By Larry Hodges
The first four are psychological, the rest are tactical ideas.
1. Remember the mentality and feel of a great match you’ve played, and get back into that mode.
2. Take ten seconds to stare at something in the distance to clear your mind.
3. With nothing to lose, relax, have fun, and just play.
4. Ignore the score and just play the next point. Repeat.
5. Attack elbow with backhand. Most players have trouble against an aggressive shot right at their playing elbow, and the easiest way to do that is with the backhand, where you are facing the opponent and so can see his elbow. Do it over and over in rallies and watch him crumble. (Exception – if you’re playing an all-out forehand attacker, then go for the wide corners.)
6. Short no-spin serve. They are harder to push heavy, low, or short, and tend to pop up. And if the serve is very low, they are surprisingly hard to attack effectively. So serve and attack! Mix them up with backspin serves.
7. Slow, spinny, consistent loops. Missing your loop? Then slow it down and go for lots of topspin. You’ll be surprised how many players fall apart against this.
8. Quick-push serves back wide. Can’t stop the opponent’s serve and attack against your push return? Are you giving him easy pushes, or are you quick-pushing the serve quick off the bounce into a wide corner? To the backhand will likely disarm him, to the forehand will likely catch him off guard. (If you have good touch and have practiced this, you can also push them short.)
9. Stop and think about how you are winning and losing points. Then pick a winning service pattern, and one or two other tactics that will win.
10. Talk to a coach or top player between games or in a time-out. He might see something you have not. Or just talk to anyone between games, and you’ll be amazed at how talking it out makes it obvious what you need to do.