The Game’s Most Important Points
Developing a Pressure Point Game Plan

I wish to thank Mike Uretsky for this article and a valuable contribution to the tennis strategy section.

By Mike Uretsky
It’s 5-4 and 40-30 in the third set of a tough two out of three set match. You have been in this position numerous times, but have often failed to close out tight matches.

As you step towards the baseline to serve, self-doubt begins to creep into your mind.

Should you go for an ace and try to end the point early? Maybe it is best to play it safe and try to draw an error from your opponent?

More doubt enters your mind as you try to figure out what to do. Your mind is moving very quickly and you continue to second guess your strategy.

As a high school, I have watched many players face this situation and end up squandering a lead in a close match. These players have been unable to figure out best strategy when they reach the most crucial point in a match.

In analyzing pressure situations in a tennis match, there really is not a single strategy that works best for everyone as they face the most critical points that can decide a win from a loss. Instead, the most effective strategy lies in having a plan and implementing that plan.

In fact, the players that tend to be most successful in the key points are those that have actually decided how they will approach these pressure situations prior to even stepping on the court. Players who have spent time thinking about and developing a game plan to play the critical points in a match are much more likely to find success when faced with a pressure situation in a match.

A plan that is developed to be used during the most pressure filled points in a match is called a pressure point game plan. Having a pressure point game plan is often the key to winning the big points and pulling out the close matches.

As many players can testify, tennis matches are often won and lost in a few key points.

One of the best ways for players to learn to deal with pressure situations in tennis is to examine the strategies of players who are successful when a match gets to a critical stage.

Much can be learned from looking at two successful pressure tennis players who overcame difficulty dealing with pressure to develop into competitors that exemplify the ability to excel under pressure.

These players were able to develop a pressure point game plan that could be used when critical points in a match arose.

One of the players had a naturally aggressive style on the court that involved playing attacking tennis throughout a match by rushing the net and taking the ball on the rise from inside the baseline to hit winners. This player became successful on the big points because he developed a game plan that took advantage of his style.

Each time there was a big point in a tight situation, he put his plan into action which involved hitting a medium paced first serve to the wide side of the service box and then following the ball to the net off the serve.

He reasoned that his pressure point game plan should be one that maintained his aggressive style of play and put pressure on his opponent during a big point. By hitting a decent first serve and being at the net, his opponent would most likely try for too difficult a shot and had little chance of succeeding under pressure.

When critical points in a match arose, he was decisive about the implementation of his plan, which prevented self-doubt from entering his mind. This led to success while playing big points under pressure.

A similar story is true of another player who was a classic baseliner.

His style of play enabled him win many points by being patient and consistent from the baseline. When big points arose, he implemented a pressure point game plan that involved taking pace off his first serve then sitting back behind the baseline hitting safe balls with high clearance over the net until his opponent lost patience and was bated into trying to go for too good a shot.

He reasoned that on pressure points, his opponents would want to end the points early and then make an error while rushing to hit too good a shot. He felt that his best pressure point game plan would be to play defensively and wait for his opponent to lose patience and crack. Both of the players described above were able to find a strategy for playing pressure points that was well suited to their abilities.

More importantly they developed a pressure point game plan well before they found themselves facing a tight situation in a match.

While many players decide how to play pressure points on the spot, the key to finding success involves developing a pressure point game plan before finding yourself in a pressure situation. When players learn about the importance of having a pressure point game plan, they often ask how to develop a plan that will be most effective.

The answer for each player lies in reflecting on his/her own style of play. Players should spend time thinking about and determining the style of play or the pattern of play in which they are the most confident.

Players should then choose a style or point pattern for their pressure point game plan that is most well-suited to their strengths.

For example, a player who feels most comfortable serving to the wide side of the service box and then following the serve to the net can adopt this patterned play as a pressure point game plan. Once a pressure point game plan is chosen the key for the player is to implement it decisively when a big point arises in a close match.

The more a player learns to instinctively use their pressure point game plan for the critical points in a match the more confident they will become and the less self-doubt they will have to face.

Overall, the key to the 5-4 and 40-30 points is to have a plan that is already developed and then implement the plan confidently.

It is during the most crucial points in a tennis match that self-doubt is most likely to creep into a players mind and have the largest impact. By having a pressure point game plan developed that can be used in these tight situations, players can be confident and decisive in the strategy that they will use during the most important situations in a match.

Even if the pressure point game plan does not work initially, it should not be given up on. Over time as players gain confidence in their pressure point game plan it becomes even more likely to be effective.

Decisive implementation of a pressure point game plan will lead to increased self-confidence, better tennis, and improved results during the matches most crucial stages.

Mike Uretsky played high school tennis in Columbus, Ohio and then played college tennis at Ohio Wesleyan University. He became a head high school tennis coach when he was 21 years old and went on to coach many excellent players, including players who have played division I college tennis.

One of the high school teams that he coached won three conference championships and the team won a state championship in 1999.

He has also taught tennis lessons to students of all ages. Mike has a bachelors degree in psychology and masters degree in education and allied professions.

He currently writes articles about tennis based on his experiences as a player and a coach.

Mike Uretsky can be contacted at

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