Match tips: Be resilient when your opponent is lucky

March 10, 2016 02:06 PM

By Dr. Larry Lauer, special to

Imagine you are set point down in a long rally. You are fighting, trying to stay in the set with everything you have. Then your opponent hits a cross-court backhand off the net cord. You watch the ball pop in the air and land on your side. Despite your best efforts, you are now a set down. 

If you want to come back in the match, the issue is not your luck. A leprechaun is not playing tricks on you. If you focus on your misfortune, you will struggle. The key is to be able to accept what has happened and refocus on tennis. You must be resilient!

The luck of the Irish does not always just happen to your opponents; it has happened to you as well. Take a moment to remember times when you got some breaks on a line call, a bounce, anything that was out of your and your opponent’s control. 

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is a tendency to only believe information that supports your story. “I never get breaks; my luck is so bad.” Therefore, you pay more attention to times when you don’t get the bounce compared to when you do. If the story in your head is one of bad luck and never getting the breaks, you will convince yourself that this is true. Even when you get a break you will think, “Finally, I get a break; I never get the bounce,” and it turns into more negativity.

The ACC Model

The real issue is dwelling on your bad luck and letting that affect your mindset. This negative mindset will inevitably affect the next couple of points, games and maybe the rest of the match. What can you do? Use the ACC model of managing emotional reactions. 

ACC stands for Accept, Control and Choose: 

  1. Accept the bad bounce or broken string. If you can accept that luck happens, you will be fine and you will be able to let go of it. The dwelling stops and you begin to refocus on playing tennis.
  2. Focus on what you control: your ability to react to the bad bounce. When you react negatively to poor luck, you allow your opponent to feel he or she is getting to you. Don’t allow them to gain confidence from your reactions. When a bad bounce happens, go to your strings and begin the process of accepting, controlling and making a good choice for the next point.
  3. Choose a plan. What do you want to do? Feel bad for yourself or play great tennis? Focus your mind on your strategy. 

Take Misfortune and Turn It Into Determination

When my opponent gets lucky and slaps a winner from way behind the baseline, I like to think, “Nice shot. That is what it is going to take for you to beat me. Let’s see if you can do it 24 more times.” 
It’s not the tennis gods against you and it’s not the leprechaun undermining you. It is the way we think about the bounces. Commit to more effective responses following a bad break and you will begin to see your performance improve.