A little bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone. Except when it does.

What can be learned from 8,280 Grand Slam tennis games? A great deal about performance and cracking under pressure.

It’s a high-pressure environment. There’s a lot at stake, and the players stand to win millions. This fall Angelique Kerber, the winner of the US Open Tennis Championships, took home a $3.5 million check for her first-place victory.

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev felt Grand Slam Tennis tournaments could offer insight into how gender affects mental toughness when under pressure. They examined data from tournaments from the past six years to gauge whether and how much each gender deteriorated or improved at crucial stages in the game. They found the male athletes were overwhelmingly more likely to choke than the female athletes.

“Our research showed that men consistently choke under competitive pressure, but with regard to women the results are mixed,” says Dr. Mosi Rosenboim of BGU’s Department of Management. “However, even if women show a drop in performance in the more crucial stages of the match, it is still about 50 percent less than that of men.”

The researchers pointed to cortisol as one of the possible reasons. Other sports-related studies have shown higher cortisol levels can affect golf swings and tennis serves. Cortisol levels climb more quickly in men than women during competition. Read More..

Source: Inc.