Tennis Psychology: 5 Tools for Winning the Mind Game

Like physical endurance most tennis players agree that developing mental toughness is both a necessary and essential aspect of success (and in some cases, more important). Fortunately as with improving your physical aptitude it is possible to learn and refine your mental toughness, and there are plenty of resources available to help you along the way. But before we hit the books, here are a few common bits of free advice I found along the way.

Learn Versatility

If you only have one style and it is not working, then you are more likely to fail. You are less likely to give up when you have a backup method to fallback on, and you are more likely to succeed because you might find out a weakness in your opponent. Plus the variety can keep the game interesting.

“Only The Ball”

Phrase repetition seems to be commonplace, in particular ones like “only the ball”, “ball”, and “hit-bounce-hit”. This practice can help you keep calm when you get upset or angry, ease stress, alleviate negative thoughts about your performance during the game, and keep your mind from wandering.


1. Vic Braden’s Mental Tennis: How to Psych Yourself to a Winning Game

By Vic Braden
Despite only having six reviews on Amazon (and one of them a 1-star, at that), I am including this because it got several good referrals from other sites. Based on the reviews the author seems to ramble at times and covers a wide range of topics, but ultimately provides some solid advice

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2. The Inner Game of Tennis

By W. Timthy Gallwey
The book has quite a few 5- and 4-star reviews (over 150), but given that they are poorly edited and very short I suspect many are fakes. Though there are not many 3-stars, they at least seem much more honest: the general consensus is that it is a pretty decent book, and while tennis is in the title it is applicable to other sports, too.

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3. The Art of Doubles: Winning Tennis Strategies and Drills

By Pat Blaskower
Though it has fewer reviews overall than The Inner Game of Tennis (around a third), they at least have complete, correct sentences and are more even-handed. The main criticism seems to be that the language can get a bit convoluted at times and it could use some more diagrams, but is otherwise packed with quality strategies, tips, and other information.

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4. How to Be An Extraordinary Athelete

By Ann Quinn
At almost $60 it is definitely one of the more spendy options, but it has an extensive list of testimonials so in this case you are probably getting what you are paying for.

The eBook edition is only $30, but you can sign up for her newsletter to get the first chapter free. If you still are not sure you can snag other chapters individually (also as eBook editions) for $5 each.

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5. Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis

By Brad Gilbert, Steve Jamison

This was another book that I kept finding recommendations for during my search. Additionally while a lot of the 5-star reviews are brief, they are at least written correctly and there are plenty of 4-stars, too. The overwhelming opinion seems to be that it is entertaining, easy to read, and very informative.

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