Does tennis require more mental toughness than any other sport?

JennyS

Hall of Fame
I think it's one of, if not the toughest sports mentally.

-How many other sports erase the scoreboard to 0-0 a few times during the course of a match/game? You can be up 6-0 6-0 (12-0) and it's still going to be 0-0 at the start of the third set. You can win win 8 more games than your opponent and still lose (9 more games at the US Open)

-There is no clock. You can be up 5-0 in a set, but you can't wait for the clock to wind down.

-There is no coaching allowed (although some people do coach during matches:p)

-No bench or team mates to help you out.

-No half time or timeouts to regroup. All injury time outs are looked down upon as possible gamesmanship.

How many sports require more mental toughness than tennis?
 

Gorecki

G.O.A.T.
i played several sports competitively and none of them caused me so much mental stress as did "any given saturday morning while serving to close the set"...

i believe so...
 

World Beater

Hall of Fame
agree.

some people say golf is more mentally exhaustive but i disagree.

in tennis, you have to deal with physical afflictions - fatigue, soreness, pain ..that requires a great deal of mental toughness to get through!
 

Mick

Legend
well, it's nothing compared to boxing where you have a broken nose, blood coming out of your eye lids and you're still competing :shock:

some tennis players would retire early but i have never seen a boxer quit. most of time, it's the referee who would end the match early.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I would say golf. On the green, you have to put a small ball into a small hole. In tennis, you have a much more lenient setup. In golf, you either get it in, or you don't. I think the pressure would be enormous in this case.
 

JennyS

Hall of Fame
I would say golf. On the green, you have to put a small ball into a small hole. In tennis, you have a much more lenient setup. In golf, you either get it in, or you don't. I think the pressure would be enormous in this case.

Then again, the golfer has his caddie. And technically, a golfer doesn't even have to have the high score in any round to win.

I think the one loss and you're done aspect of tennis is also quite draining. Single elimination in every even except the year end championships is pretty stressful!
 

World Beater

Hall of Fame
well, it's nothing compared to boxing where you have a broken nose, blood coming out of your eye lids and you're still competing :shock:

some tennis players would retire early but i have never seen a boxer quit. most of time, it's the referee who would end the match early.
i agree...boxing is pretty rough.

i wonder if boxers have to deal with large fluctuations in "form" due to conditions etc like tennis players.
 

World Beater

Hall of Fame
Then again, the golfer has his caddie. And technically, a golfer doesn't even have to have the high score in any round to win.

I think the one loss and you're done aspect of tennis is also quite draining. Single elimination in every even except the year end championships is pretty stressful!
golfing requires a lot of concentration...but so does archery.
 

P_Agony

Banned
I think it's one of, if not the toughest sports mentally.

-How many other sports erase the scoreboard to 0-0 a few times during the course of a match/game? You can be up 6-0 6-0 (12-0) and it's still going to be 0-0 at the start of the third set. You can win win 8 more games than your opponent and still lose (9 more games at the US Open)

-There is no clock. You can be up 5-0 in a set, but you can't wait for the clock to wind down.

-There is no coaching allowed (although some people do coach during matches:p)

-No bench or team mates to help you out.

-No half time or timeouts to regroup. All injury time outs are looked down upon as possible gamesmanship.

How many sports require more mental toughness than tennis?
Plus, you're alone. It's all up to you, not your coach, not fellow players, nothing. You are in charge of your own destiny, and all the blame for bad play is on your hands. In team sports, the mental part is shared between a group of players and their coach. In tennis you don't have it. There are other individual sports, but I think none is as physical as tennis (maybe other than boxing).
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
golfing requires a lot of concentration...but so does archery.
Yes I was about to mention archery, but I thought the OP did not have such sports in mind.

IMO, being forced to do something precise under pressure is much more difficult that maintaining an overall high level. Examples are the golf put or the basketball throw. The soccer penalty kick is probably like asking Federer to serve down the T or out wide and he can do it on demand. I read somewhere that Fed did badly in the tennis aiming contest. You can play pretty good tennis with pretty bad aiming skills. Not so in golf or basketball.

