Can’t finish games or sets

Tjg

Rookie
I am in a tennis league and for the life of me I can not finish games or sets. Will be up 40-0 and manage to miss hit every ball after that either setting up an easy winner or shanking it. I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7. It happens all of the time. I will get myself out of a rut, win a few games and then go right back to not being able to finish when it really matters. Will fight back to have ad in, then double fault for the first time all match. Then I start losing again. I don’t know how to stop doing that. Any advice or tips?
 

nyta2

Professional
I am in a tennis league and for the life of me I can not finish games or sets. Will be up 40-0 and manage to miss hit every ball after that either setting up an easy winner or shanking it. I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7. It happens all of the time. I will get myself out of a rut, win a few games and then go right back to not being able to finish when it really matters. Will fight back to have ad in, then double fault for the first time all match. Then I start losing again. I don’t know how to stop doing that. Any advice or tips?
happens to me for sure... and the pros as well.
typically it's because i'm thinking about the future rather than being in the moment (if win this point, i win the game/set/match, will this person play with me again if i lose, what will people think of me if i lose to this mug, how much money will i waste if i lose in the first round after flying out here,... etc...)... rather than thinking about what i should be doing in the moment... active feet, eyes on contact, good contact, stroke it. not saying it's easy to do, but that's what i strive to do.
when i feel myself getting tight, sometimes i force myself to "hit out more" (causing me to stay loose, not "care" about the outcome, etc...), and hopefully hit my way out of the yips (and eventually let all my unconscious training take over again)... worst thing i can do (have done), is start pushing the ball back in (which i never practice)
other stuff:
have routines.
play every point like it's practice.
play every point like it's the last.
play like i'm down in score, even when i'm up 5-0 40-love (i've been up 5-0, and lost 5-7)
focus on the shot i want to hit.
focus on counting my shots (for me when i play a "mini game" within my head of "how many quality balls in a row can i hit"... it stops me from thinking about blowing an important point)
 

Rosstour

Legend
Yup, same here.

Went up 3-0 on my 5.0+ buddy.

Then he went up 5-3.

Then I won two games, before losing 7-5.
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
Start practicing under pressure. Create pressure situations during your practice matches. Some examples: Allow yourself only one serve. If you’re serving 40-15 and don’t win the point, you go back to zero.
 

FlamingCheeto

Professional
yes to paraphrase stan and niche'

ever try ever failed
fail again, fail better

so keep practicing and most importantly: GO FOR YOUR SHOTS, especially on match/break points. Go for a winner, hit the ball hard because the more you push/play not to lose the more likely you are to choke. Better to make that error and have a "good miss" than to put up a weak serve return.
 
Next time you are in the same situation, try to observe what's happening to your technique. My couple of guesses are that (1)you are rushing to hit and your backswing is too shallow and (2)your shoulder is tightening up at contact. Once you realize how your technique changes at crucial points, you can start correcting that.
 
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I am in a tennis league and for the life of me I can not finish games or sets. Will be up 40-0 and manage to miss hit every ball after that either setting up an easy winner or shanking it. I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7. It happens all of the time. I will get myself out of a rut, win a few games and then go right back to not being able to finish when it really matters. Will fight back to have ad in, then double fault for the first time all match. Then I start losing again. I don’t know how to stop doing that. Any advice or tips?
Firstly, are you sure it's this lopsided? Just like some people only remember the good shots and forget the bad, is it possible you're only remembering the times you failed to close it out but are minimizing the times that you succeeded?

Video if you can [most opponents are cool with it; just make sure to ask prior]: that way, you can see what actually happened as opposed to your recollection.

What is going through your mind as you build your lead? What about when you start losing your lead?

Ideally, it should be the same thing: nothing. Try to play each point on its own.

What might be happening is that you build a lead and then change your style to something more defensive and "safe". You forgot who "brought you to the dance" and abandon a winning strategy trying to protect a lead. If so, you need to break out of that mindset and keep doing what's working or, at the very least, what you're most confident in.

I also suggest to stop thinking in terms of winning and losing but instead to focus on the process. And be good to yourself: even if you lost a match, find something positive that you did well, that you can build upon. I try to make that a habit.

Here's a simple test: are you holding your breath before contact? This will cause you to tighten up and royally mess with your strokes.
 
