Not all points are equally important. In platform tennis, the single most important point is GAME POINT. The explanation is simple: if you lose the point at 15-all, the score becomes 15-30 – not that big a deal, you can certainly recover from that deficit. If you lose the point when your opponents have game point however, you lose the game, there is not much to recover from, that game is forever gone. Conversely, you can be the biggest legend when playing meaningless 15-all points but if you cannot close out games, you will always be the guy who will tell everyone in the Hut after the match how you lost the match 1 & 1 but that you “had game points in at least seven games”. Or my all-time favorite excuse: “we lost 2 & 1 but every game went to deuce” which is a completely meaningless statement if you really think about it. It is nothing else than a convenient way to rationalize how you “were right there” and could/should have actually won the match but in fact all you are doing is admitting out loud how you choked. In reality, you were not “right there” at all, you lost the match because you were not able to play better than your opponents on big points and close out games. The ability to close out games consistently is one of the major differentiators among levels of players because it is a killer instinct that is directly traced to CONFIDENCE – the number one reason why players of seemingly equal ability achieve different levels of success. The players who become particularly alert and aware of game point opportunities FOR EITHER TEAM and are able to PLAY THEIR BEST on those big moments are usually referred to as great players. How do those players do that!?
First off, as I mentioned earlier, it is important to be alert on game point opportunities for EITHER team!? Why for either team!? Obviously, through the course of the match our number one option is HAVING GAME POINTS and CONVERTING. That’s a no brainer, the more game points we have the better our chances to winning games. The second best option we have however is to FACE game points. Why is that!? Because if we are down game points (30-40, 15-40,0-40) and we somehow manage to win those games, the momentum will shift in our favor more often than not. Think about it: how many times do we remember games that we have WON at love or at 15!? Not that often if ever at all, right!? On the other hand, how many times do we remember games we have LOST after being up 40-15 or 40-love!? We almost always do, particularly if we ended up losing that match. Being down game point undoubtedly sucks but you should try to look at it as a great opportunity to turn the match around. If you do lose games when you are down 15-40 or 0-40 it is not that big a deal, you are expected to lose those games anyway. But if you are able to hang in there and somehow manage to win some of those games you will turn the momentum in your favor. All it takes is winning only one or a couple of those games (assuming of course you do not return the favor right away!). A lot of times, your opponents might not recover for the rest of the match. I have been on both ends of this a number of times and for this very reason am always paranoid about the score when playing. Over the years, I have lost and won matches for no reason other than my ability (or inability) to close out games. My partner and I were not better or worse than our opponents yet the outcome of the match ultimately hinged on this reason alone.
How do you close out games you might wonder!? There is no magic potion to it other than common sense:
- You and your partner need to be aware of game point opportunities for EITHER team.
- On game points, play up to your strengths and do not try shots that you do not really have.
- On game points, do not diverge too much from your game plan. In platform tennis, unlike in tennis, one of the biggest challenges is that you do not really play the score – you should play every point pretty much the same from start to finish. That is very difficult to do and a lot of players simply stop thinking in pressure situations and start trying weird things.
- Whenever YOU have a game point (particularly when up 40-15 and 40-0), look to convert on the FIRST opportunity.
Remember: Not all points are equal! Play better than your opponents on big points by converting your own game points and forcing them to leave a lot of their own game points on the table. BE THE CLOSER and you will start winning more matches! Good luck!