How to win a Point

Simplicity is the key here. There are only two ways for you to win a point. That’s it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

1. Hit a winner.

2. Opponent makes an error.

Let’s get rid of all the nonsense, such as unforced errors, and understand this concept clearly.

You can hit a winner – congratulations. Or your opponent can make an error – even better.

I know what you are thinking. Where is the discussion about forced errors and unforced errors? Well, I have always struggled with the concept of what is a forced error and what is an unforced error – and why are we keeping track of them anyway?

So the first thing we are going to do is get a clearer understanding of winners and errors, and build your own unique game style accordingly.

1. Winners

I watch a lot of matches where it seems the #1 tactic for a player is to try and end the point by hitting a winner – every single point. Hitting winners is a tough thing to do, and if you do your homework and understand the percentages, it’s not the primary way to win points.

Tennis is a game of errors much more than it is a game of winners. The following table provides an insight into what percentage of points end up with a winner being hit at the end of the point.

# Match Total Points Total Winners Winners %
1 2010 Australian Open – Federer d Murray 216 71 32%
2 2010 French Open – Nadal d Soderling 181 55 30%
3 2010 Wimbledon – Nadal d Berdych 171 56 32%
4 2010 French Open – Soderling d Federer 245 69 28%
5 2010 Madrid – Nadal d Federer 169 57 33%
6 2010 Australian Open – Federer d Tsonga 139 52 37%
7 2010 Madrid – Federer d Wawrinka 105 35 33%
8 2010 Australian Open – Federer d Hewitt 179 39 21%
9 2009 Monte Carlo – Nadal d Djokovic 174 50 28%
10 2009 French Open – Soderling d Nadal 271 80 29%
  Total 1850 564 30%

So there you have it. We talk a lot about tennis being a game of percentages, but what exactly are the percentages
that matter? Well, these matter…

30% 70%

This gives us perspective. It gives us understanding of our correct game styles, and it stops us being so reckless with our play. Winners are an important part of our game, but they are nowhere near being the most important part.

2. Errors

This is the nature of our game – tennis is indeed a game of errors much more than it is a game of winners. Errors
dominate our game, and our focus needs to be on reducing our errors, and increasing our opponent’s errors. That’s a
game plan right there!

Let’s visit for a minute about the difference between forced errors and unforced errors.

Firstly, what is an unforced error? And who decides whether it was unforced or not?

Unforced errors are simply a record of opinions – not of facts. The theory is that the player missed their shot, and whoever is sitting on the side of the court on this particular day in this particular country thought they should have made it. Are you kidding me? A player plays 70 matches a year and has 70 people sitting court side deciding what is forced and unforced – against different opponents, on different surfaces, on different continents?Please.

The sideline scorer or umpire makes a judgment call based on what – technique? I am not buying that one bit.

It does not take into account the pressure or court position of the opponent, the natural conditions, the game plan, how the player is feeling physically and mentally, etc. There are way too many variables to make a guess as to what is an unforced error.

And why are we keeping track of unforced errors, and not forced errors? Forcing your opponent to make an error is definitely the #1 way to win a point in tennis. Make it tough for them, make them miss, and do it again. It is much better to track this stat than the unforced errors – which are simply birthday presents. You never know how many you are going to get, and you certainly have no control over them.

So as you can see, the current system of tracking stats is completely broken. We track unforced errors, which at best are a loose opinion – and players have no control over how many their opponent gives them. But we don’t track
forced errors, which is the best way to win a point. Something is definitely screwed up here.

So from now on – an error is an error is an error. You don’t get a bonus point if some guy sitting on the side of the court thinks it’s unforced. It’s an error.

We have now taken the opinion out of the equation and realize that the #1 way to win a point in tennis is to hit a
quality ball that makes it tough on the opponent and they make an error.

That is something that is high percentage for us, and we can consistently repeat throughout the match.

That sounds like a game plan to me.

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