You were doing well.
You were ahead.
Then something happened.
Something changed.
Don't do that.

It is always easier to lose than to win.
When you are at the brink of success,
you don't want to risk what you have already achieved,
so you play differently, cautious or extravagantly
because you don't trust your skills and fear failure.
then it all comes apart.
Don't do that.

Contiue to play the game that got you there.
Just play the ball, as if nothing else matters.
If you don't, well, we all know how that turns out.

Oh, and somewhere up there was a quote from Samuel Beckett,
classy.
 
Easier said than done but try imagining it is 0-0 every point. The best clutch players are not better in the clutch - they are simply not worse because they are playing like it is 0-0 in the game and there is no pressure.

Don't try to do something extra to win a game point but keep doing what got you there.
 

socallefty

Legend
I choke and play tight if I feel in my subconscious that I don’t deserve to win the set or match. If I believe I deserve to win on that particular day, I can play relaxed even on the threshold of victory. In a close match, I sometimes have to find a way to convince myself that I deserve to win and I’ll take an extra minute to take some deep breaths, relax and tell myself I deserve to win and am going to earn that next point. I find that when your are close to winning, you still have to ‘win‘ the point with offensive play and not just wait for the opponent to give it to you - good opponents can sense when you are afraid to win and then they get relaxed and start playing better.

Pump yourself up with self-confidence on the verge of victory and ‘fake it till you make it’. It is particularly needed against someone that you have a losing streak against. It helps if you visualize winning break points, set points and match points before you play the match.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
I am in a tennis league and for the life of me I can not finish games or sets. Will be up 40-0 and manage to miss hit every ball after that either setting up an easy winner or shanking it. I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7. It happens all of the time. I will get myself out of a rut, win a few games and then go right back to not being able to finish when it really matters. Will fight back to have ad in, then double fault for the first time all match. Then I start losing again. I don’t know how to stop doing that. Any advice or tips?
What you're describing sounds like you're pivoting toward playing "not to lose" instead of just playing with some trust in your game. I know - easier said that done - but managing your mental side can be learned just like everything else you do out there. The one best book I've ever read for helping with head management is Mental Tennis by Vic Braden. Can't recommend this material enough.

If you're serving and facing a break point, do you think to yourself "don't double fault" or something more like "watch the ball and follow through"? If you're thinking "don't double fault", let's face it, you're actually thinking about double faulting, right? When we focus on what we might do wrong, that makes us more likely to do that wrong thing. There's a huge difference between that and focusing on what we want to do right.

If you think this through when you're away from the courts, you might gain more clarity on the courts in terms of steering your focus toward what you want to do right in any situation. Errors are going to happen. Get comfortable with that reality so that you can think beyond it during your matches.

One of the most valuable mental rituals we can develop is learning to play with a simple plan from one point to the next. I like to call this ritual "counting to one". Before each point, revisit a simple mental blueprint of how you want to manage this next point and then do that. If you've already decided what you basically want to do (more importantly - what you want to do right) for this point and then play it, there's usually a lot less potential for pressure to creep in. You already know what to do regardless of what your opponent hits your way.

Maybe you decide to simply hit every ball to you opponent's backhand or maybe for another point you decide to hit every ball cross court. This ritual can be repetitive - you may use the same plan for six or eight points in a row - but it can keep you more dialed in on what you want to do to help your cause over the course of a match. It can make you approach to the second point in the first game of a set about the same as a set point or a break point that can be more consequential. Not too high in terms of intensity and also not too low.

Many of the kids on the high school teams I've coached have been able to sustain a significantly higher level in their match play when they've learned how to "count to one". If you get some practice court time with a hitting pal, you can work on this by playing a couple practice tiebreaks. Plan your points even when you're returning serve and you should be able to call up your better options on a more regular basis. And in that practice setting, make using your best full shots your top priority even if it makes you lose a few in the short term. You want to learn to default to your strong and steady mode of play in all situations. Not get tight and tentative where you're only playing not to lose.
 
