Everyone experiences pressure at some point in their lives; however, athletes may experience it more frequently than most. No one likes pressure; there is no pleasure in feeling a racing heart, sweaty palms or rapid breathing. While it may appear that some tennis players handle the pressure better than others, everyone is negatively affected by pressure. Pressure prevents you from performing optimally.
You have frequently heard the saying, “she did not play her best; however, it was good enough to secure the victory”. You also have probably watched enough tennis matches to realize when a player is feeling the pressure. Pressure does not only affect psychomotor skills, it also affects your concentration and cognitive ability. Hence the reason you see players losing their ability to serve or dropping the ball short in the court. It also explains why they make poor shot selections because they are not thinking clearly and not processing information properly.
A recent example: Naomi Osaka served for the Australian Open title a set and 5-4 up and she could not hold her serve. That was the result of the negative effects pressure. Her serve went awry (poor coordination) and she made some poor shot selections (impaired cognition). Yet, despite the negative effects of pressure, Osaka was able to fight through the accelerated heart beat and sweaty palms to claim the victory in the third set.
Osaka has probably learned some short-term as well as long term strategies to help her manage pressure better, which then allows her to perform closer to her capability. So she regrouped in the third set and did what she could not do in set two, served out the match the next time she had the opportunity to do so.
Since pressure is a given, one must learn how to respond well to pressure if they want any chance to succeed at accomplishing their goals. Many athletes face pressure daily and those who succeed have learned to embrace pressure rather than fear it. These athletes have probably fostered four important attributes, which has allowed them to gain long-term success in handling pressure.
According to Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry, those attributes are: confidence, optimism, tenacity and enthusiasm (PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE-THE SCIENCE OF DOING YOUR BEST WHEN IT MATTERS MOST).
SOURCE OF IMAGES: serveandrally