3-1 and serving, most important game in a set?

#1
There are many opinions on what game is the most important (except for the game that wins the set), the 7th game is often credited.
But I disagree. The most important game I think is at 3-1 and serving (if the score is that way of course).

Tennis is all about momentum, gaining a lead and stretching a lead and here it is very important to stretch the lead keeping momentum.

Having the lead lead 3-1 and serving sounds like a good position to be in right? Yes BUT only if you hold serve. In reality what happens quite often is that if you fail to win that game, and even worse if you had game points a huge momentum swing usually occurs. You have played well to gain the lead and feel maybe it "should" be 4-1 and you are very likely to win the set, but the reality is it's 3-2, your opponent is now serving and if he holds with the momentum switch it's very likely that you get broken in the next game and end up losing the set that you moments ago felt like you almost had in the bag.

Today I was in that position again serving at 3-1 but this time I managed to close it out and went on to win the set but my game became very tight. Because I won it no momentum switch occured and my opponent never found a way to get back in the set but if I had lost that game I felt like the set would have been very close.
 
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#3
The most important game to win in a tennis mach is the last one.
Of course I would add "except for the last one" to the thread title if I could. I meant the most important game regarding momentum switches within a set, if the last game is won there could be no more momentum switch in that set.
 
#4
The most important game to win in a tennis mach is the last one.
And to go along with this, the only point that really matters in a tennis match is the last one.

With that said though and with regard to the OP, I think the most important game is highly dependent on a ton of individual factors - not the least of which is whether you're playing doubles or singles.
 
#5
And to go along with this, the only point that really matters in a tennis match is the last one.

With that said though and with regard to the OP, I think the most important game is highly dependent on a ton of individual factors - not the least of which is whether you're playing doubles or singles.
This refers to singles. I agree on the individual factors play a big role. I just feel when in this situation that this game is huge every time and very difficult to close out even with multiple game points. I am a good front runner when I have a comfortable lead, not that great coming from behind so it's very important I manage to hold this particular game for the outcome of the set but it is also the hardest for me at least.
 
#7
There are many opinions on what game is the most important (except for when you are serving for the set, sorry can't change thread title), the 7th game is often credited.
But I disagree. The most important game I think is at 3-1 and serving (if the score is that way of course).

Tennis is all about momentum, gaining a lead and stretching a lead and here it is very important to stretch the lead keeping momentum.

Having the lead lead 3-1 and serving sounds like a good position to be in right? Yes BUT only if you hold serve. In reality what happens quite often is that if you fail to win that game, and even worse if you had game points a huge momentum swing usually occurs. You have played well to gain the lead and feel maybe it "should" be 4-1 and you are very likely to win the set, but the reality is it's 3-2, your opponent is now serving and if he holds with the momentum switch it's very likely that you get broken in the next game and end up losing the set that you moments ago felt like you almost had in the bag.

Today I was in that position again serving at 3-1 but this time I managed to close it out and went on to win the set but my game became very tight. Because I won it no momentum switch occured and my opponent never found a way to get back in the set but if I had lost that game I felt like the set would have been very close.
I’m sure this will come out the wrong way, but I don’t mean for it to.

You’ve got a fair amount of shoulds, thens, and generally what you think is going to happen. Sure it’s a bummer if you get broken serving at 3-1... but it’s still 3-2 and the opponent has the pressure of holding to even it up at 3-3... and he’s already lost half his service games. Try to think of the glass half full rather than half empty.

Yes, also a bummer if he holds to even it at 3, but it doesn’t have to be very likely you get broken the next game and therefore lose the set. You’re serving at 3-1 and already imagining a scenario in which you lose the set?

It’s cliche, but try to take it one point at a time if you feel like the momentum is changing. When I find myself in this situation, it’s normally the case that I wasn’t making unforced errors when I built the lead and made the ufes when i lost it. If I focus on cutting out the ufes, then the momentum tends to level out, unless the opponent starts hitting winners at will, which is rarely the case at my level.

I’ve never been successful in completely blocking the score from my head, but if I really try to concentrate on just the next point it seems to help with that feeling of losing momentum.
 
#8
I’m sure this will come out the wrong way, but I don’t mean for it to.