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Tjg

Rookie
I am in a tennis league and for the life of me I can not finish games or sets. Will be up 40-0 and manage to miss hit every ball after that either setting up an easy winner or shanking it. I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7. It happens all of the time. I will get myself out of a rut, win a few games and then go right back to not being able to finish when it really matters. Will fight back to have ad in, then double fault for the first time all match. Then I start losing again. I don’t know how to stop doing that. Any advice or tips?
You have no idea how much I can relate to that. Just finished playing a rally game to 11. Was up 10-5 and lost 11-13. Makes me want to quit.
 

JackSockIsTheBest

Professional
I am in a tennis league and for the life of me I can not finish games or sets. Will be up 40-0 and manage to miss hit every ball after that either setting up an easy winner or shanking it. I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7. It happens all of the time. I will get myself out of a rut, win a few games and then go right back to not being able to finish when it really matters. Will fight back to have ad in, then double fault for the first time all match. Then I start losing again. I don’t know how to stop doing that. Any advice or tips?
I almost did that this past weekend. (I do 8 game pro set as the match instead of what I would like, the best of 3) I was leading 7-4 then choked to a tiebreak but won it
 
You have no idea how much I can relate to that. Just finished playing a rally game to 11. Was up 10-5 and lost 11-13. Makes me want to quit.
What was your mental state for the 5 points from 10-5 through 10-9?

If it was "please, oh please, opponent, just make an error and give me the game", then that's playing not to lose.

How did you get up 10-5? Was it random? If so, then losing 11-13 might also have been random. I remember being down 4-9 in a 10 point TB 3rd set and winning 11-9. We did nothing special in that 7 point run, apart from not making any errors. Did that make us great and our opponents terrible? Not at all. It was just a streak that one expects from time to time, as both the winner and loser.

But you must have done at least a few things right to get there: did you stop doing those things once you got to game point? Did you switch to a "protect the lead" mindset?

The answer more likely lies in your mental approach vs stroke technique or strategy/tactics. As the old saying goes, "In tennis, you're either building a lead or losing it; there's no 'protecting' a lead." [unless you can hold serve a very high % of the time, which almost no one can at the rec level].

Watch this video and see if it resonates:

 
Playing not to lose means playing defensively, not looking to win points but to avoid errors, etc. Works great when there is a time element but can backfire when there is not.

Playing to win means playing to win the point with your best weapons even if it means a higher % chance of losing any given point, confident that the math will work out in your favor.

Are you asking because you don't experience both or are just interested in what his response might have been?
 

socallefty

Legend
Something in your mind is currently programmed to read out that you don’t deserve to win. You have to psyche yourself up to sincerely believe that you deserve to win as you are the better player. Once you change the program inside your head, you will win more close sets. Guys who don’t believe they deserve to win have a lot of errors and DFs late in sets.
 
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user92626

G.O.A.T.
Playing not to lose means playing defensively, not looking to win points but to avoid errors, etc. Works great when there is a time element but can backfire when there is not.

Playing to win means playing to win the point with your best weapons even if it means a higher % chance of losing any given point, confident that the math will work out in your favor.

Are you asking because you don't experience both or are just interested in what his response might have been?
I used to think that too and complicate the hell out of my thinking unnecessarily.
I no longer tax my mind with such trivia.

I'm out there to compete and win. Do whatever it takes. If the opponent cannot catch his breath, no need to attempt a good, paint the line FH shot. Drag out the point longer and don't lose. It'll be good for the next 2 games also. Better than boxing myself into some trivia.
 

nyta2

Professional
I'm out there to compete and win. Do whatever it takes. If the opponent cannot catch his breath, no need to attempt a good, paint the line FH shot. Drag out the point longer and don't lose. It'll be good for the next 2 games also. Better than boxing myself into some trivia.
as rec players, or even as pros, i'd argue you should never attempt a paint line fh (every line shot i hit is an accident, i promise you i was aiming 4-5ft away from that line, and because i didn't hit it perfectly, i accidently hit the line). maybe pros aim 1-2ft from the line, if i were to bet.

but regarding your idea of dragging out the point longer when opponent is tired... sure if that was your game to begin with... but if you got to a winning situation by being aggressive, say s&v'ing... i wouldn't suddenly turn into a moonballer to further tire out the opponent, as now you're changing your own winning game that was working... i'm all for changing a *losing* game plan (and your comment about doing "whatever it takes" makes sense here)... but don't change one that is winning.
 

