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A tennis ball on a tennis court casting a shadow

Tennis Players: What Are You Afraid of?

05/25/2015, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Jenn Donnelly isn't afraid of much...


Jennifer Donnelly is not accustomed to fear. 

She’s not used to it. She doesn’t like it. Fear is a nuisance in the background, an annoying voice shooed away with the wave of a fist. 

But fear has a way of creeping back into our lives when we least expect it. Like a character from a horror movie jumping out from behind a door, fear is effective when we’re not prepared for it. 

It’s this lack of preparation Jenn is afraid of. This is a woman who once played a hockey game with a baby in her belly, unafraid of the discomfort and extra effort she’d require to skate both of them around the ice. 

These days, however, the evil darkness of tennis threatens to overwhelm with every swing of the racquet. 

Here are the five things that terrify Jenn Donnelly when she’s playing tennis. 

1. Injuries

We can train our muscles properly to resist injury. We can build good habits related to nutrition and rest so our bodies are fresh and ready for the strain put on them by physical exertion. 

But injuries will still happen. For Jenn, it’s this uncertainty that she’s afraid of. 

Does it stop her from playing though? Not a chance. “There’s only so much you can do, injuries are a part of every sport.” 

2. Playing against a good friend in a tournament

Jenn plays tennis for the friendships and social environment. “I don’t like confrontation. I like having fun,” she says. 

Walking on to a court and seeing a good friend staring back from the other side then is a situation she dreads. Being a good tennis player is dependant on your ability to exploit the weaknesses of your opponent, so performing this on a friend can certainly lead to some awkward moments once the match is over. 

Jenn still plays to win though no matter what.

3. Losing when you don't play well

Jenn doesn’t mind losing if she plays well. Sometimes the opponent is just better. But when she doesn’t perform at the level she knows she’s capable of, that’s what really grinds her gears. A poor performance means we either didn’t prepare properly or we lacked focus during the match. 

Either way, playing bad is a tough pill to swallow, one that can deliver nightmares to the best of us. 

4. Making the first error

“Tennis is a mental sport,” says Jenn. “Committing the first error in a match gives your opponent a boost of confidence that can be tough to overcome.” Like scoring the first goal or drawing first blood in a boxing match, being the first to exploit an opponent’s weakness means that if you can just maintain your current level of play you’re bound to win the match. 

This fear makes preparation that much more vital to your chances of winning. 

5. Double-faulting at match point 

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a basketball player at the free throw line with the game on the line? That’s what it’s like when you’re serving to win a match. Double-faulting happens when the fear or pressure of a routine play overwhelms you. “Double-faulting is a horrifying possibility. You’ve just lost a match because you just missed both serves.”

According to Jenn, all you need to do is get the ball over the net. Don’t over-think it, after all the return is more difficult than than the serve itself. 

An Unhealthy Motivator

Fear is one of sport’s greatest motivator. We all fear failure and we’ll all do our best to avoid it at all costs. 

It’s a tough way to operate, but sometimes it’s a necessary method of overcoming weakness and maximizing strength. 


… ha ha ha sorry. I’ll show myself out. 



photo credit: The Tennis Ball via photopin (license)

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