A player involved in a match and trying to play smart tennis is constantly assessing a variety of factors when trying to maintain their good momentum or make significant changes in the match because they are behind on the scoreboard.
If a player feels they are losing the battle either technically, tactically, physically or mentally, there needs to be a process each player can go through to make those necessary changes. As a Davis Cup and Federation Cup captain I often had to go through this mental process myself in order to turn a match around by adjusting the way my player was competing.
Those adjustments came about after a process that involved accurately reading the situation and deciding what needed to change (or in some cases to not change at all) and putting those changes to the test during the match.
Here is that process in detail:
1. EXPLORE (Analyse)
This is the stage where, if there is a change of strategy needed, the player explores the possibilities. At the same time as they compete in the match every player needs to monitor a variety of "aspects". The particular aspects I like to monitor are called "The 8 Opposites". The 8 Opposites can be used to exploit weaknesses in the opponent.
I have dealt with this subject previously within the “The 8 Opposites” blog article. The “8 Opposites” involve the variables of High v Low, Wide v Tight, Fast v Slow and Up (net) v Back (baseline). The opponent’s preferences need to be assessed as the match progresses and a specific strategy designed to exploit the weakness you have identified.
2. EXPLOIT (Plan)
The player now needs to exploit the perceived weakness by devising a plan. Within each of the 8 opposites every player will have a preference. Opponents will prefer one of the two options, High or Low, Wide or Tight, Fast or Slow and Up and Back.
This step should involve designing a plan based on The 8 Opposites. Whatever the perceived weakness of the opponent, it needs to be exploited.
3. EXECUTE (Just do it)
Now the new tactics need to be executed on-court. The player needs to put the new changes to the test within the match. Experienced players will execute new strategy swiftly, accurately and with conviction.
4. ADAPT (continue to monitor the situation)
Matches are constantly in a state of flux. What was working early in a match may not be working now, after-all the opponent could be going through a similar process of analysis and creating fresh tactics when facing defeat.
Players must constantly stay aware of the developments within the match.
This whole process must continue throughout the match if momentum is to be maintained or if you have to change a losing situation into a winning one.