Just look at the double faults of tennis pros, specially the women. You have to come up with a semi-decent second serve under pressure, with the memory of the previous first serve fault and any pressure on the second serve from previous points fresh on your mind. If you expect golfers to make 20 yard puts, no tennis pro should ever be expected to double fault. The fact that they do shows they are not mentally strong.
 

Elegant_Roger

New User
Yes, I think it does. It is an individual sport that involves strategy, but unlike golf, you have a human opponent who is matching you wit to wit. Gold takes quite a bit of mental toughness, but mostly I've found I do better if I learn to leave my mind out of the sport and not think too much. Also, you're competing against an expected outcome and if you compete against others, it is just a matter of comparison.

I guess boxing would be another sport that would require a high level of mental toughness. One may need to take a risk and change their game plan mid fight if the opponent has adopted a plan that is unexpectedly succeeding.
 

Sentinel

Bionic Poster
Middle and long distance running too. When the lactic acid builds up in middle distance races and you have to keep running at max, same when the lungs are screaming for oxygen.

In tennis you get rests after every 2 games, you can take breathers bouncing the ball and towelling off.

(In Tennis) However, there is a point in the fact that you can be 2 sets up to an opponent, and you still have to face him point for point.
 

Razda

Rookie
I think baseball pitching requires a lot of mental toughness as well. Whether it requires more mental toughness than tennis, its debatable.
 

insiderman

Semi-Pro
Mental & Physical = Football, (Soccer) by far #1

Mental only = #1: Formula 1 car drivers, (hey, you 'snooze' you really, really loose!) #2: (IMO) Professional Darts, (total concentration and the score can change drastically with 1-toss of a 'Trip')

Physical only = top-level marathon runners, (try going 26+ miles averaging 5&1/2 min's a mile!) #2: (IMO) Rugby perhaps?
 

coyfish

Hall of Fame
well, it's nothing compared to boxing where you have a broken nose, blood coming out of your eye lids and you're still competing :shock:

some tennis players would retire early but i have never seen a boxer quit. most of time, it's the referee who would end the match early.
I agree with where your going with that but thats a different kind of toughness. Boxing requires a high degree of intelligence and spontaneous thinking. You have to respond and analyze situations while being pounded in the face. The sport however is not mentally draining like tennis / golf. You don't have those same momentum swings, mistakes that haunt you, mental stress, etc.

In boxing you don't get injured like you do in tennis. You may get a broken face or mental damage but not a abdominal tear that takes you out for a while. Not to mention boxers don't fight nearly as often as tennis players play.
 

coyfish

Hall of Fame
Running? No real strategy there. And you don't have much spectator suspense and pressure.
Lol im sorry sir but you are mistaken. I have run marathons and currently do triathlons and I can tell you that it is much more of a mental sport than a physical one. So many things run through your head especially when your hitting the wall.

I agree that the stress and suspense isn't there but many people don't realize how mental running is.
 

Ledigs

Hall of Fame
Yes but tennis players hit the physical wall as well and have to respond to that, in addition to all of the above that others have stated. Also, there are times when they feel pain but aren't sure if it's career-threatening and if they should retire or if it's not a big deal and should finish the match.

There may be strategy in running, but it's different than the mano y mano strategy that tennis creates (which is more like boxing). I have compared tennis to boxing quite a bit. Each game is a round, and you can intimidate your opponent, and wear him down. You also are by yourself out there, not communicating with anyone and have to decide on strategy as you go.

The tour itself is draining, single elimination tournaments that can affect your rankings. One bad streak can affect your draws and your momentum (look at Nadal, winning AO 09 and now his retirement is in question!)

Add to that pressure from sponsors, fans and the travel demands and I think tennis is up there as one of the most stressful sports in the world.
 

urban

Legend
You have to go in and win the last point, like a matador has to go in and ultimately kill the bull. Its not enough to play well and lead, and play it safe. In other sports you can get a lead and defend that lead. Not in tennis. Still i think, boxing requires more of mental toughness, because if things are going in the wrong direction, you can get badly hurt. Climbing and bull fighting also have that element of danger. Hemingway called it the presence of death.
 

