When the game is going against you there is a natural tendency to rush around, make errors and not play points one at a time with sufficient diligence to arrest the slide.
Allowing your opponents to get "hot" like this opens you up to losing a lot of games in a hurry, so you want to do everything in your power to disrupt their momentum as quickly as possible. Here are three tactics you can use to reverse your opponent's momentum.
1. Slow down when you are behind.
Your first thought, when points start to tumble against you, should be to slow the match down.
Tennis: Winning the
by Allen Fox, Ph.D.
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I'm not suggesting you become deliberately disruptive and unsportsmanlike by strolling around stalling and tying your shoes.
But you should take a few extra seconds between points to gather yourself together and allow your opponent to wait a little and think.
I learned this lesson as a 19-year-old playing against an older, experienced player named Noel Brown, then ranked in the top 10 in the USA.
I won the first set playing well and was eager to start the second. But then everything started to take an awfully long time.
Noel walked very slowly and deliberately back into position after each point and sat down for the maximum allowable time on changeovers. Although it was only a few extra seconds, to me it seemed like an eternity.
I now felt like I was playing with a sack of cement on my back, and each point had to be slogged out separately, leading to a brutally difficult 12-10 second set.
Noel was a friend of mine, a great gentleman and a fair sportsman, so I had no hard feelings about his slow-down tactic. It was all within the rules and within reasonable limits.
Most importantly, though, I learned something from it that I later put to good use myself on countless occasions.
2. Toughen up after each lost point.
Another way of stopping your opponent from gaining momentum is to strengthen your resolve to win the next point after losing the previous point.
The great players naturally do this, and the weaker players naturally do the opposite.
For example, Jimmy Connors got more intense and tougher with each point he lost. So did Lleyton Hewitt at his peak, and Rafael Nadal does it now.
When they lost a point they redoubled their concentration and efforts to win the next one. And if they lost that one too, they stiffened their resolves still further on the following one.
In a sense they dug in their heels mentally with each point they lost in an effort to resist a downward slide. Against such players an opponent finds it very difficult to gather any momentum.
In contrast, when weaker players lose a point, they become more likely to lose the following one. Their resolve decreases slightly, they don't mentally dig in their heels, and their opponents are actually induced to gather momentum.
This is an unstable situation, and their opponents are likely to win streaks of points and games.