FatHead250

Professional
The reason is very simple. Up until youre winning youre playing without any pressure, but once you lead in the score and can close it out, the pressure creeps in, and you start playing worse. The solution is very simple - try 100 different techniques to not feel any pressure. Right? No, incorrect. Pressure is inherent to playing competetive sport

The solution is to treat any tennis that you play without pressure as practice where you work on elements of your game. It is not a sport, and while it is crucial to improving your game, it doesn't have anything in common with real match play. Whereas the tennis under pressure should be treated as competetive tennis. Right now, you mistake your tennis with no pressure as competetive, which is not. Your real tennis is your tennis under pressure and under pressure only. Once the score is 5-2 up, you start feeling pressure and real tennis starts. And you start playing your real level of tennis.

Play more tournaments and matches where some money is at stake. Always be conscious during practice about whether youre under pressure or not. Dont be happy when you win with no pressure felt, but be happy when you win playing worse tennis, but under pressure.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
as rec players, or even as pros, i'd argue you should never attempt a paint line fh (every line shot i hit is an accident, i promise you i was aiming 4-5ft away from that line, and because i didn't hit it perfectly, i accidently hit the line). maybe pros aim 1-2ft from the line, if i were to bet.

but regarding your idea of dragging out the point longer when opponent is tired... sure if that was your game to begin with... but if you got to a winning situation by being aggressive, say s&v'ing... i wouldn't suddenly turn into a moonballer to further tire out the opponent, as now you're changing your own winning game that was working... i'm all for changing a *losing* game plan (and your comment about doing "whatever it takes" makes sense here)... but don't change one that is winning.
THAT is a type of aiming for the line, bro. Albeit different from other people and maybe wider accuracy. lol.
You probably think everyone aims for the very line itself to hit, but not me. I also aim at a 3 foot fat area and that's how I paint the line.

Being aggressive has a toll. Nothing is free. It's not sustainable to be aggressive through out the match. That's like doing the last 50-meter sprinting to the finish line the entire leg of a marathon. No, not possible. Nobody does that. In a long match there's peaks and valleys.
 

RyanRF

Professional
Do you find yourself -trying- to close it out? In other words, do you think about the last few points/games differently than the points/games before? Maybe you're subconsciously changing your tactics and shot selection the closer you get to the finish line.

Ideally you aren't -trying- to do anything really. Just keep with the same mentality that got you to the current score. Hold that steady, and there's a good chance you'll end with the W. Don't feel like there's something extra that needs to be done.
 
THAT is a type of aiming for the line, bro. Albeit different from other people and maybe wider accuracy. lol.
The end result is that @nyta2 has much more margin than the player who aims for lines whether you view that as aiming for the line or not.

You probably think everyone aims for the very line itself to hit, but not me. I also aim at a 3 foot fat area and that's how I paint the line.
I won't speak for nyta2 but I don't think everyone aims for the line but I believe many do because they mistakenly believe that's the best way to win the point.

Being aggressive has a toll. Nothing is free. It's not sustainable to be aggressive through out the match.
Where's your evidence? I'd argue if I'm not normally aggressive, it would be much harder to be aggressive all match because that's not my comfort zone. But if that's my normal style, why not?

That's like doing the last 50-meter sprinting to the finish line the entire leg of a marathon. No, not possible. Nobody does that. In a long match there's peaks and valleys.
No, I don't think being aggressive, especially if that's my normal style, is analogous to running significantly faster than one has trained for; the former is sustainable, IMO; the latter is not.

Now, whether I can consistently win being aggressive is a more difficult question to answer.
 

EddieBrock

Professional
This has been a problem for me as well. I've made great strides by focusing on just executing the shot and not focusing so much on the score or looking into the past or the future.

However, I still sometimes fall short, especially if I'm tired and I can see sitting down at the bench if I just win the next point or want to get the pressure of the game over with.

As others have said. Have a routine that you keep the same each point. Something else that helped me is being ok with catching bad tosses on the serve and not starting the motion until I feel ready.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
The end result is that @nyta2 has much more margin than the player who aims for lines whether you view that as aiming for the line or not.



I won't speak for nyta2 but I don't think everyone aims for the line but I believe many do because they mistakenly believe that's the best way to win the point.



