It is normal to be nervous before a tennis match.
The key to dealing with the nerves that you feel on the court is to focus on one or two simple thoughts. If there are too many things going through your head, the chaos that is moving through your mind will show up in your physical ability to execute your swing or move your feet. By limiting your ideas, you allow muscle memory to take over.
Think about watching the ball, following through, and always expect the shot to come back. These three things can go a long way towards allowing your body to perform consistently and smoothly, resulting in the best chance of executing your shots and playing a good point.
Reminding yourself of a simple strategy (get the ball more towards the middle, move forward on your opponent’s weaker balls, etc.) is fine but should be done just after the previous point or on the changeover.
Stick to simple technique ideas just prior to the point and keep your mind clear of the thoughts that can trigger your body to tighten up. The player who handles their nerves the best is most likely to win the match.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org