During my school years I played in a tennis league on Saturday afternoons. I remember being paired up against a 60 year old opponent. As a 15 year old with youth, energy and infinite wisdom on my side I thought this would be an easy match. The game plan was simple…out power and run him ragged. An easy match…and I’d be walking home in no time.
From the very first game things didn’t go according to plan. The old fox was all about small chop shots to my backhand and drop shots that died on impact. He hardly moved around the court and every time I increased the power he responded with a sliced lob that took the power out of the rally.
Frustrated and four games down in the first set I needed a change in strategy. I made the decision to beat him at his own game. My game changed from hard serve and top spin forehands to unfamiliar sliced back hands and top spin lobs. The whole game slowed down and I ended up getting thrashed love and love.
My mistake was changing my game to match my opponent’s strengths. In hindsight I should have raised my own game and gone back to core principles that worked for me. The old fox was playing to his survival strengths of low tempo, precision shots and unforced errors…not the best style for a 15 year old opponent.
Next time you are confronted with an opponent or competitor in your space, try raising your game first. Resist the urge to morph into and replicate what is beating you. Work harder and focus on your strengths.