13 February 2020

The love set - tennis' own Valentine's gift

It's valentine's day, so time to embrace the love set! It happens to us all, is not as bad as you think and can be used as a psychological weapon.

Love all!

Perfect pArtners?

Tennis is one of the few sports that men and women can play together - is that why we say "love all"? See our Valentine's day look at some of the pitfalls of joining your partner on court

Pic Missouri History Museum

And an on court romance!

Did you catch our Meet the Player interview eaerlier in the year? After a long break, Rob got back into tennis by playing in the Cheltenham Parks Tennis League and when he and his girlfriend fell in love with the sport, a tennis court was the natural place for him to propose.

Tennis players, like thier fans, love a statistic and bagel statistics are among the most quoted. From 2004 to 2013 there was even a Golden Bagel Award given to the male pro who delivered the most bagels. Roger Federer held the record for the most in any one year, dishing out 19 in 2006.

But it’s not necessarily the number of bagels that matter, it’s when they occur. Despite his record for delivering bagels, Federer was on the wrong end of one when he lost the 2008 French Open final to Rafa Nadal, 1-6, 3-6, 0-6. But afterwards, it was not so much the bagel that bothered him as his overall performance. “I would have hoped, of course, to get more today than four games,” he told the crowd. So if you want to avoid a bagel knocking a huge whole in your confidence, what can we amateurs learn from the pros?

Never say die
Tara Moore was 0-6, 0-5 and 30-40 down against Jessika Ponchet last year when she hit a smash which clipped the net but landed on the line. It gave her just the boost she needed. In a turn around for the record books, Moore won 7-6, 6-3. She is not the only player to pull a rabbit from her tennis cap. In the 1983 US Open, Barbie Bramblett was 0-6, 0-5, 0-40 against Ann Hulbert. Like Moore, her position was as dire as it gets. But she saved 18 match points and went on to win 0-6 7-5, 6-3. "Obviously I thought the match was over, and I was so embarrassed," she said later. "So I started swinging out on the ball, and my game elevated miraculously. I mean it was a literal miracle. Every ball I hit skidded on the line. I couldn't believe what was happening." So don't give up. Miracles happen.  

No mercy
If you are winning, should you show some love and give your opponent a game? Absolutely not, says Chris Everert. “I had no problem winning love and love. I think that’s the streak you have to have if you’re going to be a champion,” In her academy, she advises players to take the emotion out of their matches, and Andy Murray would agree. In 2007 at the Australian Open he was 6-0, 6-0, 5-0 up against the Spaniard, Alberto Martin and was furious with himself when he lost a game.  “I didn’t want to lose a game if I didn’t have to,” he said later. “You probably get one chance in your lifetime to win a match, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.” Andy had to settle for 6-0, 6-0, 6-1. Tennis, remember, has no time limit and if you give away one game, it could give your opponent just the chance they need. Stay tough!

Change your game - and expect them to 
Sometimes a player throws the kitchen sink at the first set, hoping to put you on the back foot. It is what happen to Nadal when he met Dominic Thiem in the US Open last year, with Thiem delivering a rare first set bagel and Nadal winning just 7 points. This is the time to remember that there is a long way to go, that your opponent may not be able to sustain this level and that you have learned a lot about how they play. Nadal eventually won 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6 and as Thiem said, "It ends up in the fifth set tie break and he made one more point than me."​ 

Ignore the scoreboard
In 2013 at the US Open, Serena Williams double bagled Carla Suárez Navarro, 6-0, 6-0 (in Switzerland, this is also known as a bicycle). What was going through her mind? “Well, you don’t really think about it,” said Serena afterwards. “You just think about winning the points and winning the games.” It’s good advice. Get too hung up on the score board, and you will start concentrating on the wrong thing.

Don't lose focus
Wondering who is most vulnerable to a lopsided match, in which the score includes a 6-0 or 6-1 set, the Tennis Abstract blog says "One might guess that the strongest servers would be far down the list, while counterpunchers populate the top. That isn’t the case.  The players who are known for mental lapses – regardless of their serving and returning skills – seem to dominate the upper tier." Looking at all tour-level match from 2007 to July 2011, it says “we find that Andy Murray takes the cake.  He has played in 18 of these matches, dropping a lopsided set in 10 of his victories, while winning a lopsided set in 8 of his losses.”  So if you want to avoid a bagel, focus!

Accept, Control, Choose
Whether you are Novak Djokovic (who was bagelled by Nadal in the finals in Rome last year) or a Local Tennis League player, you will go down 0-6. It is part of the game, it happens to everyone and it is going to happen to you. So how to deal with it. The USTA recommends building resilience by Accepting what happens (that frustrating net chord, the ball that the wind carries right on to the line), Controlling what you can control ie  how you react ('Don’t allow them to gain confidence from your reactions') and crucially, Choosing a plan. So the first set went wrong: what can you change? Hit every ball to their backhand? Come to net? Hit deeper? Hit shorter? Out hit them if you have powerful strokes? Make them run if you don't? This could be time to try your sneaky drop shots, the slice you have been working on, or just try to hit every ball as well as you can. If you remember there is something to learn from every match, try to work out their weakness and think 'process not outcome', you can learn to love a bagel.