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View Full Version : I'm a choker - venting about a blown league match.


bluetrain4
12-17-2008, 07:25 AM
I just wanted to vent.

Last night I had a big league match. I was undefeated, my opponent was undefeated. For the most, part, the winner would win the league, unless we were upset in our final match by players we handle easily.

We have a history of incredibly close matches. I've lost to him twice: 7-6 (8), 3-6, 3-6, and 6-7 (6) 6-3, 4-6. So, clearly, he can beat me. I didn't expect to win, but I've been playing very well, and certainly believed that I could win.

I played superbly in the first set, winning 6-3, everything was working - I served great, was patient, but aggressive, passing shots were working, and I was emotionally in control. He only got close to breaking my serve once.

Second set, I was still playing great, though he picked it up a bit. I had break chances early, which he fended off with some great serves and great play. I finally broke to go 4-3, and then held serve in a multiple-deuce game to go up 5-3. I got to 30-all on his serve, but again, he put together some good points to close the gap to 4-5.

I served for the match. First point I hit the tape on an aggressive forehand. Then I hit a backhand winner. Then, I double faulted going for a second serve. He played a great point to get to 40-15. I hit a service winner. And, then I played a well constructed point, but hit the top of the tape on an inside-out forehand. He broke me.

But, I regrouped and played a decent next game, but he held. Then I lost my serve AGAIN in a tight multiple-deuce game - I hit some bad shots, hit some great shots (fending off break points), he played some great shots, but the choke was on. I lost that game. Set lost, 7-5.

I always pride myself on being able to stay in a match, even when things get bad. I reason that even if I lost 7-5 and blew a lead, clearly I'm good enough to play with this guy, so I should be able to rebound.

And, rebound I did. The opening game of the third set was about 5 deuces, and I broke serve. I held to go up 2-0. And, then in a 2-deuce game, I broke again. Then I held again in a tight game. I was up 4-0.

The next three games, I made a couple of stupid errors, but nothing that really got me that mad. He played great in holding, breaking, and holding again to close the gap to 4-3. Next game was tense and again, multiple deuces, but I held to go up 5-3. He played well to hold to close to 5-4.

So, I had to serve for it again. I actually wan't that nervous, but my legs were gone and even though I wanted to go for big serves, they weren't going in, so I was concentrating on spinning in my first serve, deep. First point, he hits a huge return, has me on the run and knocks off my passing shot at the net. The next point, I have the upperhand and have him the run and am ready to end the point by driving a backhand down the line (one of my best shots), but I hit the top of the net, 0-30. I get it back to 30-30 with some good play, including an incredible backhand passing shot, but proceed to lose the next two points, one on an great shot by him, and the other on a weak shot by me that enabled him to take control. I had lost my serve for a second time serving for the match. 5-5.

I got to 30-30 on his next service game with some great passing shots. Now, I'm exhausted and he knows it. He's approaching inside-out and I'm reaching more for the passing shot than I was earlier in the match. He wins the game and is up 6-5.

I honestly thought I could still win in a tiebreak. I wasn't nervous, just frustrated. I played okay in final service game, but all of my great shots, includig another wicked backhand cross-court pass happened when i was behind 0-15, 15-30. He was getting all my servces back now,and the match ended unceremoniously with him coming in off another inside out forehand and stretching me wide. I got to it, but had to reach, and all I could do is try to knife a slice, but he was waiting for it and knocked it off. I had lost.

3-6, 7-5, 7-5, in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I served for the match TWICE at 5-4 in the second and third sets, and was up 4-0 in the third. (I edited that from earlier. I was up 5-3 in each set, but served for it at 5-4, not 5-3 (as I had previously wrote), not that it matters).

I have no problem admitting the choke, though I don't think it's the worst choke ever. I played some really great tennis when I was losing 4 consecutive games at the end of each set. It's not like I completely lost it. But, I DID make some costly errors at bad times, so the choke label is appropriate. The closing of the gap from 4-0 to 4-3 in the third doesn't bother me at all - he played great. But, everything else is a nightmare. Thank God I didn't actually have any match points or else I'd be crying right now.

This loss will stay with me for a LONG time. I've played tennis for a long time and seen it all. I've been on the other end of these types of matches and I've won matches like these where I lose a lead, but then win anyway.

