Keep An Open Mind

Recognize this scoring pattern:  6-1, 1-6, 6-4?  If you were the winner of that first set, then dumped the second set in an equally lopsided score, the world can seem fairly fickle and strange.  And even if you're fortunate to take the third set, likely you feel lucky rather than victorious.  What the hell happened?  Common comments are:  "We had them, and we just gave the second set away," or, "We just lost our focus."  The second comment is more accurate, but still doesn't tell the real story.

The error of both comments is that they exclude your opponents from the analysis, as if they had nothing to do with the outcome.  And that's the real issue:  you or your team went blind to what was happening on the other side of the net.  All that we really know if we win a lopsided first set is that we got warmed-up faster than our opponents.  Period.  The match is far from over, and nothing's guaranteed.  My advice?  Grab yourself by the collar and walk to the back fence. Tell yourself that the match begins right now.  That way, if in the second set your opponent's backhand that had been a treasure trove of unforced errors suddenly can't miss, you'll see it and adjust your strategy.  In a tight set, this open-mindedness is automatic:  we've got no choice but to look for the smallest openings.

Sometimes this close-mindedness happens even before play begins.  You walk on the court, and there she is, your nemesis, and she's beaten you the last four times you've played.  You think, no way.  Yes way!  Keep an open mind.  You won't know how she's playing until you actually play.  And even if she starts strong, it doesn't mean she can finish the job.  You've got something to say about it, don't you?  Switch things up.  Today could be your day, assuming you don't go blind.  Play the ball, not her, one point at a time.

c Keith Shein