Watching a German playoff game last night I was reminded of one of my pet peeves: service errors after timeouts. It continually astounds me how many of them there are, even at the highest levels of the game (and yes, even in my team). Surely by now everyone must know that both teams nearly always lack concentration after a timeout and that the serving team therefore has an advantage. But despite that knowledge, the server goes back and belts the ball into the net, therefore destroying the momentum that the opposing coach had sought to destroy by calling the timeout in the first place.
But it goes a step further. In juniors there were always coaches who called timeouts specifically to ‘force’ a service error. It is a tactic that for a long time I never considered at the professional level, thinking there is no way something as simple as that would work. As the evidence continued to mount, I revisited my timeout calling tactics. Sure enough, even against professionals a timeout can ‘directly’ win a point.
In one match this season, I noted that the best opposition server made an error after a timeout. Arriving at a critical moment of the fifth set, as that player made his way to the service line and with two timeouts still up my sleeve, I made the call. For some reason, as the timeout was concluding, the player in question and I made eye contact. He looked at me with a look of ‘you really expect that shit to work with ME?’. Okay, the look might have meant something completely different, but that is what I thought at the time.
He belted the serve into the net, we won.