Dr John F. Murray, author of the book Smart Tennis, says in an article called Confronting Fear in Tennis that in tennis, fear is usually brought on by the possibility of making a mistake, appearing incompetent, or losing. The negative outcomes of fear includes dangerously high arousal, impaired concentration, reduced confidence, tense muscles, lost rhythm, indecision, expectations of failure, and lowered perceptions of control. According to Dr Murray, "the most threatening predator on the tennis court is often fear itself".
Here are some ideas suggested by Dr Murray to confront fear on the tennis court:
1. Forget about how others might see you. Your perceptions about yourself are most important.
2. Begin thinking like a winner both on and off the court. Frequently image what you would like to have happen while avoiding doubtful thinking about possible misfortunes.
3. Keep an active memory of times when you performed well and learn to eliminate memories of bad performances.
4. If you become afraid during a match, realize that your opponent may feel the same way. Focus concretely on what you are going to accomplish and then just do it.
5. Practice begining matches at 15-40, 4-5 in the final set. Learn to love this challenge. Maintain an aggressive style of play rather than becoming tentative.
These ideas are applicable not only for combating fears on the tennis court but also those in life. Wasn't my German friend I mentioned yesterday doing what the last idea suggested - taking fear by the scruff of the neck by choosing to do the very thing that gives you the biggest fear?