We all love to play tennis matches. This experience shows our current level and gives lessons about areas that we should work on. Tennis match is tougher than practice session because we don’t feel comfortable. There are many factors that put pressure on us and that is why many times we don’t play up to our potential. If you want to play your best game and increase your chances for winning you should be aware and implement specific steps during the match. One situation that can give us big advantage over the opponent is the end of the set.
Most of us don’t compete in Grand Slam tournaments so we will discuss regular format „best of 3” of the match. It simply means that one player has to win 2 sets to finish the match. This format is popular at almost all stages so players have to be aware what they can do and where they should take specific steps to increase own chances for winning. When we finish the set there is a 2 minutes break that most of the players use to rest, rehydrate and sometimes go to the restroom. These actions are great but there is much more players can do to start the next set well and get closer to winning the next set.
Tennis is divided into parts that are called sets. One set has an impact on the final result but it doesn’t guarantee that. Players who are aware of this fact can maintain focus after first set is won or make necessary changes when first part is lost. The biggest mistake athletes can do is to think that because we won/lost first set after tough battle now it will define the rest of the match. It is totally wrong. All parts are separated so it means that we have to put our own best into all sets to make sure that we have a chance to win the match.
2 minutes is not the biggest amount of time but it is better than nothing. Players who know what they should do during set break have a big advantage over opponents because they start the new part consciously and with the plan. On the other hand players who use this break just to rest, rehydrate and maybe complain at previous shots will never achieve consistent good results because they decisions are based on nothing.
The set is done. You take your towel, go to the bench and sit. Now it is time to:
- Ask questions (What is the score? Why do we have this score? What did I do to win points? What did opponent do to win points? Answer these questions and you will quickly realize why you won/lost the first part. Only consciousness will guarantee that you understand what is going on and give you lessons about what you should change/maintain in the next minutes)
- Prepare plan (Going without a plan for the next part of the match is a recipe for disaster. You have to be sure what you want to do. You already have necessary information (questions) so now you can use them to continue what was working and change what wasn’t)
- Eat carbs (Many players forget how much energy they lose during one set. They think that because they ate something before the match it will guarantee energy for the entire battle. That’s not true. Always have bananas, isotonic drinks and energy gels with you and use them especially after set is done to make sure that you can start the next set on your terms)
- One point at the time (When you lose the set typical reaction is to be negative and try to change match outcome much too soon. It simply means that players think with emotions and they go for risky shots. This scenario never ends well. On the other hand when you win first set remember that few points can change momentum of the game. That is why in both situations (won or lost first set) you have to remind yourself to focus just on one point at the time. If you want to maintain lead or stay in the match after lost set you have to do it step by step. There are no shortcuts!)
Time between the sets can have a positive, negative or no impact at all on your game. Your actions define what will happen during the next set. If you want to win more matches than you lose you have to implement professional techniques to increase your chances for good outcome. 2 minutes is enough to do everything you need. Start with learning information from this article and then use it in your training sessions to be sure that you can use them effectively during the next tournament.
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 60 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.