April 15, 2017
The famous words of owner John Elway in response to a reporter asking him, “what if Peyton Manning gets hurt?” Not having a backup plans incase their star quarterback didn’t get hurt worked out pretty well as Manning had a fantastic year, leading the team to Superbowl 48. Although it was not a good ending, it was a pretty good season overall!
Relating to Tennis
In most cases, not having a backup plan doesn’t work as well, especially in the game of tennis. Have you ever wondered why you play so well against a particular player that you deem as “good” and lose to someone that you think as an inferior player? It has to do with matchups and how someone’s strength matches up against the other player’s weakness. The inability for players to see and take advantage of weaknesses makes it the “luck of the draw” on if they are going to play well or not. This means that if your strength so happens to go against the other player’s weakness it works out for you but if your strength does not match up well with your opponents weakness, you will ultimately have a difficult match to win. It takes the willpower for a player to use a strategy that isn’t their “plan A” to have a better chance of winning. For example, I just coached one of the girls on my varsity team against a high quality player that was hitting the ball very hard back at her. Although the rallies were competitive, my player ultimately lost most of the points they played in the first set. There were times when my player would hit a softer looping ball that would bounce above her opponent’s shoulders that would come back high and soft. My player did not notice that and would continue to try to hit the ball hard and lose the point. Once she started looping the ball, the rallies became more competitive and allowed her to win more points. It’s important to have perspective with what balls you hit to get the weakest replay back. It may not be your favorite shot to hit but it will allow the highest chance of victory.
Sometimes it’s not an adjustment of strategy but rather the strengthening of certain strokes. Roger Federer has done this recently as his backhand (especially the one he hits down the line) has improved tremendously, allowing him to beat his rivals this year, including Rafael Nadal. Are you being picked on with a certain stroke? Maybe it’s time to work on it to change it from a liability to either a foundation for your game or even a weapon.
Why This Is Hard
You more than likely have read this type of message before. “Change your strategy and have a better chance of winning.” If it only were that easy! As soon as someone feels stress in a match while trying plan B or C, they more than likely resort back to plan A. I have seen that with my high school teams when I tell them a strategy that I think they need to do to win. They try it out and with the first sign of failure they will revert back to their old ways and ultimately lose the match. Now I’m not saying that you will win the match by changing strategies but I can promise you that if you lose the first set rather handedly, you will more than likely lose the second set even worse unless your game improves tremendously which is rarely the case.
How to Make This Happen
Practice! You need to try different strategies on the court to have as backup plans for your matches. In singles that means you need to have the ability to slice, dropshot, lob, loop and drive tennis balls. It also means being aware of patterns your opponent is hitting so you can see what their favorite shots are so you can avoid hitting those to him or her. In doubles it requires different formations and understanding the patterns of the serve and return for both opponents so you can take advantage of any weaknesses. Once you have a good feel for a wide arrangement of strokes and formations, play practice matches. I particularly advise you to try playing opponents with contrasting styles of play. That allows you to work on different strategies so you can be more comfortable with any opponent you have in a tournament. The more you can automate the strategies, the better you will get!
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