But, he's a nemesis of mine. His game style is tricky for me and the matchup is difficult for me. I was playing great and had confidence before the match. I had never beat him. And to go through all that and lose is devastating. I can't get it out of my head, so I'm venting to TW.

jrod
12-17-2008, 07:49 AM
I've always learned way more from losses, especially tough ones. You need to turn this into a positive. So, what did you learn from your loss that will help you going forward?

drakulie
12-17-2008, 07:59 AM
These are the ones that hurt. I feel your pain. Just try and remember the things you did well, which you seemed to have many of those moments. next time you play him, try and incoorporate those same things.

good luck.

bluetrain4
12-17-2008, 08:17 AM
I've always learned way more from losses, especially tough ones. You need to turn this into a positive. So, what did you learn from your loss that will help you going forward?

With a match this close, it's tough to say that anything was drastically wrong, other than execution.

But, one thing I think about a lot, is maybe I should be coming in on select points to but pressure on him (or other opponents). I'm a baseliner, can be patient when I need to and can also be aggressive. I will come in off of a mid-court sitter (so I only have a simple volley), or if my opponent brings me in on a short shot, but I rarely come in by design.

Looking at the situation in reverse, when he comes in, it puts a lot of pressure on me, especially when the match gets tight. I have very good passing shots, but you can't make them all and, as we all know, they are harder to make in difficult situations. I have very good groundstrokes and can pound the ball deep (down the line, crosscourt, or inside out) and I can slice low. So, even though I'm only an adequate volleyer, sometimes I think I should approach in selected cirumstances when I have a good opportunity. Force my opponent to do something, let him feel the pressure.

jrod
12-17-2008, 08:33 AM
With a match this close, it's tough to say that anything was drastically wrong, other than execution.

But, one thing I think about a lot, is maybe I should be coming in on select points to but pressure on him (or other opponents). I'm a baseliner, can be patient when I need to and can also be aggressive. I will come in off of a mid-court sitter (so I only have a simple volley), or if my opponent brings me in on a short shot, but I rarely come in by design.

Looking at the situation in reverse, when he comes in, it puts a lot of pressure on me, especially when the match gets tight. I have very good passing shots, but you can't make them all and, as we all know, they are harder to make in difficult situations. I have very good groundstrokes and can pound the ball deep (down the line, crosscourt, or inside out) and I can slice low. So, even though I'm only an adequate volleyer, sometimes I think I should approach in selected cirumstances when I have a good opportunity. Force my opponent to do something, let him feel the pressure.

Ok, now we're getting somewhere. As you and Drak have already observed, you don't want to change what worked well. It was a close match and you could have won, so not a lot was wrong. Just a few key points. I like the idea of creating opportunities to come in instead of being solicited. I've been working hard on the transition game lately since my volleys are quite strong and applying additional pressure on key points during the match can make the difference between winning and losing.

Have you thought about how and when it is best to create opportunties to approach? This is obviously key to increasing your success rate with this more aggressive strategy.

LuckyR
12-17-2008, 08:34 AM
I totally understand why you feel the way you do (trust me, many would be a lot less circumspect). However, I'll bet you that the other guy's post about his incredible come from behind win doesn't mention that you "choked", rather it would be a description of his great play forcing "errors". Think about it, when you win a close match do you routinely say: "yeah, I fell behind, then I started to play a little better, but luckily the other guy choked on a bunch of important points so I won easily, even though I wasn't playing all that great". I don't think so. It's all perspective.

Nickk
12-17-2008, 08:54 AM
Doesn't sound at all like you choked, you gathered and came back but lost a close match.

JavierLW
12-17-2008, 09:53 AM
I just wanted to vent.

Last night I had a big league match. I was undefeated, my opponent was undefeated. For the most, part, the winner would win the league, unless we were upset in our final match by players we handle easily.

We have a history of incredibly close matches. I've lost to him twice: 7-6 (8), 3-6, 3-6, and 6-7 (6) 6-3, 4-6. So, clearly, he can beat me. I didn't expect to win, but I've been playing very well, and certainly believed that I could win.

I played superbly in the first set, winning 6-3, everything was working - I served great, was patient, but aggressive, passing shots were working, and I was emotionally in control. He only got close to breaking my serve once.

