I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts when I string racquets, drive or go to the gym. Some of them are about tennis. One book I really enjoyed and just finished was Zen Tennis – Playing in the Zone by Dr. Joe Parent and Bill Scanlon. It is about working on your mental game of tennis.
The mental game of tennis is perhaps one of my weakest areas. Yes, you have seen my strokes, they are not that great either, but I have a tendency to underperform in tournament matches. I tense up, tighten my muscles and start either over-hitting or just making careless unforced errors. What was a relatively smooth game in the warm-up is suddenly gone. I didn’t use to be so weak under pressure, as some of you know I was a competitive international chess player where nerves it is a lot about nerves. So I felt like I need to get back into a more results-driven mindset and decided to buy the “Zen Tennis: Playing in the Zone“.
The book is narrated by ex-professional Bill Scanlon (TOP 10 ATP player) and Dr Joe Parent, more famous for his book Zen Golf. Parent is a highly regarded expert in Performance Psychology and Applied Mindfulness, working with athletes, actors, artists, and executives. Parent and Scanlon make for a good combo, because besides all the mindfulness tips and Zen-style wisdom from Scanlon, we get to see this side of tennis and hear about the practical application from a player who has beaten McEnroe, Lendl, Connors and many other legends.
Zen Tennis – Playing in the Zone – Mental tennis tips
Zen Tennis is a lot about getting out of your own head and stop berating yourself for your missed shots. It is a lot more harmful in the long-term to hear yourself say bad things about your own abilities than for other people to do it. Since I am really good at giving myself an earful for not performing on the court and tend to spiral downwards after doing so, I felt like I really need to work with the learnings from this book. I am far from Zen when I am playing tennis matches, but I know those times I let my mind be quiet and just allow myself to play freely, I experience much better results!
This is especially true lately when I am constantly thinking about my technique, as I am putting in a lot of effort on becoming more consistent, improving my footwork, my fitness, and my stroke mechanics. Changing my forehand into a more modern ATP forehand has been one of the most challenging aspects of my adventures in tennis and I still struggle with it as you can see in this video (Training with a Pro). But if I can apply the learnings in this book, find a way to be calmer on the court and less stressed and tense, I am sure I can enjoy playing tournament and match play a lot more than I do at the moment.
In short, I can really recommend Zen Tennis – Playing in the Zone, for anyone who want to strengthen their mental fitness on the tennis court and who are frustrated about playing below their abilities when it comes to match play.
Are you strong or weak mentally on the court? What do you do to work on it? Please comment below!