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How to Best Use Tennis Changeovers

Depending on what side of the tennis court you’re on, the wind speed, glare of the sun, and noise level can vary significantly. In order to maintain fair play, though, tennis players change ends after every odd-numbered game. Most competitive tennis associations, professionals included, allow for a 90-second break during this changeover.

This quick rest is extremely important, both physically and mentally. Singles players are on their own during a match, and many players self-destruct under the white, hot halogen lights. Doubles players — despite having a partner to “split” their anxiety with — often share this sense of general frustration and mounting pressure during a match. This guide analyzes the importance of changeovers, and explains how to best use them during a match.

Changeover Rules

There are specific rules that dictate what you can and cannot do during changeovers. Below are a few of those rules:

  • Changeovers occur at the end of odd-numbered games only. Players are not allowed to rest after the first game of a set.
  • Players are allowed to rest for only 90 seconds in between games. This time is extended to two minutes at the end of a set. However, there is no rest period after the first game of a new set.
  • Players may use the restroom during changeovers or request personal treatment if needed.
  • You may drink water or eat during this rest time.
  • During a tie-breaker, players change ends after six points, but are not allowed to rest.
  • Depending on league rules, players can talk to their coach(es) during changeovers.
Hot Tip: Mute the Music

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) recently banned the use of all electronic devices during changeovers. So turn off your cell phone and leave your mp3 player at home if you plan on playing competitively!

Make a Routine

Whether you play singles or doubles, your changeover should help you both physically and mentally for the upcoming games. Develop a consistent routine that focuses on the following pieces of information:

Rest is Best

Your first objective should be to rest and slow down your heart rate. Resting relaxes your muscles and prepares you for the ensuing games, but it also calms your nerves. Some players prefer to move at a fast pace, but your body needs a break regardless of your conditioning. Sit on the bench and sharpen your mindset and physical abilities.

Hydration Station

The importance of staying hydrated cannot be stressed enough. The sun can be your arch nemesis during a match, but your body needs water regardless of the climate. Dehydration increases the likelihood of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat strokes. So, establish a reliable relationship with the water fountain — even when you’re not thirsty. For more hydration tips, refer to the iSport guide, Sun Prevention and Hydration in Tennis.

Nibble if Needed

If you need some energy or nourishment, reach for a healthy snack, like a banana. You should develop a healthy pre-match diet routine, but a granola bar or piece of fruit are healthy in-match choices. Don’t wage a war between your muscles and digestive system, however. Overeating or munching on unhealthy food can make you sluggish, cause stomach pain, or lead to cramping.

Don't Sweat It

Reach into your tennis bag and use a towel to dry off any perspiration. If you need to change into dry clothing, go ahead and do so. Sweat-drenched clothing prevents your pores from expelling heat, making a heat-related affliction — like heat exhaustion — more likely. Additionally, gripping your racquet becomes increasingly difficult as your hands and arms become sweaty.

Strategize

Never allow your mental focus to waver while you rest on the bench. Instead, reflect on the prior points and analyze your opponent’s game. If you won both games before the changeover, assess specifically what was working for you. Establish a game plan that gives you the best chance to succeed, and change your strategy as needed.

If you play doubles, use this break to talk to your partner. Doubles players should constantly communicate with one another — before and after changeovers — and this 90-second break is a great time to hit the drawing board. Share your insight with one another and adjust your strategy accordingly. Always look for ways to improve and never become complacent.

Stay Positive

Tennis is a heady game and many players can be their own worst enemies. Rather than cursing your racquet and questioning your abilities, focus on making improvements. Prepare for likely situations and ask yourself, for example, how you’ll handle another high ball to your backhand side. Or convince yourself that you’ll overcome challenging shots, and imagine yourself thriving in pressure situations.

Confidence alone can carry a tennis player to victory, and too many tennis players get down on themselves when they begin to struggle. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. The looser, more self-assured player normally triumphs.

Eyes on the Prize while Changing Sides

It’s surprising how much you can accomplish in 90 seconds. If you use that time constructively and constantly search for ways to improve, your dedication should carry over to the game. All of those minute-and-a-half breaks add up over the course of a match, and you’ll be a tough opponent to surmount if your focus never fades.

Changeovers are an integral part of tennis, but they often go overlooked. This tennis guide explores the best way to use your time while changing sides of the court.
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