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The Game's Most Important Points:
Developing a Pressure Point Game Plan
by Mike Uretsky

Introduction

It is 5-4 and 40-30 in the third set of a tough two out of three set match. You have been in this position numerous times, but have often failed to close out tight matches. As you step towards the baseline to serve, self-doubt begins to creep into your mind. Should you go for an ace and try to end the point early? Maybe it is best to play it safe and try to draw an error from your opponent? More doubt enters your mind as you try to figure out what to do. Your mind is moving very quickly and you continue to second guess your strategy. As a high school coach, I have watched many players face this situation and end up squandering a lead in a close match. These players have been unable to figure out the best strategy when they reach the most crucial point in a match. In analyzing pressure situations in a tennis match, there really is not a single strategy that works best for everyone as they face the most important points in a match. Instead, the most effective strategy lies in having a decisive plan to use for these types of points that has been developed prior to stepping on the court. Players who have spent time thinking about and developing a game plan to use for the key points in a match are much more likely to find success when they are faced with a pressure situation. A plan that is developed to be used during the most pressure filled points in a match is called a pressure point game plan. Having a pressure point game plan is often the key to winning the big points and pulling out the close matches.

A Pressure Point Game Plan

As many players can testify, tennis matches are often won and lost by a few key points. Many players decide how to play these pressure points on the spot. However, the key to finding success involves developing a plan that can be used before you find yourself doubting what to do just as you are about to play a crucial point. This involves developing a pressure point game plan for yourself. Your pressure point game should coincide with your style of play so that you feel comfortable employing it when a point needs to be won. For example, if your style involves playing attacking tennis by rushing the net, it would be a good idea to have a pressure point game plan that takes advantage of this aggressive style of play. A sample pressure point game plan for an attacking player would involve hitting a first serve to the wide side of the service box and then following the ball to the net right off the serve. By serving and volleying on a big point, you may draw an error from your opponent who will often try for a difficult passing shot and have little chance of succeeding under pressure. Conversely, if you are more comfortable as a steady baseline player, your pressure point game should reflect this style. When a big point arises, your plan may call for you to sit back behind the baseline and hit safe high clearance shots. You can utilize your patient play on the key points to bate your opponent into trying to go for too good a shot and making an error. Players can find success on the crucial points in a match regardless of their style as long as they have pressure point game plan that they can rely on. What is most important is that players develop a pressure point game plan well before facing a tight situation in a match.

Developing a Pressure Point Game Plan

It is a good idea to take some time while you are not on the tennis court and reflect on your own style of play. Think about the style of play or a specific pattern of play that best suits you. Then choose a style of play or even a specific point pattern for your pressure point game plan that you will use during the most important points of a match. Once you choose a pressure point game plan the key is to implement it decisively when a big point arises in a close match. The more you learn to instinctively use your pressure point game plan for the critical points in a match the more confident you will become and the less self-doubt you will have to face. Even if your pressure point game plan does not work initially, it should not be given up on. Over time as you gain confidence in your pressure point game plan and learn to use it during important points it will become even more likely to be effective.

Conclusion

Overall, the key to the 5-4 and 40-30 points is to have a plan that is already developed and then implement the plan confidently. It is during the most crucial points in a tennis match that self-doubt is most likely to creep into a players mind and have the largest impact. By having a pressure point game plan that can be used in tight situations, a player can be confident and decisive during the most important points in a match. The implementation of a pressure point game plan will lead to increased self-confidence, better tennis, and improved results during the matches most crucial stages.


Mike Uretsky played high school tennis in Columbus, Ohio and then played college tennis at Ohio Wesleyan University. He became a head high school tennis coach when he was 21 years old and went on to coach many excellent players, including players who have played division I college tennis. One of the high school teams that he coached won three conference championships and the team won a state championship in 1999. He has also taught tennis lessons to students of all ages. Mike has a bachelors degree in psychology and masters degree in education and allied professions. He currently writes articles about tennis based on his experiences as a player and a coach.

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