We've all been there. Game ball down.
Whether it's the first, second, third, fourth, or even fifth game, every single squash player in the world has been game ball down (unless you've never lost a match in your life)!
Different players react in different ways to being game ball down, however, there's no denying that it adds very real pressure that can infringe on your decision-making, shot selection, and mental state.
There are a few things you can do to even the odds and even tilt them back in your favour to make your comeback, I thought I'd delve in in a blog post.
There are mental and physical factors that play a real role in deciding the outcome of a match, and, when a game reaches that crucial point of 'game ball', every thought and every decision each player makes can have a huge impact on the outcome.
With that in mind, I'll be delving into some mental tips and some physical tips that you can execute to make your comeback...
1. Mindset is Everything
Many players who are game ball down often reach the mindset that they've lost that game. If you think you've already lost when you're just a few points behind, then your odds of actually losing increase exponentially.
If you're 5-2 down, you'd think that you'd be able to come back right? Of course! Well, it's exactly the same if you're 10-7 down, you just need to win three points in a row and you're back in it.
As corny as it sounds, you've got to believe that you can still win at all times, because you can.
Just step back for a moment and think about what your opponent might have in their head, they may be thinking that they have pretty much won that game, even if they're just 10-7, 10-8, or even 10-9 up.
This could be very good news as they may get complacent, but of course, there's no real way of knowing what's going on in your opponent's head.
If they do really believe that they've already won and that they won't have to put much effort in to win one more point, they may indeed take their foot off of the gas, and this is the perfect time for you to make your comeback and even the odds.
You need to bear that in mind and not give them that game for free.
Here's the scenario that I'm trying to describe: player A goes 10-7 up and relaxes (just a tiny bit) because they think they've got that game in the bag. However, the next point ends up being huge and player B puts in a huge amount of effort to win it, making the score 10-8.
I often think of that point as the tipping point.
Now, player A might tighten up and get just a tiny little bit more anxious when they realise that player B is only a couple of points away, meanwhile, player B is now focused fully on their comeback.
This is when the momentum shifts, which conveniently brings me onto tip number 2...
2. Think About Momentum
Momentum players a major part in squash. Even in the closest of matches, players often win a few points in a row (or more), and then when the momentum switches, the opponent may then also win a few points in a row (or more).
This also works when it comes to games and matches as a whole, it's pretty common for one player to go 2-0 up, just for their opponent to come back and reach 2-2, and maybe even win 3-2.
The goal is to try to keep the momentum on your side for as long as possible. A pretty important skill in squash is being able to identify which player has the momentum (whether it's you or your opponent), when the momentum switches, and how to use it to your advantage.
I mentioned that tipping point further up, and to expand on that, I personally believe that the first point after your opponent reaches game ball is the most important one, as this is the point in which the momentum and mindset of both players can switch.
If they went from 9-7 to 10-7 and you can then make it 10-8, it can have a huge impact.
If you're the momentum is in favour of your opponent as they reach game ball and you're feeling defeated, you need to remember two things: there's always a chance that your opponent might have that complacent mindset and it only takes one point for the momentum of a game to shift.
Use that thought to give yourself some positive mental reinforcement as that 'tipping point' just after your opponent goes game ball up is your biggest opportunity to strike.
This leads me onto my third tip...
3. Use The Tipping Point
So, just to hit home what I mean when I talk about the tipping point, this is the point after your opponent goes game ball up.
Obviously, it's pretty important as if you lose the tipping point, you lose the game, however, you could say that about any of the following points. The tipping point is where the momentum tips.
But, how do you use the tipping point?
Well, I'd advise making this rally as difficult and as long as possible for your opponent. You need to show them that you're going to fight to the death for every single point as this can also have an impact on them mentally.
Depending on the player, there's always a chance that they'll go for an easy winner which, unless hit perfectly, could result in an unforced error or allow you to get on top, so that's another positive of being game ball down.
They may also be accurate, so just keep an eye out for them looking to go short early, but otherwise, your approach for the tipping point should be aggressive yet simple...
Try to play consistently accurate lengths and keep that ball to the back of the court. You want to show them that you mean business at the tipping point so I'd advise stepping a little further up the court and really making every effort to dominate the T.
Volley as much as you can and just keep that pressure on.
I know a lot of that is much easier said than done but if you can execute that strategy at the tipping point and win it, you'll shift that momentum in your favour and you should give yourself a much better chance of keeping that momentum for your comeback.
4. Keeping The Momentum
Again, referring back to that scenario in which player A has gone 10-7 up and then player B wins the next point to take it to 10-8, you now want to keep this momentum in your favour and use it to claim as many points as you can.
Remember that even though you're two points away from equalising, you're at least another four points away from winning that game (assuming you're playing two clear points).
Keeping the momentum is vital and even a let ball can interrupt your flow to an extent. Again, this tip is much easier said than done, and I apologise for that but I didn't make the rules!
You want to try to maintain that aggressive style of play (mentioned in tip number three) for as long as you can, however, this can be very physically demanding. So, if you can just keep those rallies long and steady to show that you're still willing to put everything into every point, it will help you keep the momentum on your side.
Shot selection is absolutely crucial here. Don't play anything without purpose and don't take it into the front unless you're absolutely sure it's the right time. It's also vital to trust yourself to be confident in every shot.
Another tip for maintaining momentum is to serve as fast as possible. I don't mean hitting your serve really hard, I mean that you should march over to that service box as soon as the point is done and get the next point going as soon as you can.
Don't let your opponent get the chance to gather their thoughts, this is a form of positive body language and they'll certainly notice it.
If you can keep that momentum on your side, you'll be able to use it to win multiple points in a row, and hopefully in fast succession!
If you can follow these tips in order, you'll give yourself a pretty good chance of making a comeback.
Mindset plays an absolutely massive role for both players when a game gets closer to finishing, just keep your thoughts as positive as possible and know that you can win.
I've seen players come back from 10-3 down using and, once they'd won that tipping point, they were able to carry that momentum all the way through to win them the game.
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