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How to stay mentally tough when facing adversity during competition

Novak Djokovic

By Josh Lifrak, Mental Conditioning specialist, IMG Academy

After saving four match points in a win today against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the French Open, Novak Djokovic was asked by reporters how he's developed a reputation for saving match points and staying alive in a match.

"Try to stay mentally tough. Believe in your shots."

Lifrak explains how to remain mentally tough during competition in all sports.

“When you are going through hell...keep going.” Winston Churchill

You feel like everything is falling apart. You feel like you haven't won a point, completed a pass or hit a clean shot in forever. Your chance at winning is slipping away. What can you do to stop the negative momentum? What can you do to get back on track?

Call a time-out.

A time-out is used to regroup and refocus. It stops the play, gives athletes a chance to breathe for a moment and can be used in practically any sport. The key is what to think about when in the timeout.

At IMG Academy, what we find most effective is when the athletes think about what they can control and what they can do. For example, if I am facing a match point, I really don't want to think about the fact that I am facing match point, as it's out of my control that I'm now facing match point. Rather, I want to think about what I am going to do in that point (e.g. Hit to the backhand, move my feet, stay low) that are under my control.

By thinking of what to do, I am not thinking about what to don't, as in "Don't miss. Don't double fault. Don't drop the ball." These thoughts create an image of failure in your mind.

The key then to fighting through adversity is to slow down and get yourself together. Focus on doing the do. When you put it all together the emotions turn to logic and you keep moving forward.

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