Playing The Big Points

score keeperMany tennis coaches and psychologists say “Play all points the same.” But shouldn’t you know the game and point score and adjust your strategy to that?

Your opponent is struggling and missing shots; so when they are serving to you at 0-30, shouldn’t you make them play and not go for too much? I think it is a tennis sin to go for a big return and not to get that return of serve back in play.

Or you are serving down ad out and you know your opponent likes to run around his backhand to hit a big forehand on your second serve. So shouldn’t you take something off your first serve to be sure to get it in? I think so.

Being Aggressive

And conversely, you are up a break and serving at 40-0 second serve… that is a good time to go for a bigger second serve and end the game on a high note.

Or you see your opponent is getting tired; so that is the time NOT to go for the Big Shot to end the point quickly… but rather make him/her run and really take their legs out from under them.

So while there is some wisdom in “mental consistency,” I believe you need to be aware of what is happening on the court and adjust your game accordingly.

What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Playing The Big Points

  1. I think “Playing the Score” was a big message in Brad Gilbert’s “Winning Ugly” I remember him quoting a statistic that said you should fight very hard to get the first two points, because at 30 love, you have something like an 70% chance of winning the game and obviously much higher at 40 love.

    Jim, yes, Brad agrees with us! thanks, george

  2. Great topic, George.

    Me thinks the confusion here is between strategy-playing style and tactics-situation.

    Yes, by “same” that means engagement, awareness, etc. Jimmy Connors once told me, “If you play every match like it’s the big match, when the big match comes, you’ll be ready.”

    And yet, while Connors loved to say he never changed his game, by that he meant he was quite aware of his set of tools — and certainly, frequently, we trot out different tactics depending on the situation.

    If you’re serving at 40-love, for example, you can attempt a shot that may or not win the point — but is worth investing in-revealing for later deployment. We also all know that 15-30 is rarely the time for innovation, but much more about core competencies.

    At the same time, we always hope to at least start a point the way we want — and then, well, things happen. The serve intended to the backhand goes to the forehand. The opponent’s serve is suddenly quite short, creating a chip-charge opportunity. Or your return proves better than intended, making it possible to suddenly charge the net.

    All these situations make the case for practicing the widest spectrum of shots possible. Tennis isn’t a team sport where you can bring in your big lineup. It’s up to each of us to run the fast break, grind out the clock, alter defensive patterns, etc. Building all these skills will help us build more tactics — while at the same time, maintaining sustained focus.

    Joel, i knew this was YOUR kind of topic! thanks for the input. george

  3. a coach once told me that if you don’t lose 2 points in a row, you will never lose a game. lot of deuce games. play the points based on did you just lose the last point, or did you win. just a different spin on what you said.

    Larry, sage advice. thanks, george

  4. Hey , George playing all points the same is so robotic, part of tennis in my opinion is dealing with the different styles which somewhat translates to personality trying to figure out what’s coming next to me is a lot more fun . I watched a lower ranked football team drive a highly ranked team crazy by doing things not normally done . They would punt on second down , and go for it when they had a bunch of yards to make up it was a Fun game to watch . I know this is tennis (lol)

    OhioJack, have you ever played an athletic tennis beginner? You go to where they “are supposed to hit the ball,” and they don’t; because they don’t know the game. Can be very challenging. thanks, george

  5. George:

    I think Joel Drucker is on to the fundamental point. There is a difference between one’s overall playing style and the tactics used on individual shots. Recognizing this means that the two issues being debated — whether you should play all the points the same and whether you should adjust your strategy based on the point score — are NOT mutually exclusive.

    When I am playing my best, it is always because I am playing all the points the same. This means, like Jimmy Connors, I am seeing the ball with as sharp of a focus as my eyes will allow, I am tracking the ball to the best of my ability, I am moving to each ball as well as I can given the ball’s trajectory, spin and placement, and I am playing each shot with equal enthusiasm. In short, I am applying equal effort to PLAY EVERY BALL.

    The antithesis of playing all the points the same means I am not letting some balls go by me because it is harder to run to some balls than others. I am not conceding points because I don’t feel like running for some balls. I am not going for too much on some balls because I want to end the point prematurely. While the level of difficulty of different shots that I may play will certainly differ from one shot to another, each shot that I do try is a shot that I am confident I can hit no mater how difficult it may be relative to another shot.

    By contrast, you can — and I think should — change your strategy or tactics in accordance with the point score, but this does not mean that you are not still trying with equal effort to play every ball. Again, the two mantras are not mutually exclusive. One is a description of overall playing style and intensity, and the other is a description of how one should address individual points based on the effect that the score has on the psychology of the match.- Marty

    Marty, yes… trying hard and trying something different are two different things. thanks, george

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