Where's your evidence? I'd argue if I'm not normally aggressive, it would be much harder to be aggressive all match because that's not my comfort zone. But if that's my normal style, why not?



No, I don't think being aggressive, especially if that's my normal style, is analogous to running significantly faster than one has trained for; the former is sustainable, IMO; the latter is not.

Now, whether I can consistently win being aggressive is a more difficult question to answer.
nyta must have thought that other players or I aim for the line which prompted him to say he "was aiming 4-5ft away from that line" to get his ball hit the the line. I simply told him that that is a way of aiming for the line. Everyone is different. Maybe nyta needs 4-5ft margin while I need 3ft and John does something else completely. What's to debate about this? lol

Evidence that doing things aggressively takes more energy / resource (a toll)?

OK, bud. You have way too much time on your hand. Haha.
 

nyta2

Professional
nyta must have thought that other players or I aim for the line which prompted him to say he "was aiming 4-5ft away from that line" to get his ball hit the the line. I simply told him that that is a way of aiming for the line. Everyone is different. Maybe nyta needs 4-5ft margin while I need 3ft and John does something else completely. What's to debate about this? lol

Evidence that doing things aggressively takes more energy / resource (a toll)?

OK, bud. You have way too much time on your hand. Haha.
yep that's fair... just a description thing, but clearly you're thinking about aiming similar to the way i am...
my experience when teaching beginners/intermediates (not that your are) is that they actually do try to aim to paint the line (cuz that's what they see the pros doing "they hit the lines all the time")...
so i went into auto-mode giving my spiel about not to literally aim for the lines...
 

Tjg

Rookie
Firstly, are you sure it's this lopsided? Just like some people only remember the good shots and forget the bad, is it possible you're only remembering the times you failed to close it out but are minimizing the times that you succeeded?

Video if you can [most opponents are cool with it; just make sure to ask prior]: that way, you can see what actually happened as opposed to your recollection.

What is going through your mind as you build your lead? What about when you start losing your lead?

Ideally, it should be the same thing: nothing. Try to play each point on its own.

What might be happening is that you build a lead and then change your style to something more defensive and "safe". You forgot who "brought you to the dance" and abandon a winning strategy trying to protect a lead. If so, you need to break out of that mindset and keep doing what's working or, at the very least, what you're most confident in.

I also suggest to stop thinking in terms of winning and losing but instead to focus on the process. And be good to yourself: even if you lost a match, find something positive that you did well, that you can build upon. I try to make that a habit.

Here's a simple test: are you holding your breath before contact? This will cause you to tighten up and royally mess with your strokes.
I do dwell more on the bad shots then good. Same thing just happened s to me today. Was up 0-40 on their serve and shanked and mis hit the next 4 shots in a row losing that game. The person I was playing was a major pusher and every ball they hit managed to land it, even the shanks. I would hit a good serve at the body, they would just fling their racquet and it would hit all frame and land 3ft past the net on the side line, giving me a difficult shot to get to. I have the damnest time watching the ball. Moving my head early is my biggest issue. I ended up losing from unforced errors. I give away so many points and games, it’s infuriating and I don’t know what to do to fix it. I should of easy beat this person. Their second serve would almost bounce twice in the service box, it was embarrassing to lose to that. Every opponent I play seems to get the luckiest bounces and shanks.
 
I do dwell more on the bad shots then good. Same thing just happened s to me today. Was up 0-40 on their serve and shanked and mis hit the next 4 shots in a row losing that game. The person I was playing was a major pusher and every ball they hit managed to land it, even the shanks. I would hit a good serve at the body, they would just fling their racquet and it would hit all frame and land 3ft past the net on the side line, giving me a difficult shot to get to. I have the damnest time watching the ball. Moving my head early is my biggest issue. I ended up losing from unforced errors. I give away so many points and games, it’s infuriating and I don’t know what to do to fix it. I should of easy beat this person. Their second serve would almost bounce twice in the service box, it was embarrassing to lose to that. Every opponent I play seems to get the luckiest bounces and shanks.
Did you watch the interview with Litwin I posted above?

The single most important thing you can do is drop your expectations: they are a load on your shoulders and are just weighing you down. Focus on the process and let the results take care of themselves. With your expectations, every time you fail to live up to them is added weight until you can hardly even play anymore.

