everyone is going to have difficult moments, but it’s really about how you get up from those moments," Sharapova told wtatennis.com. "You can have the best people in the world helping you, but if you don’t tell yourself to grow up inside, and to be positive and strong, then you won’t ever become mentally tough."

Maria Sharapova serves against Irina-Camelia Begu (Jimmie48/WTA)
Maria Sharapova (Jimmie48/WTA)

Play your shots

"I used to be frightened," Halep added. "So I was playing too defensively, and I was running a lot. I decided I would play more aggressively, and that I would make the points shorter."

Before going on court, get in the right mental state

"I always had to be on my own for an hour before a match," added Evert. "I couldn’t socialise in the locker room. I used to listen to music, or lie down and visualise the matches, anything to get in the right frame of mind."

Use the warm-up to deal with your nerves

"It used to take me two or three games to get into my groove. I was known for being a slow starter," Evert said. "So during the warm-up, I made sure that I ran around as much as possible, and got a sweat going, as then I could start properly." 

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This is an editorial. Views expressed do not represent those of WTA Sports Sciences.