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How important is mental toughness in tennis?

80% To 90% Of The Game Is Mental

By Simone Templeton

Throwing your racquet, mumbling on the court, sulking, eyes wandering all over the place, consciously thinking on the court, sitting on the changeover and watching the people on the court adjacent to yours - these are all signs of mental weakness.

To avoid this self-defeating behavior, many coaches encourage mental toughness, a skill that is required to reach your potential as a tennis player. You may have asked yourself the question before, “How important is mental toughness in tennis?”

The Village recently interviewed Dr. Jorge Valverde, one of the leading sports psychologists in the world. He has studied top players in both men’s and women’s professional tennis. His program takes the best characteristics from these top players and incorporates them into one program, The Valverde System. He has worked with some of the top professional players in the world and many of the top juniors in the country, including those at the Austin Tennis Academy (ATA).

When asked the question, “Out of a percentage of 100, what percentage of tennis do you think is mental?, ” his reply was 80% to 90% of the game is mental. When asked if players can reach their full potential without focusing on the mental side of tennis, he replied, “Without a systematic approach in which a players learns to use their minds to compete, it would be very difficult to achieve their full potential.”

Dr. Valverde explains, “The mind can not tell the difference between visualization and physical practice. The mind is a very powerful thing.” In order to train the mind to your advantage, you must be diligent about it. It is the same thing as training a forehand: you must work at it everyday, and once you get it, you must work on it some more.
In a sample survey of ATA players who use the system now, 65% feel that their tennis game has improved drastically. The other 35% think that their game performance has improved a little, and none thought it had not improved.

Doug Davis, one of the head coaches at the Austin Tennis Academy, commented on the change in tennis performance after his academy began the Valverde Mental Training Program, “Performance has definitely gone up. Based on the win/loss record, we have improved greatly. There have been some players that have gone from twenty and thirty in the nation to top ten and five. Some of the players have begun to advance farther in tournaments because they have the ability to stay mentally focused throughout the entire event.”

Coach Davis thinks the way his players receive feedback is different because of the Valverde program. Davis commented on the change in his players’ attitudes, “Well, feedback is interesting, [before the system] I owned their games, some of them got it the first time or some of them did not get it all. Players were motivated by fear of failure and what I would think with the old coaching philosophy.

"Now, the players are beginning to own their games and the coaches are there to help, but the players are becoming independent, so they are not only dependent on their coaches. This allows the players’ games to grow because they make and own their games styles.”

If you are a tennis player and having trouble containing your emotions on and off the court, if you feel tired, if you feel burned out, and if you feel confused about your life and your tennis game, a mental toughness program improves tennis performance and boost confidence. Mental toughness is a very essential aspect of tennis.