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Tennis Strategy #27 How Do I Know When To Change Strategy In A Match?

“Remember, it’s never too early to panic.” ~ A Coach Patton-ism.

The Guidelines For Shifting Strategy

It’s very common that players at the lower part of the scale, can panic thinking “my strategy isn’t working”, which is completely understandable. However, when you are having feelings that you are being beaten, do your best to shift away from feelings of despair and hopelessness and into problem solving. When a car doesn’t start or make any noise at all, we start by checking to see if the battery is dead. This is true with most electronic devices. With your game we start in another place.

Start With Charging Your Device

Just like checking on the power of a device, the first consideration on any given day should be whether you are executing your shots well enough to be effective in your strategy. If your kick serve isn’t kicking, then you might not want to serve and volley again until you fix that. If your approach shots are going three feet wide, solve that by aiming six full feet in the other direction so that they are three feet inside. If you are trying to overpower your opponent, but hitting too many shots in the net and/or long, firs eliminate the net balls, then work on controlling your depth. If you are not executing your A game, start there, go back to the cues that help you execute. The point being be stubborn and determined to make your A game work. If, after certain thresholds are not reached, and you are unable to execute one, two or a few shots that you really need to play your A game, it could be that you are ready to shift.

Playing To Opponent’s Strengths?

The second consideration is the relative strengths and weaknesses of your opponent, because even if you are not on top of your game, if you are playing the strategy to gets you to your opponent’s relative weakness, then playing a different way may actually line of with their strengths. An example of that is Raymond who at 5’1 let me know that he really didn’t like high balls, but we discovered that his opponent who was around 5’6 hated them worse… So Raymond won a match in a very uncomfortable way, because when he did not hit high balls, then that opponent was significantly better. Play to your opponent’s weaknesses. Don’t play to their strengths.

Be Ready To Scrape, Scratch And Claw

The same junior that I mentioned in an earlier chapter was becoming a more aggressive net player, and more forceful with his ground-stroking game as well. In a much anticipated first match up with the second best players in our league, Daniel, with Shreyas who was the top player. Daniel was a year younger, very skilled, and motivated to take over the top spot in league. Shreyas was hitting hard, Daniel was hitting a bit harder. Shreyas was coming to the net on not such great approach shots, Daniel was passing well. For whatever reason, Shreyas was not raising his game, matching the power, nor adjusting well on his approach shots to make them more effective. During that match we had a few different discussions about ‘Try this, try that…’ to no avail. He finally confided in me that he just didn’t feel right and wasn’t confident enough to play aggressively. So he simply decided to make it a track meet, he would run down Daniel’s shots, not give him more pace to work with, and also would only come to the net if he was absolutely sure the approach shot was going to the corner, if not, he would retreat, which he did often. By simply running everything down, and making it a bit more difficult for Daniel he was able to win coming from a set and a break down, 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, in a tight and thrilling match. The most important thought here is that it took a full set and a half of problem solving to decide that the only possible solution was to play the role of the grinder.

The Time For Strategy Change

Before you change strategy, be sure you have given yourself a chance to fix your execution, don’t change strategy before that. Be sure that you are not playing into your opponent’s strengths. If you can still play your A game and avoid their strengths, don’t change. If you can play your A game into their known weaknesses, don’t change. But, if you are down big in a match, and execution improvement is not happening, or making a difference it’s time to change. If you are down 0-3, or even 1-4 with two breaks, it might be too early. If you are down 0-5, or a full set and break, it’s probably a good time to make a change. Once you do make the switch, you might have to wait two full games for it to start to take effect, shifting your strategy also means using different tactics, which might also mean having to improve the execution of the shots that go into that.

1. Fix Execution First

2. Avoid Opponent’s Strengths

3. Play To Their Known Weaknesses

4. If Down Big In A Match, Switch

5. Down Big: love-5, Set + Break Down

6. Give Strategy Two Full Games


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