COPEY

Hall of Fame
well, it's nothing compared to boxing where you have a broken nose, blood coming out of your eye lids and you're still competing :shock:

some tennis players would retire early but i have never seen a boxer quit. most of time, it's the referee who would end the match early.
It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen, and it's called "not answering the bell" for any particular round. The most current and probably most notable boxer to quit in recent history is Oscar De La Hoya in his fight agains Manny Pacquiao in Dec of 08. Oscar quit after round 7 - he was completely overmatched.

As for whether tennis is the toughest of all sports mentally, that's always going to be up for debate. I certainly think it's in the top 5.

Finally, what I know with absolute certainty is that it's more physically and mentally draining than it appears to be. Additionally, there are more tactics involved than people realize. Maybe not for really big hitters, but those are more the exception rather than the rule.
 

jrod

Hall of Fame
well, it's nothing compared to boxing where you have a broken nose, blood coming out of your eye lids and you're still competing :shock:

some tennis players would retire early but i have never seen a boxer quit. most of time, it's the referee who would end the match early.
I wouldn't be so quick to call this mental toughness. Often it's a case of not knowing when to quit. Fortunately the referee is there to help out, although sometimes even they appear to have questionable judgement.
 

trix123

New User
I'm a big fan of snooker and I have to say that it is one of the mentally tough sports out there. It must get really annoying when you have to sit in your chair for a whole frame watching your opponent put balls for fun even though you haven't really made a mistake
 

sdont

Legend
I think most people are missing something important: like for physical capacities, there are multiple dimensions to mental "toughness".

What I mean is, has a marathon runner more physical "toughness" than a weightlifter?

In the same way, I think we could talk about mental focusing, mental stamina, etc.
 

COPEY

Hall of Fame
As I said, it's one of those subjects that's really a matter of opinion than anything else. It takes sacrifice, dedication, and a ton of hard work to be a professional at any sport - that's an irrefutable fact, but to say one sport definitively requires more mental toughness than the other...not possible.

Still, it's interesting to see what examples are thrown out there as "offerings".
 
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JJK947

New User
Golf is 10% physical and 90% mental; so there.

Really though, golf is ridiculous, I don't think in any other sport you see almost as many people quiting the game altogether due to years of frustration as there are people just starting for the first time every year.
 

OddJack

G.O.A.T.
Tennis is the loneliest Sport of All Time:


Let's now compare Tennis with other sports that were suggested as being the loneliest:

Boxing- He can wait it out, he knows they will ring the bell, go to the coach get advice. And there is such a thing as knock out in boxing, one big mistake or one strong shot can end it in an instant.

Golf- You have someone walking by your side almost all the time. You are indirectly competing with opponents, your own pace. The type of shots he choses to make has no effect on you, only the results are important. His body language is not of your concern. All you do is focus on your own game and your own strategy. You are not under expectations to adjust according to how your opponent is playing the ball.

Formula one Driver- You are inside a car. Your face is behind a helmet. There is no merciless camera to capture fear, anger, hopelessness or tiredness on your face. You are not responsible for the engine that's running under your ass, you only drive. While you are directly competing with other drivers, there is no one man who you face eye to eye.


Tennis

You are alone from the start to the end. You not only have to fight the opponent but also the unfriendly crowd. The eyes are on you through the whole match. They expect you to come up with something if you are losing or keep the points coming if you are winning since there is no bells to end the game.
Must really feel lonely, watching your own face on the big screen in front of tens of thousands, each time you win or lose a point. The cameras will focus on each and every facial expressions you make.
There is nowhere to hide.
 

Bloodshed

Professional
Tennis is the loneliest Sport of All Time:


Let's now compare Tennis with other sports that were suggested as being the loneliest:

Boxing- He can wait it out, he knows they will ring the bell, go to the coach get advice. And there is such a thing as knock out in boxing, one big mistake or one strong shot can end it in an instant.

