We’ve all had nerves before a big event, be it a first date, work presentation, or job interview. But what if tens of thousands of people were also there, watching your performance? Just the idea kinda makes us want to double-check our teeth. So, in an effort to learn how some of the world’s top athletes keep their cool under pressure (and hopefully pick up a few tips), we’re partnering with the US Open to ask women’s tennis stars how they prep for a big tournament. Today, Jennifer Brady, a 24-year-old tennis star from Pennsylvania who has four singles titles and four doubles titles via the ITF circuit under her belt tells us her pre-match routines. Read on – then grab tickets to watch her shine at the US Open here.

How long have you been playing tennis for? Was it your dream as a child to become a professional athlete?

I have been playing tennis for 18 years! When I was a child I always wanted to play at the highest level of the sport. I have always loved competing in sports and I think it is every little kid’s dream to become a professional athlete in whatever sport they wish to pursue. But only a small percentage become elite athletes and get to play at the highest level in their sport. 

What is the hardest thing about playing a professional sport? Do you feel that being a female athlete creates more challenges?

The hardest thing about playing a professional sport is the day in and day out dedication and work ethic. It takes a lot of effort and time behind the scenes that most people do not see. Days are long and challenging mentally and physically. The most rewarding thing is the competition. Competing on the biggest stages and being able to prove to yourself what you are capable of is both inspiring and rewarding. 

How do you physically prepare for an important match? How often do you practice?

All matches are equally important! And to prepare for each match I try to stay consistent with my routine which includes proper fuel, hydration, and recovery. I think recovery is the most important and is often overlooked. In order to come back the next day and compete to the best of your ability you have to be recovered. How often I train depends on whether I am in a training block at home or on the road at a tournament. Training blocks tend to be more grueling, with longer sessions multiple times throughout the day. Usually it consists of two tennis sessions and one gym session. And when I’m on the road it’s more about fine tuning and getting ready to compete. But I still practice during the tournament before and after matches, whether I win or lose; I’m always working to be better. 

How do you mentally prepare yourself for a match? What gives you motivation?

To mentally prepare for a match I usually visualize myself the night before and see myself playing my game and having positive vibes. I will discuss a game plan with my coach and have some key points that I want to try to focus on during the match ahead. I am motivated by the competition and have small goals I want to achieve that keep me driven. I play because I love to compete but I also love the game of tennis. I have huge respect for the sport and a passion that will forever be with me. I wish to maximize my potential and just see where the sport takes me. 

Are there any rituals or routines you’ve adopted over the course of your career?

I think every player has their own unique routines and some of us can admit we are a bit superstitious. For example, I know some players will eat at the same restaurant every night if they keep winning. I admit I have done this before; I once ate Chipotle for six straight nights because I kept winning and ended up winning the tournament. But I don’t do that anymore, as I like to try the different restaurants at each event. However, I have a few things I like to do before each tournament and try to stay consistent with these routines so they become a habit.