And as if this were not enough, the same thing happens on a lesser scale in each game.
If you reach game point and win it, the usual tennis outcome occurs--you get the entire game while your opponent gets nothing, all the points he won in the game having been eliminated.
The game could be extremely close and hard-fought, swinging back and forth many times from deuce to add. But if one player wins the game point, he gets the entire game and the other player gets zero.
This creates pressure since the game point is obviously more important than any other point within the game. On top of that, the pressure within the game even ratchets up as the score approaches game point. The deuce point gets tense just because it gives the winner game point.
That’s very different from the other sports. You could create the same situation in basketball if you changed the scoring system such that every five minutes the next basket would count for 10 points instead of two, and the other team would lose five points.
That would add some huge pressure periodically to the middle of the game--as it is in tennis--instead of having to wait for the big pressure until the end of the game.
These features of the tennis scoring system (as well as its one-on-one, personal aspect) make the game fraught with emotion, pressure, and choking. It is mentally tougher than most of the other sports.
So what do you do about it?
If you are not particularly confident (which most people aren’t) try, as best you can, to resist thinking about the score. Getting heavily involved with the score and winning the big points will make the unconfident nervous.
Of course you will rarely be able to totally forget about the score, but it is a problem you can make better or worse, even though you can’t completely solve it. Thus, keep working to push it to the back of your mind, rather than focusing on it.
Unless you are deeply confident of winning, resist highlighting big points with thoughts like, “Ok, it’s set point! I’ve got to win this one.” It will just make you nervous.
Instead, concentrate narrowly on playing the next point as well as you can. Do your best to mentally lose yourself in watching the ball, staying relaxed, creating good emotions, and executing your game plan.
Try to treat each point the same, even though they aren’t. (Assume they are all important but none too important.) Plug along, one point at a time.
Try to ride over the big points by keeping your head into what you will be doing in the next few seconds. Then, simply assume something good will happen.