How to Defeat Your On-Court Nemesis

Listed below are 10 ideas and approaches to take on the court next time you play an opponent who has given you particular difficulties in the past.  The philosophy should be to stay with the things that work and lead to a positive result and change the things that don’t work.

  1. Embrace the challenge of the competition. Rather than dread the prospect of playing an opponent who has given you difficulties in the past, relish the opportunity to have a new “go of it” with an entirely clean slate and fresh prospects.
  2. Focus on the process and not the outcome. Stay in the present.  Learn (and not dwell) on your mistakes.  Be positive and energetic.
  3. Play to your capabilities. Don’t force mistakes by trying to do too much.  Play high percentage tennis and manage your unforced errors.  Establish and maintain patterns that favor the things that you do well.
  4. Control the things you can control and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Keep it simple by maintaining your focus on controlling the key variables for tennis – pace, spin, direction, depth and net clearance (trajectory) and not the external factors (that can only lead to distraction).
  5. Change the pace and tempo of play (not just during points but between points and during changeovers). Take more or less time (as necessary) between points.  Do whatever is necessary to disrupt the timing and pace of your opponent and to establish a pace of play that favors your game.
  6. Attack your opponent’s weakness. Prey on the weaknesses of your opponent.  As an example, draw your opponent into the net if he/she does not like to volley.
  7. If change is required, go “small” as an option. To use a basketball analogy, go “small” by playing a scrappy, retrieving style of play.  Get a lot of balls back in play and look to extend the rally.  Play high percentage (cross-court with high net clearance) tennis and be a “nudge” and throw up lobs whenever in trouble.
  8. If things are still not working, go “big”. Look to attack and finish the point quickly.  Attack with your first strike of the ball (serve and return).  Give your opponent less time to think and react (and to get into a comfortable rhythm of play).
  9. Take your opponent by surprise and attack his/her strength. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it can be an effective approach to go at your opponent’s strength not just to potentially break it down but also to open up opportunities to expose his/her weakness.  Very often players get too comfortable (particularly in court coverage) and open up a lot court to their strong side leaving a much narrower target area to their weak side.  Attacking your opponent’s strong side can (in time) open up the court to your opponent’s weak side (e.g. backhand).
  10. Have fun. Remember to not make it personal or take things personally.  It’s only tennis (and what could be more fun whether you win or lose than to be on the court moving and hitting).

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