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raiden031
04-25-2009, 04:53 PM
So I had my first USTA match at 4.0 singles. I got creamed 6-0, 6-2. I threw my racquet into the fence after the first set. I wasn't frustrated because I played bad...I did it because I had a painful realization of what 4.0 singles is like. The shots that win matches against 3.5 players are ineffective at 4.0. My strategy was to patiently rally with him until he hits a short ball and then attack. He would just outlast me most of the time. Of course I hit 0 winners and when I made it to net he easily passed me most of the time as well. That strategy resulted in a bagel. 2nd set I S&Ved on most first serves and it might've disrupted him (2 holds) but not enough to do much against him, although i had a couple breakpoints that i blew. But it sucks that i feel like i played pretty well and it fell so short.

I had a suspicion this would be my fate at 4.0 but thought i was being too hard on myself. Looks like these players are the real deal. Last week i played against one of our top doubles players in singles in practice and i got creamed 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. Very similar to this match. Its not like they blow me off the court with weapons or big groundstrokes, but its just consistency and playing good defense when they need to. Maybe two months ago i played another 4.0 guy in practice and we split sets, but he won and was the better player. He has gotten crushed in singles this year and last year as well.

What frustrates me most is that i am a better singles player than doubles, yet i am more competitive at doubles than singles. I can dominate 3.5s in singles but not doubles (i will lose sets to mediocre 3.5s in doubles sometimes), but i can compete at 4.0 doubles but not 4.0 singles. In doubles i am only as good (or bad) as the people around me, whereas in singles its up to me.

Not sure if i should bail on playing usta singles (for my team's sake) and play usta doubles and just play singles in ladders where its just for me, or if i should stick it out. I want to get better, but not be humiliated or even worse, bumped back down.

Steady Eddy
04-25-2009, 05:09 PM
You weren't used to this level. You improved 2 games from the 1st set to the 2nd set. If you played this guy alot, you'd probably be alot more competitive just from knowing what works and what doesn't. In order to get better you're going to have to play good players. I say keep playing at this level, learn how to play these points, and, over time, learn the strokes you'll need to succeed here. Don't be discouraged too easily. How good were you at tennis the first time you played?

raiden031
04-25-2009, 05:16 PM
You weren't used to this level. You improved 2 games from the 1st set to the 2nd set. If you played this guy alot, you'd probably be alot more competitive just from knowing what works and what doesn't. In order to get better you're going to have to play good players. I say keep playing at this level, learn how to play these points, and, over time, learn the strokes you'll need to succeed here. Don't be discouraged too easily. How good were you at tennis the first time you played?

Maybe you're right, but I didn't feel like that when I started winning at 3.0 and 3.5. Back in the day, I feel like the reason I lost to those players was because of obvious deficiencies in my game where I was beating myself. Here I felt like this guy was just better because I played my normal game and it came up short. I feel like the kind of improvement I need for 4.0 might be alot more than what it took to win against 3.5s (Even though the outcome might not be as measurable, but the effort will be much more).

I told both my teammate last week and my opponent today that they were clearly better than me (both seemed to indicate that my A game wasn't on today which caused the beatdowns), but I think my A game just isn't enough. Everyone is downplaying my concerns, but I don't know how quickly I can get used to this level of play. I really don't want to win 3 games a match for the next 6 matches or however many I play this season.

If it was an individual effort, I wouldn't care but I'm worried about what the captain and team will think. Did he expect more out of me? These are questions constantly running through my mind. Should I proactively tell my captain I'm willing to play doubles if he needs me there as a hint that maybe I could use a little doubles play to regain some confidence?

StringingIrvine
04-25-2009, 05:19 PM
Just because you lost one match doesn't mean you can't compete. For all we know he could have been able to play 4.5 but was playing at 4.0. Like Eddy said you just might not be used to that level of play, since it was your first match. Keep your head up! Gotta play better people to be better. I hate doubles too =)

raiden031
04-25-2009, 05:37 PM
Just because you lost one match doesn't mean you can't compete. For all we know he could have been able to play 4.5 but was playing at 4.0. Like Eddy said you just might not be used to that level of play, since it was your first match. Keep your head up! Gotta play better people to be better. I hate doubles too =)

It wasn't just one match, but also from some practice matches that gave me the impression I was in over my head. I looked at his record and don't necessarily think he's a 4.5 (yep thats right, the first person to get blown out and not blame it on your opponent being a sandbagger).

goober
04-25-2009, 05:54 PM
Well you moved up two levels. The difference in consistency, quality of shot and so forth is huge. Once you start playing these 4.0 guys regularly you will know what works and what you can't get away with. You have the physical tools and the shots from your video. You are still young so you have a lot of upside. You have just got to keep playing these guys and eventually you will start hanging with them and eventually be beating them.

Nellie
04-25-2009, 06:30 PM
Keep with the singles, and don't worry about the losses. If your team minds, you will hear about it. For yourself, think about things you could change/improve and get to practicing! My observation is that a lot of 4.0 players played on a high school team, so you are starting at a disadvantage. So what if you lose some matches. I'm sure you will have a tough year, but you have been through that before. I bet, for example, that you could improve your serve placement (we all can) without really changing the fundementals of your serve. I would agree, that it is frustrating and difficult to decide on a strategy, when your opponent does not seem to have weaknesses, at least to your shots. I am impressed that you went to a serve and volley, since you are predominantly a baseliner. I think you should use these matches to determine areas for improvement. Try to figure out what shots the opponents are hitting winners from. I realized, for example, that my slice BH, although it rarely missed, was floating, and setting up for too many winners from opponents, so I hit it shorter and lower now.

