PDA

View Full Version : Stuck @ 3.5


tdad
10-01-2007, 05:28 AM
I have been playing tennis for over 15 years. I did not play consistently all those years but have been playing quite a bit during the last few years. I play with different level players from 3.0 to 4.0. I participated in doubles clinics last winter. I also played USTA mixed last winter. I have two teenage children that have taken lessons and academies in the past. I have been exposed to formal training ( watching their lessons and drilling).

I can't seem to break the 3.5 barrier. I could actually be a 4.0 when hitting but play like a 3.0 during matches. I believe my stroke production is okay. My footwork needs improvement. My goal for the following months is to improve this part of my game.

It just gets frustrating when I double fault during matches and hit numerous unforced errors. I practice my serves....hitting 2-3 buckets several times a week. I don't think I hit many unforced errors during practice. I do well during practice....but fall apart during matches. I am not a pusher. I generate my own power but get beaten by pushers all the time.

What can I do to move through this 3.5 wall? I do not have access to a video camera right now so I can't post a video clip. Please help.

jmk311
10-01-2007, 06:42 AM
Try the book..."The Inner Game of Tennis". Pete Carroll reads it like a Sports bible..and insist that all of the USC football players read it as well.
I just reread it for the third time in 3 months..I wouldn't be without it...not only for tennis..but life as well...

tdad
10-01-2007, 07:02 AM
jmk311, I have the book written by Timothy Gallewey. I have read it several times. It has been very helpful. I still find it hard to focus for long periods of time. Quieting the mind for long periods of time is very difficult for me. Have you been able to do it for several consecutive games or even a set? If so, please share your tips.

Thanks

skiracer55
10-01-2007, 07:19 AM
...in this thread:

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=158654

fuzz nation
10-01-2007, 07:30 AM
An easy answer is to advise you to search here for other threads on improving. There are probably lots of good thoughts posted in recent history, but I don't want to completely cop out on you like that.

I missed out on a college tennis career due to injuries and I've been trying to make up for some of that lost ground in more recent years. I love the sport now more than ever, but it's a steeper hill to climb when I want to make progress. One huge component for my development has been finding a few solid players that I can work out with. If they are also dedicated to their games, they'll probably be more receptive to hitting with you and helping you hone your skills, too.

While my doubles skills are quite solid, my singles abilities are still a work in progress - I grew up as a heavy serve and volleyer. Solid strokes are mandatory for playing at a higher singles level, but I've discovered the different thought process that I need to use in those outings. Doubles, at least for me, calls for putting constant pressure on my opponents and routinely taking control of the net. It takes a healthy skill set, but the strategy is pretty straightforward. Singles doesn't have that same common denominator. Either I need to stay especially patient and maintain a rally, or when I get an opening, I need to make a smart choice and avoid low percentage shots that make me donate points.

Without a simple plan for each and every point in singles, I remain too passive and my opponent will eventually impose his (or her) strategy on me before I actively execute anything against them. No rocket science here; I just need to switch my though process on and keep it on. Focusing soley on what I'm doing "right now" keeps me composed and less distracted, but I've only become more comfortable in competitive settings by playing informal matches and organized tournaments.

Work on your skills and fitness, don't be afraid to get knocked around by stronger players, but keep after your head. Positive psychology and simple, intelligent thought processes can really boost your potential for better tennis.

tdad
10-01-2007, 07:30 AM
Skiracer, when I play aggressively I also play better. Unfortunately, I often find myself playing too tentatively. When i play a pusher I start to push :-(

I know I should play my game but sometimes it just doen't happen.

nasastevo
10-01-2007, 07:35 AM
What do you want to improve most? What do you think the weakest part of your game is? It sounds like you might need some confidence training, as suggested by some of the other posts. If you can hit great during practice, and then blow it in a match, there is no question. Try playing practice matches with friends. When I was in college, that was part of the practice. We would all play each other 4 games, then rotate. That way, you get to see different types of spins, games, etc. I would suggest playing with a few friends that can beat you nearly 70% of the time at least. Your game will improve quickly. If you play with the same people (that you can beat) day in day out, I guarantee you will not improve much. Competition breeds excellence. Make it completely casual, then work up to all out battle on the court. You will get there. Breaking the 3.5 barrier is tough, but not impossible. Above all things... be patient and have fun!!!

