Monday, May 26, 2014

Losing Good Points

The better you get at tennis, the more comfortable you must become losing well-played points.

Assuming you're playing competitive matches you will lose at least forty percent of the points you play. A sixty-forty match is a beat down. The winner has won fifty percent more points than the loser. Yet the winner has still lost a ton of points. How has he/she lost those points? Well, the better the player the more often the lost points were won by the opponent through good play.

Good players play good points by definition. You don't see tons of double faults and unforced errors in matches between good players. Most points end with one player hitting a fair number of winners and most often forcing errors from the other.

I see a lot of junior players and pretty good college players who have trouble coming to grips with playing a good point a losing it. They even have trouble distinguishing a good point from a bad point independent of who wins the point. Too often the mindset is simple: My point = good point. That's not even close to correct.

Winning tennis, in my view, is the accumulation of small advantages. Like the casino in Las Vegas. In every game in the casino, the house has a slight advantage. People win and lose all the time and the casino draws as much attention as possible to the winners. But over time, the casino's small edge means dollars accrue to the casino, not to the gamblers in aggregate. Same with tennis. Points are won and lost throughout the match. The player who plays slightly better will win the vast majority of matches. That advantage accumulates over points and games. Upsets happen, of course. Better players can have bad days. Lesser players can play above their level. More irritatingly the better player on that day can lose. The player who won more points does sometimes lose the match. But over lots of points and certainly over lots of matches, tennis identifies the better player extremely well.

So the better you get, the more comfortable you have to become playing good points and losing boatloads of them. The trick is not to become too emotional when you lose points. Play good shots. Play good points. You'll get good results over time.