Control the Tempo and Rhythm of a Match

altThe timing, or pace, of the game is referred to as the tempo and rhythm. Unfortunately, most players rush to put the ball into play without thinking about finding a tempo and rhythm, or taking into account an opponent’s tempo and rhythm. Knowing (and controlling) the speed of play is a great help when in the heat of the battle trying to win the match.

The goal when considering tempo and rhythm is twofold:

1. You want to control the tempo and rhythm of the game so that you feel comfortable with the pace as this allows you to play at your best.

2. You want to disrupt your opponent’s tempo and rhythm as much as possible without disrupting your own, because that will make your opponent uneasy and possibly produce poor performance.

The four most effective ways of controlling tempo and rhythm are:

1.  Use the 10-second rule. The 10-second rule means  server and receiver both have only 10 seconds to serve or receive the ball once the score is called. If the server is ready to serve within that time, the receiver can put up his/her racquet or turn to the back wall, which means the server has to wait the remainder of the 10 seconds. If the receiver is down and ready, the server can make the receiver wait by delaying their serve. In both cases, the waiting player may get annoyed, anxious, or lose focus.

2.  Use a Timeout When Your Oppontent is on a Run. Use a timeout when your opponent gets 4 or 5 points in a row during a rally. Taking a break may help stall their momentum while giving you time to regroup and make appropriate adjustments. 

3.  Use a Timeout to Break Server’s Rhythm. If your opponent is serving well and you are having trouble returning the serve effectively, take a time-out to possibly break the server’s rhythm.

4.  Develop a Serve Routine. Whether bouncing the ball a certain way before each serve or pacing along the back wall a few times before getting into the serve-receive position, developing a routine helps you focus on the now and on the ball as it’s put into play.

More strategies are detailed in my book, Championship Racquetball (“Match Strategies”, Chap. 7, Page 197).

Here’s how my Championship Team demonstrates these techniques:

Rocky Carson versus Ben Croft in the quarterfinals of the 2014 US Open:

Ben was up 2-0 in games and serving 10-7 in the 3rd game for the match, but Rocky kept his composure and played 1 point at a time. Rocky began to chip away ever so slightly….Rocky was controlling the match.

Paola Longoria versus Rhonda Rajsich in the finals of the Monterrey, MX Pro Stop December 2014

            Paola won the first game easily and found herself in a commanding 8-2 lead in the 2nd game of the match. Rhonda just kept chipping away little by little, controlling the tempo of the match until Paola called a time out at 7-8. I told her to make adjustments on her serve and that she did and wound up winning game 2, 11-9 before taking the 3rd game easily for the match.           

Controlling the Tempo and Rhythm is yet another required skill on the road to championship racquetball. ALL of the players I coach, from the professionals led by Rocky and Paola to the amateurs, know just how important it is to “Control the Tempo and Rhythm”.  It’s sometimes not easy, but a MUST. Their records speak for themselves…Rocky and Paola are BOTH 2 of the most decorated athletes in racquetball.  Paola finished the 2013-2014 season ranked #1 on the LPRT for the 3rd consecutive season WITHOUT dropping a match since May 2011 and was crowned the 2014 IRF World Champion. Rocky finished the 2013-2014 season ranked #2 on the IRT and was crowned the 2014 IRF World Champion.

In the next issue, I will continue to build your Championship Racquetball Game one level at a time so you too can be ready to become the champion you always dreamed of becoming, by giving you the tools to make it a reality. Rocky and all my athletes “Championship Racquetball Games” stem from their focus on ALL 3 sides of the triangle working together so they can develop into top competitors. Without a shadow of a doubt, they KNOW just how important it is to do the work. They are living proof it works and their titles substantiate it.

For details on more personalized instruction, a weekend camp, instructional DVD’s, our book, Championship Racquetball, and our APP (coming soon), ALL which covers all aspects of the Sports Racquetball Triangle and more, please visit www.FranDavisRacquetball.com. Fran Davis is a 2004 racquetball Hall of Fame inductee; Racquetball Woman of the Year 2009; Coach #2 IRT Pro Player / 1X US Open Champion / 4X and present World Champion, Rocky Carson; Coach #1 Women’s LPRT Pro Player / 5X and present US Open Champion & World Champion, Paola Longoria; Coach Jr. World & National Champion, Intercollegiate Champion, & IRT Pro Player, Taylor Knoth; Coach Intercollegiate Champion & LPRT Pro Player, Sharon Jackson; Master Professional Instructor/Coach USAR-IP.