Berrettini is back |

Matteo Berrettini ITA, 1996.04.12 – Photo Getty Images

Matteo Berrettini won the prestigious Queen’s tournament for the second time, and his backhand in slice also played a fundamental role in the achievement of the victory during the final.

When listening to the commentary of a tennis match, one often hears about a change of pace, characterized mainly by the transition from a topspin or flat shot to a backspin shot.
In modern tennis, characterized by a limited alternation of strokes compared to the past, the backhand in back assumes a fundamental strategic importance, and this does not depend only on the fact that the ball on fast surfaces such as grass bounces less.
The secret of its effectiveness lies above all behind an important variable that has to do with our brain, which we can indicate with the name of “cognitive time”.
To better understand how it works and why it is so important, it will be useful to understand the functioning of the so-called supervisory attentional system (SAS) first proposed by Norman and Shallice back in 1988.
This system, as described by the two scholars, would allow the selection of operating patterns or automated operations previously memorized through the continuous repetition of a sequence of actions or motor gestures. For example, let’s take a straight-back swap on the diagonal. The SAS system of both contenders will activate the “straight-back diagonal” scheme, which will allow significant cognitive savings since it will not require additional resources for the processing of new information.

Let’s assume now that a player decides to vary his pattern by proposing a backhand on the same diagonal. At this moment the “cognitive time”, that is the time that the opposing player has available to think about the next shot, will lengthen compared to the previous series of shots. The attentional supervisor system (SAS), faced with a different time variable, will not be able to recognize the previous pattern and will require the intervention of the working memory, that is, it will activate additional cognitive resources to elaborate a problem solving suitable for the new situation. . In other words, since the back stroke will be slower than the previous stroke, the cognitive scheme used up to that moment, not being able to immediately enter into execution, will “compete” with other operating schemes applicable to the new one. situation. This will require a further cognitive effort to activate a new problem solving action, which will lead the player to decide whether to continue with the previous scheme or propose a variation. The greater the change of pace, the greater the likelihood that the player will find himself “forced to think” to come up with a new solution. In summary, the possibility that two or more schemes remain “in contention with each other” for too long, will lead to an excessive consumption of cognitive resources, limiting the attention focused on the blow and consequently increasing the possibility that the opponent makes a mistake. .
And this is precisely what could have happened during the Queen’s final, where the variations with Matteo’s slice often led to the error on his rival’s next shot.
Congratulations to Berrettini, therefore, for having once again shown a great ability to know how to change the pace of play during exchanges, with the mastery that only great champions are able to do.

Marco Caocci


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