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View Full Version : An Experiment: Winning The Third Set Tiebreak


Cindysphinx
05-24-2009, 08:44 AM
I have been doing a little experiment, and I may have discovered a way to win third set tiebreaks when you won the first set but lost the second. [edit: I meant match tiebreak. Sorry.]

It has happened to all of us, I'll bet. You win the first set, but somehow your opponents win the second set. Maybe they adopted some dramatically different strategy. More likely, they just played a little better, they discovered a weakness in you, or you got a little tight.

On three occasions, my partner and I have switched receiving sides to begin the third set tiebreak. In two cases, we ran away with the tiebreak. In the third case, we built up a lead and had triple match point before we suffered an Attack Of The Stupids and lost the tiebreak 9-11. Keep in mind that I am an ad player and my partners are deuce players, so we are actually switching to our weaker receiving sides, yet we still win.

Why might this tactic be successful? I think it is because it breaks the momentum the other team built up throughout the second set. They figured out what they needed to do. By switching it up and changing receiving sides, all of their strategies become scrambled. They are less sure about whether to come in or stay back. They don't know what weaknesses, tendencies and weapons each of us have when we are receiving on the other side. By the time they figure it out, the tiebreak is over.

My theory is that this technique won't work as well when you lost the first set and won the second. You have the momentum; why change?

Has anyone else had any experience that validates or refutes my theory? I think the conventional wisdom is that switching receiving sides is for partners who don't play together often, and that is true. Doing it for the third set tiebreak might be an exception to the rule.

sureshs
05-24-2009, 10:32 AM
I always play on the ad court because I want practice in returning out-wide serves with my backhand. It has helped in making my backhand a weapon.

LuckyR
05-24-2009, 07:53 PM
Cindy, a question: in your experience, does it really matter what side your teammates play on? In other words when you play with a new partner and you are deciding on sides and they ask, "which side do you want to play?" do you say a particular side, or do you say something like: "it doesn't matter" or " "I can play both but usually I play the ad side" or somesuch? Personally I usually mention that I play the ad side most often but I am happy to play deuce if they have a strong preference. For folks of my skill level or below, I agree with your changing sides idea. It makes a lot of sense and I think your limited experience with winning using it is not a coincidence. However at higher levels my guess there would more to lose, skill-wise than what you would gain, momentum/Mental Game-wise.

Cruzer
05-24-2009, 08:33 PM
My strategy to win third set tie breaks as been to just win a lot of points. It has worked every time.

calamansi
05-24-2009, 08:47 PM
I always play on the ad court because I want practice in returning out-wide serves with my backhand. It has helped in making my backhand a weapon.

It hasn't helped with your post's relevance (to the OP's question), of course.

To answer the OP's question, IMO it could work both ways. Obviously there's a reason why you and your partner played on the sides you did for the first 2 sets, i.e. because you're both more comfortable there. While changing sides can throw your opponents off, it might also compromise the dynamics of your team's play. The trick then is to hope that your opponents get thrown off more than your team's play suffers.

OrangePower
05-24-2009, 09:44 PM
On three occasions, my partner and I have switched receiving sides to begin the third set tiebreak. In two cases, we ran away with the tiebreak. In the third case, we built up a lead and had triple match point before we suffered an Attack Of The Stupids and lost the tiebreak 9-11. Keep in mind that I am an ad player and my partners are deuce players, so we are actually switching to our weaker receiving sides, yet we still win.

Why might this tactic be successful? I think it is because it breaks the momentum the other team built up throughout the second set. They figured out what they needed to do. By switching it up and changing receiving sides, all of their strategies become scrambled. They are less sure about whether to come in or stay back. They don't know what weaknesses, tendencies and weapons each of us have when we are receiving on the other side. By the time they figure it out, the tiebreak is over.


Dunno. Can't say that I've tried this for the match tiebreak.

On one hand, I have done this after losing the first set. Sometimes things get better, sometimes not. But we have a full set to get comfortable with playing on 'opposite' sides.

On the other hand, in a tiebreak you don't have much time to re-acclimatize. And if I was on the other side of the net and you did this, I would actually get a boost of confidence out of knowing that our play has forced you to change your strategy and switch to something less familiar for the tiebreak. And then I would continue playing exactly the same way as in the 2nd set and make you prove that switching has made you a better returning team.

woodrow1029
05-24-2009, 10:13 PM
Is this a match tiebreak, or a "third set tiebreak?"

