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No Risk, No Reward

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Man hitting a service return on a clay court.

By Michael Popienko, USPTA Certified Elite Tennis Professional

Are the points that we play consequential or inconsequential? Are the games, sets, matches, or the practices that you play consequential? These questions must be answered for one MAJOR reason: personal growth. As a true athlete, you should aspire to improve; you should want to know when to take a calculated risk to develop your tennis game. After all, the biggest risk in life is not taking one! This is especially true for anyone who takes tennis lessons.

Have you ever felt fearful of attempting something new in a real match that you know you can do in practice? You are what I call a victim of “carefulitus,” just an inadvertent victim of disorganized thinking.” Let me help you to get this notion down once and for all. Not ALL points played in tennis are important. Do not be a victim and believe in such a mental abyss, all the while attempting to aspire to improve your tennis game. Luv-Luv is not an important point!

Know these inconsequential point scores: Luv-Luv, 40-Luv, Luv-40 just to mention a few. These points are sometimes called “free” points on TV during professional matches; free to become better when it counts. When it doesn’t count, learn to take a risk; be free of pressure while attempting anything to improve. Imagine winning an inconsequential point! This is a massive confidence booster in your mind that you get for FREE! Imagine now losing an inconsequential point. Who cares? That’s like fretting over losing a 2019 U.S. penny on the ground when you are in a rush. It’s just a penny! Move on!

Know these inconsequential set scores: You are up 5-0 in the set; all points in the 6th game are virtually free. Do as you wish, for you have a huge lead! So, you are down 0-5 in the set, all points in the 6th game are virtually free as well. Do as you wish, for you are so far behind, why not have fun while you’re about to lose? Lighten up!

Nearly all non-service games – being on serve – are basically inconsequential games. Do as you wish the entire game. You’ve earned it! You held your serve and got your challenge done by winning the game. Now go on vacation in the next game. Tennis says hold your serve and break your opponent’s serve “once,” but NOT as many times as you can. That’s not the point of tennis. All work and no play make any game way too much pressure and no fun.

So, there you have it. Contemplate the score and play on with freedom, confidence, and joy. It’s just more fun!