International Mental Game Coaching AssociationIMGCA official website
Member Login

IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Tennis


Don't Play A Game Of Perfect:
Play A Game Of Excellence

Mental Game Lessons From Wimbledon

Bill Cole, MS, MA

If you watched Wimbledon on TV in 2003, you may have seen all those bad bounces on the esteemed, hallowed grass at the All-England Club. Those terrible bounces are part of the lore at that historic event. A rite of passage for young pros. A fact of life on grass for veterans.

Did you notice how some pros took the erratic bounces in stride, while others seemed to get all bent out of shape over them?

Players who stay even emotionally win. The ones who get flustered and panicky lose.

Players who expect perfection lose. The ones who plan for inevitable trouble and adjust, win.

Who are you more like in your tennis, the perfectionistic ones who become unhinged when everything doesn't go their way? Or the mentally and emotionally flexible ones who let errors roll off their backs?

Even at the top levels of pro sports, some athletes are so hard on themselves, expecting near-perfection, or believing that to win they must perform virtually flawlessly, that this sets up impossible expectations that short-circuit performance.

Strive For Excellence, Not Perfection

No one has ever played a perfect tennis match in the history of the game. They never will. To win, you only need to play better than the opponent. Expecting perfection sets you up to fail, because you can't be perfect. Instead, strive for a percentage of perfection, for excellence, to win your matches.

Here are 20 mental game tips pros use to keep their mind in the match and stay on an emotional even keel, in spite of the tremendous pressures they are under. Use these to win and have more fun.

1. Don't expect to play a game of perfect. Instead, strive to achieve excellence.

2. Expect that you will make a certain number of errors on all your strokes. When they happen, remember that these are the facts of tennis life and accept them, while attempting to be steadier.

3. When you experience bad calls, bad bounces and poor officiating, accept them as part of the game and keep competing strongly. Manage the cheating and officiating errors as best you can by being assertive.

4. Don't put extra pressure on yourself. Strive for winning a percentage of points, not every point. For example, strive for 70% of first serves, not 100%, which is impossible. Even 90% is virtually impossible.

5. Win ugly if you must, but win. Don't be overly proud and conscious of how you look. Just win.

6. Expect the opponent to hit a certain number of great shots. When they happen, take them in stride.

7. Expect the opponent to hit a certain number of lucky shots. You know they will happen, so don't be surprised.

8. Expect lucky shots to generally even out in a match. When the opponent gets lucky, realize that you will also be lucky an equal percentage of the time.

9. Remember that winners don't need to play perfectly to win. Rather, they adjust, adapt and compensate according to conditions and the opponent.

10. Expect a certain number of wind, sun and court condition troubles, and adjust accordingly. Remember, the opponent has the same conditions.

11. Stay emotionally even for the entire match. Reduce your emotional ups and downs. Don't get too high when you play well and don't get too low when you play badly.

12. Keep the opponent guessing about how you really are feeling. If you are upset with yourself, fake it, act like you don't care. Make them think that nothing bothers you.

13. Be ready for any and all mental warfare or psych-out tricks the opponent may attempt. When they happen, laugh at them and vow you will not let any little mind tricks bother you.

14. Pride yourself on being able to win even when you are not playing well, or when you are not feeling well. Winners find a way to win, under any circumstances. Find your way to win.

15. Remember, no matter how far behind you are, the tennis clock never runs out. You always have a chance to make a comeback in tennis, so don't give up.

16. Remember, and take heart in the great competitive comebacks of pros, people you know, and most importantly, of yours. Use this inspiration to re-energize and turn the match around.

17. When you are losing, keep hoping and looking for that one single positive reversal in a match that may bring the momentum back to you and dash the opponent's confidence.

18. Stay calm and poised even when your favorite shots are not working. Pride yourself on being able to come up with ways to win in spite of that.

19. Ask yourself, "How badly do I want to win this match?" Then dig down deep and find a way to win.

20. Take comfort, when you are playing poorly and losing, that when you win this match, you will have one heckuva story to tell. Then win the match.

Remember, don't expect perfection, because it will never arrive. Instead, adjust, adapt and overcome adversity. Winners find a way to win. There is a way to win in every match. You just have to keep searching for it.

The Next Step Is Yours

Will you make the decision to improve your ability to perform, starting right now? If you do, the results will amaze you.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. What can I begin doing to improve my mental game right now?
2. In what ways can I stop being a self-destructing perfectionist on the court?
3. How can I learn to win in spite of "having a bad day"?

Good luck and I'll see you when you pick up your trophy.

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2003, 2007 All rights reserved.

This article covers only one small part of the mental game. A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media training.

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot, visit This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

Article Source:

Return to The Mental Game of Tennis Articles directory.

Procoach Systems International Association of Coaches Independent Book Publishers Association IMGCA

The International Mental Game Coaching Association
39116 Fremont Hub #1303
Fremont, CA 94538 United States
Phone: 408-705-8877

Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm PST. Closed weekends and holidays.
Private backrooms in the IMGCA membership and certification areas are open 24-7, 365 days a year.

The IMGCA name, design and related marks are trademarks of The International Mental Game Coaching Association.
© 2006- IMGCA. All rights reserved.
Use of this website signifies your agreement to the terms of use and privacy policy.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Policies Notice