Sunday, 21 August 2011

Attack to Defense

I've mentioned several times, the parallels between the mindset required for trading and for sport. Watching the Jelena Jankovic game today, I stumbled across another one. She is a player who made her name as a counter-puncher; someone who primarily played defensive tennis. When she made world number one a few years back, she did so having never won a grand slam. This made her start to think that she needed to be more attack-minded in order to clinch a major title, so tried to change her game. The problem with that is, you are not just changing a style of play, you are changing an entire mindset, one that has been ingrained since childhood.

Counter-punchers generally don't like going for big winners and forcing the play because it means they will make more mistakes as they play percentages less. Jankovic has clearly struggled to find the form that made her the best in the world, partly because she hasn't been able to transition smoothly to a more attacking mindset. You can see that in her play, she reverts to type when the heat is on and that's a purely instinctive reaction.

Andy Murray is another player who has struggled to do this. The difference for him, is that he actually tends to play BETTER, when he attacks more. The big question is, why doesn't he do it more often? It's simply that he's not as comfortable playing that way. He has a defensive mindset first and foremost.

On the flip-side, you have Sabine Lisicki, a player who has an all-out attacking mindset. This means that she doesn't have much of a middle game, doesn't play percentages or try to work points by rallying much. As anyone who saw her diabolical display on Monday will testify, it means on a bad day, when the winners aren't coming off, she produces countless unforced errors. She was a set and 0-5 down against Peer when she suddenly decided to change, go against her usual mindset and start to reign her game in. She started deliberately trying to keep the ball in play, stop going for winners off every ball and it resulted in her leveling up at 5-5. That's what she needs to do more of in order to crack the top 10 and challenge for slams but to do it consistently involves a huge change in mentality.

And I guess I'm attempting to do the same; change my mindset from one of always trying to win money, always trying to get into matches quickly and make quick profit, to one of not losing money, taking my time, holding back more. I'm trying to go from an attacking to a defensive mindset.

Caroline Wozniacki is another who is currently trying to adjust, in the same way Jankovic did. There's no way she'll win a slam unless she does. And there are success stories. Petra Kvitova went from around 60 in the world to Wimbledon champion in the space of a year and that is largely down to her reigning her game in so as to cut out the UEs. Francesca Schiavone was a defensive player who had never been near the top 10 in over 10 years as a pro. She decides to become more aggressive in her play and ends up French Open winner!

Jankovic tried to change it all over-night and has failed. What I'm doing now is going to take time, it can't be forced because it's so ingrained. I have to be positive about the past week because despite the losses, I am making progress and it IS going to happen. And when it does, it will mean that I've made it as a consistent, successful trader, just as it will almost certainly mean a grand slam title for Caroline Wozniacki.


  1. Another very well written and thought-provoking piece.

    I traded tennis like you did/do for about a year or two before I finally realised that avoiding the big losses is the key to consistent profits.

    I was always thinking about how much I could win if it went my way rather than managing the downside of how much I could lose if it did not.

    As you do, I looked at my P/L, astonished at how profitable I could be if I just cut my losses before they got out of hand.

    You'll get there eventually if you stick with it.

    Only question is how much money will you have to lose before the correct habits sink in...

  2. Hi P, thanks for your comments. I'm glad to say that I'm now through the bad days of consistently losing money and am pretty much breaking even over the past few months. So I'm not worried about losing money now (God knows, I've lost enough already!), it's just pushing past that final phase to actually making money consistently.

    Had done really well this week at cutting losses. I had 8 ocCasions where I had to red up at the 25% loss limit and I did it every time bar one (which was when I lumped on Federer as a straight bet).

    In a typical week, I would only have half that many occasions and mess up on at least 2 of them. So the habit is starting to sink in. Just need a normal week where things go my way more often and should see a nice P&L...........


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