Did you start videoing? It's the only objective way of getting feedback. You describe an extreme group of points that might not look nearly as extreme when viewed in hindsight. Better footwork and anticipation would go a long way to improve, assuming you can first shed your expectations.

If their 2nd serve almost bounces twice in the service box, are you starting from closer to the SL?

I doubt every opponent you play benefits hugely from bounces and shanks; everyone gets their share. How much of your perception is you dwelling on the negative?

Also, even if that were true, you can't control that. You can only control how you react. So let's assume that they will benefit from every shank and bounce: what are you going to do to counter that? You have to improve your anticipation, reaction, and movement.
 

Fintft

Legend
Happened to me yesterday as well: was up in both sets + I had twice 40-0 or 0-40 and still lost.
True that the opponent was moving much better and I wasn't relaxed, nor match tough.
 

Tjg

Rookie
Did you watch the interview with Litwin I posted above?

The single most important thing you can do is drop your expectations: they are a load on your shoulders and are just weighing you down. Focus on the process and let the results take care of themselves. With your expectations, every time you fail to live up to them is added weight until you can hardly even play anymore.

Did you start videoing? It's the only objective way of getting feedback. You describe an extreme group of points that might not look nearly as extreme when viewed in hindsight. Better footwork and anticipation would go a long way to improve, assuming you can first shed your expectations.

If their 2nd serve almost bounces twice in the service box, are you starting from closer to the SL?

I doubt every opponent you play benefits hugely from bounces and shanks; everyone gets their share. How much of your perception is you dwelling on the negative?

Also, even if that were true, you can't control that. You can only control how you react. So let's assume that they will benefit from every shank and bounce: what are you going to do to counter that? You have to improve your anticipation, reaction, and movement.
I didn’t, I’ll check it out.

I have recorded a lot of my playing. It has definitely helped show me what I am actually doing opposed to what I think I am doing. My biggest thing is still keeping my head still during contact. I will start moving my head early and shank it. I’ll shake it off then make a series or bad shots…I will get myself to move on, get some good returns then my opponent gets a net cord and a shank that goes 20ft up and land in the corner.
I am not exaggerating when I say near every opponent gets 5+ net cords that drop right over the net and several shanks that land deep with weird spin. I start to get distracted by it and count them.(yes, that is no good and just feeds my frustration) When that happens I do get lazy with the footwork. Once that series happens 3-4 times during a set, I pretty much give up. I don’t mind losing if it’s because my opponent is making better shots. But when it’s because I miss open shots or they just stab at every ball and it land super shallow with no pace I start crashing. I can’t anticipate them taking a huge cut at the ball but it’s off the frame so drifts over the net.
When I am losing because I am giving points/games away, I get totally dejected. Especially when it mistakes I know I am making but can’t manage to fix.

I know I need to let it go and not dwell, it’s just super hard to do when I get in that hole.
 
I didn’t, I’ll check it out.

I have recorded a lot of my playing. It has definitely helped show me what I am actually doing opposed to what I think I am doing. My biggest thing is still keeping my head still during contact. I will start moving my head early and shank it.
It's a problem most of us have. You just have to train to minimize it. @SystemicAnomaly recommended closing your eyes just before contact, which removes the temptation to look up at where the ball is going. A recommendation I received was to count to 3 after contact before looking up [unrealistic in a match but just to emphasize the point].

I’ll shake it off then make a series or bad shots…I will get myself to move on, get some good returns then my opponent gets a net cord and a shank that goes 20ft up and land in the corner.
I am not exaggerating when I say near every opponent gets 5+ net cords that drop right over the net and several shanks that land deep with weird spin. I start to get distracted by it and count them.(yes, that is no good and just feeds my frustration) When that happens I do get lazy with the footwork. Once that series happens 3-4 times during a set, I pretty much give up.
Then you need to work on your mental game. The shanks and net cords are killing your resolve; you need to learn to accept it and move on. That's going to be a huge task because changing our way of thinking is very difficult.

Here's my analogy: you're living in a house made of dry wood and people around you are setting off fireworks. It's only a matter of time before your house catches on fire. You can't stop the fireworks but you can build your house out of fire-resistant materials.

