How to Maximize Your Changeover Routine and Win More Matches

Posted by Chris Pageau on
How to Maximize Your Changeover Routine and Win More Matches

The “changeover” in tennis is when players change sides of the court every other game. This is to ensure that all players experience similar environmental factors such as wind and sun throughout the match. Per USTA rules, players have a 90 second break to change sides and prepare for the next two games. Many players treat this as just a short break to simply catch their breath, hydrate, and towel off but did you know that some players are using this critically important period to gain an advantage over you? 

I’ve been diving deeply into this topic to clearly understand what those hidden advantages are and share those results with you so that you can begin to implement them into your own matches. Recently, I sent a survey to the Geau Sport community to learn all the details and challenges of your changeover routine. Hundreds of you responded to the request which provided ample data to analyze. The results may give you that extra edge you’ve been looking for. 



Frequency of activity type during the changeover

In the below chart, the higher the number, the more frequently that activity is performed by tennis players during the changeover. 
4 = every changeover
3 = most changeovers
2 = a few changeovers
1 = almost never

Player level
Optimize my mind (i.e. focus, calm, positive)
Dry off body and hands with towel
Think about strategy
Equipment check or change
Change sweaty apparel and wrist bands
Apply ice or water to body to cool down
Beginner 0-2.5 NTRP
Intermediate - 3.0 - 4.0 NTRP
Advanced - 4.5 or higher
Grand Total
Delta for advanced players vs. entire population

Most frequently mentioned challenges experienced during the changeover.

  1. Lack of mental focus - Most players reported struggling to stay mentally focused during changeovers, with issues such as overthinking, distractions, and difficulty letting go of mistakes. 
  2. Lack of organization - A significant number of players mentioned difficulties related to quickly finding the necessary items needed in their bag to manage sweaty clothes, cooling off, hydrating, and changing equipment. 
  3. Stress of time management - Several players discussed the challenge of managing time effectively during changeovers, such as waiting for opponents to resume play or feeling pressure to speed up their own changeovers.
  4. Opponent interaction - Interactions with opponents during changeovers were also a common theme, with players reporting issues such as getting distracted by talking with opponents or struggling to maintain a preferred distance.

    Now, let’s dive into the analysis and outline some tangible tips for you to maximize your changeover and win more matches. 

Optimize Your Mind

sad tennis player sitting in the court after lose a match


Mental focus was clearly called out as the #1 challenge that players experience during the changeover. In addition, actively focusing the mind was the action that advanced players did more of than any other action when compared to average tennis players. Most tennis players have already heard the saying that tennis is mostly a mental sport, however most players do not fully embrace this. Perhaps this stat will motivate you put more emphasis on your mental game – According to the Wall Street Journal, only 17.5% of the total match time is active playing time, which equates to 82.5% of your match spent purely in your own head. 

Below are some tangible tips to maximize your mind and gain an advantage over your opponent: 

  • Deep breathing – Deep breathing is a scientifically proven method to manually override your stress and anxiety by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting a state of relaxation in the body. When you breathe deeply and slowly, it sends a signal to your brain to slow down and relax, leading to reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. Regular deep breathing between points and during the changeover will almost certainly help you optimize your mind before the next two games.
  • Learn to love losing – If you aren’t making mistakes and losing points, then you aren’t becoming a better tennis player. Every time you lose a point, reframe that moment in your head as a positive experience because you’ve just learned something valuable that you can apply to the future. Observe what happened, process why it happened, figure out what you can do about it, and apply it. Beating yourself up emotionally doesn’t leave enough room in your head to move on and improve. Learn to love your mistakes and losses. These are the opportunities that the best tennis players in the world use to get better so there’s no reason you can’t either. If you can learn to love losing, then a positive state of mind just continuously flows naturally. 
  • Practice – How many hours per week are you spending on strengthening the physical part of your tennis game - groundstrokes, serves, volleys, footwork, and physical conditioning? How many hours per week are you spending on strengthening your mind? If 82.5% of the match is spent in your own mind and not physically playing, then you need to allot some time throughout your week to improving your mind. Get it pumped up and primed for match day.  
    • Practice deep breathing in your daily routine off the court so that it becomes a natural reflex when you’re on the court. 
    • Practice meditation daily. Meditation optimizes your mind by promoting a state of relaxation, which can reduce the effects of stress on the body and mind. Additionally, it can help individuals cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness and emotional regulation, leading to a more positive and balanced mindset.
    • When practicing on court, find ways to apply additional pressure to your normal drills or hitting sessions so that you aren’t struck by it during a match. Gamify at least half of your practice by earning points for certain outcomes. For example, when hitting a basket of serves keep track of your percentage. When hitting simple cross courts, count how many balls you hit beyond the service line vs. your hitting partner.  

