Coaches’ Corner: Overcoming Mental Hurdles in the Heat of a Match

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The Ivan Lendl IJTA, one of the world’s premiere tennis academies, has taken up residence in our “Coaches’ Corner” series to dish out instructional tips and on court analyses straight from the Academy’s top coaches and directors.

By Matt Cuccaro, Director of Mental Training for Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy and Dr. Adam Naylor, Consulting Mental Trainer

It’s the final set and you need to hold serve to keep the match going. To make matters worse, you lost the last three games, the wind is picking up and a line call just went against you. It would be easy to surrender to frustration and lack of energy, but this is the opportunity to showcase mental toughness.

How are mentally tough players able to repeatedly overcome adversity during a match? The answer lies in a mindset established before the first ball is put in play and lasts throughout the competition. The player focuses on “playing” tennis, rather than reacting to the ever-changing score. This process-oriented attitude allows mentally tough athletes to maintain a consistent level of effort, attention and energy, regardless of the situation. It allows them to overcome opponents who get caught up in the win/loss column and other distractions.

Winning is very important to tough-minded players, but they also understand a steady process leads to desired results. They believe establishing “keys to performance” provides them every opportunity to beat opponents in difficult situations. Focusing on results hinders motivation, resiliency and effort, causing many players to fold when their back is against the wall. Outcome-oriented thoughts drain limited the energy and attention resources necessary to obtain peak performance.

Keys to performance serve as a reminder of how to win each point during the match. Process-oriented thoughts allow the athlete to stay in the moment and maximize potential by placing an emphasis on effort. Positive mental refreshments allow the player to prevail in all situations. Examples include:

  • “Keep moving your feet”
  • “Play in rhythm”
  • “Be aggressive with each point”
  • “Focus on specific targets throughout the match”
  • “Regroup between points and stay in control”

The duration and intensity of these thoughts differentiates competitors at the highest level. Process-oriented thoughts help channel useful information to the body.

Elite players feel the magnitude of the moment, but they thrive on executing a plan and being fully engaged with each shot. There is a time and place to dwell on bad breaks, difficult conditions and other excuses, but not during the heat of a match.


About Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.
Matt Cuccaro is the Director of Mental Training at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island, SC. Matt has a Masters of Education in Counseling/Sport Psychology from Boston University and is an active member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Matt has worked with individuals in a number of sports from the junior level all the way up to world-class professional athletes.

About Adam Naylor, Ed.D., CC-AASP
Dr. Naylor brings a decade and a half of experience developing junior, collegiate, and professional tennis players to the Ivan Lendl IJTA team. Over the course of his career he has educated regional, national, and international competitors – including ATP and WTA professionals, Ivy, WCC, Big West, America East collegiate players, and ITF and USTA junior competitors. He currently leads Telos Sport Psychology Coaching and is the Director of the Boston University Athletic Enhancement Center.

Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Ivan Lendl and David Lewis’ desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. Lendl and Lewis subscribe to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.

For more information: www.LendlTennis.com, 888.983.6647 (888-9-TENNIS) or 843.686.1529.

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21 Responses to Coaches’ Corner: Overcoming Mental Hurdles in the Heat of a Match

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  • Je porte le joli nom de Yolande.
    Je suis une jeune de 29 ans .
    Je travaille comme monteuse image et son . il apparaît que je suis joyeuse.

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  • Ici Coralie
    Je suis agée de quarante-neuf ans : je ne fait pas de complexe à ce
    sujet !
    Mon boulot: agent de police municipale . Si je suis parfois joyeuse,
    ce n’est pas pour autant un défaut ?

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  • Ilene says:

    bonjour je suis Delit
    J’ai 27A !
    Mon boulot, éleveuse … il apparaît que je suis pète sec.

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  • bonjour à tous, Je m’appelle Jessamine.
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  • Je me nomme Tilly.
    Je suis vieille de vingt-sept années .
    Je suis une chef de projet applicatif . il parait que
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  • Hello; Je me nomme Josephe.
    Je viens de fêter mon 43ième anniversaire. .
    Je suis truquiste … Est-ce un défaut que d’être réservée ?

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  • Arletha says:

    je suis Valérie
    Je suis vieille de trente-neuf ans , et j’assume totalement !
    je fais un stage de ingénieur . On dit régulièrement de moi que je suis joyeuse.

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  • voyage says:

    ça roule ? Je suis une jeune de trente-cinq ans ;
    je n’ai pas de retenue à ce sujet .
    Je me nomme Sylvie.
    Mon métier: animateur enfant … Je suis plutôt d’un caractère timide.

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  • Je suis une jeune de trente-six berges .
    je suis Berangaria
    Mon métier: agent de maintenance … Mes amies racontent régulièrement que je
    suis je m’en foutiste.

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  • Kassandra says:

    Je souffle mes trente et un bougies dans un mois .

    Mon nom est Aubrey.
    Je suis une bibliothécaire ! Est-ce un défaut que d’être souriante ?

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  • hey ! Ici Thérèse
    Je suis agée de 28 ans !
    je suis des études de clerc de notaire . Je suis plutôt d’un caractère enjoué.

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  • Fabienne à votre service
    Je souffle mes quarante-cinq bougies dans un mois .

    Ce que je fais : médecin . Je suis plutôt d’un caractère timide.

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  • bonsoir J’ai trente-neufA Et tant pis si on ne le dit pas !
    Falerina à votre service
    Je suis agent de maintenance . Mes amis disent que je suis une vraie prune.

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  • ça va ? Je m’appelle Musette.
    Je suis une jeune de quarante-cinq années j’assume totalement mon age
    !
    Mon boulot, décoratrice . Mes amies racontent parfois que je suis joyeuse.

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  • salut,hello,ça roule ? Je m’appelle Louise.
    J’ai quarante-deux ans .
    je suis un stage pour devenir assistante maternelle .

    Mes amies racontent que je suis curieuse.

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  • Je suis agée de 35 ans , et j’assume totalement .
    je suis Adélaïde
    Mon occupation principale, secrétaire ! Il est dit que je semble rigolote.

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  • hivesf.org says:

    comment çava ? Je porte le joli nom de Melusina.

    Je suis une femme de 28 piges .
    Je suis une attachée de presse ! Mes amis racontent souvent que je suis une bonne poire.

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  • Ici Babette
    Je suis jeune de quarante-trois berges , et j’assume totalement .
    Ce que je fais , accessoiriste de spectacles . Est-ce un défaut d’être
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  • achever says:

    salut, Mes parents m’ont appellée Lorraine et j’aime beaucoup ce prénom.

    Je suis vieille de 39 piges !
    je suis en ce moment des études de horticultrice ..
    . Mon naturel est plutôt timide.

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