(By Crystal Wang)
Having a set of tactics and plans on how to play an opponent is very important going into a match but having a good mentality both before and during the match is just equally as crucial. Especially towards the deciding points, it is more about the battle of mentalities rather than skills or strategies.
One coaching tip I often receive and remind myself during a match is to not be afraid of change. Change can be intimidating at first, especially if that strategy and ball placement has been effective in the beginning. However, the opponent will most likely start expecting it and will develop an effective way to overcome that strategy. When this occurs, it is key to realize that variation and change is necessary.
Even though it may be daunting to step out of your comfort zone and utilize a more unfamiliar or risky technique, it is crucial to know that the opponent is more uncertain and uncomfortable with your changes. Often, the opponent will be caught by surprise resulting in a lower quality return which gives you the upper hand especially during critical and deciding points in a match. On top of that, changing your strategy will make your opponent be more nervous and worried because they will be unsure of where or what your next shot will be. This is especially true during close and intense matches where your opponent will be even more nervous.
From personal experience, during moments like 9-9 or deuce when I want to change up my returns or services, I always tell myself to not be afraid of change even if I am not confident in using a particular skill. Sometimes, my return or service may be lower than the quality I except, but the opponent will also return a low quality receive because they are not expecting that change. Even though change may present unexpected situations, it is important to embrace it as it can also allow you to see more of your opponent’s weaknesses and possibilities for different strategies.
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