Here we go, as promised! Today I'm going to talk about the dangers of being up two games to love. This past weekend I saw many people in the 2-0 trap. Their opponent picks up their game a bit and next thing you know we have a battle on our hands. I saw a couple of people come back from being down 2 games and even down with a handful of match balls. I also saw one boy come back from down 10-4 in the fifth! I posted recently about the importance of never giving up and playing every rally the same, but clearly some of the kids aren't following my blog!
So why do people lose a game when they're up 2 and in control of the match? Do they drop their game or does the opponent pick up theirs? Often it is a bit of both. Sometimes the worse thing is to win a game too easily. It's easy to drop off your game and think ahead that the match is over. It can be quite challenging to remain in the zone and focused when you're not coming up against much resistance.
When you're down 2 games to love some juniors in particular mail it in. They have been beaten psychologically and don't have any belief that they can comeback. Often if they feel this way that is what will happen. If someone is down and out, don't give them any sign of life. Let them go down quickly. Don't mess around and try and get some rallies or a workout. Do what you've been doing those first 2 games until the match it over.
If you do mistakenly let your opponent get a bit of belief that can become quite dangerous. That is why it is much harder to finish off an opponent that never quits. When they're back is up against the wall, as in being down 2 games to love they are going to come out and throw everything at you. They may try and change up their gameplay. You should expect they are going to either pick up the pace or lengthen the rallies. If you're going to beat a player like this it isn't going to be without a fight. This is the mentality you have to expect from your opponent. Expect that they are going to give it everything they've got even if they played a poor game or 2 previously. If you are expecting a battle you will be more focused on the present and your tactics. When we begin to think things are over and we look ahead to the finish line we get in trouble. This is when we are prone to an attack. Don't let yourself be caught in this mindset daydreaming about how well you're playing and what's for lunch. Momentum is a big thing in squash. When you lose it and lose control of the rallies it can be tough if not impossible to get back in control again and this is why we see so many people lose the 3rd game after being up 2 love.
Another reason we are vulnerable when we're up 2 games to love is that we may try and do something different. You shouldn't mess with a winning formula. But if you're opponent adjusts and changes things you have to be able to counter this. Sometimes it takes a game or 2 to figure out an opponent and then all of the sudden you get used to their game and begin to make inroads. This happens when you're playing someone that fatigues or someone you're playing for the first time.
So what can you do when you're up 2 love? How do you keep your focus and intensity up? Here are a few methods I like to use.
1) Have a between point routine that keeps you focused or refocused at the start of each point
2) Expect a tough game
3) Aim to get to 5 points first so you come out of the blocks in the 3rd game flying and killing any dreams of a comeback from your opponent
4) Often people lose focus between games when they start talking about things other than the current match. Keep your talk and mindset on what's happening until the match is complete.
5) Challenge yourself to see how few points you can give up in the next game
In practice it is difficult to recreate this situation. You can play momentum games where you have to win x# of rallies in a row to win a game. This makes you stay focused for each point as every point if important. You can also play a normal match, but whoever wins the first game counts as 2 games! This is a good one for slow starters too!
What can you do when you're down 2 love? You're opponent is susceptible in this situation so don't give away the match. Look at these as opportunities and challenges! It's not over 'til it's over. Here are a few methods I like.
1) Try and make the 3rd game as long as possible
2) Just get every ball back. Fight for every single point and don't go down without laying it all on the line
3) Try a different strategy. Speed it up, slow it down, look to volley more, etc
4) Try and get to 5 points first
5) Only use positive self-talk. It's easy to get down on yourself because things aren't going your way, but don't beat yourself up over it
6) Stop thinking about winning or losing. Focus on the basics, simply finding better length and width
Often when you're down 2 love you relax because you do think it's over. You start going for shots that you normally don't try or make, but because you're so relaxed and not worrying about winning anymore you play your best squash. This happens in golf all the time. After people have a bad first 9, they have a beer at the turn and loosen up and stop thinking about their great score they want to shoot that day. This can also happen in squash. It shows how important being able to control our nerves and anxiety. If we can play relaxed and almost carefree we tend to play better. Everyone is different though. Some people need to be intense and focused to play well.
Anyways, I hope you've enjoyed this topic. I see the 2 love trap happen all the time. With experience it should happen less. Next time you're up or down 2 games try some of my strategies to either finish off the match or get back in it.
Are there any other methods for turning around a match that you find effective? What about for closing out a match when you're up 2 love?