Most people assume that the fear of losing is a major hurdle for tennis players to overcome. This is true, but there is another fear that is just as important, though it is not often discussed: the so-called fear of winning. Many of us will have experienced this phenomenon and seen it in others. For example, you might have played an incredible first set and been in the lead in the second, but just a victory was in sight you suddenly fell apart and lost. Things might have been even worse in the third set, with ultimate defeat an ugly affair.
This phenomenon is called is “Nikephobia” (from the Greek for "fear of victory"), and affects 1 athlete out of every 4 across all levels of skill and experience. It generally involves self-sabotage in some form, and is often sub-conscious. Its consequence is that a player is not able to perform their best, especially during important moments.
This particular form of psychological block can arise for different reasons. Excessive expectations and pressure are often big contributing factors, with players being afraid of disappointing parents, coaches or sponsors. Fear of failure is also a big factor, with a player not wanting to reveal their own insecurities to their peers. In other cases, players might have conflicting tendencies that prevent them from reaching their full potential. For example, they may want to be aggressive, but have a timid personality. These two forces then work against each other in negative ways.