I don’t mind losing if it’s because my opponent is making better shots. But when it’s because I miss open shots or they just stab at every ball and it land super shallow with no pace I start crashing. I can’t anticipate them taking a huge cut at the ball but it’s off the frame so drifts over the net.
When I am losing because I am giving points/games away, I get totally dejected. Especially when it mistakes I know I am making but can’t manage to fix.

I know I need to let it go and not dwell, it’s just super hard to do when I get in that hole.
You need to learn how to deal with those frustrations rather than trying to suppress them. In addition to the Litwin video, check out stuff by Patrick Cohn and Ed Tseng.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
... My biggest thing is still keeping my head still during contact. I will start moving my head early and shank it. I’ll shake it off then make a series or bad shots…
I suggest performing numerous shadow swings every day while practicing keeping your head still. Set up from a ready position. Look forward as if you are watching an incoming ball as you turn and prepare yourself for a groundstroke. Perform your unit turn and racket drop (still watching an imaginary incoming ball). Right after you start your subsequent forward swing, fix your gaze on your expected contact point (or slightly in front of your contact point if you prefer). Keep your head still during this phase until after you see (the blur of) your racket pass thru your contact zone. Do not lift your head and eyes until your follow-thru is nearly complete.

Perform 25 or more on your Fh side & then 25 or more on your Bh side. You can also do a few of these with your eyes closed -- but still imagine that you are watching an incoming ball & then keeping your head still for most of your forward swing. Notice what this feels like. Next perform the following drill on the court or at a hitting wall.

HITTING DRILL:

Position yourself about 3-5 meters (10-16 ft) from a fence (or hitting wall). With an easy self-feed, let the ball bounce & then drive a ball into the fence or wall with a Fh or Bh stroke. Intially, watch your self-feed long enough to determine your CP. Then, focus your eyes on your expected contact point (or slightly forward of that CP).

Now, do not move your head or shift your gaze, until you hear the ball hit the fence (or wall). If you see the ball hitting the fence at this short distance, you are moving your head too early (or looking up too early).

Repeat this sequence a dozen or two times on each side every time you get out to hit on the court or hitting wall. Perhaps, after hundreds or even thousands of repetitions, this will eventually will start to become a habit.
 

ubercat

Professional
Winning ugly. Once your near the finish line moonball until the guy errors out or collapses from exhaustion.

I got the biggest compliment from a young last week. "Why do you hit so many shots back - it's annoying"
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
I am in a tennis league and for the life of me I can not finish games or sets. Will be up 40-0 and manage to miss hit every ball after that either setting up an easy winner or shanking it. I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7. It happens all of the time. I will get myself out of a rut, win a few games and then go right back to not being able to finish when it really matters. Will fight back to have ad in, then double fault for the first time all match. Then I start losing again. I don’t know how to stop doing that. Any advice or tips?

Personally, I have tried to figure out those losses as well and for me it always comes back to the perceived pressure. Sometimes it comes in terms of some weird doubt when I am up in a set or in a game and I have some waves of doubts or negative thoughts come in, which seems counter-intuitive since I should have confidence being up and obviously playing well, or at least competing well. So I start feeling pressure to finish, make sure I close and "not blow it", or start thinking thing like, "can I keep up this level?". Many of those thoughts cause me to play conservative compared to being loose and free to hit up to that point. Or I just tighten up, go for too much at times too. It manifests itself in different ways.

Anyway, for me I have been practicing a more level focus and emotional state through a match. Not stoic in the sense I don't feel anything, but I kinda let those kinds of thoughts and feeling just come in and pass, trusting the process and play to that point will continue. I don't worry if points start going the other way and try to come to terms with that ebb and flow. Sounds really new agey and what not, so you gotta figure out your bit of zen ball or mental acuity that helps you stay focused and sharp enough to weather the storm.

I have a teammate who plays 4.5-5.0 now and his mental trick was always believing his was down in the game, sets, and match, so he could feel pressure. Personally, I suck at even keep the correct score in my mind, so putting some other losing score in there to trick myself...I'd be nothing but that older annoying player asking, "what's the score again?". Maybe that can work though.
 

Tjg

Rookie
Winning ugly. Once your near the finish line moonball until the guy errors out or collapses from exhaustion.

