| By Eric Faro

There are many different ways to define “choking” on a tennis court. There is a simple definition to me. Choking is when you get so nervous that it negatively impacts your on-court performance. There are a few keys to try and relax your body and your mind to avoid being so nervous that you “choke.”

►The first thing to remember when you are in a stressful situation on the court is that your opponent is just as nervous as you are. This should help you realize that you are not the only one feeling the heat. Your opponent is also dealing with the same feelings of tension and anxiety.

►When you are in a tight situation on the court, the tendency is to overthink. A good remedy when you overthink is to focus on moving your feet. When you are at your tightest, your footwork gets sloppy. When your nerves are getting the best of you, the tendency is to stop moving.

►Make sure you take deep breaths between points. Grunting can also help loosen you up. Instead of tensing up while hitting your shots, grunting should help you let out your nervousness. You will often hear players say that when the match got tight, things seemed to “speed up.” By concentrating on your footwork and breathing, you can transition back into your comfort zone.

►Believe in yourself. When it comes to that big point or having to hit that big shot, you must have the confidence in yourself that you will get it done. You have to believe that all the time you have spent practicing, all the sweat and tears, will all be worth it at crunch time.

►Play as many matches and tournaments as possible. Nothing can actually prepare you for the moments in a match where you feel the most pressure. No matter what any coach tells you, no one knows exactly what is going through your mind in any particular situation. There is nothing that can prepare you more than having been in a situation previously.

►The last, and in my mind, the most important key to avoid choking, is sticking to what you do best. Some players try to over hit when they are extremely nervous. Other players get very tentative in those situations. My advice is to play your game. Whatever you do best on the court is what you should do when things get tight. If you have a serve and volley game, then serve and volley. If you are a counter-puncher, then counter punch. Above all, play the game that has made you successful.

By following the simple steps, you should be able to turn around your nervousness and perform at your best.