Golf- You have someone walking by your side almost all the time. You are indirectly competing with opponents, your own pace. The type of shots he choses to make has no effect on you, only the results are important. His body language is not of your concern. All you do is focus on your own game and your own strategy. You are not under expectations to adjust according to how your opponent is playing the ball.

Formula one Driver- You are inside a car. Your face is behind a helmet. There is no merciless camera to capture fear, anger, hopelessness or tiredness on your face. You are not responsible for the engine that's running under your ass, you only drive. While you are directly competing with other drivers, there is no one man who you face eye to eye.


Tennis

You are alone from the start to the end. You not only have to fight the opponent but also the unfriendly crowd. The eyes are on you through the whole match. They expect you to come up with something if you are losing or keep the points coming if you are winning since there is no bells to end the game.
Must really feel lonely, watching your own face on the big screen in front of tens of thousands, each time you win or lose a point. The cameras will focus on each and every facial expressions you make.
There is nowhere to hide.
Although I agree with your statements, I would definately add Championship Darts along with Tennis. Man it's just intense the camera focus on the player, the dart, the insane crowd cheering (man this is just as intense as football), at one point, I didn't even heard the score from the announcer because of the ridiculous crowd cheering from a player. Must be soo mentally draining and to stay focus when you play Darts.
 

Baikalic

Semi-Pro
You have to go in and win the last point, like a matador has to go in and ultimately kill the bull. Its not enough to play well and lead, and play it safe. In other sports you can get a lead and defend that lead. Not in tennis. Still i think, boxing requires more of mental toughness, because if things are going in the wrong direction, you can get badly hurt. Climbing and bull fighting also have that element of danger. Hemingway called it the presence of death.
This is a good point; most of the professional sports covered nowadays all have time limits, so you can work the clock and wait out a late surge in a basketball game for example.
 

jrod

Hall of Fame
I would say golf with tennis a very close second.
"....Dr. James E. Loehr, the author of 14 books including Mental Toughness Training for Sports, surveyed 43 sports in 1989, to measure their physical/mental/emotional demand factors. Loehr used 25 criteria, such as aerobic demands, real physical opponent, no coaching, multiple competitors in a single day, no clock, one-on-one competition, opportunities for trash talking and gamesmanship, ranking system (local, regional, national), no time-outs/no substitutions, and fierce personal rivalries. Tennis placed an impressive No. 2 with 101 points, considerably ahead of golf which had 85 points."

Source:http://www.tennisconfidential.com/tennis_vs_golf.htm
 

NamRanger

G.O.A.T.
If every MMA fight was like the one between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba that would easily require more mental toughness than any other sport. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. No time limit. No referee interference.


But no, I don't think tennis requires the MOST, but it does require more than the majority of sports. However, other sports require other skills that tennis does not develop, such as leadership and teamwork.
 

martini1

Hall of Fame
The closest thing to me is Fencing (Epee). A match can last a long time although not quite like a 5 setter.

It's one on one, no coaching, your game vs his, and the only thing to bring you through to victory at the end is mostly mental.

Of course, there are other racket sports but I am not counting those.
 

edmondsm

Legend
It demands, but chess is worst.
Chess is not a sport. Mixed Martial Arts requires the most mental toughness of any sport by far. There is no comparison. Try getting punched, kicked, layed on top of and beaten, then eventually giving up because you're getting choked. Then, get back in the gym the next day and motivate yourself for the next event that may not come for another 6 months. No other sport askes that of it's athletes, not even close.
 
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T Woody

Rookie
Olympic Gymnastics is the most difficult mental and physical competition on the planet.

- The physical demands speak for themselves
- You're being judged subjectively
- The standards require perfection
- You could literally kill or paralyze yourself (high danger element)
- Every routine is premeditated, which allows pressure and doubt to build
 

edmondsm

Legend
Olympic Gymnastics is the most difficult mental and physical competition on the planet.

- The physical demands speak for themselves
- You're being judged subjectively
- The standards require perfection
- You could literally kill or paralyze yourself (high danger element)
- Every routine is premeditated, which allows pressure and doubt to build
You've got a good argument there. But I would argue that the premeditation offers an element of comfort. Facing the unknown requires a great deal of mental toughness.

