In tennis the tie-breaker is one of the tests you must pass during a REALLY tight match.
It’s a measuring stick for who can handle the pressure the best, because it’s also the last chance to win the set and the end of the line is approaching fast.
If you handle the pressure and win the tiebreak then you win the set, but if you can’t then all of the work you have put in during the set is more or less lost. Obviously, if you find yourself in a tiebreak situation then you are pretty closely matched with your opponent and it’s probably going to come down to just a few points that will really make the difference.
So how do you make sure you win those VERY important points?
It’s important that you recognize and take the necessary time to evaluate some things about your current state of mind. A checklist will you make sure you are properly prepared to begin the tiebreak in a good mental position and playing at your best.
Take 30-45 seconds before you engage in the tie-break with your opponent. If you’re serving first just let the balls sit at the back of the court as you turn away from your opponent and focus on your strings.
Straighten all of your strings as you think about your breathing. Are you calm? Tell yourself that you love to play tie breakers because of the challenge they provide, even if you don’t… you need to like playing them and seeing what the outcome will be, win or lose….Eliminate any thoughts of what happened during the set up to this point, it’s over.
You can’t control it and you need to try to forget about it and only focus on what your plan is for the tie break moving forward. It can be hard but it will make the difference in your results during tie-breaks.
Your opponent is also nervous and if they are impatient all the better for you. They will wonder what you’re doing and it will get them thinking of things that aren’t beneficial to the tie-break. Let them stew, you aren’t doing anything wrong !
The next thing you need to do after you have motivated yourself for the tie-break and you have calmed your breathing and mind is to decide how you want to play the tie-break.
You need to ask yourself what has been working for me during this set ? Am I breaking down their backhand consistently? Are they able to come up with a pass on the forehand when I approach the net? Where are my serves most effective?
Figure out what is working for you up to that point and then stick with it. If it’s been working so far it will probably continue to work with the pressure turned up. Don’t overthink: it will only make you nervous and cause you to make mistakes.
Make your opponent play and don’t give them easy points by taking unnecessary risks. Once you’ve worked this out in your mind during your break then get started with lots of energy.
Keep everything simple
Remember most of your opponents are going to rush into the tie-break without taking this time to gather themselves, and most of them will usually find themselves down quickly and wondering how they got behind so fast in the first place. That’s good for you.
By the time they start putting it together you should be cruising and ready to push through the final few points you need to finish off the set. Work on the tactics that you highlighted. Keep a clear mind and focus on the things that you want to work on. Whether it’s a first to 7 point tie breaker or the longer first to 10 pointer, you will need to change ends.
So when you do, take your time. Drink fluids, eat nutrients, towel yourself down and take your time. Think about what you’re doing and if you’re being successful, continue using the same tactics. However, if you’ve fallen behind, try not to panic. Consider using different tactics from now on. Sometimes, just a small change in plan can make a massive difference.
Try serving into your opponents body, try hitting the ball a bit softer and higher, or try slowing things down between points. Your opponent may become agitated as they were on top and now things have changed again. And if it starts to work, continue doing the same things as it’s started to work for you now.
Don’t get ahead of yourself and see the finish line before you get over it. Just keep calm and you will find that you will come out on top in the end !