Getting anxious/nervous during a match or before it begins… it is all normal.
I lost many matches as a junior player only because I did not know how to level my state of mind while playing.
There were times when I embarrassed myself losing to lower ranked players while everybody who knew me expected me to have easy matches against them…
But, fortunately, along the years I became better at controlling not only my temperament on the court but my internal emotions too.
Mental Tennis Lessons
Here are some of the techniques that help/ed me before and during tennis matches:
1. Control your breathing – do it slowly and deeply – visualise the air going in and then out.
2. Focus on the strings as soon as the point ends – try to clear your mind and keep the eyes on a particular spot – do not let your eyes shift for at least 10 seconds.
3. Relax your muscles – feel (imagine) your shoulders tensionless.
4. Walk slowly and with confidence.
5. If you have a ritual that makes you feel better (fixing your strings, pulling up your t-shirt sleeves, using the towel, drying your hands, etc.), stay with it.
6. Use positive talk: “I love this sport!”, “This is fun!”, “I enjoy playing!” etc.
7. Another way to relax is to sing (in a very low voice) or hum your favorite song in between points.
8. Recall a time you played very well and were happy with your game.
Obviously you don’t have to do all these techniques at once during the match. Just pick the one that works for you; I am sure that you might have one that helps you already.