OrangePower
05-24-2009, 10:18 PM
Is this a match tiebreak, or a "third set tiebreak?"

Presumably a match tiebreak, since it wouldn't be legal to switch sides at the start of a third set tiebreak.

woodrow1029
05-24-2009, 10:22 PM
Which is why I want her to clarify that. Third set tiebreak in the title is misleading to the few that wouldn't know that this is illegal in a set tiebreak and go to try it out.

Cindysphinx
05-25-2009, 02:49 AM
Cindy, a question: in your experience, does it really matter what side your teammates play on? In other words when you play with a new partner and you are deciding on sides and they ask, "which side do you want to play?" do you say a particular side, or do you say something like: "it doesn't matter" or " "I can play both but usually I play the ad side" or somesuch?

I have a strong preference for ad side. My inside out BH and crosscourt FH are quite unreliable, and it can be a long day at the office if a server figures this out quickly. I play the ad side even in mixed, which is kind of nutty if you think about it.

On my team, there are far more deuce court players than ad players, probably 2-1. A third of the team has no preference.

I am working hard to learn deuce side because my years of playing only ad side have left me badly lopsided. So in singles, I don't feel comfortable taking a sitter at the T and hitting it with my FH crosscourt.

Cindysphinx
05-25-2009, 02:50 AM
Is this a match tiebreak, or a "third set tiebreak?"

Sorry, yes. Match Tiebreak. I'll try to change the title.

NE14Tennis?
05-25-2009, 06:02 AM
Cindy, I think there may be some validity to your strategy, but not necessarily for the reason you cited. While giving your opponents a different look may take them out of the comfort zone/game adjustment/refocus that won them the second set, the same could be achieved by switching to I formation, playing both back, or any other rearrangement. Having tried all of these strategies in a third set (or third set tiebreak) situation, I have had about a 50% success rate with any of them.
There were two instances where my partner and I actually changed sides for the third set, and in both cases we won, but I think it had more to do with us then them.
Think about it - you win the first set and almost invariably encounter a bit of a letdown (either mentally or physically); you then either win a tighter second set or lose the second set. The best thing to do at this point is refocus, and sometimes switching sides, because it takes you out of your comfort zone, forces you to stay more mentally alert, watch the ball more closely, and concentrate on every point. It also alleviates some pressure (as errors can now be more easily attributed to the fact that you "don't normally play from that side") thus allowing you to swing freer than you might otherwise in that tense situation. Just my thoughts on the matter, but my partner concurred (after those two wins) that he seemed less concerned about hitting a winner than just making good contact and committing to the stroke in those third sets.

Cindysphinx
05-25-2009, 07:29 AM
Good points, NE14Tennis.

I guess it may depend on why you lost the second set. Sometimes, it's just an errorfest on the part of the team that won the first set.

I think it sometimes comes down to a matter of the other team figuring out how to Draw Blood. All teams and players have weaknesses, and if you probe, you can find it. Once they've latched onto the weakness by coming back, it doesn't make sense to think they'll develop amnesia in the tiebreak.

I do remember the last time we tried this tactic. Both of us were now receiving on our weaker sides. We started out missing the first three service returns. Uh oh. Then we steadied ourselves and got to 3-6. Then we won the tiebreak 10-6. That suggests to me that, once we got our legs under us, the other team simply didn't know what to do with us and didn't have time to figure it out. The crosscourt FH that had been giving my partner trouble, for instance, was now coming to me. They were getting a different reply from me (maybe I would go down the line whereas my partner might lob that ball). And so went the match.

[edit: Whoops! My account of the score in that tiebreak can't be right, because we wouldn't receive serve three times in a row. Eh, I can't reconstruct it now. You get the idea.]

Nellie
05-25-2009, 07:59 AM
good idea - I will have to try this because it because I play with a lefty partner, and switching will cause our opponents to really change their serving strategy. I think that the match tie-break is a such a fast thing, and the more you can do disrupt and change, the more it causes the opponents to miss.

Cindysphinx
05-25-2009, 08:08 AM
Nellie, also disruptive is that your opponents only get two serves at a time rather than having a whole service game to get used to their new serving strategy.

sureshs
05-25-2009, 11:09 AM
It hasn't helped with your post's relevance (to the OP's question), of course.


