Sportswriters are heaping well-deserved praise on Serena Williams since she announced her retirement from tennis in an exclusive article for Vogue. Many of these writers focus on her 23 Grand Slam singles titles and her intense drive and mental toughness. 

According to Williams, the mental game accounts for 70 percent of her success. She made the comment in a 10-episode series for MasterClass. Although Williams covers fundamentals like serves and ground strokes, her exploration of the mental aspect of peak performance offers lessons that transcend the sport. 

These five lessons in mental toughness apply to any performance, like giving a pitch or making a presentation when the pressure is on. 

1. Practice like a pro.

Professional athletes play games with themselves during practice to prepare for the pressure they'll feel on game day. For example, Williams practices like she plays, sitting alone during water breaks just as she would during an actual tournament. 

Williams also relies on "consistency drills" where she forces herself to make a certain number of shots in a row and, if she misses, she has to start again.

I recommend consistency drills to practice for presentations, too. Deliver your presentation from start to finish without stopping. If you forget what you planned to say about a slide and you're forced to look at your notes, that's fine, but you'll have to start again from the beginning of the deck. By forcing yourself to deliver the presentation consistently, you'll add a little pressure on yourself, building your confidence for the real thing. 

2. Break down the tape. 

Athletes watch a lot of game-day videos. Williams says that, for much of her career, she put herself through the painful experience of watching her losses. However, she learned from her mistakes with every video.

You might not have a game-day video, but you can replicate the experience by recording yourself delivering a presentation. Be your own worst critic--look for mistakes. Do you use too many filler words that distract from your message? Do you read from your slides instead of making eye contact?

Most presentation problems are easy to fix once you see yourself committing these mistakes. 

3. Practice with people who are better than you.

This is one of my favorite lessons from the Serena Williams MasterClass. She finds practice partners who are better than her. Williams didn't have to look far early in her career. Her older sister, Venus, provided plenty of competition. "There's no Serena without Venus," she once said. 

As a young player, Williams also tried to copy Pete Sampras and Monica Seles by analyzing their matches. You can apply the same approach to any type of performance, like public speaking. You might not have a "practice partner," but you can watch speakers who are great at what they do. Between YouTube and TED Talks, you have easy (and free) access to the world's best speakers. 

Study people who are better than you, and you'll rise closer to their level. 

4. Forget the past and focus on the present.

Once you see what you did wrong, you need to leave your mistakes in the past. Williams says you have to learn from your mistakes, but when you're ready to fix your performance, leave the memory where it belongs--in the past. 

Your only focus should be on today's practice session or tomorrow's presentation. I've worked with many speakers who can't perform their best in the present because they're thinking about the time they messed up.

Thinking about your mistakes is just wasted negative energy that has no business in the present. 

5. Bottle up anxiety and throw it away.

Williams acknowledges that she's "insanely nervous" before a match. Nearly everyone who cares about their performance gets anxious just before play begins. The secret is to turn anxiety into fearlessness. 

Williams thinks about fear as an emotion that she puts in a bottle. She tosses the bottle away as she walks onto the court because being fearless is crucial for a successful performance. Williams reminds us that champions experience fear too. But they replace it with confidence when it's time to perform.

When you get to the center court and you're about to launch into a presentation, make sure you throw out the fear bottle. Play your game. Focus on your strengths. Relax, put a smile on your face, and enjoy the spotlight.