This may be Joe Marshall’s seventh article about how to play better tennis. His insights keep working for me. I played the best tennis of my life today with—and against—Joe. I have improved my serve by keeping my left shoulder aimed at the net (instead of my chest), added a wrist snap to the serve, am using 5-6 different serves, changed my grip from continental to eastern forehand, brought my elbows close to my body for my service returns, am lobbing more, shifting positions with my partner as Joe suggests…it’s all adding up and adding much more excitement to the points and victories. I am sure Joe’s insights can work for you as well. Send Joe an email (joemarshall63@aol.com) if you have specific questions or want a doubles strategy lesson.

The other day, I was involved in a third set in an indoor match. We had a break lead, but played a sloppy game, and our opponents evened the score. The set progressed to a tiebreak. They got up 4-2 playing inspired tennis, and were about to serve, when I realized something.
“Hey, isn’t it time to change sides?” I said.
“Yeah, but we’re playing indoors,” the server said.
“Well that’s the side with all the points on it, we want it,” I joked. So we switched.

Now some may say that the main purpose of the rule that you switch after each 6 points of a tiebreak is to even up any advantages caused by wind or sun. Being indoors, why bother. But the hidden reason to change sides is the momentum change.

Any time you have the momentum, it is best to play at a nice rhythm, changing as few things as possible in your routine. Any time your opponents are playing confidently, it is to your advantage to slow things down or give them a different look. Nothing accomplishes this better than changing sides. You relax, say a few words, encourage your partner, and give yourselves a fresh start. Our opponents had to move to the opposite side, and think about their lead….not always a good thing to do. We won the last five points and the set. Apparently all the points WERE on that side.

If my team is ahead in a tiebreak indoors, and I realize it’s time to change, I always say, “Hey, that’s six points, do you want to change?”
The opponent almost always replies, “Why bother? Just play.” And we stay where we are……Oh well, I gave them a chance……

The next day we were in a third set, and we were down 2-5. My partner has a solid game, but his serve is his weakest link. By the third set, the balls had lost their liveliness and our opponents were focused on returning his serve and approaching the net, which they both do very well. They had already broken my partners serve. We lost the first point. So what did we do?

We played two back. “Two back on offense?” you say.

But think about it. We were actually playing one up and one back (the weakest formation), and our opponents were playing two at the net (the strongest position). We had two options. Either my partner had to come in behind his serve and take the net away from them, which is not his game, or we could try to beat them by playing good defense from the back court, mixing solid ground strokes with well-place lobs, and coming in behind them.

The game went to several deuces, but we held, and went on to break back and even the match at 5-5. After that we lost a close game and the set 7-5, but we had them thinking.

To summarize: use your changeover when you are down in a tiebreak, and some times two back on offense is the right position to try. Always change a losing game, Never change a winning game. Have fun!