Growing Evidence of Mental Stress in Tennis
The game of tennis has always been considered a gentleman's sport. Ever since the game's inception, players have been expected to behave in a professional manner while supporters who have turned up to watch are also required to maintain decorum. But the kinetic nature of the sport and keeping in mind the stakes at play, it can become difficult for players to keep their emotions in check in certain circumstances.
The times are also changing. Unlike the players of yesteryear, new-age players have no problem in showcasing their emotions in public. While that can increase the saleability of the product, at the other end of the scale, increased incidents of breaking protocol, on-court arguments and even physical violence have also become rampant over the recent few years.
Does this show a paradigm shift in terms of how the sport is being perceived by the new generation? Or do these incidents highlight a lack of mental fortitude?
A high-profile incident involving Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Alexander Zverev where he violently hit the chair umpire’s stand repeatedly with his racket following a loss in doubles at the Mexico Open opened up a huge can of worms. Repeat offender Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios has been fined multiple times for unsportsmanlike conduct, racket smashing as well as audible obscenities which have riled up the crowd quite often.
And now following in the footsteps of their idols, even junior tennis has grabbed the headlines but for all the wrong reasons. Earlier this month, during an ITF Juniors tournament in Ghana, Number 1 seed Michael Kouame of France slapped his opponent Raphael Nii Ankrah of Ghana after losing to him.
This spate of serious on-court occurrences has forced the ATP to consider a complete review of the whole code of conduct. Andrea Gaudenzi – chairman of the body which represents players and tournaments – has spoken of how officials and ball persons have been forced to bear the brunt of such tirades while simultaneously negatively affecting young fans of the game. And the end result according to an ATP circular is stricter stance in judging violations and harsher punishments to come.
While it is widely accepted that the rules and regulations regarding a player's conduct needs a thorough re-evaluation, there have also been calls to allow players to express themselves while on court. Former World No 1 Chris Evert has called for discussions on the toll tennis is taking on players’ mental health.
In an interaction with Eurosport, she said, "I’m not making any judgments on the players, but it’s an area of concern: why are players losing control and breaking racquets and putting others in harm’s way? Why are they breaking down on the court emotionally? It’s something that needs to be addressed. Tennis is a sport and it’s not life.”
There is a growing body of evidence that celebrated athletes are struggling with the pressures of competition and intense media scrutiny. And all this inevitably should lead to a special emphasis on mental training, especially for junior players.
Former tennis player & ITF coach Anirban Dutta shared his thoughts on this:
“Mental training in tennis has become vital nowadays for junior tennis players not only for controlling their emotions on-court but also for maintaining professionalism while playing. Mental toughness in tennis is something on which every player should work to remain a step ahead of their opponent.”
Our recently launched app (Tennis wizard) has inbuilt AI and multiple features which will help players gain and enhance their mental health. We believe that this will help junior players in improving their tennis ranking as well as their overall game.
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