Help with Slow Starts in Matches Needed

Koaske

Rookie
One of the biggest problems I have when playing competitive matches (in a tournament, for example) is that I always need some time to get my timing right. The worst situation is when I have to play on a court where I have never played before and against an opponent I haven't played against.

In an ideal situation, I'm able to hit for 30 minutes or so on the court before the match, or alternatively, hit for one hour earlier that day. However, this is not always the case, and sometimes I can't warm-up on the court for more than just those allowed 5 minutes.

In these cases, I do some off-court warming-up though. I try to jog to get the adrenaline going and take shadow swings to warm-up my muscles. However, that doesn't help my coordination and timing very much, and usually when start the match, it might take 4-7 games before my timing is at the level where I want it to be.

In the beginning of the match this often results in errors or shots that don't go where I want them to (for example, straight in the middle), and allow the opponent to take control of the point. I've also tried "warming up" during the first games by mostly hitting crosscourt shots just to get more feel, but I might still make too many errors in the beginning.

Needless to say, it's hard for me to win the first set if I don't get my game working before being down 1-4 or 2-5.

Any tips on what might help overcoming this?
 

kiteboard

Banned
There is hardly any warm up provided by directors. No one to hit with as well. You need to swing the frame, as fast as you can until the arm shoulder are warmed up. Then find a net to hit against, near the doubles alleyway. The ball will bounce back towards you very fast and low. Just keep the ball going against the net until you are warmed up, on either side, and break a good sweat, and get the blood pumping. Shorten your strokes, so you can react faster, and really drive the ball hard with shorter strokes, to rebound the ball. Use a two bounce rhythm if necessary.

Since the time you have to react is cut down, due to the short distance of bounce back, it only takes a few minutes of this technique to warm up well enough to have confidence that you are ready to go.
 

Sreeram

Professional
I struggle with this in my league matches. I dont face this in normal sets which I play with my friend. I guess in my case it is more of a mental thing.
In my last 2 competitive matches I tried not to hit weird angles and concentrated on basics for first few games. Try to hit the ball with your normal swing into a direction where you wont miss. Say mostly into the middle. Let your opponent hit the winner. Also try to watch the ball for a split second even after hitting it.
When you ralley before the start of set try to give equal number of shots for both your BH and FH. If your opponent hits to your FH during practice ralleys before a match then move to hit few BH as well. So that both your shots are well set before the match.
 

Koaske

Rookie
Sreeram: Hitting in the middle will get me in trouble with most opponents, since they can start dictating play and running me from corner to corner from that point. I have, however, tried to play only crosscourt shots in the beginning of a match, since those are definitely my most consistent shots.

kiteboard: The warm-up method you suggested is interesting, but usually, if there's a court available before the match, I can find someone to hit with as well. The real problem is when there is no court available, so I can't hit or do the warm-up you suggested.

joesucks: Glad to hear I'm not the only one with this problem =)
 

salsainglesa

Semi-Pro
hit beforehand... play points, with someone else, no preassure involved. Get your tactics into use.

in practice, you can work on warming up faster, not rushing into it, but concentrating in your footwork and contacts helps... simply focus..
with time you will warm up faster


sorry this didnt help...
ill post something else in a while, no time!
 

Funbun

Professional
Don't just do shadow swings to warm up your muscles. You have to warm up your legs too.
Personally, I try to have very active footwork during rallies. I sometimes even take two split steps just because I need to stay alert.
 

larry10s

Hall of Fame
the obvious answer is play a practice set before you go on the court
since you cant always do that
you need to be very focused in the warm up
using every hit to get your feel
i know youve tried this but i would play more counter puncher style the first few games
nice and steady let your opponent hit the low percentage shots
gets you to find your rhythm
 

Chenx15

Banned
i was about to give you and advice regarding keeping the first points of the first game longer but it seems like you are doing it already. keep your feet moving and hit some heavy tops spins but safe balls i guess. that's quite a pickle
 

Nellie

Hall of Fame
I would definitely be conservative for the first four games (high diagonal with heavy top spin or slice and with 3/4 pace). Likewise, I would go with second serves. I know it is frustrating because you will feel like you are losing most points. I am trying to get warm up time on the court with minimal damage. I am hoping to lose 2 long games in 30 minutes to avoid going down a set in that same time.
 

