Coach Samson Dubina US National Team Coach 4x USATT Coach of the Year

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Mental Strategies - Part 23

Learn How to Hurdle Some Mental Pitfalls!

In a recent tournament, Shreyans Bafna and I were able to upset a very strong doubles team – Cheng Li (rated 2590) and Yi Chi Zhang (rated 2580).  I’m writing this article, not to brag about our win, but to show you some of the problems that they encountered.  You might encounter some of these exact same problems when playing a lower-rated opponent.
Problem #1 Lack of Focus
In the beginning of the match, they weren’t very focused on we started with a 7-0 lead in the first game.  They probably thought that it was somewhat humorous that we were scoring some points against them. They tied the score at 8-8 and likely thought that they had us “figured out.”  We won the first game 11-8.
Problem #2 Success
Then next game they started off very very focused and got a 7-0 lead.  This early success in the second game actually hurt them.  After the 7-0 lead, they lost focus for a few points and we went ahead 10-7 taking the second game 11-8.
Problem #3 Fear
Next, they played somewhat fearful.  If they had played their best doubles game, we could not have scored even 5 points per game.  However, when they played with less confidence, we were able to capitalize on their mistakes.
Problem #4 Strategy
During the next 2 games, they had the strategy to serve long to Shreyans and push long to Shreyans so that they could counterattack against me.  Shreyans’ ball placement was so good that they could not effectively counterloop with any consistency.  Instead of changing the strategy, the persisted and lost the match.
Final Word
So, the next time you face a lower-rated opponent, here is what you should do.  Take some time to rest before starting and clear your mind of his rating and the fact that you will dominate.  Think about the seriousness of the match and the strategies that you plan to use.  Next, don’t be overjoyed our saddened if you start poorly or start amazingly well in the first or second game.  Keep you focus on the task at hand.  Don’t focus on the score too much and definitely don’t focus on the benefits or consequences of winning or losing.  Next, if you start losing, adjust your strategy point by point.  You shouldn’t lose 1-2 games before adjusting.  If something isn’t working, be willing to change.