Friday, November 20, 2009

Winning the Big Points.

Topic: Is not the nature of tennis that some points are "bigger" or more critical to win in a match or set than others? What are they and why? How can one maximize the chances and opportunities to win those big points?

A few months ago Tennis magazine suggested a slightly older book as still one of the best "overall" tennis books, and I picked it up. Total Tennis, Peter Burwash, Collier-Macmillan, 1989. It is an older book from the late 1980s.

For me, I got a lot out of this book, as much as the Mental Tennis book by Vic Braden on the mental side.

One of the points made in the book was that not every point in tennis is equal to every other point. The phrase "play one point at a time" assumes that each point is the same in importance. But you would not trade a king for a pawn in chess, or in tennis it seems.

A person can win a set 6-4, and still lose 40% of the points. A person can have just one break of serve, and win the set 6-4. In fact (it appears) that a person on paper can lose most of the points of a match and still win the match!

Since a tennis match is a game of physical and emotional momentum shifting back and forth, and it is impossible for anyone to maintain focused intensity throughout a match from start to finish, it's important to know which points to focus on to win.

For example, match point and set point are critical to win. If you never win a match point or set point, you never win.

Burwash says that the third point and the fifth point of every game are also critical to win. Concerning the third point of a game, say 15-15, there is a large difference between 15-30 and 30-15. If the third point is played at 30-0 or 0-30, there is a big difference between 40-0 and 0-40.

Similarly, the fifth point of a game, if played at 30-30, there is a big difference between 30-40 down, and 40-30 up.

I would add that a break point (up for you), and also game point (up for you) is critical to win.

Next, Burwash argues that the fifth game and the seventh game of a set is critical to win. The fifth game played at 2-2, the difference is 2-3 or 3-2. If fifth game is played at 3-1 or 1-3, the difference is 4-1 or 1-4.

The seventh game played at 3-3, the difference is 3-4 or 4-3. The seventh game played at 4-2 or 2-4 makes a big difference. It is now either 5-2 or 2-5.

The biggest decisive points of all are then: the third and fifth point of the seventh game. Burwash says that the champs almost always win those points, or at least know they need to.

Food for thought.

Best, Gary

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