Closing out a USTA match in 2 sets


New User
My doubles partner and I have fallen into a predictable pattern of match play lately. The majority of our matches, whether playing at the 3.5 or 4.0 level, have gone to a third set tiebreak. We usually come out blazing and have great first sets. We usually end up winning the matches but here is a sample of our latest scores: 3.5 match 6-1,3-6, 1-0 (10-2 tb) and 4.0 match 6-1,6-7,1-0 (11-9 tb).

This is starting to get into my head and I feel myself getting tight from the get go of the second set. Lately, we've been saying to each other "think of the first set as a warm-up or pretend we are starting a new match". We try to stick to our original game plan but things seem to take a complete U-Turn in the second set. The winning volley's my partner made in the first set are now going long or getting dumped into the net. I start spraying my service returns or double faulting. We both get tight knowing that the number of our unforced errors is adding up and we are now down a service break or two. We know we should be focussing on one point at a time and continue to be positive and supportive of each other, but frustration does creep in before you know it.

Although we are generally happy to be able to close out the match in the tiebreak...we would like to try to make it easier on ourselves and close it out in 2 sets.

Any advice, mental or tactical, would be appreciated.


You may be losing focus in the 2nd set because you win the 1st set easily. Just continue to concentrate on technique and movement. I do have a question related to your team playing at 3.5 and 4.0. I thought you couldn't do that in USTA league play. Wouldn't you be DQ'ed?


Hall of Fame
I have noticed that recently I fall into a haze early in the second set much like you describe ... I think in my case after winning the first set I start to think about how the other courts are doing. I peek over and look for clues in their body language.

Fortunately I used the little trick below and I have been able to recover before getting in to much trouble .... but this is what has worked for me:

Rather than focus on "this point", I focus on a specific tatic. For example I will walk back to my partner and tell him specifically what I am going to do and/or what I want him to do. For example:

"serve the T and I will step to the middle and take anything I can get my racquet onto"


"I am going to kick the ball up high on his backhand, poach hard early ... even if he sees you, he wont be able to drive the ball down the line and we might get an easy point"


I intend to return short and wide ... watch your line

I find that this specific type of communication between me and my partner gets the point started in the right direction and after that everything is a reaction to the situation any way. Saying things like "focus on this point" Are generic and do not get me going in the right direction.


I sometimes have the same problem. I think in doubles the problem is that neither partner wants to be the first one to start screwing up. So both get timid. And of course this happens at the exact moment that the opponents have their backs against the wall. Bad things start to happen.

I have had some success with having a little conversation with my partner during the set change. I suggest that our goal should be to make sure our opponents don't get more games than they got in the first set. So if we won the first set 6-3, we focus on holding the opponents to two games.

This does seem to help. When the opponents win two games, we get that feeling of having our backs against the wall, and we start playing as aggressively as we did in the first set.

I find this strategy works better than telling yourself to play like the first set never happened. We all know it did happen. Better, I think, is to focus on making a concrete thing happen in the second set -- something you both know is attainable because you already did it in the first set.


I find the more I think, the more trouble I get into. Looking to see how other courts are doing, holding opps to certain number of games, etc just complicate things. OK, you know the opp is gunning for you now, so they weren't trying in the first set? YOU have the lead, let them get tight!Focus, play like you know how, fight, WIN, high fives all around!


New User
Thanks to all who replied for your comments and advice.

Our goal for the remainder of the season should be avoiding a letdown in the second set. I think that is exactly what is happening during our matches. Maybe we are taking a mental breather and while doing so there tends to be a considerable momentum shift. We find that we are digging ourselves into deep hole before you know it. However, I think credit is due to our opponents for stepping up their game in the second that is exactly what we would try to do when down in a match.

We will try starting the second set with more thought given to specific tactics. I think short term goals are necessary...playing one point at a time...with specific focus on shot selection...and using aggression with discretion! We were told by our coaches to never change a winning strategy, but perhaps we tend to become careless and rush our shots. Maybe we just become too predictable and our opponenets begin to exploit that.

Anybody else have thoughts and feelings on avoiding a letdown in the second set? Thanks!