Larrysümmers

Hall of Fame
what i do is a lot of dynamic stretches and some plyos to get the blood pumping. so that way when you do have that 5 mins. you can work on your timing rather than warming up the legs, shoulders etc.
 

Devilito

Hall of Fame
It’s impossible. There is no magic cure. This worked fine for me in juniors but I’ll tell you why. In juniors we trained 5-6 days / week. Trained so much that when the tournament time came you were still in the grove from the last training session. So while a 5 min warmup still sucked it wasn’t as bad as now. Now that I’m pushing 35 and play 2 times/ week if im LUCKY, when a tournament comes 5 min is impossible because it might have been 4 days earlier that I played. So like you I need a good 30 min to build timing and consistency back up. Best solution? None. Unless you can play before hand you’re screwed. Best advice I can say is start the match easy and focus on nothing but really shots. However if you’re playing Open or something then your opponents won’t give you the luxury to get yourself into a grove. Sometimes tennis can be frustrating that way and this is a huge beef with me.
 

maverick66

Hall of Fame
This is why I always say play cross court on the first set or at least games. You are cold and not feeling the ball to well therefore play it safe and stay with crosscourt patterns. Give away no free points and find your game.

Even with a warm up before the match you are not playing live points so you are cold pressure wise. Once there is something on the line you will tighten up and your accuracy wont be as good. So give yourself a bigger margin for error and play smart. Let your opponent make the mistakes to start. Once you are into the match slowly start to go for a little more. You might even find that staying crosscourt patterns will net you two sets if your opponent is giving you points by blasting.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Earlier in the day, get on the courts, any courts (if the tournament courts are not available), and get in an extended practice session. Start off with some short-court (mini-tennis) to get the hand-eye coordination and the reflexes primed.

Do 15-20 minutes of cardio, shortly before heading over to the tournament site. This, along with the earlier practice session, did wonders for giving me a much faster start in my matches. Alternately, take a jump rope with you to the match site. Use this in conjunction with other dynamic warmup stretches/exercises. Be sure to use shadow swings and footwork patterns as a part of your off-court dynamic warmup.
 

thug the bunny

Professional
Can't help you because I too am aflicted by slow start syndrome. I often drop the first 3 games while I get my timing adjusted and lengthen out my swing. I think the root cause is that I have a pretty long swing and like to hit out as much as possible, and this takes timing. Luckily, once I get into it I can almost always come back, but sometimes if it takes longer than usual my confidence starts to slip and I have to find other ways to adjust...
 

Koaske

Rookie
It’s impossible. There is no magic cure. This worked fine for me in juniors but I’ll tell you why. In juniors we trained 5-6 days / week. Trained so much that when the tournament time came you were still in the grove from the last training session. So while a 5 min warmup still sucked it wasn’t as bad as now. Now that I’m pushing 35 and play 2 times/ week if im LUCKY, when a tournament comes 5 min is impossible because it might have been 4 days earlier that I played. So like you I need a good 30 min to build timing and consistency back up. Best solution? None. Unless you can play before hand you’re screwed. Best advice I can say is start the match easy and focus on nothing but really shots. However if you’re playing Open or something then your opponents won’t give you the luxury to get yourself into a grove. Sometimes tennis can be frustrating that way and this is a huge beef with me.
Yes, it seems logical that playing a lot will allow you to find your rhythm faster and stay in the groove most of the time.
I suppose I'll also start to find my timing a little faster as I keep playing. Hopefully, in 5-10 years, I'll be able to find my rhythm faster than now.
I'll just try to improve my overall game in the meanwhile, since against weaker opponents a slow start won't matter that much, because it's a lot easier to make the comeback.

And luckily, I'm not playing open level opponents =D However, they're still good enough to take control if I give them easy balls in the middle.
 

Frank Silbermann

Professional
What Rod Laver used to do in those situations was to hit with topspin. That way, while waiting to get his timing back he could still swing out and keep the ball in.
 
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