Second set, I was still playing great, though he picked it up a bit. I had break chances early, which he fended off with some great serves and great play. I finally broke to go 4-3, and then held serve in a multiple-deuce game to go up 5-3. I got to 30-all on his serve, but again, he put together some good points to close the gap to 4-5.

I served for the match. First point I hit the tape on an aggressive forehand. Then I hit a backhand winner. Then, I double faulted going for a second serve. He played a great point to get to 40-15. I hit a service winner. And, then I played a well constructed point, but hit the top of the tape on an inside-out forehand. He broke me.

But, I regrouped and played a decent next game, but he held. Then I lost my serve AGAIN in a tight multiple-deuce game - I hit some bad shots, hit some great shots (fending off break points), he played some great shots, but the choke was on. I lost that game. Set lost, 7-5.

I always pride myself on being able to stay in a match, even when things get bad. I reason that even if I lost 7-5 and blew a lead, clearly I'm good enough to play with this guy, so I should be able to rebound.

And, rebound I did. The opening game of the third set was about 5 deuces, and I broke serve. I held to go up 2-0. And, then in a 2-deuce game, I broke again. Then I held again in a tight game. I was up 4-0.

The next three games, I made a couple of stupid errors, but nothing that really got me that mad. He played great in holding, breaking, and holding again to close the gap to 4-3. Next game was tense and again, multiple deuces, but I held to go up 5-3. He played well to hold to close to 5-4.

So, I had to serve for it again. I actually wan't that nervous, but my legs were gone and even though I wanted to go for big serves, they weren't going in, so I was concentrating on spinning in my first serve, deep. First point, he hits a huge return, has me on the run and knocks off my passing shot at the net. The next point, I have the upperhand and have him the run and am ready to end the point by driving a backhand down the line (one of my best shots), but I hit the top of the net, 0-30. I get it back to 30-30 with some good play, including an incredible backhand passing shot, but proceed to lose the next two points, one on an great shot by him, and the other on a weak shot by me that enabled him to take control. I had lost my serve for a second time serving for the match. 5-5.

I got to 30-30 on his next service game with some great passing shots. Now, I'm exhausted and he knows it. He's approaching inside-out and I'm reaching more for the passing shot than I was earlier in the match. He wins the game and is up 6-5.

I honestly thought I could still win in a tiebreak. I wasn't nervous, just frustrated. I played okay in final service game, but all of my great shots, includig another wicked backhand cross-court pass happened when i was behind 0-15, 15-30. He was getting all my servces back now,and the match ended unceremoniously with him coming in off another inside out forehand and stretching me wide. I got to it, but had to reach, and all I could do is try to knife a slice, but he was waiting for it and knocked it off. I had lost.

3-6, 7-5, 7-5, in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I served for the match TWICE at 5-3 in the second and third sets, and was up 4-0 in the third.

I have no problem admitting the choke, though I don't think it's the worst choke ever. I played some really great tennis when I was losing 4 consecutive games at the end of each set. It's not like I completely lost it. But, I DID make some costly errors at bad times, so the choke label is appropriate. The closing of the gap from 4-0 to 4-3 in the third doesn't bother me at all - he played great. But, everything else is a nightmare. Thank God I didn't actually have any match points or else I'd be crying right now.

This loss will stay with me for a LONG time. I've played tennis for a long time and seen it all. I've been on the other end of these types of matches and I've won matches like these where I lose a lead, but then win anyway.

But, he's a nemesis of mine. His game style is tricky for me and the matchup is difficult for me. I was playing great and had confidence before the match. I had never beat him. And to go through all that and lose is devastating. I can't get it out of my head, so I'm venting to TW.

Hopefully you werent putting that much thought into it while you were actually in the match. :-)

I understand that you know enough not to do that, but Im finding myself that I sometimes cant help drifting into choke mode, it's like something that can probably happen to anyone on a given day especailly in what was probably a tough situation for you being late in the match when you are tired, and your opponent is onto your serve.

Just "be the ball". na na na na na na na na........ :-) (pardon me, I was just watching caddyshack II last night)

bluetrain4
12-17-2008, 10:07 AM
Hopefully you werent putting that much thought into it while you were actually in the match. :-)

I understand that you know enough not to do that, but Im finding myself that I sometimes cant help drifting into choke mode, it's like something that can probably happen to anyone on a given day especailly in what was probably a tough situation for you being late in the match when you are tired, and your opponent is onto your serve.