Stevo

nasastevo
10-01-2007, 07:35 AM
What do you want to improve most? What do you think the weakest part of your game is? It sounds like you might need some confidence training, as suggested by some of the other posts. If you can hit great during practice, and then blow it in a match, there is no question. Try playing practice matches with friends. When I was in college, that was part of the practice. We would all play each other 4 games, then rotate. That way, you get to see different types of spins, games, etc. I would suggest playing with a few friends that can beat you nearly 70% of the time at least. Your game will improve quickly. If you play with the same people (that you can beat) day in day out, I guarantee you will not improve much. Competition breeds excellence. Make it completely casual, then work up to all out battle on the court. You will get there. Breaking the 3.5 barrier is tough, but not impossible. Above all things... be patient and have fun!!!

Stevo

lkdog
10-01-2007, 07:51 AM
At the 3.5-4.0 level keep it simple.

1) Hit high over the net and down the middle or crosscourt.
2) Take short balls and hit approaches down the line and cover the line.
3) Get first serves in.
4) Get return of serves in by hitting (you guessed it) over the middle of net.
5) Get the ball back any way you can-even when way out of position. Errors are how most points are won at that level.

That is about it. If you can do the above and get 3 or 4 balls back on the average-you will compete well with most 4.0 players.
Sounds simple, but it is not. How many points do you lose by making errors before the 4th ball? You will be surprised.
I am guessing the shots you make errors on are strokes that you need some work on. Work on those more so they survive match play better.

Some more slightly advanced ideas at that level:

1) Develop a bail out slice BH that gets the ball back fairly deep and crosscourt.
2) Develop a shortened (volley like block) backswing on return of harder 1st serves to increase your percentages. Use slice on BH return of serve.
3) When hitting passing shots-just make sure you hit it over the net and make them stretch a bit. No need to try an hit winners. You are not playing McEnroe.
4) Lob more to get back into points or when the other guy comes in a lot.
5) Develop a second serve that has some spin or slice. Throw that in as your first serve sometimes.
6) Get in better shape by doing some running/biking/ and interval training.

Although there is certainly something to the ideas in Inner Tennis-confidence comes from success. Keep it simple and if you execute your simple goals you have succeeded. Your gameplan is all you can control anyway. If the guy still beats you then he is probably a strong 4.0 or more.

Higher levels (4.0+) require more power and consistency and better attacking shots-but you will go a long way with the above.

You might check out the Tennis Mastery book by Dave Smith which will help you assess your strokes that may be holding you back.

Good Luck.

Geezer Guy
10-01-2007, 08:01 AM
From my experience, the difference between a 3.5 and a 4.0 is consistency. They both hit similar serves and ground strokes, but a 3.5 will make an error in a simple baseline rally within 4 or 5 exchanges. A 4.0 can keep a simple baseline rally going MUCH longer.

So, work on your consistence. I'm not saying you should become a Pusher. Hone your rally shot so you can hit it consistently without making an error, and without giving your opponent a short ball they can punish. Practice, practice, practice.

skiracer55
10-01-2007, 08:14 AM
Skiracer, when I play aggressively I also play better. Unfortunately, I often find myself playing too tentatively. When i play a pusher I start to push :-(

I know I should play my game but sometimes it just doen't happen.

...as I said in this thread, overcoming match nerves is everybody's problem, including people like Roger Federer, and there isn't any universal silver bullet for dealing with match nerves. Let me just...one more story from my recent experience...talk about different ways of being aggressive.

Two summers ago, my coach was Sam Winterbotham, Head Men's Coach at Colorado University at Boulder, now Head Men's Coach of the Tennessee Vols. Before CU cut Men's Tennis (that's another story, and I won't go there today...), Sam brought them, in less than 5 years, to #23 in the country.

Sam is a great coach, and I was very lucky to be able to train under him. He helped me do a serious upgrade of all my strokes, but his big strength is coaching better point construction and match play, and I got a full dose of that. I'm 5' 7", 59 years old, but I play down in age groups (Men's 45, Men's 50) and I also play a lot of Men's Open draws. So I have to play aggressively, or I get turfed. It's also my nature to try to dictate play and shorten points. The problem is that I tend to equate aggressive play with hitting incredible winners on every shot, which is fine (maybe) for Federer, but doesn't work too well for yours truly.

One day two summers ago, Sam and I are working on point construction, finishing points, and so forth, and I'm finishing just about every point by hitting stupid shots out, into the fence, or into the net. So Sam says (in effect...I'm paraphrasing here) "What are you doing? You're not going to beat me by hitting every ball as hard as you can through the court. I'm 30 years younger than you are, and some of the guys you play in Men's Open are 40 years younger than you. For the luvva Mike, Richard, you have a lot of talent on a tennis court, use your talent to open up the court, then when you get a hole you can drive a truck through, a winner can be a ball you hit off the handle...although I don't ever want to see you hit the ball off the handle."

