Understanding The Impact of “Momentum”

May 16, 2006 02:12 PM

Dr.Robert Heller

Momentum shifts occur naturally and often in tennis matches for many reasons. How you react to momentum shifts will determine if you are able to maintain the momentum when it’s positive or change it when it is negative. First, let’s examine some of the causes of momentum shifts.

One of the common causes of momentum shifts is winning or losing a few consecutive points. When you start winning a few points, you become more confident. If you were tense earlier on you might feel more relaxed and start to play better. If you were behind a game or two and playing less intense, you might suddenly increase your focus and intensity. Perhaps you start going for every ball and get a few more back drawing a few extra errors from you opponent.

Another cause of momentum shifts is a perception that your opponent is letting down, missing shots or becoming negative with himself. When this occurs you see it as an opportunity to dig in and take advantage of the situation. The shift here might be you start playing more aggressively and take control of the point earlier.

Momentum shifts can easily occur when you or your opponent appear very fatigued, injured or hurt. The drop shots you were running down and putting away in the first set, you can’t seem to get to in the second set. By the third set, you may not even bother to go after them!

Momentum shifts also frequently occur at times in the match like 5-3. Rather than closing out the set, you may start to let down, prematurely thinking it’s over, only to find yourself making an easy error or two or your opponent making a last ditch effort to recover.

Finally, a bad call, lucky shot or delay of game for any reason can also trigger momentum changes.

It’s important to accept the fact that momentum changes will occur in most matches for any number of reasons. By recognizing when they tend to occur and their causes, you can begin to develop an effective coping strategy to deal with it.

Next time, we will look at specific strategies to make momentum changes work for you.

Dr. Robert Heller is a psychologist, sports psychology consultant and certified tennis instructor based in Boca Raton, Florida. He is the author of the 2-volume mental conditioning CD-Rom program, “TENNISMIND.” For information on sports enhancement training, workshops and other services, contact him at (561) 451-2731,
robertheller@adelphia.net or visit www.thewinningedge.usptapro.com.