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Why Are Tennis Players So Angry?

There’s a little-known secret lurking beneath the elegance of tennis: anger. Players like Nick Kyrgios, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray spring to mind.

But what turns these skilled players into ticking time bombs during matches? Let’s find out.

Pressure & High Expectations

When we watch tennis on TV or in person, it’s easy to forget that the players we see are just humans like you and me. They seem like superheroes, hitting each stroke with a precision I used to daydream about as a kid on my backyard court.

But behind this shiny image is a darker reality. These athletes face immense pressure, and I’ve noticed how this pressure can sometimes light the fuse of anger.

Where does this pressure come from? It’s the demand to constantly deliver flawless performances and victories. Every match is not just a game; it’s a stage where their skills are under the microscope.

I remember losing a friendly match once, and it stung for days. Now imagine these pros – a defeat for them isn’t just about leaving a tournament. It can also lead to a plummet in rankings, a blemish on their reputation, and a knock on their self-confidence. It doesn’t surprise me that such pressure could brew anger.

Each point, each error, takes on gargantuan proportions. I recall a match last week where I missed an easy shot to close out a set at *5-3, 40-30. I lost that set. That thin line between winning and losing turned into a hotbed for frustration and anger.

External Pressures

Then there are the external pressures. We, the fans, their families, their coaches, and even the players themselves want them to retain high rankings. I remember being obsessed with my local club rankings as a young player. In professional tennis, rankings aren’t just numbers; they signify a player’s worth.

The fear of losing this ranking, this ‘status’, I’ve seen it brew a potent concoction of stress. I remember when I dropped a few places in my local club ranking – it felt like my world had collapsed.

Losing a match at the recreational level isn’t the end of the world, but at the pro level, rankings are crucial. A high ranking promises better tournament draws, more endorsements, and increased respect in the tennis community. The fear of losing this rank, this ‘status’, can be a potent source of stress.

This constant struggle with the ranking system, coupled with the desire to prove oneself, can sometimes result in an explosive outburst on court.

Living under constant scrutiny is another challenge. Every move they make, both on and off the court, is under the microscope.

I remember feeling overwhelmed when a local newspaper covered one of my matches; I can only imagine the level of scrutiny these pros endure.

Their anger isn’t just a private affair; it becomes a public spectacle. Each player has their unique way of dealing with these pressures, but one thing’s certain – no one is immune to the intense world of professional tennis.

I’ve had my moments of pressure-induced frustration at the recreational level, so it’s only human for pros to occasionally react in anger too.

While this doesn’t justify poor sportsmanship, it does offer a perspective to empathize with the human behind the player.

Even though players like Nick Kyrgios seem volatile, the anger from most tennis players seems understandable and, to some extent, relatable.


Frustration isn’t unique to tennis, it’s found in every sport. But in tennis, it takes on a peculiar persona due to the sport’s individualistic and highly subjective style.

I often call it the silent sidekick of every tennis player, ever-present, ready to pounce when least expected. It raises its head when those unforced errors begin to infiltrate the game, those avoidable double faults occur, or that ideal passing shot is missed by a hair’s breadth.

It’s not merely about making mistakes; it’s about making them when the stakes are high – when the game hangs in the balance, when the rival is rallying back, or when the match seems to be slipping away.

I remember when I played my first official match, I was leading 6-3, 5-1, only to witness it balance out at 5-5. That’s frustration. I lost that set 6-7. From there, frustration turns to anger. Anger doesn’t really help either, at least not for me. I lost the 3rd deciding set 6-0.

Likewise, taking on a tough adversary can stir up significant frustration. When every shot is met with a powerful return, when the rival seems to predict your game plan like an open book, or when your absolute best just isn’t enough, frustration mounts, and frustration leads to anger.

Perceived Unfairness

Then there’s the catalyst of perceived unfairness. Let’s be honest, not every line call swings in your favor, not every decision of the umpire seems just, and not every crowd is impartial. In a game as isolated and personal as tennis, these can feel like direct insults.

