Ajla Tomljanovic and the ‘Decision Is Already Made’ Strategy


Welcome to the 2024 Tennis Year :-)

And what an incredible United Cup Semi Final between Australia and Germany! 

And in particular, the critical competitive error Ajla Tomljanovic made when she reached match point in the final set tie-breaker. 

For those who don’t know her game well, Tomljanovic is at her best when she commits to playing what I call smart aggressive tennis. She has a big first serve that reliably earns free points, an incredible backhand that can typically be relied on under any pressure, but a forehand that often breaks down under pressure. She also, like many of us, has a history of becoming tentative particularly with her forehand in the biggest moments. 

Given this knowledge, what Tomjlanovic needed to do was to pre-plan for the possibility that she would be trying finish the match under high pressure. And that planning needed to include what I call ‘the decision is already made’ strategy. 

This includes deciding that we will commit to the style of point we are going to play during moments when we are most susceptible to succumbing to unhelpful historical habits, before the match begins. 

The benefit of this is twofold. First, having to make decisions in the moment is stressful. So if we have already decided the style of point we are going to play it reduces the stress slightly. And second, we tend to make poor decisions under the highest stress, either getting caught up in the natural fear we experience when trying to finish the job and playing too tentatively, or trying to get rid of the stress that is involved with playing a high pressure point and playing too aggressively. So by deciding and committing to an exact style of point we will play before the match we are increasing the probability of success by achieving the middle ground. 

But when Tomljanovic stepped up to the line at match point, the decision clearly hadn’t been mind. So instead of committing to a smart aggressive point which would have included trying to get a free point on first serve or earning an opportunity to control the point or attach early, she was at the mercy of getting caught up in fearful thoughts, choosing a tentative play. 

And this is what happened...She chose to slow her first serve to get it in allowing Kerber to neutralise the point and quickly pressure the Tomljanovic forehand. Instead of trying to regain control of the point, Tomljanovic decided to ‘just make’ her forehand and it quickly  broke down. 

Tomljanovic is now at the stage of her career where her relative strengths and weaknesses are somewhat set. Her forehand will likely always have the tendency to break down under pressure. But what she can do to win more close matches for the rest of her career is to begin to employ the ‘decision is already made’ strategy. This required sitting down with her coach and deciding that when the big moments come, she has already decided that she will serve aggressively, commit to rallying the ball for control of the point (rather than rallying neutrally), and take the first good opportunity to attack. 

You can almost certainly relate to this challenge as a player, coach, or tennis parent. Employing or recommending the ‘decision is already made’ strategy will very likely be helpful. 

Wishing you a great 2024!


P.S., When you're ready, here are 4 ways we can help you in your tennis role...

1. Free 'PACT Method Quick Guide'

Want to learn the foundations of our approach in less than 10 min? Click here... 

2. Free Online Training

Would you like to learn the 4 keys to winning 20-100% more matches without improving physical skills? If so, click here...

3. Free 20min Parent Guidance Consultation

Is your child facing a mental fitness challenge that's holding him/her back? Apply for your free 20min Parent Consult...

4. Off-Court Mental Fitness Challenge

Want to participate in the most convenient, cost-effective way to improve mental fitness already completed by thousands of other players? Click here...