Just "be the ball". na na na na na na na na........ :-) (pardon me, I was just watching caddyshack II last night)

Actually, during the match, I was generally fine mentally. I've played a ton of tennis in my life. I've seen matches from every possible vantage point This isn't the first match I've blown (it happens). On the other hand, I've also gutted out plenty of these matches, and been on the other end, where I've come back on by opponent after he had plenty of opportunities to win.

I was staying positive, telling myself, even after losing serve while serving for the match, that I was still close. I was frustrated, but not extremely so. What made it so frustrating is that it wasn't a complete collapse. I never went through any period where I was missing everything. I would make a stupid error, and follow that up with a fantastic shot. I'd play a suspect point, letting him get on the offensive, and comeback and win a long point. That's why the games were so long, and that's why the match is one of my worse losses. A complete collapse would have been easier to deal with.

I was NEVER truly out of it. I'd get broken serving for the match and get to 30 all or deuce on his serve in the very next service game. I'd get down 0-30 serving and get it back to 30-all. I was always right in there, but it ended badly.

Again, experience helps. Although today I'm agonizing, I know, from many years of experience, that "that's tennis". Yesterday, I was ready to take an extended break, I was deflated and my confidence shot. But, slowly, already, I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

Topaz
12-17-2008, 11:02 AM
What made it so frustrating is that it wasn't a complete collapse. I never went through any period where I was missing everything. I would make a stupid error, and follow that up with a fantastic shot. I'd play a suspect point, letting him get on the offensive, and comeback and win a long point. That's why the games were so long, and that's why the match is one of my worse losses. A complete collapse would have been easier to deal with.

.

Perhaps the difference here then was simply consistency since you mention a great shot followed by a not-so-great shot? When you can string more of the great shots together in a row, then that may give you the edge to come out on top in these situations.

Regardless, it sounds like you played a great match, and while frustrating, I'm sure you gave this guy plenty to think about the next time.

heftylefty
12-17-2008, 11:13 AM
Bluetrain, thanks for sharing and too bad about the tough lose.

As Jrod mention, you gotta take away the positives. You are getting close. Alway expect a quality opponent to be more focus after dropping the first set. I get careless after winning the first set. I am not saying that is what you did, but if you can take away anything that is to learn to ride that first set wave. You won that first set by making smart choices. Keep making smart choice.

Racer41c
12-17-2008, 11:25 AM
I don't think you choked at all. If you played your game, took your shots, you didn't choke. But your opponent did win. If you watched the same match on TV, what would you see? I think you'd see a tough match where one of the players came through when they needed to. If you could, you might want to focus on how your opponent won instead on how you lost. But it's not that easy because you don't really know what was in his head during those points and games. All you know is the outcome. Maybe it was point construction, maybe he was cycling his energy towards the end of sets. Maybe his whole approach was to make it an endurance match.

Heck I don't know, maybe he just tried to get one more ball back.

mikeler
12-17-2008, 11:38 AM
We all have had matches like yours where you have multiple situations to close out a match but you just can't. From your description, it actually sounds like you played fairly well. Most of us on these boards are going to make our share of errors in a match, otherwise we would be playing for money.

Tennis is typically a game of runs. I'm a 5.0 and probably only 1 out of 3 or 4 matches come down to both guys holding their serve almost the entire set with one guy winning due to just 1 break. Most of the matches, one guy will go on a run and then the other guy takes his turn. You went on a good run early in the 2nd and 3rd set while your opponent went on his run later in those sets. Your runs were just not as well timed as his and just a little bit shorter in duration.

One thing I notice when I play 1 great point and then follow it up with a stupid point is that I'm rushing. When I take just a few extra seconds between points to collect myself, I typically can cut a few more errors out of my game. In a close match like you described, that means the difference between winning and losing.

ohplease
12-17-2008, 11:45 AM
I wouldn't feel too bad if I were you. When I win or lose a match like this, that just tells me I haven't totally solved the problem yet.

If it comes down to execution on a given day, all I really learned is that I might need to execute better, or that I executed well enough - but that I'm also I'm doing it the hard way. There's an easier way to get past the guy - I just need to find it.

