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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Tennis


Winning The Mental Game At Wimbledon

Learn These 7 Wimbledon Mental Success Strategies
For Your Sports, Business and Life

Bill Cole, MS, MA

Wimbledon is always a thrill to watch, but wasn't the 2001 Wimbledon especially exciting? Hingis, Sampras, Agassi, Rafter? The Good Goran? The Bad Goran? I was taking it all in from the centre court, the player's lounges, the practice courts and in the player's locker room at Wimbledon. I spent nearly two weeks coaching in England with the Israeli Davis Cup Team as their sport psychology advisor and coach.

I arrived in London and immediately took the bullet train 250 miles north to Nottingham, where our top player, Harel Levy, was having a splendid week. He had beaten, among others, Andy Roddick, the brash young American star, ranked #20 in the world, Wayne Ferrera, the South African veteran grass-court star, ranked #24 in the world, and found himself in the finals. Harel played a good final and lost to the world #18, Johannsen. In the process, Harel sustained a slight hip injury, that made him uncertain for playing Wimbledon. But in one week Harel moved his world ATP ranking from #54 to #30--a huge increase at that rarified level. Wimbledon was unlucky for Harel due to that hip injury. He had to retire from his first round singles match.

What can we learn from the world's top athletes as they compete at one the world's most spectacular and glamorous sporting marvels? Can what they do mentally help you in your sport, your business, your life? Let's find out how.

1. Enjoy Big Moments, But Keep Your Focus -- It is amazing how often young players get caught up in the splendor of big events and lose focus. They star-gaze and lose a sharp sense of purpose. The smart player surveys the scene and stays mentally on track until the goal is achieved.

Your Mental Tip? Vow to maintain concentration until your task is over, and only then will you allow yourself to "smell the roses".

2. Keep Things In Perspective -- I have been in press interviews many times with tennis legend Jimmy Connors. When asked about how he would be playing an upcoming opponent, he gave almost the same blasť, predictable response every time. "We have played each other so often, it's just another day at the office. I'll play my game." Connors viewed the match as one of thousands he has played in his career, and stayed on an even keel emotionally about it.

Your Mental Tip? Cultivate the mindset of a champion by keeping things in perspective.

3. Be Patient and Go With The Flow -- Rain and delay is standard at Wimbledon. When it came, players just needed to realize that it was out of their control, and not to whine about it. Luck is just that-luck. The best players handle the toughest conditions the best.

Your Mental Tip? Handle discomfort and adversity well and you have an edge over those that are consumed by it.

4. See Opportunities, Instead Of Chances To Fail -- If he had won his first match Harel would have played last year's finalist Rafter on Center Court in round two. He looked at that as a great opportunity to play a legendary champion. Other players would have seen it as a chance to look bad in front of a lot of people.

Your Mental Tip? Great opportunities often give small windows in which to seize them. Recognize them when they are beginning to open and strike at once.

5. Prepare Well Under Tough Circumstances -- Practice courts at Wimbledon can be scarce and not in the best of shape. With men and women at this event, warm-up courts are at a premium so players need to be flexible.

Your Mental Tip? Realize everyone has the same constraints and vow that nothing will bother you. Make every minute of your preparation count.

6. Handle Distractions With Diplomacy -- The crowds are huge, the media intense and the administration ponderous. Smart players realize this and allow for time delays, last-minute changes, favoritism and confusions by remaining poised and focused.

Your Mental Tip? Emulate the top players who remain above it all and who stay cool and in control.

7. Raise Your Game Under Pressure -- Top players like Sampras and Agassi live for the major events and gear their year to peak then. They give the Grand Slams their supreme focus and prepare to succeed all year with that in mind.

Your Mental Tip? Plan to succeed -- don't fail to plan. Target your major goals and create objectives to get you there.

What have we learned from the top players at Wimbledon? They maintain concentration, they prepare, they stay cool under pressure and they pride themselves on being mentally tough. You can do the same in your business, your sport or your life.

Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2001, 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 Wall 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

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