A great deal of tennis is mental, and with that being the case, winning a match can be achieved more consistently by changing the way you think rather than by changing your forehand or serve. One thing I like to reinforce is the power of the “Rule of 2.” If you want to win a game, you really only need two points. If you want to win a set, all you really need is two games. Even though that might not be the case literally, that’s the way players should be thinking to achieve greater success.
How many times have you been in a match where the score goes back and forth: 15-love, 15-15, 15-30, 30-30, 40-30, deuce and so forth to infinity. This very often happens in sets as well partially because, all other things being equal, the server has a small advantage in hitting the ball first. Another reason this happens though is that our bodies and minds are constantly seeking equilibrium. Mentally, once we get ahead, we start to relax a bit and play down, and while when we’re down a bit, we will unconsciously start to focus more and play smarter and harder. I call this see-sawing where you are up, then you’re down, then you’re up, then you’re down again.
The Rule of 2 says that you only really need to have a difference of two in order to win the game and/or set. Once one team goes up two points or games, their opponents will start to check out mentally as opposed to putting up more resistance. Even if that is not the case, the other most likely scenario is that you continue to trade points, but in this event, the team that was up by two will win. For example if you are up 2-0 in a set and you start to trade games back and forth, the score will progress as follows: 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3, 5-4, 6-4 and that’s the set. Once you go up by two points in a game, you can also trade points until your heart is content because you’ll win in that engagement as well.
If faced with a situation where you are down by two points or down by two games, try not to panic. This is where champions are made and you’ll have to pull out using mental toughness and a lot of heart to put yourself back into a position where you can stay in the game. Matches do not always go to the better players, they sometimes go to players who can look at the game a different way psychologically. So add the Rule of 2 to your toolbox and win the mental see-saw battle early. Safe playing my friends.
Miguel Cervantes III
Miguel Cervantes III teaches at Carefree Racquet Club and privately outdoors. Miguel specializes in teaching beginners, training juniors and coaching doubles. He may be reached by e-mail at UnderstandingTennis@gmail.com.