What REALLY bugs me is running into someone on my level that I just don't match up well against (regular wins against guys that beat him, etc). That tells me there's a very specific kind of player that I just have no hope against barring LOTS of practice time - drives me nuts.

jrod
12-17-2008, 12:10 PM
We all have had matches like yours where you have multiple situations to close out a match but you just can't. From your description, it actually sounds like you played fairly well. Most of us on these boards are going to make our share of errors in a match, otherwise we would be playing for money.

Tennis is typically a game of runs. I'm a 5.0 and probably only 1 out of 3 or 4 matches come down to both guys holding their serve almost the entire set with one guy winning due to just 1 break. Most of the matches, one guy will go on a run and then the other guy takes his turn. You went on a good run early in the 2nd and 3rd set while your opponent went on his run later in those sets. Your runs were just not as well timed as his and just a little bit shorter in duration.

One thing I notice when I play 1 great point and then follow it up with a stupid point is that I'm rushing. When I take just a few extra seconds between points to collect myself, I typically can cut a few more errors out of my game. In a close match like you described, that means the difference between winning and losing.

I believe this is an astute observation. I think its far more common to see matches progress with these sorts of streaks. Why is this? I believe that it's wired in. One of the keys is to recognize that you are more prone to relax and subsequently lose focus (perhaps only for a moment) when you have put together a winning streak. When you find yourself up you actually have to force yourself to continue pressing hard. It's a fine line between playing loosely and losing focus and I believe this balance is difficult to achieve and maintain, but it is absolutely critical to finishing.

The other night on TTC they showed Federer and Nadal playing the final at Monte Carlo. I only watched the 1st set where Federer broke Nadal twice in that set. Each time he broke, Nadal broke back the very next game. Federer seemed particularly vulnerable to lapses in concetration this past year. I saw him completely go away against Giles Simon at the Rogers Cup this summer. Almost everytime it seems he gets himself into a comfortable position and then loses his focus. I do not recall many matches that Nadal lost due to losing his focus...perhaps we all need to think like Rafa does when we find ourselves up a break or two?

Cruzer
12-17-2008, 12:57 PM
Then, I double faulted going for a second serve.

Big point to lose. I probably would not be going for a big second serve when serving for the match.

mikeler
12-17-2008, 01:05 PM
Sometimes you'll press more against a player you have had some trouble with in the past.

Okazaki Fragment
12-17-2008, 03:37 PM
Leading 5-3 in the second and 4-0 in the third. Wow, you need to marry Chris Evert.

GeoffB
12-17-2008, 03:57 PM
With the exception of the double fault, I'm having trouble seeing where you choked. It sounds like you got tight and didn't play as well as you could have, but that's not quite choking. Choking, I think, means your level dropped substantially.

Last time I choked, I was playing my last league match in 4.0, and I was 1-4, not doing too well that season, so I really wanted another win. I was playing a pretty good opponent, but I took the first set 6-4, and had a break point with him serving 4-5 in the second. I went for too much, and netted an easy backhand return. He held. In my next service game, I double faulted three times, was broken, and lost the set 7-5. My serve came back in the next set, and I got up 2-0, then cracked myself hard in the kneecap with my racket and ended up losing it 6-2 (just for the record, I made absolutely no reference to it when I shook his hand at the end of the game, I was a good sport about it). I'd have defaulted if it hadn't been the last match of the season. If I'd won that match, I'd probably still be a computer ranked 4.0 instead of an embarrassed downgrade to 3.5...

Now *that's* choking ;)

zacinnc78
12-17-2008, 05:13 PM
u said a few times u were worn out...maybe some swimming /HTT is in order?

mikeler
12-18-2008, 07:41 AM
A good example of choking I have involved high school tennis. Every year, the guys team played the girls teams for a fun kickoff to begin the season. They would match up the #1 guy versus #1 girl on down the line. The girl my friend played at line #2 was absolutely on fire and just pelting winners right and left. I had taken care of my girl pretty quickly, so I watched the 2nd half of his pro set. Once he got down, you could tell the meltdown was going to begin. I think he was down 6-4 on his serve. At this point, people from both teams were watching since this was the longest match of the day. He double faulted the entire game away and then missed every single return the next game to lose 8-4. Now that was a legit choke!

equinox
12-18-2008, 08:14 AM
You two could join forces and make a team. Become practice partners and improve each others game. It's an idea.