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The Set Up Point

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  • The Set Up Point

    Would love to get your thoughts on Brad Gilbert's "The Set Up Point"

  • #2
    set up points

    I remember Connors saying he played most points the same. Looks like a lot of successful pros do. Brad Gilbert's advice seems to be based on the idea that if you know a point is a setup point, you'll somehow be able to play that point better. If that's true, why shouldn't you put that ability into play on all the points? If you're more likely to win the point playing a certain way, whether you call it playing cautiously, or use some other term - playing the percentages, playing within yourself, whatever - it seems to me that for the vast majority of points, that's the way you should be playing, setup point or not.

    Al Arioli


    • #3

      Good point, and yeah the player who wins the most total points almost always wins so every point is important. I loved this concept though because it keeps you from relaxing when you are ahead in a game. Not everyone is Jimmy Connors, mentally or every other way for that matter.

      For example, let's say you want to play some opportunity attack points--occasional serve and volley or approach and volley. The set up point is a great chance to do something a little different in your game plan to pressure the other guy.

      The only thing I can say from my own experience was that by keeping my focus and intensity when I had 30 or 40 I found I got over on some tough opponents more often.


      • #4

        I hear what you are saying and I really like your thinking.

        I think we can both agree Jimmy Connors was a bit "intense" and "highly competitive". Playing every point with extreme focus and intensity is certainly ideal and would benefit you, but the mental stamina it takes to be in that mindset constantly is exhausting. Coach Gilbert understands there are highs and lows and mental lulls in every match. Its not saying that some points are unimportant, just that specific points can give you a bigger edge and knowing when to recognize these moments in a match are extremely beneficial. Every player is different in their mentality but all the great players always recognize an opportunity and seem to step up their game another notch in these moments.

        Brad's article is about recognition. Capitalizing on an opportunity. When you play, you may be pumped up during the length of the entire match, but if you are, how do you then recognize the significance of each point. You are putting a tremendous amount of mental stress on yourself if you treat the first point of the game as if its a set point. Are you saying you run as hard for a 0-0 point as you do for a 30-40 point? Will you get equally upset if you double fault on a 40-love point as well as a 15-30 point? If so, congratulations. I think thats a great attitude to have and you are truly a tennis warrior. But statistically speaking, most players cannot play this way due to physical or mental or tactical limitations.

        On a personal note, when I play, I'm very confident in my serve. I just am. If I'm up 40-0 I just may go for a big 2nd serve and if I miss it I'm slightly shocked but I'm also accepting of it. I'm also confident that I should undoubtedly win one of the next two points on my serve. Again, that's just me. Is that the best mentality, if you're 6'6" and are confident that your serve is a legitimate weapon against 99.9% of your opponents then yeah, I see nothing wrong with it. I play aggressive, I know I may litter up the scoreboard, but that's what I've elected to do. But please take my word for it that on a set up point and more alert, more aware, and place greater importance on getting the first ball back and playing some high percentages and forcing my opponent to play into my desired patterns. I'm willing to grind and suffer for the big point. My knees and hips are not willing to "grind all day" on a 30-love point. With my game, If I'm 10 feet behind the baseline and grinding then I'm clearly doing something wrong and not playing my patterns. You'll never see a Ferrari at a tractor pull.

        Kyle LaCroix USPTA
        Boca Raton


        • #5
          Spot on, klacr.

          Klacr is so right. You cannot play with 100 percent intensity all the time...maybe Connors and Nadal can but they are exceptional. Most of us simply must have a mental breather after a period of intense mental effort...lift our heads out of the game...if only for a short while. This is why the set up points are so important...determiners for club players and pro's alike.

          Like Klacr, I'm keen on the percentage winners approach. I may miss plenty, but providing I strike enough winners, my misses are cancelled out. That's fine because that is what I am playing for. But, yes, when the bigger points come around, get focused, get the ball in.


          • #6
            Many talk about "only doing what you are capable of." Pushers have the rep of being able to do this all the time, while blasters and hard hitters don't. When a pusher comes up against a hard hitter who is consistent, they have no answer and lose. The difficulty lies in becoming consistent at any game, no matter the style, against pressure and people who are doing their best to make you uncomfortable. The fact remains, it takes an enormous amount of focused practice to reach a high level. Lull-jam-finish modes have to be practiced regularly to be able to call upon them in sequence. Most of us never develop a big serve, or a big forehand weapon. But all of us can develop tactical awareness. That's what Gilbert was famous for, and what James Blake lacked the most, hitting hard only all the time was his only response to anyone's game. Too bad Blake never hooked up with Gilbert!


            • #7
              Blake and Gilbert


              That would have been an interesting combination!


              • #8
                I loved this article. For me in the past, I would wander through singles matches, playing every point the same way in terms of going for it. Since reading this article though I've done a bit of experimentation and I've tried to balance my play, not going for broke on every single point, every single return, serve, shot.

                Personally, I find a key point to win is the first point in a game. Then after reading Gilbert's article it's very fascinating the idea of winning the set-up point putting pressure on your opponent because thinking about it, I've double faulted or missed easy shots on points like 30-40 and Ad out because of the pressure and at the Deuce or 30-30 point I might have gone for an outrageous shot and missed. It really does help when you think about it.

                Having watched the pro players as well in these situations, if you look at Federer, on nearly any match point he's had against him, he always somehow manages to find a way to make the return on match point. Nearly always. Despite losing that Wimbledon final to Nadal in 2008 his returns on championship point down were always made. And the others are the exact same. It's incredible. These top players are top players for a reason and one of the reasons is that they play the big points and the set-up points better than the others. Obviously technique, tactically prowess, physical fitness, mental fortitude and natural talent come into play as well but that is one of the big reasons as well in my opinion.


                • #9
                  It also points to serving more practice serves in the ad court: More break points, and one set up point than in the deuce court: 0-40, 15-30, 30-40 vs. 30-30, 15-40.


                  • #10
                    Set up points...

                    Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
                    Would love to get your thoughts on Brad Gilbert's "The Set Up Point"
                    Originally posted by jryle1 View Post
                    I loved this article. For me in the past, I would wander through singles matches, playing every point the same way in terms of going for it. Since reading this article though I've done a bit of experimentation and I've tried to balance my play, not going for broke on every single point, every single return, serve, shot.
                    Great article in the sense that each and every point is a set up point. Like every move in a chess match is a set up move.

                    Playing each and every point as a point that sets up the next point is a great way to keep your head in the match. The last thing that you need when playing a tennis match is for your mind to wander. You must understand when it is appropriate to attack...when it is appropriate to play defense. And when it is appropriate to neutralize.

                    Even in gotta know the score. You gotta know where you any given moment. A lot of people sort of wander through life too...but that's a different story.

                    The most complete breakdown on how to play tennis by the score can be found in Bill Tilden's, How to Play Better Tennis...a complete guide to tactics and technique. Chapter three is Match Play Tactics and Tennis Psychology and in Chapter 16 Maintaining Pressure on Your Opponent is a must read for any serious tennis player or student of the game.
                    Last edited by don_budge; 07-23-2013, 12:40 AM. Reason: for clarity's sake...
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