Usually your big serve and ferocious forehand does the trick; one stroke sets up the other and before you know it you are in the winner’s circle. But, on this particular day (ask Swedish star Robin Soderling about this as he just lost at Wimbledon in a big upset to a teenage star) your usual strategy has failed. Not only have your weapons failed to live up to their promise but the man on the other side of the net is getting all the breaks!
Certainly, if a tennis challenger has played hundreds of matches, he has encountered a bad day or two, right? One of the most common problems a tennis contender will face is when his big weapon fails him; the usual big forehand drive or gigantic cannonball serve is temporarily lost and one must find another way to win the match.
The analogy one must draw on the tennis court is no different in real life; when a person gets knocked down a few pegs, he must be able to reach down and draw strength to persevere. In other words, when a great server is unable to hit his aces, he must be able to vary his spin serve to disrupt the tempo of his opponent. To help illustrate my point, I vividly recall my Seattle, Washington junior tennis friend, Les Topp, who was momentarily upset and bewildered after he lost his first set during the Nationals in California a few years back.
During the first round of action in Burlingame, Les was unable to trade powerful groundstrokes with his opponent and on the verge of collapse when he had an epiphany on the tennis court. Not only did he abandon his reliable serve and volley tactics but he completely changed his power game in a span of minutes. As his hard serving rival moved into the net, Topp lobbed every single stroke. In short order, his young gifted rival was losing control of his emotions and quickly lost his confidence. Les Topp finished off his opponent with a big victory and to my complete surprise adopted his new on-court philosophy; lob first and ask questions later! Clearly it is not easy to change course and implement an approach that is unfamiliar to your style of play.
But, I have a few tips that might come in handy when you think you are doomed and preparing to lose the important tennis match:
- During your next practice, implement the one-serve policy (if you miss the serve, you lose the point – no do-overs.
- Work on defensive drills like lobs and slice strokes.
- Spend ample time doing footwork drills without hitting balls.
- During the practice session, work on the serve and volley strategy.
Most, if not all golfers and tennis players are very independent and intelligent athletes who have learned to think quickly under pressure. The sign of a winner is a person who gets the job done when they are not at their very best. There is no way a person can have their best stuff each and every time they compete; be ready to employ plan B when the chips are down. Soon one will discover the person’s real inner power which will come in handy on the tennis court.
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.