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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Taking Points Off…What?

I know… Sounds crazy right off. What happened to playing every point all out? Giving "110%" on every one. Playing each shot as if it's your last. This is always great motivation, especially regarding physical effort, and should be given if one is determined to make a good result even possible. But, if you are hustling, working hard, and you're not dialing in your A-game, or at a very minimum a fairly solid one, then, take a moment and change gears.

Stop fighting yourself.

Everyone has those days when your game is misfiring, particularly early on in the first few games of a match when, often triggered by an all too typical club player, disinterested, truncated non-warm-up since someone has declared, "Let's not waste any more time warming-up."

Huh? Who are these people?

Nonetheless, there's still plenty of time to regroup, especially since there's no time clock in tennis! It is okay to start anew, even if it means - worst scenario - dropping the first set while you're righting yourself. It's two out of three sets, right?

When you are completely out of sorts and can't find a rhythm, with no fluidity to your shot making or movement, trying too hard and not relaxed, over hitting, strangling the grip, fighting the ball, not seeing the ball well, afraid to make errors, visualizing failure, overcome with self-doubt, and becoming emotionally negative………. take a few points off.

Try better not harder, the latter connotation typically resulting in over-amped, inefficient muscle tension. If you will: relaxed muscles are smart, tight muscles are dumb. I like the smart phone vs flip phone analogy.

What does it take to relax in the face of adversity? Courage.

Taking points off, advocated by none other than Paul Annacone, current Tennis Channel commentator and former coach of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, is not a bad strategy in order to reboot your faltering game since, at that juncture with it all going wrong, you have no chance otherwise for a good outcome.

Stop worrying about a losing score line or how badly you're playing. Instead focus on, pure and simple, beginning to raise your level without stressing over a few points lost, or even, dare I say, a couple of games, in order to get back into the match big picture. Of course, you want to win, but it's not going to happen if you are fearfully and tentatively jamming square pegs into round holes with zero feel for the ball, resulting in a growing defeatist outlook. Standing pat isn't going to cut it.

What is that definition of insanity?

Jimmy Connors, still the all-time men's leader in both tournaments won and matches won (Federer is a close second but unlikely to catch him), was known for his bad boy image in his early years, only to become beloved in his sunset years. At his worst, he could behave boorishly and get angry, but it was never at himself. He was always about solutions to right his game when struggling.

Coach yourself up by finding your rhythm and recapturing a free-flowing game. Go for bigger targets versus trying to hit winners or painting the lines. Make the opponent(s) play.

Work with the ball, not against – the ball is not the enemy! Team-up with it. Welcome it.

Mix up your shot selection with some overt slicing, a few drop shots as well to bring them in, maybe go into pusher mode to disrupt their timing.

Yogi Berra

And always energize your footwork – the physicality of this can quiet your mind and calm you down - even if it's a bit overzealous for a few games. I can still hear former LTA British pro Steve Heron saying years ago to his players at a Ft. Myers Beach, FL mini camp, "No feet, no game, no future."

Start visualizing success, not failure. That means successful shots in your mind's eye – that's not only intended shot direction but margin over the net as well, along with shot shape/trajectory too – versus a rudderless, deer in the headlights, hoping for success "over there somewhere," afraid to make an error state of mind.

Think in pictures, not 10 point check lists. Get more balls in play. As previously noted – worth repeating - make them play. Hell, let them play. They'll start making unforced errors.

Bodie Miller, the highly decorated daredevil Olympic and World Cup U.S. Alpine skier, and also an accomplished tennis player (his parents ran a junior tennis camp in his home state of NH), when asked what he liked most about playing tennis said, "The scoring system. You can make a bunch of errors and still recover to win."

You can too.

Who knew that baseball Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra, also known for his Will Rogers style, down-to-Earth wisdom, had what can be considered a good 'take' on all this, "When you come to a fork in the road take it."


Copyright© 2019 by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

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Past Essays

  • December 2023 - The Forgotten Stop Volley
    [read more]
  • November 2023 - "You're Only as Good as Your Second Serve"
    [read more]
  • October 2023 - good misses vs bad misses
    [read more]
  • September 2023 - Why good players are good players!
    [read more]
  • August 2023 - On poaching and fake poaching: Becoming a Force at the Net in Doubles
    [read more]
  • July 2023 - The Beautiful Game is Getting Ugly
    [read more]
  • June 2023 - The Approach Dropper: Lob Killer
    [read more]
  • May 2023 - Why club players don't practice
    [read more]
  • April 2023 - DON'T FIGHT TIGHT
    [read more]
  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
    [read more]
  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner - The "Switch"
    [read more]

Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
    [read more]
  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
    [read more]
  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
    [read more]
  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
    [read more]
  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
    [read more]
  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
    [read more]
  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
    [read more]
  • March 2022 - Caving
    [read more]
  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
    [read more]
  • January 2022 - The Knees
    [read more]


  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
    [read more]
  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
    [read more]
  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
    [read more]
  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
    [read more]
  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
    [read more]
  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
    [read more]
  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
    [read more]
  • May 2021 - The Focus
    [read more]
  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
    [read more]
  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
    [read more]
  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
    [read more]
  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
    [read more]


  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
    [read more]
  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
    [read more]
  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
    [read more]
  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
    [read more]
  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
    [read more]
  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
    [read more]
  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
    [read more]
  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
    [read more]
  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
    [read more]
  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
    [read more]


  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
    [read more]
  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]


  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]


  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.