Get Organized 

Of all the possible activities that a player can do during the changeover, the two that give you the most significant advantage over your opponent are optimizing your mind and thinking about strategy. All the others are considered basic, but necessary, maintenance of your equipment and body. Be smarter with your 90 seconds by maximizing your time spent on focusing and strategy and minimizing the time spent with your basic maintenance. 

The most effective way to make the maintenance of your body and equipment more efficient during the changeover is to get more organized with your tennis gear. This is easier said than done considering that the #2 most challenging aspect of a tennis player’s changeover was reported to be a lack of organization. A significant number of players struggle with quickly finding items to manage sweat, cool off, hydrate, and change out equipment. 

So how can you get more organized so that you can focus more of your changeover time to focusing your mind and strategy?  Invest in a well-designed tennis bag. Choose a tennis bag that is the appropriate size for all your gear and that features ample customizable organization solutions. The Geau Sport Axiom Series of tennis bag is the best choice for those seeking superior organization because of its intelligent pocket design and customizable internal divider system. Several sizes are available to suit your needs and custom fit accessories such as compression packing cubes, floating pockets, and additional modular shelves make this a fully integrated tennis organization solution. Create an advantage over your opponent by getting yourself a Geau Sport Axiom Series bag ( so that you can spend more time focusing on your mind and strategy and less time fumbling with your gear. 

Axiom Collection    

Break Your Opponent’s Rhythm

The number 3 biggest challenge that players experience during the changeover is the stress of time management when opponents are taking longer or shorter than you would prefer them to. Also keep in mind that the number 4 biggest challenge was opponent interaction. Many players reported issues of getting distracted by chatty opponents. 

If you find yourself falling behind in a match, shake things up and break your opponent’s rhythm. If your opponent likes a quick changeover to keep things moving quickly, try taking the full 90 seconds whether you need it or not. Let him cool off while you figure out a better game plan. If you find yourself winning with a solid strategy, do the opposite to keep your momentum. Speed up your changeover time so that your opponent feels less time.  

If you’re the type of person that feels more relaxed and confident when chit chatting with your opponent, do it more often. Your conversation may deter your opponent from developing a better strategy to beat you. 

Optimize Your Strategy

Optimize your strategy

Match strategy is a big topic worthy of its own dedicated article and I’ll be sharing more detailed information about this in the future. Until then, below are a few tips to help you optimize your strategy. 

If you haven’t already, you need to read my favorite tennis book, “Winning Ugly” by Brad Gilbert. It is a guide for tennis players on how to win matches by playing to one's strengths, exploiting an opponent's weaknesses, and having mental toughness. I highly recommend it. 

Good tennis strategy is a three-step thought process:

  1. Observe what is currently happening. What are you doing well that is winning you points? What is your opponent doing that is winning him points? 
  2. Define what you want to have happen. What types of point structures or shots do you want to maximize for yourself? What types of point structures or shots do you want to minimize for your opponent? 
  3. Define specific tactics to make that happen. How can you control the outcomes you want? 

For example:

  • Observation: You tend to be winning the longer rally points. Your opponent seems very comfortable at the net and wins a lot of points that way. Your opponent likes to chip and charge against your second serve and it’s working well. Your opponent is less consistent than you are. 
  • What you want: Maximize the number of points that are long rallies. Minimize the opportunities that allow your opponent to attack the net. 
  • How to get it: Hit heavier balls higher over the net to keep my opponent back and to increase my own consistency. Play a little less aggressively and work towards opponent errors as your primary way to win points. Stop hitting drop shots. Take a little pace off the first serve to increase first serve percentage. 

Develop a Routine


For my last tip, I recommend developing a consistent routine for your changeover. Having a consistent routine that you follow each changeover will give you a sense of control, force you to focus your mind, and contemplate strategy more often. 

Below is a routine that works for me. Play around with yours until you find what works best for you. 

  1. Sit down and hydrate.
  2. Towel off the sweat from my head and arms.
  3. Check wrist bands for sweat saturation and change if needed.
  4. Deep slow breaths while thinking about strategy.
  5. Deep slow breaths while visualizing the execution of my strategy.
  6. Stand up with positive body language and walk to my side of the court.
  7. Bounce around a little to wake up my body.

Hopefully you found this to be helpful to maximize the most out of your changeover and to ultimately win more matches. If you found this article valuable, please take a moment to forward it to some friends. 

Chris Pageau
Founder - Geau Sport

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