You’ve got a fair amount of shoulds, thens, and generally what you think is going to happen. Sure it’s a bummer if you get broken serving at 3-1... but it’s still 3-2 and the opponent has the pressure of holding to even it up at 3-3... and he’s already lost half his service games. Try to think of the glass half full rather than half empty.

Yes, also a bummer if he holds to even it at 3, but it doesn’t have to be very likely you get broken the next game and therefore lose the set. You’re serving at 3-1 and already imagining a scenario in which you lose the set?

It’s cliche, but try to take it one point at a time if you feel like the momentum is changing. When I find myself in this situation, it’s normally the case that I wasn’t making unforced errors when I built the lead and made the ufes when i lost it. If I focus on cutting out the ufes, then the momentum tends to level out, unless the opponent starts hitting winners at will, which is rarely the case at my level.

I’ve never been successful in completely blocking the score from my head, but if I really try to concentrate on just the next point it seems to help with that feeling of losing momentum.
Thank you for valuable feedback I completely get what you mean the right way.
 
#9
The most important game in a set for you to focus on is the one that provides an opportunity that your opponent undervalues. This often varies, but at recreational level I find the most common to be:
  • your first return game of the match
  • the first game of a set, if you're returning and your opponent won the previous set
  • any game where the set score includes a 4
In the first two cases I find that rec players tend to be sloppier on serve than usual. In the third case, they usually don't fully parse the implications of letting their opponent get 5 games (or getting there themselves).

The classic "seventh game is most important" I think is a bit of a myth. Going from 3 games to 4 games doesn't provide anywhere near the same strangehold on the set in rec tennis as you see in the pros.
 
#10
I understand what you’re saying to a degree, but I would argue that EVERY game is important. I’m sure we’ve all seen rec and professional players lose a match that they were leading in. I agree that momentum plays a huge part in confidence, serves, higher percentage shots, etc. When you’re doing well you feel like you can’t be beaten. I recall this past AO where SW was up 5-1 against Pliskova and she managed to lose in the third set.

I posted a thread “Why is it so hard to close out sets” I think even with momentum, you still have to remain focused on the task at hand which is winning the next point. It’s so cliche, but true “One Point At a Time” Winning one point at a time leads to winning games, winning games leads to winning sets, winning sets leads to winning matches. That how I play my tennis.

I tell my doubles partner “We haven’t won anything until we’ve won the match”
 
#11
I’m sure this will come out the wrong way, but I don’t mean for it to.

You’ve got a fair amount of shoulds, thens, and generally what you think is going to happen. Sure it’s a bummer if you get broken serving at 3-1... but it’s still 3-2 and the opponent has the pressure of holding to even it up at 3-3... and he’s already lost half his service games. Try to think of the glass half full rather than half empty.

Yes, also a bummer if he holds to even it at 3, but it doesn’t have to be very likely you get broken the next game and therefore lose the set. You’re serving at 3-1 and already imagining a scenario in which you lose the set?

It’s cliche, but try to take it one point at a time if you feel like the momentum is changing. When I find myself in this situation, it’s normally the case that I wasn’t making unforced errors when I built the lead and made the ufes when i lost it. If I focus on cutting out the ufes, then the momentum tends to level out, unless the opponent starts hitting winners at will, which is rarely the case at my level.

I’ve never been successful in completely blocking the score from my head, but if I really try to concentrate on just the next point it seems to help with that feeling of losing momentum.
Completely true. When you get broken serving at 3-1, you might be feeling down thinking "oh no I just lost the most important game of the set, now I guess I've lost all momentum".
BUT... unbeknownst to you, your opponent at the same time might be thinking "Damn I fought like a maniac just to break back but I'm still 2-3 down, the pressure is on me now to even the score. I'm tired of playing catch up in this set."
I know because I've been in that position and had those thoughts, especially on days when I'm not that confident on serve.

One of the posters above probably got it right saying that the most important game is the one that gets you to 5. Brad Gilbert says the same thing in "Winning Ugly". The same way that most people undervalue the point that gets you to 40 in a game.
 
#12
The most important game in a set for you to focus on is the one that provides an opportunity that your opponent undervalues. This often varies, but at recreational level I find the most common to be:
  • your first return game of the match
  • the first game of a set, if you're returning and your opponent won the previous set
  • any game where the set score includes a 4
I'm with you on the "4".

