Knowing when to slow the pace of play down and when to speed it up is crucial in competitive tennis!
Momentum swings in tennis happen so quickly. You need to understand every tactical swing and play of the game. Your not just feeling your way through the dark during a match. Knowing when your opponent has momentum and when they don’t is very important to the way you approach not only your strategy but how much time you should take between points and on changeovers. Obviously riding winning strategy patterns and changing losing ones are very important but understanding the tempo of the match is just as critical.
Experienced players know when they’re opponents are down and frustrated and can use tactics like repeated ball tosses or bounces to exaggerate their opponents emotions and draw errors. Even going to your towel between points can be used as a tempo changer. Good players take advantage of everything at their disposal, including time between points.
For example; player A has just made two unforced errors back to back on crucial points and is anxious to play the next point to redeem them self. Player B (who is serving) takes 20 seconds to go to the towel, wipe off and prepare their strategy for the next point. They come up the the base line, bounce the ball a couple times more than they normally would and apologize for an errant ball toss. Player A is now so frustrated by this little break in play that they are willing to wail away at anything! Often, any old first serve will be sent to the back fence. These types of tactics are entirely within the rules, so you need to identify when they are happening to you.
Professional players will take injury timeouts and bathroom breaks, but these tactics are obvious. It’s the little ebbs and flows of the match that add up! Victoria Azarenka knew the momentum of her 2013 Australian Open Semi-Final match against Sloane Stephens was slipping away and cunningly used a medical timeout to calm her nerves and slow the tempo of the match. Azarenka closed the match out 6-1, 6-4, and although she was widely criticized for her tactics (even though they were within the rules) advanced to the final and finished the tournament as champion.
In your own matches, how many times have you come off the court after a match and haven’t been able to describe how you lost or what happened during the match? Pay more attention to the tempo of the match and you will be able to see how momentum is affecting the results of your tennis matches. Become a smarter player and you will find yourself pulling out matches you didn’t think you could!
See you on the courts!
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