Totally changed my life. Obviously, you can't play hit and giggle tennis at any reasonable 4.5 or above level. If you don't have a heavy serve, a strong return, and consistent, heavy, full length ground strokes, you're not going to go far. And, yes, there are those days when you're in the zone that just playing bang ball will work. On every other day...and that's most of your time on a tennis court...you need to play aggressively by taking time away from your opponent, by moving him around, by changing pace and spin, by showing him a different look than he's used to from you...basically, by doing whatever it takes to (a) keep the ball in the court while (b) open the court up and make your opponent dance to your tune, not his...

lkdog
10-01-2007, 08:28 AM
From my experience, the difference between a 3.5 and a 4.0 is consistency. They both hit similar serves and ground strokes, but a 3.5 will make an error in a simple baseline rally within 4 or 5 exchanges. A 4.0 can keep a simple baseline rally going MUCH longer.

So, work on your consistence. I'm not saying you should become a Pusher. Hone your rally shot so you can hit it consistently without making an error, and without giving your opponent a short ball they can punish. Practice, practice, practice.

Good advice. This is kind of what I was getting at in my post.
Also, my advice was hopefully not construed as simply waiting for the other guy to make an error(although that will get you to the 4.0 level, just not beyond).

One should always be looking for the short ball whether it is in a rally or on a second serve.

The reality of playing at the 3.5 to 4.0 level is that within the first 3 balls there will be a short ball. Be ready to attack it-just no need to go for winners or lines from a foot behind the baseline.

chess9
10-01-2007, 09:04 AM
Some great advice above.

What I've found is that often the main difference in consistency from about 3.0-4.5 is the quality of relaxation in the shots.

Most guys in the lower levels get very tight as the point progresses. I've seen guys who can hit hard and consistently in practice fall apart during a match because they tighten up and get very tentative.

So, the key is to self-critique your tension levels. How tight is my shoulder on the serve? Am I finishing my strokes or poking the ball?

For me, it's my serve on windy days. I tend to start getting tight as I lose confidence in my toss. Same with volleys on very windy days. I hate lots of wind, and it's exacerbated because I have long strokes. But, I can pull it all into line for the most part with some relaxed serves and some good loose footwork on my volleys.

Hit out, relax, and have fun.

-Robert

mark rodgers
10-01-2007, 09:31 AM
For as much as the mental aspect is to the game, at 3.5, obviously there is much room for improvement in your technique. Just to add and expand on what Geezer Guy said, you need to work on your consistency but you do that by creating technically clean strokes. You create clean strokes by not being afraid of change, that is, don't hesitate to take one or two steps back to make several big steps forward later. For example, when I was younger I hit the ball too much using my arm and wrist. At lower levels, the ball isn't moving very quickly so you can get away with it. I learned that the better players use their bodies (core rotation, legs, shoulders) to produce groundstrokes. So I learned everything I could about it and simply made the commitment to change even though I knew that my game was going to go south for little while. I had a terrible time keeping the ball in play and it was very frustrating. But I just kept at it and one day (months later) it all came together. Now I have fun hitting hard, consistent shots and it's a lot easier than before. My latest change was learning that modern strokes are more of a catch and pull action versus a push (or slap) action. This change wasn't as hard as the first but I definitely paid a price for learning it and incorporating it into my playing. The change in serve mechanics was the hardest and longest to overcome by far. Nobody wanted me on their team because I was double faulting so much. I had plenty of doubts about and finally overcame it. Now the team captains want me back and I can beat guys that I didn't before.

Overall, get good dependable stroke instruction. Join good instructional web sites and build your knowledge and arsenal of mental images. Make the needed changes even though it completely takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you worse for a while. YOu should even practice your strokes when you're not on the court. Like a boxer practices shadow boxing so should you practice in slow motion to program your muscle memory. Basically, no matter how much you practice, if you're practicing 3.5 strokes all the time, then that's what you get.

jmverdugo
10-01-2007, 10:07 AM
I have found out that a good way to improve is to make every shot with an intention, dont send balls back just because of it, but thinking about what will your shots make to do to your opponent. Later you will add an estrategy to your game and you should try to stick to it. This way you will be always in the game and your mind will be busy, thus avoiding the nerves. You can do this at any level because your estrategy will always be defined by how your strokes are. For instance, when you are serving think: "im going to serve wide to his bh an prepare my self for a floating slice, maybe i will round around my bh and hit a io fh" stuff like that. If while practicing you dont make as much ue as in a match maybe you just need to loose yourself a little, i think what i wrote before is a good way of doing that.

