Match strategy and mental preparation are important weapons in any successful tennis player's game. They certainly played a big part in my winning this year's Volvo Masters in a five-set final that lasted almost four hours.
Prior to playing the first point of a match, you should be determining your strategy. Always consider the court surface, the weather conditions, the opponent and the sharpness of your own game when developing a plan of attack.
Practicing before your match is extremely useful. I usually go through a hard 35- to 40-minute tune-up about an hour before my match is scheduled. Unfortunately, the typical club player cannot afford this practice session and must rely on the prematch warm-up to prepare. Use this time to groove your strokes, to get yourself mentally prepared, to feel comfortable with the court surface and to loosen up enough to avoid injury.
Analyzing your opponent's strengths and weaknesses is one of the most important aspects of strategy. Once again, the warm-up is critical. Hit a number of balls to the forehand, backhand, volley and overhead, making note of his or her likes and dislikes. I try always to pay close attention during this time so I can later attack the weakest parts of my opponent's game at every possible opportunity.
The court surface will dictate, in most cases, the type of game you can play. Hard courts (i.e., cement or asphalt) enable players to be more aggressive. The ball bounces faster and the traction is good, allowing a player to attack the net. Clay courts accommodate the steady, patient player. The ball bounces much slower, the traction is not as good, it does not allow a player to move quickly to net and it is tougher to go for "winners."
Finally, play your own game. Know what tactics you want to use, but also be flexible; many things can change in the course of a match and you may need to adjust your strategy accordingly.