My point is that in club play you want to improve your game. I am not in it for winning strategies. I have seen so many players who always play on the deuce court because they are "stronger" on the forehand and hence the team has a better chance of winning. Guess what? Their backhand continues to suck as the years pass by. You should play in uncomfortable positions so that you get better, not play to win. That will happen naturally as you improve.

Sometimes when I say that I want to play the ad court, my partner will ask: is that your stronger side? I will reply: no, it is the weaker side. He will give me a strange look.

Cindysphinx
09-09-2009, 07:16 PM
I'm bumping this up because I have another data point in the experiment.

Tonight, I played with a new partner. She didn't have a preference, so I played ad court, which is where I usually receive. Just to make conversation, I told her about this little experiment and how you can win the 10-point tiebreak if you switch receiving sides after losing the second set.

We won the first set 6-2 against one very strong opponent and one weak opponent.

Of particular note was that the strong opponent served first and targeted our backhands. No problem, I thought. I hit my BH great in my last match, especially the crosscourt service returns. Tonight, I again started out hitting decent BH service returns, but I had some nasty flubs in that first set. Hmmm.

In the second set, the wheels came off the BH bus completely. I probably didn't miss every single service return the strong opponent hit to my BH, but it sure felt like it. We had long deuce games when the strong opponent served because we would work hard to win the deuce point, and I would immediately miss the BH return. We lost the set 3-6.

Then for the tiebreak, I reminded my partner of the experiment, and we switched. We immediately jumped out to a 5-1 lead before winning 10-6. I made all of my service returns in the tiebreak.

I'm tellin' ya, I'm on to something with this.

shissncg
09-10-2009, 10:00 AM
If your opponents also switch sides, does that negate your switching sides and bring you back to square one.

My take on the situation. If your opponents figured out your teams weaker returns then there is nothing to stop them to serving there when you switch sides. E.g. if my opponent has a weak backhand then I will serve there, with little regard to their court position (certain extreme exceptions will apply). It is more likely that switching sides gets you to think about something other than the fact that you just lost a set, which may be beneficial.

Cindysphinx
09-10-2009, 11:19 AM
If your opponents also switch sides, does that negate your switching sides and bring you back to square one.

My take on the situation. If your opponents figured out your teams weaker returns then there is nothing to stop them to serving there when you switch sides. E.g. if my opponent has a weak backhand then I will serve there, with little regard to their court position (certain extreme exceptions will apply). It is more likely that switching sides gets you to think about something other than the fact that you just lost a set, which may be beneficial.

Ah, but that assumes that (1) they have the control to serve just as effectively to that weaker wing and (2) that I won't return better from the other court.

Upon reflection, I decided the problem I was having with my BH return from the ad court was that it had more angle than I was used to. I wasn't moving up to the ball correctly and was too far in front of a lot of balls. Once I was returning from the deuce court, the angle wasn't an issue and I return fine. She definitely kept serving to my BH, but I returned them during the tiebreak, which was rather helpful to our cause! :)

kylebarendrick
09-10-2009, 01:04 PM
Of course, if the reason you lost the 2nd set is because you lost a lot of points when your team was serving, then changing receiving positions won't make much of a difference.

Cindysphinx
09-10-2009, 01:20 PM
Well, yeah. If there is some obvious reason for the loss of the second set, then switching might not help (e.g. one player became injured).

Most of the time when you drop the second set, there isn't an obvious explanation. The one thing you do know is that you have to change something to throw a monkey wrench into things.

ubermeyer
09-13-2009, 11:39 AM
what is a ad player or a deuce player????

Casey10s
09-13-2009, 04:30 PM
What I see at the higher levels is that there are strong preferences to the side to receive serve. This is based on the strength of the strokes, playing conditions, the opponents, and other things. Usually you want to get into a pattern and by changing sides, that can throw the whole mechanics of the team off.

Also, lately I have gone to have the same person serve the whole match from the same side. If someone is doing OK serving into the sun or the wind, then just keep it that way. I have seem many matches get messed up when you always have the stronger server serve first in the set. This might have a person serve into the sun and their game falls apart because of looking into the sun.

I know it takes me a few points to get accustom to the serves from that side and getting the rhythm on my returns, especially with some of the big servers I have faced.