3 Types of Toughness Needed for Tennis

By Jorge Capestany, USPTA Master Professional & PTR International Master Professional.

Mental Toughness has always been associated with success in tennis. Players often talk about the need for Mental Toughness, but few have figured out how to get and maintain it when they compete.

The most reported frustration for players is feeling that they play better in practice than they do in an actual match.

For too many players the scoreboard has become the enemy.

I have been training players for over 30 years and recently had an epiphany in this area. I am now teaching players about 3 different types of toughness.

These are…

1) Mental Toughness

This is the ability to control one's thoughts. It is defined by being able to play at our normal level under competitive pressure, basically, when the scoreboard is turned on.

Importance in tennis… Many say that tennis is predominantly a mental sport. Some say as much as 90% of tennis is mental, but when players train, they almost exclusively train physically and ignore mental skills training. This is a recipe for disaster.

Action Item… Take an audit and make sure you are spending part of your weekly training regimen on mental toughness training. There are many great resources online now for players to use and improve in this area. A great start would be to access my 4-part video training series on Mental Toughness at the link here – Free Mental Toughness Course - Click Here!

2) Physical Toughness 

This is the ability to endure physical pain and discomfort when training and in competition.

Importance in tennis… Our sport is brutal on us physically. The constant changes of direction, the need to train for long hours, and the lack of recovery can often leave tennis players in physical pain and discomfort. A typical tennis match has more than 600 changes of direction and bursts of energy. It is a stop-and-go sport and tennis players are putting “city miles’ on their bodies whenever they compete.

Action Item… Spend at least some time training yourself off the court. Tennis has a unique rest-to-work ratio of 4-1, so make sure you are simulating the same stress on your body that it will experience when you compete. A good formula would be to train in the gym for 1 hour for every 4 hours you train on the court.

3) Emotional Toughness 

This is the ability to control one’s emotions and arousal levels. It requires the ability to frame the situation at hand into something positive.

Importance in tennis… Tennis has unique stressors such as no coaching, no time outs, no substitutes, no time clock, and the fact that the very person you are trying to beat is also the umpire on his side of the court. The possibility of cheating and gamesmanship is very high compared to most sports. I have witnessed, many players lose a match because of their inability to cope with these difficult situations.

A bad line call can cost you the point, but how you react to it can cost you the match.

Action Item… Journal. Start by recalling your most recent stressful event on the court and then write it down. Then handwrite a plan of action detailing what you will do if it happens again. This can be done for several different situations that make us uncomfortable. Examples would be… what if someone accuses you of cheating, what if someone makes a bad call against you, what if someone is annoying and cheers on your errors, what if the spectators are rude and annoying.

These would all be great events to journal about so you can be ready for them when they inevitably happen.

I hope you will give these ideas some thought and take the suggested action items to heart and try them. Good luck to you on the court and here’s to you developing in all areas of toughness.

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