Winning Ugly

O.k., I didn’t win, but I did learn something very valuable. I have been reading Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert. He suggests scouting your opponent, evaluating their weak points and exploiting them to win the match. Brad Gilbert is the guy, after all, who precipitated John McEnroe’s first retirement at age 27 by beating him 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 leading McEnroe to say, “When I start losing to players like him I’ve got to reconsider what I’m doing even playing this game.”

I have played against T. countless times, usually losing. I know he has a killer topspin forehand, it bounds irretrievably over my head and into the fence at least a few times each match, and I’ve adjusted by taking the ball in the air when possible but I’ve never made up a list of his weaknesses and thought about ways to take advantage of them.

During warmup I noted that his backhand is a slice backhand that stays down and is a bit erratic so I decided to hit to his backhand as much as possible throwing in some junk – high looping shots. I already knew that he has a patsy second serve but during the match I realized that I should approach off his second serve by hitting the ball hard and flat, if I looped the approach shot it sat up and made it easier for him to pass me. Also during the match, I realized that if I hit a short shot to his backhand, he had to lift the ball up on his approach shot and that made it easier to pass him or hit an overhead.

During league play I know the schedule for the season so that will allow me to scout my next opponent during league play this week.

Practice and Competition Report: practiced for an hour, played two sets and two rally games with T: 3-6, 5-7, 5-15, 18-20
Solutions Analysis:
1. Looking for a solution to the problem of hitting overheads into the net. Possible solution: think about where I want to ball to land – my opponent’s baseline – as I hit the ball.
2. Keep my legs straight while doing forward bends during yoga practice.
Success Analysis:
1. I was able to place my serve well.
2. I hit some winning passing shots.