A closer looks at how the women's tennis team handles pressure situations like third setsBy Ben Boynton | 02/23/2016 5:39pm
Currently ranked No. 28, the University of Alabama women’s tennis team has had a bit of a mixed bag this season. The team’s record is only 3-3, but its faced some very tough opponents so far this season, with five of its six opponents being ranked No. 40 or higher. The team has certainly played plenty of tough matches, and many of the singles matches have gone to a third set or a tiebreaker set.
Something that Coach Jenny Mainz has stressed all season is the importance of the Crimson Tide playing tough tennis. She wants her team to fight hard, and perform well in pressure situations. There may not be more pressure-packed time in a tennis match than a tiebreaker or third set. The results of those individual matches often have an impact on the team’s result.
How has the team fared in these match-deciding sets? Let’s take a look.
|Texas||Andie Daniell||6-1, 4-6, 6-3||W|
|Texas||Danielle Spielmann||1-6, 6-4, 4-6||L|
|Texas||Natalia Maynetto||6-3, 3-6, 6-1||W|
|Oklahoma State||Natalia Maynetto||6-1, 7-6 (8-6)||L|
|Texas Tech||Danielle Spielmann||6-1, 1-6, unfinished||Unfinished|
|Northwestern||Danielle Spielmann||2-6, 7-5, 6-1||W|
|Northwestern||Aryn Greene||6-4, 4-6, 6-2||W|
|Northwestern||Erin Routliffe||6-2, 3-6, 6-3||W|
There are a couple of takeaways from the chart above. One is that Danielle Spielmann often finds herself playing three set matches. Natalia Maynetto has also played in a pair, the second highest amount on the team.
Another takeaway is that the Crimson Tide fare well in third sets. Spielmann lost the only tiebreaker the team has faced, but on third sets, Alabama has a 5-1 record. In matches where Alabama has won more tiebreakers or third sets than its opponent, the Crimson Tide are 2-0, winning against Texas and Northwestern. Against Texas, the 2-1 record in third sets was essential to the team’s overall 4-3 win. Dropping just one more third set would have resulted in the team’s loss. Against Northwestern, the 3-0 record in third sets was necessary as well, as both teams were tied 2-2 outside of them. Alabama could have dropped one and still won, but changing one of those outcomes could have caused different results in the other two matches.
In Alabama’s three losses, the team has either lost its third set or tiebreaker opportunities or not had any at all. With only six matches in the season, the sample size isn’t the best to make a statistical conclusion that would pass muster in front of mathematicians. However, the trend does indicate that Alabama plays well in third sets and tiebreakers. This data shows that Alabama is exhibiting some of the toughness that Mainz is looking for. Four of the five wins are after an opponent wins the second set. Losing that second set can be demoralizing, as a first set win can seem farther away. A player has to forget about what went wrong in the second set and focus to move on to a third set, and that can often be difficult to do.
It will be interesting to monitor how the team plays in these situations as the season continues and the team moves closer to conference play. The SEC is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, tennis conferences in the country, and experience playing well in third sets can only benefit Alabama.