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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral


Closed sign on the gate of a tennis court that is chained shut.It's not unusual on occasion to find ourselves put in a vulnerable position in the backcourt by an opponent's incoming deep, penetrating, or even a sharply angled shot. Too often we attempt to one-up-them with an even better response of our own in an emotional, desperate effort to even the playing field "oh yeah" watch this mind-set.

Always tempting, but a generally a bad idea with a low success rate.

Better yet to aspire to trying to just stay in the point, ride out the storm, and keep the ball in play for at least one more shot, stymieing a momentarily advantaged opponent.

Redirecting the pace.

Make them win the point, don't hand it to them on a foolish silver platter. Conversely, they too can get a bit over zealous at the prospect of ending the point, especially following your obstinate in their face "save," and then make an unforced, overkill error with a wide-eyed overreached finisher.

Getting a point in jeopardy back to neutral should, in most instances, be your default response.

For example: I'm positioned on the deuce side in doubles. My opponent delivers a bomb of a forehand three feet from the baseline to my backhand wing that my partner at the net had no chance of poaching. My best response is to absorb and smother the incoming "$100 ball" by taking it on the rise with a controlled, safe cross court return away from a lurking net man - a somewhat underwhelming "$50 ball" that's hopefully deep enough without attempting an overly ambitious equaling pace. This tactic can frustrate an opponent who, seeing their best stuff negated, can become annoyingly cognizant of being denied a point they already had on the board.

Message sent. I will not beat myself. Here, have another one. Counterpunching embraced.

Another approach is to put up a defensive lob. If that's your preference in handling pace, especially when on the run at full stretch, make it a very, very high rainmaker, minimally 40' in the air to disrupt their on-top-of-you favorable position. That's buying time for you and your partner to regroup all the way back defensively, while challenging them to come up with the goods.

Nothing quite like observing a denied opponent blowing an amped-up overhead.

One time you actually should-could take the shot is when you've been pulled out wide way out onto the wing - let's assume again that you're on the deuce side in doubles – by, this time, a sharply angled cross courter. The net man, now looking to poach and anticipating an often weak cross court parry, ignores sliding over initially to take the down the line away, and leans into the middle which you become aware of peripherally. Now, under duress, and possibly unable to strike the ball far enough in front to go successfully cross court anyway, but still with a shot, go with the flow and drive the ball into the open space down the line behind the would be poacher.

Nobody home. You can even be a bit late with your contact point and still pull this off. Maybe every leap year you can go around the net post and experience exalting glory.

Virtually all club level matches, and even most tour level ones as well, are lost not won as a result of too many unforced errors. In club play this amounts to stubbornly playing outside of your true level. You can view the stat sheet at any match's end on the Tennis Channel and readily see the correlation between errors and the match's outcome. Whoever made the most unforced errors loses (thankfully there is talk among ATP officials to start differentiating between forced and unforced). Nonetheless, seldom is the result determined by who made the most winners – most especially in Clubland - except possibly for tour pros on a lightning fast indoor surface, or on the grass at Wimbledon.

Finally, in working with overzealous, over hitting error machines, I try to win them over with the aforementioned tactics in handling incoming big shots. With a little levity I sell: "Use their pace, laugh in their face."

Copyright© 2020 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

  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
    [read more]
  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner – The "Switch"
    [read more]
  • 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]

Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • 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.