I think in a 4-2 set, the next game is critical. If you are down, getting back to 4-3 is a big deal. Going up 5-2 imo is HUGE.
Of course every game is important, but for some reason the 4-2 score is a trigger for me.

Tennis can be such a game of momentum and the pressure for a meaningless rec game, or even a league game can do funny things to the psyche!
 
#13
In my peculiar mind, the number 5 reigns supreme. Even at 4-1 or even 4-0 I feel a lot of pressure as I am unfortunately adept at leaking a bunch of games ...

At 5, even if it is 5-4 or 5-5 I gain confidence to close out a set in either singles or doubles. It feels just like being at the 300 meter mark in the 400M .... you see the finish and motor in.
 
#14
This is more of a it depends on your game type of thing. I know I'm good to break someone at least once a set, maybe twice. I'm always confident on my return game generating multiple break points. My serve game is improving and getting a lot easier to hold so if I'm up 3-1 and get broken and it's 3-2 I'm not worried. I'm still ahead and I'm probably going to break my opponent in the next game or two. It also depends on the flow of the match. If you're in a back and forth match with close games and very little in break opportunities then the 7th game could be the biggest one. If it's been holds to that point and suddenly you break for 4-3 that can suddenly feel like the end of the set for some people.

Having said all of that I've been on both ends of 5-0 set scores. I've blown that lead and I've come back from that as well. Until it's game, set or game, set, match it's never over. I've had times when I'm tired and down 4-0 and fight back to tie it. Suddenly the 9th game is the most important. If I hold/break there then perhaps I'm serving for the set or my opponent is suddenly serving to stay in it. In the end it's what goes on between the ears that's most important. Doesn't matter the set score. An experienced mentally tough player will figure things out no matter the set score. They may not win a set being down 4-1 or 3-1, but they can lay the groundwork to take momentum back and win the next set or two.
 
#15
There are many opinions on what game is the most important (except for when you are serving for the set, sorry can't change thread title), the 7th game is often credited.
But I disagree. The most important game I think is at 3-1 and serving (if the score is that way of course).

Tennis is all about momentum, gaining a lead and stretching a lead and here it is very important to stretch the lead keeping momentum.

Having the lead lead 3-1 and serving sounds like a good position to be in right? Yes BUT only if you hold serve. In reality what happens quite often is that if you fail to win that game, and even worse if you had game points a huge momentum swing usually occurs. You have played well to gain the lead and feel maybe it "should" be 4-1 and you are very likely to win the set, but the reality is it's 3-2, your opponent is now serving and if he holds with the momentum switch it's very likely that you get broken in the next game and end up losing the set that you moments ago felt like you almost had in the bag.

Today I was in that position again serving at 3-1 but this time I managed to close it out and went on to win the set but my game became very tight. Because I won it no momentum switch occured and my opponent never found a way to get back in the set but if I had lost that game I felt like the set would have been very close.
disagree with your assessment
the most important game in the set is the game that wins the set, whether it be for you or your opponent.
z
 
#16
I don't spend a lot of energy thinking about which game will be the most important. I can figure it out in hindsight but it isn't always the same game [ie the 7th]. Better to play "in the moment".

Besides the "last game answer", my thinking might be whichever game causes the biggest shift in momentum in my favor. It could end up being the first game for all I know: let's say my opponent wins most of his service games and is serving up 40-0 and I come back to take the game. That could be a huge deflator for him.
 
#17
I don't spend a lot of energy thinking about which game will be the most important. I can figure it out in hindsight but it isn't always the same game [ie the 7th]. Better to play "in the moment".
I agree. You aren't going to find any good coaches who tell you to be thinking about the games during the match. I think the farthest ahead it's beneficial to be looking is within the current game.
 
#18
Besides the "last game answer", my thinking might be whichever game causes the biggest shift in momentum in my favor. It could end up being the first game for all I know: let's say my opponent wins most of his service games and is serving up 40-0 and I come back to take the game. That could be a huge deflator for him.
I would add that, if I am in the middle of such a game, it's not beneficial to think about how huge the game is.
 
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