I got the biggest compliment from a young last week. "Why do you hit so many shots back - it's annoying"
That strategy isn’t fun for me. Personally, I would rather hit with pace and it go long or in the net than just push everything back.
 

Morch Us

Professional
How about if you were down 4-5 and opponent serving for the set? Do you think you play better then? Better enough to break the opponent serve and make it 5-5 ?

I will be up 5-4 serving for the set and end up losing 5-7
 

3virgul14

Rookie
Whenever you start wondering about other things, you can fixate your eyes and mind on another object.

Recently I found looking at surrounding trees for 5 to 10 seconds between points and between changes, emptying my mind helps a lot after an unforced error, or emotional situations. Many top players do this with different methods, Djoko ball bouncing-Rafa correcting his short shirt nose eyebrow hair ear etc.. Sharapova used to turn her back and spend 10 seconds jumping to reset her focus.

Played a match recently with a guy I knew I could take down, I was on autopilot till 4-0. Then sth weird happened. I realized he was a lefty. My mind totally ignored that fact before. I said to myself I should hit more to his backhand, which is a crosscourt for me( I hit heavy topspin down the line shots). Suddenly I lost my focus and came to 4-3, started to fear the loss and blocked my mindset, double faults, short balls, shaking.. next you know we were playing a tie break.. There I went to focus on trees again, and after 3 4 strong shots I was back in the zone. 7-6 6-1

Mind is a tricky fella, treat it with care.
 

Fairhit

Professional
I used to lose to the same guy over and over, I can certainly say Tha I have better technique all around and understand better the game, in practice I used to beat him without any problem but in matches he used to always win.

In a tournament I was playing, one day I had to play in the QF against a tall guy, very intimidating but I was the better player, it was a two sets of 4 games with a match tie break if we tied at 1 set, I was 1 set ahead and serving 40-0 for the match, somehow I manged to lose that match, it was awful, the worst was that my daughter was watching me play, I ve never resented any loss until that day, I've always focused on anything I can learn from the loss, be it a good point, a nice shot or whatever positive, that loss brought me no positives at all, just shame.

After that match I decided to just focus in the point I'm about to play, not in the last point or the next one, just the one I'm playing, if I'm serving, I do a little ritual to focus and just think about the point I'm about to play, if I'm returning, same thing, I just touch my leh on the left side and prepare to return, I do this as a way to let my mind go of any intrusive thoughts, to let my subconscious self play the point and the conscious part to plot the tactics and above all, I convince myself that it doesn't matter if I lose as long as I play my best and not just try to not lose, I prefer losing a point going for my shots than losing it by being too careful and setting up the opponent for an easy shot.

Anyways, after that painful loss and the work on my focus I started winning against that guy I used to loss to sl the time, I got so hard for him that the last time we played like 6 months ago, I beat him in two matches we played back to back, 6-1, 6-2 and 6-4, 6-2, it was a bad loss for him because he used to beat me all the time and this couple of matches were like the 10th loss in a row for him against me, he told me as a joke that I didn't let him even think about winning, it was a good day for me and I called my wife to tell her, she immediately told me that I shouldn't have beat him like that or I'll risk he wouldn't want to play with me anymore, I told her I didn't though he would be like that and when I was in that position it motivated me to work harder on my game, lo and behold, she was totally right and that guy didn't even reply to my texts anymore, I won the match but lost my tennis buddy.

Rant over.
 

ubercat

Professional
It ain't my strategy - it's from Saint Brad. You asked for ways to close out matches and that is one. Sounds like you want to do you but better.
 

Fintft

Legend
That guy didn't even reply to my texts anymore, I won the match but lost my tennis buddy.
Good job and alas some people are like that: they want primarely to strike their egos.
Hey, I lost a partner (who started cursing me), when I looked sideways at his hand feeds, as most were in the service area and sliced. He probably didn't want me to take control of the point, although I try to always reply politely with an easy shot DTM.
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
That strategy isn’t fun for me. Personally, I would rather hit with pace and it go long or in the net than just push everything back.
Yep - the "point at a time" tip that was posted above is really the way to go. Train your mind to only think about the current point being played. It is very helpful for closing out matches and sets.
 
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