One of the biggest factors that I know of that influence how well you play
tennis is “confidenceâ€�.  People who have confidence in their tennis
game or particular shot are very hard to beat. How do you get the confidence
to win tennis matches?
   There is no substitute for practice. Proper repetition of a desired stroke will
train the muscle memory for execution and get the mind to free itself of fear.
When the stroke is so familiar and the proper execution frequently produces
the desired results then the mind can feel the “confidence� in its
selection. If you have to think about the “how toâ€� and “where toâ
€�, then it will tell the muscles of the shots complexity and tightening will take
place. So repeatedly work on perfect practice stroke with specific desired
Repetition of a particular shot will produce the confidence one needs. So
practice until you can hit the shot over and over again with the same results.
But there is more!     
   When you add “pressureâ€� the mind tends to lose focus and
confidence and the perfect shot you practiced fails. So the ideal way to
practice the perfect shot is under pressure in match play.  The pressure itself
is comes from within the mind because it depends on the amount of
importance you give to the situation. Some can have confidence in a shot
during social play with friends but when it’s the league championship and
your team is counting on you the pressure is increased. How do you
overcome this “fear of failure� during an important match?
   Relax! Breathe in and out with deep breaths between points. Loosen your
muscles and stay almost limp. Sing your favorite song or hum a tune in your
head. Whatever it takes to get the mind to relax. That’s what confidence
does to your mind. It gives it the sense of accomplishment. Likewise, lack of
confidence puts fear into the equation usually causing stroke errors or
miscalculations of shot placement. You’ve already hit the perfect stroke
with the desired results repeatedly; now free your mind so it can do what you
   Self-talk has been proven to be effective in overcoming fear. Telling
yourself out loud that you possess the ability to accomplice the task, you will
be free from the feeling of failure. Positive self talk or even positive thoughts
can relax your mind to do what it’s been trained to do.
   Panic and fear are the two things that will cripple your confidence. When
you’re down 4-2 in the set, you might feel a fear of being unable to come
back. If you put aside the fear and tell yourself you can comeback and your
not worried, then you can feel the enjoyment of having confidence.

Doug Hofer, USPTA       August 17, 2005