I still remember a match where my line call was overruled or a questionable penalty was imposed. It felt as if the world was conspiring against me, and that’s when the anger flared up.

Even a biased crowd can spark this feeling. Feeling underestimated, ignored, or targeted can lead to reactions that stun even the players themselves.

If you watch pro tennis on TV, every other player is arguing at least one time a match with the umpire, and it’s almost always due to them feeling a perception of injustice.

Everyone knows that Nick Kyrgios is famous for arguing with the umpire, but even the greatest player of all time Novak Djokovic constantly does this as well.

Here’s a perfect example of just that, Novak Djokovic arguing with the umpire due to perceived unfairness:

Exhaustion Can Lead To Short Fuses

Let’s face it, tennis can be punishing. Lengthy, heated matches in tough weather conditions can push even the fittest players to their limits.

Fatigue impacts not just a player’s physical game but also their control over emotions. Exhausted bodies lead to worn-out minds, and these weary minds are much more prone to emotional explosions.

Have you ever noticed how a player’s frustration often rises as the match goes on? I sure have, and it’s not a coincidence. Consider this, how often are players (or yourself?) angry in the initial few games? Not very often.

As energy levels drain, patience starts to wear thin. A shot that I would have easily dismissed in the first set suddenly becomes a source of irritation in the last set. This transformation is less about a change in mindset and more a sign of fatigue.

Surely, the stakes are higher in a crucial third set, and if the game holds greater significance, players tend to show more anger, but more often than not, anger from a tennis player is an obvious sign of exhaustion taking its toll.

4 Ways To Cope With Anger In a Tennis Match

Managing anger on the tennis court can be the difference between winning and losing. Anger does help some players (like Novak Djokovic) but for the most part, it makes you play worse.

Here are 4 strategies that have helped me cope with anger in tennis matches:

Deep Breathing

When I first started playing competitive tennis, I found myself frequently overwhelmed with anger during challenging matches. That’s when I discovered the power of deep breathing.

Taking slow, deep breaths helps me to calm down, refocus, and regain control of my emotions. By focusing on my breath, I can briefly distract my mind from the game and its pressures, allowing a moment of mental rest before diving back into the action.

It might sound silly, but it works!

Positive Self-talk

Another strategy I often use is positive self-talk. This doesn’t mean denying the difficulty of the situation or being overly optimistic. Instead, I remind myself of my abilities, my preparation, and my past successes.

For example, if I miss an easy shot, instead of scolding myself, I might say, “You’ve made this shot a hundred times before, you can do it again.” This strategy boosts my confidence and helps dispel the negativity that often fuels anger.

What also works for me (and basically all pro players) is clenching my fists when winning a point. It’s not only an outward display of satisfaction but also an act of positive self-affirmation. This in turn helps boost my confidence and reduces the negativity that can lead to anger.

Pre-Point Routine

This technique has been an absolute game-changer in helping me manage my anger on the tennis court.

Create a simple, repeatable routine before each point, like bouncing the ball a certain number of times or doing a specific physical movement. This can help to reset your mind and prepare you for the next point, allowing you to let go of past mistakes and focus on the present moment.

Most players have a pre-serve routine, but it’s just as important to pre-point routine as a receiver. I’m not going to go into every thing I do before a point, because it’s a personal thing. What works for me, doesn’t have to work for you, and vice versa.

It’s important to find a pre-point routine that suits your style and feels comfortable for you. It might take a little bit of experimentation to find what works best, but once you do, it can be a powerful tool for managing your emotions during a match.

Taking Breaks

Finally, another great I’ve found for managing anger during tennis matches is to utilize breaks effectively. During a changeover or a water break, I use that time to distract myself from the game’s stress and relax my mind.

I might gaze at the sky, watch the audience, or simply close my eyes and disconnect for a few seconds. These short breaks can work wonders in cooling down my anger and refocusing my mind.

I watched a match with the French pro player Maxime Creesy yesterday and do you know what he did during the breaks? He read a book! That may sound absurd to do, but it makes him stay focused, and while I haven’t tried it myself yet, I can definitely see it working.

Just look at him!