THOUGHT PROCESS: FIRST GAME
The opening points of a match may not seem terribly important. Nothing will be decided by them, so you can take a moment to ease into the match, right? Well, yes and no. While you won’t win or lose anything in the first game, you can still set a tone for the rest of the day.
It’s not a tone that exists between you and your opponent, but in your own head. How many times have you walked off the court after a loss and said, “It just wasn’t my day.” That attitude, which is an excuse like any other, can begin to form during the early stages.
You miss an easy ball here, blow a break point there, and suddenly you’re wondering if fate is against you today. The key is to find a middle gear right away— don’t take it too easy or think of the match as a sprint—and get all of your shots working as soon as you can.
“You’re starting from a dead stop,” says Allen Fox, Ph.D., former coach of the Pepperdine University men’s tennis team, “so you should be thinking about getting each part of your game functioning to start.”
Fox recommends that you mix in different service spins and placements, and take a little off of your first delivery so you have some success with it early. If one stroke doesn’t feel good, don’t avoid it. Try to put a few into the court. “With the right attitude at the start,” Fox says, “you can prevent an off day before it begins.”