Letdowns in a tennis match
Why they happen and what can you do about them...

By Kathy Krajco from OperationDoubles.com

Never relax for a moment,
no matter what the score.

— Tony Wilding

Easier said than done. It's biological — hard-wired into the nervous system: after a pressure-packed moment, people let down. Unfortunately, nothing but another perceived emergency can prevent that letdown. For, the nervous system's fight-or-flight wiring is organized into a subsystem that deadens with the passing of a pressure-packed moment. This is Nature's way of quickly restoring the system to normal. But it's a nuisance in unnatural situations, like a tennis match.

So, after every game and set, tennis players have a letdown. This letdown is partly physical and partly mental. Mentally, it's a loss of intensity, focus, concentration — a little mental breather we take after a pressure-packed moment. Because winning increases the sense of relief, winning a game or set increases the tendency to let down. The greater the pressure, the bigger the subsequent letdown. So, you can bank on a letdown after an eighth game in which the set score was 4-3.

Combat letdowns in yourselves; enhance and exploit them in your opponents.

Some big points are played during these letdowns. True, most come at the beginnings of games and sets. But we all know how important beginnings are. We speak of how important it is to "get off on the right foot," to "put our best foot forward," and to avoid "digging ourselves into a hole." If the team that loses the first set can jump ahead in the second, it's a new match. And, a team that loses the first two points of a game rarely wins that game. Because of the letdown, the points at the beginning of games and sets are cheap. So buy now!

You can't be intensely focused on the outcome of a game or set that is just starting, so focus on short-term goals, instead.

Look at this way: Since players tend to let down at the beginning of a new set, that's the time to get ahead. It's a good habit to start every set with the goal of getting up two-games-to-love. If you can do that after winning a set, you ward off a change of momentum. If you can do that after losing the first set, you accomplish a change of momentum. In either case, it will be easier now than later.

Likewise, since players tend to let down during the first two points of a game, that's the time to get ahead. It's a good habit to start every game with intensity and the thought: "Don't get down love-thirty. Get up thirty-love." You will be surprised how often you can thus catch opponents napping. They're down love-thirty before they get serious about the game.

If your partner takes a mental breather at these moments, cheerlead. It's as easy as showing a little passion in something you say aside while getting ready for the point — something like, "Let's get this point/game." We all need this from time to time.

Your awareness of letdowns might even influence your tactics. Your opponents are more likely to make unforced errors during these times. So, you might choose tactics that reduce your likelihood of error and exploit theirs. Notice, however that I am talking about tactics, not strategy. Your tactics are your individual shot selections and maneuvering. For example, if an opponent sprays loose forehands all over during a letdown, you can pad your odds by not hitting as hard or aiming as close to lines. But never change a winning strategy. For example, if you're winning by playing serve-and-volley attacking doubles, then don't stop — not even for a moment, no matter what the score.


I would like to thank Kathy Krajco for her contribution to Tennismindgame.com articles section.



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