The Silent Killer in Tennis – Momentum

by Michael on October 6, 2008 · 2 comments

in ATP News, Tennis Tips

In the game of tennis, there is an invisible force always present. Call it momentum.

In theory, each point should be independent of the previous point. However, this is very rarely the case. The momentum in a match can be built up between points, between games and between sets.

The momentum can be your friend or it can be your enemy. We will talk about both. However, let’s first talk about how to identify momentum.

The momentum is defined by winning it back to back points, back-to-back games all back-to-back sets. Let’s work was an example. The score within the game is 30-30. the person who won the last point, has a little bit of momentum however, if they were down 30 love they would have a lot of momentum. With his momentum they would be more likely to win next point. Momentum is basically when one person is getting upperhand on the other person.

Invisible momentum can be very powerful. If you were down 30 love and you win the next two points you are feeling uplifted and more confident to win the next point. Your opponent on the other hand, would be feeling negative having had such a strong lead and is now back to 30-30.

Momentum can be very powerful when a player wins a few games in a row. Momentum can swing an entire match. Momentum is a very powerful force, it can be your friend or it can be your enemy. Once you realise you have momentum either on your side or against you, you need to take action.

What to do when Momentum is on your side. When momentum is on your side you must nurture it. You must keep the momentum flowing. It is the time to concentrate and not let your opponent back into the game set or match. Do not play any loose points, nor go for any spectacular winners. Simply play good solid tennis and maintain your game plan. Having a nice lead is NOT a time to relax because, by definition, the momentum may swing back against you. In which case you’ll find yourself having to stop the momentum in the other direction.

When momentum is on your side you are trying to hit your opponent while they are down. You do not want them to get up off the ground. Do not open the window for them to jump through. Keep it tightly closed until the end of the match.

Tips that will help you keep momentum:

  • Do not waste time between points. Move efficiently between points, do not rush, but do not waste time. Keep the momentum going and get as many points under your belt as possible. The stronger the momentum the easier the points.
  • Move efficiently between games. Do not waste time and quickly get the balls down to the servers end. On the change of ends, only take a short break and keep going. Start the next game as soon as possible.
  • In between sets, again move efficiently. Take the shortest amount of time possible, try and start the set as soon as you can.

What to do when Momentum is against you. This one is simple, you must stop it!!

There are many ways to stop momentum. They are actually the opposite of what I mentioned in the previous section. The goal is to change the environment. You must do something to break out of this spiral. Here are a few tips:

  • take a long time between points
  • straighten in your strings
  • Tie your shoelaces
  • change racquets
  • stretch your muscles
  • discuss something with a referee or umpire

Now some not so subtle actions

  • Argue over a line call
  • Hit a ball out of the court so it takes time to retrieve the ball
  • Talk to your opponent on a change of ends. Find something to say to enter their mind
  • Call for injury time
  • Use every second of time you are allowed between, games and sets
  • take a toilet break

We will discuss momentum in a lot more detail in future articles. But for now just be aware of it in your matches and matches that you watch other people play.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tennisnakama October 7, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Precisely because of your advice such as take Toilet Break or Injury Time-out, children learn how to cheat a game. And it kills tennis. We don’t want to see too many players using these tricks. Eventually it will kill the sport.
Tennis should remain as the last gentleman sport. This rarity makes tennis interesting and attracts people.


Michael October 10, 2008 at 1:40 am

Hi TennisNakama,
I totally agree with you. Yes, it does kill the sport. In particular what it kills is exactly what we are talking about – momentum.
I totally agree about tennis remaining a gentleman’s sport. I have huge respect for the history of the game and how it used to be played. I think it is fantastic to see Federer in all whites. I also collect antique tennis items and I am a 3rd generation player. Have a look at tennishistory .com .au for some great stories and old items..
Anyway, back to this article. Yes, these things kill the game. However this is REALITY. I will edit the article move ‘toilet break’ into the not so subtle category.
I know all of these trick to be REALITY. Not because I do them, but these are completely obvious and done against me.
When I traveled around Europe playing tournaments this IS what happens. It is ‘dog eat dog’ and people will do anything to win. Peoples lives are on the line and they will do EVERYTHING to win. There are thousands and thousands of hungry tennis players trying to make it up the tournament levels.
The reality is in matches with no umpire that line calls WILL be called AGAINST you and there is nothing you can do about it. If you do call for a referee or have an arguement the momentum is broken and you disrupt yourself. Sometimes it is better to suck the line call in and try not to let it throw you.
Some guys are desperate and will do anything to win. This is what is paying for their hotel accommodation for the night. It puts a different angle on the game. Fight for survival.
This article also highlights WHAT the opposition is trying AGAINST you. If I knew this before traveling I would have been better prepared for the ‘tricks’ that are played against everyone. It is another part of the game to be prepared for.
Thanks again for the comment. I think this extra discussion really helps the article!


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