Dick Valentine and I have teamed up for several tournaments and done very well together. He and another of his partners Matt Davie just returned from a great run at the Florida 4.0 state tournament in Daytona, where they played #1 and won ALL FIVE of their matches; but the team lost in the finals. And he writes…

George, Here is a situation. My partner and I were playing on the 1st court against a very tough team in the Florida State finals this past weekend.

We won the first set 6-3 and then were blown out in the second set 6-0. The other (and deciding match) was going on in the next court; so that was distracting. I told Matt, when we were down 0-5 in the second set, that we should not worry about this set but to start thinking tiebreaker.

We took the maximum time after the set and talked about getting back into the match. We won the 1st point and that seemed to give us the MO and we went on to win 10-7.

But what else can you do?

2 thoughts on “Momentum

  1. Dick – It is a situation we all find ourselves facing on the tennis court… what was positive momentum has changed into negative momentum. And usually it is not just on one side of the court. While one team is getting tighter and missing shots, the other team gets confident and starts making shots (that they had been missing).

    During the recent Golf Masters, one of the TV analysts said, “When you get tense, the big muscles stop moving; and the small muscles over react.” Roy Emerson says the same thing: he focuses on moving your feet in tight situations.

    So much of success on the court (and in life) is not what happens between the lines, but what happens between the ears.

  2. I agree with George. This kind of thing happens to everybody. I also agree with Roy Emerson’s advice. In fact, I recall Roy giving me exactly the same advice some years ago during a tight match and it definitely worked to get the big muscles moving.

    But it is hard to combat the mental jitters. One trick that I use is to keep repeating to myself a stupid mantra: “The ball is a grapefruit. The ball is a grapefruit.” My aim is to stop thinking about anything else going on in the world (e.g., the job, the war in Iraq, the match on the adjacent court, the fact that my opponent just hit a stupendous crosscourt topspin backhand that left me stammering in disbelief, etc.) and to focus only on the moment. More precisely, I am trying to focus only on the ball…. to track the ball acutely with my eyes, to block out all other distractions, to move my feet instinctively and not consciously, to truly PLAY THE BALL. I believe that when I have been successful achieving that mental state — call it being “in the zone” — I have been able to play my best.

    I don’t know why repeating “The ball is a grapefruit” sometimes works. I think the repetition of the mantra has some TM elements to it. And talking myself into believing an object has twice the diameter that it really has is a way to sharpen my eyesight so I just see the ball better as it flies through the air.

    But YMMV.

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