PLAYING AHEAD (13)

Perhaps one of my premier coaching attempts centered on pressure and
playing “ahead.” You are either tied, ahead, or behind. Behind and tied are
motivators enough. Playing while ahead is a critical emotional moment.
I don’t know how many matches I saw unfold like this:
Player A is ahead 5–3 in the third set. His opponent is serving. In the back
of Player A’s head drifts this dangerous thought: “Even if I lose this game, I
can serve out the match.”All this results in a lackluster effort at another, and match-winning, service break. The opponent breaks for 5–5 and the “momentum” has reversed itself. Now the pressure, and its power, has shifted dramatically.
Teaching “killer instinct” is key. Ahead a service break? Get a second.
I think that the most vulnerable points are “ahead points,” 40–15 and
30–0. These are the points that 20 year olds lose concentration on, thus
allowing that “old sinking feeling” to reenter.
When ahead, keep the pressure off yourself by staying ahead.

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