I love watching matches when the player is match ball down but somehow manages to claw their way back into it and ultimately convert this into a win. There is rarely a more satisfying feeling for a player when able to do this. Not always is this possible however as the opponent only merely needs 1-point but you may need several in a row. The purpose of this blog is to give you some mental tools and ways to talk to yourself when you are match ball down.
I have been lucky enough to speak to a range of professional players about what they try and do when they are facing match balls and below are a few tips they have spoken about in order to give themselves the best chance possible to be a real nuisance and ideally convert this situation into a win.
Use the scoreboard
Remember your opponent is only 1 point away from the victory but you can use this slightly to your advantage. They can see the finish line and their mind may also have ‘won’ the match and they have shaken hands with you. If you can get 1-point, maybe you can get 2. 2 may lead to 3 and all of a sudden there is some momentum going your way. This can now really start to make your opponent nervous and anxious especially if the score is closing to within 1 or 2 points. Players do often see the finish line at match point so try and take advantage of this lapse in concentration that may happen.
Play with purpose
This is not the time to doubt yourself or your game. Try and play with a real purpose and really tell yourself to hit through the ball. This does not mean to just whack it hard aimlessly but to really try and commit to each shot. Being a bit more purposeful with your balance, your follow-through, commit to what you are doing. You need to ensure you are not just tapping the ball hopefully back into play but really doing something with it.
Get high on the T
Do not lose the point by being so far behind the T that you leave the front of the court wide open for your opponent to attack. If you are too deep on the T it takes a lot of pressure off your opponent and they get a feeling they can attack the front of the court without much pressure being put on them. Also, you want to set a good tone and intent and be able to get VOLLEYING the ball too in order to show you are there and going to be difficult to knock off.
Get your feet moving
Be sure to tell yourself and encourage your feet to move. Pick them up and keep them light. This is also closely linked to getting up a higher T position in the above tip. You do not want to lose this point due to being sluggish or flat-footed. You have to tell yourself there is 1 point left in the match and you need to put everything into this physically and not lose by this factor. Really put everything into the speed of feet and ensuring they are active and moving.
Back yourself and take on the correct shot
If the shot is on to take it in short, be sure to do this. But make sure YOU GIVE YOURSELF A SLIGHT MARGIN FOR ERROR, however. This can be viewed a quite a risky tactic, but it is one that the pros encourage. At this point, you want to really trust your attacking game if it’s the right shot. You may still clip the top of the tin and lose the match, but it is better to go out by doing the right thing because over the course of several matches the odds of success should turn to your favour. This is a big mindset shift to be able to do this but try and trust in it.
Make them win
Linked to the above point, be sure to try and not to gift it to them by hitting an easy shot into the bottom of the tip or lobbing way out of the court. Get yourself in the mindset that there is no way you are losing this match by your error and that they have to really up their game to get this final point. If you do end up getting it just wrong by a millimetre this is fine, it’s the real soft error that should be avoided. Also, be sure to not just whack cross-courts onto their racket for them to pick you off. You may also need to consider really extending the rally if there you sense they are physically struggling.
In summary, even if you start to add one of the above tips into your game this may make quite a difference. You can begin to become known as a nuisance and really hard to get off the court even when your opponent reaches match ball. Over time and if you are able to get more of the above tips in, you may just be able to swing a lot of matches back in your favour. These tips are very good reminders for your mindset and little words and phrases that may just help when the odds are stacked against you.
Sign up to the SquashSkills newsletter
Get world class coaching tips, straight to your inbox!