The Ripper
10-01-2007, 10:45 AM
Some great points in this thread! It does sound like your mental game is a problem, and we all have that happen. I found "Fearless Tennis" (a CD by Jeff Greenwald) to be helpful of course along with "Inner Tennis." Quieting the mind can definitely be a help. If your brain is running in circles about everything you think is going wrong you are definitely shooting yourself in the foot. The thing that helps me the most is putting all my attention on the ball and blocking everything else out. Or as Olivier Rochus, the shortest player in the ATP said after beating Ivo Karlovic, the tallest player in the ATP: "I played the ball, not the opponent." Learning how to meditate and quiet your mind might be helpful!

The toughest 3.5's I've played have been the ones that get everything I hit back. I played a 3.5 a few months ago here in Southern California who is ranked about 4 or 5 for that division. He was short (maybe 5'4"), covered every inch of the court and continuously put the ball exactly where he needed to hit it. Even though I hit the ball pretty hard, it was not hard enough to overpower him, because he is an expert at judging pace and anticipation. My only chance to beat him was the strategy mentioned by Ski Racer above. Keep the ball in play until their is an opening big enough to drive a truck through and have the skill to execute the shot when the opportunity arises. Unless you have the ground strokes of a solid 4.0 or higher, you will not outrun or outmaneuver a solid 3.5. To overpower these guys, I agree with the previous poster, your groundstrokes have to use the entire body - legs, torso, shoulders to get the kind of consistency and power needed to truly dominate defensive players (look how tough Hewitt is with a 98% defensive game - he doesn't hit that hard!). In my experience, it's actually easier to play against someone who is hitting fairly hard, because he is providing pace. Above 3.5 I haven't met many defensive players (pushers), because everybody is trying to play like the pro's (lots of luck!) by dominating with their power. As a result, I can hang pretty well with 4.0-4.5 baseliners. But play with a legitimate 5.0 and I am a sitting duck because of the shear power of their serve and groundstrokes.

Anyhow, the thing that has helped me most is working with an ATP level coach every week, playing in ladder matches against all comers, playing a combination of doubles and singles, and constantly working to improve my stroke technique no matter how many matches I lose while acquiring new skills. As one coach told me, "always play beautifully and hit your strokes - don't worry about winning or losing - that is the only way you will improve."

Good luck!

jmk311
10-01-2007, 01:14 PM
jmk311, I have the book written by Timothy Gallewey. I have read it several times. It has been very helpful. I still find it hard to focus for long periods of time. Quieting the mind for long periods of time is very difficult for me. Have you been able to do it for several consecutive games or even a set? If so, please share your tips.

Thanks

My favorite from the book "IGofT" is this...mentally focus on Bounce Hit...It really helps me stay in the moment...jmk311

smoothtennis
10-01-2007, 01:43 PM
For as much as the mental aspect is to the game, at 3.5, obviously there is much room for improvement in your technique. Just to add and expand on what Geezer Guy said, you need to work on your consistency but you do that by creating technically clean strokes. You create clean strokes by not being afraid of change, that is, don't hesitate to take one or two steps back to make several big steps forward later. For example, when I was younger I hit the ball too much using my arm and wrist. At lower levels, the ball isn't moving very quickly so you can get away with it. I learned that the better players use their bodies (core rotation, legs, shoulders) to produce groundstrokes. So I learned everything I could about it and simply made the commitment to change even though I knew that my game was going to go south for little while. I had a terrible time keeping the ball in play and it was very frustrating. But I just kept at it and one day (months later) it all came together. Now I have fun hitting hard, consistent shots and it's a lot easier than before. My latest change was learning that modern strokes are more of a catch and pull action versus a push (or slap) action. This change wasn't as hard as the first but I definitely paid a price for learning it and incorporating it into my playing. The change in serve mechanics was the hardest and longest to overcome by far. Nobody wanted me on their team because I was double faulting so much. I had plenty of doubts about and finally overcame it. Now the team captains want me back and I can beat guys that I didn't before.

Overall, get good dependable stroke instruction. Join good instructional web sites and build your knowledge and arsenal of mental images. Make the needed changes even though it completely takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you worse for a while. YOu should even practice your strokes when you're not on the court. Like a boxer practices shadow boxing so should you practice in slow motion to program your muscle memory. Basically, no matter how much you practice, if you're practicing 3.5 strokes all the time, then that's what you get.

This post is really a great suggestion.

At 3.5, you have surely some areas of technique that could use some hard work. If you are not progressing for that long, get some instruction, you may not be doing the things you think you are doing in your mind. Bad technique cannot be overcome without addressing the root cause. You can't watch yourself playing, you have to get some support to improve at a game involving such complex movement.

tdad
10-01-2007, 06:37 PM
I'd like to thank everyone for the great posts. I'll let you know when I break through.:D