In MMA, there is nothing rehearsed. You have to be ready to react and improvise at a moments notice. Plus the elements of subjective judgement and danger are also there. One slip up and you could be getting kicked in the head, or choked unconscious.
 

Defcon

Hall of Fame
I laugh at the golf suggestions - for gods sake its not even a sport. The 'player's are so damn lazy they can't even walk across green lawns and need a cart, nor do they carry their own equipment.

The comparisons between Tiger and Fed made in the media are laughable, as if Tiger has to face 1/10th the pressure, or athleticism of a tennis pro.

Before I played tennis seriously, I never understood the expression 'turning point of the whole game', 'momentum shift on a single point' etc. Now I know it all too well :)
 

T Woody

Rookie
I laugh at the golf suggestions - for gods sake its not even a sport. The 'player's are so damn lazy they can't even walk across green lawns and need a cart, nor do they carry their own equipment.

The comparisons between Tiger and Fed made in the media are laughable, as if Tiger has to face 1/10th the pressure, or athleticism of a tennis pro.
I'll concede the point that tennis requires a much higher fitness level than golf, but you can't deny that top tier golfers have some of the best hand eye coordination, accuracy, feel of any pro athlete. On the level of an elite race car driver and career .300 hitter in the MLB.

Additionally, Tiger is facing the entire field for all 4 days of each Major. The PGA Tour is deep with talent these days, meaning a relative unknown can rip off four great days of golf and win a major. The odds are with a field of 120 that at least one or two guys will do this at every major, meaning Tiger has to be at the absolute top of his game every day in order to win. Contrast this with Federer competing against one person at a time in each slam through the easiest portion of the draw. He can play downright badly in the first few rounds and still win a slam convincingly. In no way am I downplaying his semi streak, just trying to illustrate how Tiger faces a different challenge due to the nature of each sport.
 

edmondsm

Legend
I'll concede the point that tennis requires a much higher fitness level than golf, but you can't deny that top tier golfers have some of the best hand eye coordination, accuracy, feel of any pro athlete. On the level of an elite race car driver and career .300 hitter in the MLB.
Epic fail. Please don't tell me you just compared a race car driver to a MLB hitter with a .300 average. You might as well say that my little cousin, who is amazing at Halo 2, has the hand-2-eye coordination of Pete Rose. Race car drivers are the anti-athlete. A machine and pit-crew are literally doing everything for them. A race car driver has 1/20th the skill as any other athlete in any sport, period.
 

drwood

Hall of Fame
I laugh at the golf suggestions - for gods sake its not even a sport. The 'player's are so damn lazy they can't even walk across green lawns and need a cart, nor do they carry their own equipment.

The comparisons between Tiger and Fed made in the media are laughable, as if Tiger has to face 1/10th the pressure, or athleticism of a tennis pro.
Quoted for truth.

Chess requires far more mental toughness than golf -- both are great games, but neither can be considered a sport.
 

ubermeyer

Hall of Fame
Chess requires far more mental toughness than golf -- both are great games, but neither can be considered a sport.
Golf is a sport...

Anyway, how does chess require more mental toughness than golf? You have forever to contemplate each move. Blitz chess is a whole different story though.
 

drwood

Hall of Fame
Golf is a sport...

Anyway, how does chess require more mental toughness than golf? You have forever to contemplate each move. Blitz chess is a whole different story though.
No, golf is not a sport -- its a great game, but it's not a sport.

With chess, one bad move can ruin an entire tournament's worth of work -- instantly, without any chance of recovery.

Golf is similar in that aspect, but in most cases its easier to recover from a horrible shot than from a horrible move in chess (i.e. Angel Cabrera's shot in the 2009 Masters first playoff hole is a prime example).

Plus in competitive tournament chess, you don't have forever to contemplate each move -- it averages about 2.5 minutes per move, far shorter than the time it takes most golfers to contemplate a put or a shot from the fairway.
 
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