Change Tactics To Turn the Tide

What if your strokes are working and your playing well but you lose the first set 6-2?  Sometimes, to turn a match around, it's not technique that needs to change but tactics.  If you're Maria Sharapova, and you're getting outgunned, you don't have anyplace to go.  She never changes tactics.  As much as I admire her, she's one-dimensional in this regard, and an example of what not to do in order to change a losing game.

Let's say, for example, you're up against Big Bob, and though you've traded hard drives with him before and have been successful, today he's one stroke better than you, and he's winning the rallies.  You've got options, and none of them have to do with sticking to your guns and going down in flames.  Try to hit harder still, nearer the lines, and you might as well head to the showers.  Instead, what about taking pace away, and floating some balls to the middle of the court, grinding out some points?  I've seen Federer do this to Djokovich and break down his game.  No one faulted Federere for being a pusher.  Or, let's say, as a doubles team, you can't break Big Betty's serve.  She's getting all her first serves in, and her partner is poaching like a madwoman.  Pass down the alley?  Forget about it.  You're lucky to get the return back.  What about pulling your partner back and having the return team at the baseline?  Then you can get the return back anywhere, start the point, and not have to worry that your partner is going to get creamed by the poacher.  Pros do this all the time.

Both the examples above are defensive options, but that's not really the point.  A change of tactics could equally mean playing more aggressively, taking the net, for example.  (Maria, can you hear me?)  The bottom line is that all your tactical weapons and all of your mental toughness need to have one focus:  win.  Do anything you need to do to accomplish this, and don't be afraid to be creative.  Way too many matches are lost not physically but mentally, when players stop thinking--when they've run out of ideas.  Don't quit.  Think!

c Keith Shein