I recall, in reading interviews with really talented juniors, is that they usually really truggle as pros because the shots that used to work stop getting points, so the juniors are constantly trying to fine tune their strategy. For example, a 135 MPH serve down the middle can win the Orange bowl, but does not phase the pros, so it may be better to serve softer and go for angles

raiden031
04-25-2009, 06:44 PM
Keep with the singles, and don't worry about the losses. If your team minds, you will hear about it. For yourself, think about things you could change/improve and get to practicing! My observation is that a lot of 4.0 players played on a high school team, so you are starting at a disadvantage. So what if you lose some matches. I'm sure you will have a tough year, but you have been through that before. I bet, for example, that you could improve your serve placement (we all can) without really changing the fundementals of your serve. I would agree, that it is frustrating and difficult to decide on a strategy, when your opponent does not seem to have weaknesses, at least to your shots. I am impressed that you went to a serve and volley, since you are predominantly a baseliner. I think you should use these matches to determine areas for improvement. Try to figure out what shots the opponents are hitting winners from. I realized, for example, that my slice BH, although it rarely missed, was floating, and setting up for too many winners from opponents, so I hit it shorter and lower now.

I recall, in reading interviews with really talented juniors, is that they usually really truggle as pros because the shots that used to work stop getting points, so the juniors are constantly trying to fine tune their strategy. For example, a 135 MPH serve down the middle can win the Orange bowl, but does not phase the pros, so it may be better to serve softer and go for angles

I S&V alot in doubles, so its not completely foreign to me. I tend to use it alot during a match when I'm in over my head and getting creamed from the baseline, or just occasionally to throw in some variety. In this case it was out of desperation. Funny thing was I don't recall my opponent had a single winner while I was at the baseline. He had alot of passes when I was at net, but that was the only time he could get the ball past me. I returned most of his serves no prob, and he might've forced maybe 2 errors on serve and the rest was all UEs on my part. But this is a rare case where I lost due to UEs, but I played at my own expectations. There were some longer rallies than I normally had against 3.5s, but of course he won most of them. I really felt privileged when he hit a UE because it seemed so rare that it would happen. I definitely played poorly at the net, judging by all the passes, because I was hitting my approaches too short and some of my volleys were short, so I can definitely improve that. The baseline improvement seems difficult, other than just getting more consistent or a little more patient.

Oh and some of my teammates were surprised by the score because from what they saw, I was playing well...LOL. I'm like, "yeah, I was hitting well, but my opponent won all the points!"

Cindysphinx
04-25-2009, 06:53 PM
Oh, man. I don't know what to tell you, honestly.

I can relate, though. I have now endured two computer bump-ups. It is really quite bracing because it is just what you describe. Your Old Tricks don't win you points. And then there's the fact that any poor shots you do cough up cost you dearly.

I would just let your captain use you as he sees fit. Don't sweat it. You'll figure out some new strokes and strategies, and you'll adjust. We all do.

Cindy -- who lost her only singles match after being bumped up to 3.5 at 6-0, 6-3 to a World Class Pusher

raiden031
04-25-2009, 06:59 PM
Oh, man. I don't know what to tell you, honestly.

I can relate, though. I have now endured two computer bump-ups. It is really quite bracing because it is just what you describe. Your Old Tricks don't win you points. And then there's the fact that any poor shots you do cough up cost you dearly.

I would just let your captain use you as he sees fit. Don't sweat it. You'll figure out some new strokes and strategies, and you'll adjust. We all do.

Cindy -- who lost her only singles match after being bumped up to 3.5 at 6-0, 6-3 to a World Class Pusher

You could probably classify my opponent as a pusher by fact that he doesn't go for much during rallies (although his technique was decent and he hit with decent topspin), but when you come to the net, you would think he's got a sniper rifle aiming those passing shots.

Cindysphinx
04-25-2009, 07:09 PM
Yeah, I remember that whole feeling of waiting for the opponent to hit a short ball and feeling like it never came. These players at higher levels don't hand out gifts, do they?

Were you able to hit any short angles to draw him off the court? How did that work?

ohplease
04-25-2009, 07:18 PM
I'm not sure what the OP expected, but if you haven't proven yourself against the next level, what makes you expect you can compete two levels up? It's no different than a junior dominating the 14s jumping to the 18s - you're going to get owned. Beating the occasional 16 year old (or 3.5 player in this case) isn't proof.

Cindysphinx
04-25-2009, 07:38 PM
I won't speak for Raiden, but I think I could take a wild guess about what he expected. Maybe he figured that if he just played his game well and perhaps did a few things a bit better, that would be enough.

That's what I thought when I moved up and promptly got owned.

thehustler
04-25-2009, 08:45 PM
I got my butt whooped when I got bumped from 3.5 to 4.0 for the first few months. My game which was good for 3.5 sucked for 4.0. All I did was learn from my losses how to adapt my game to beat these players. The result? I'm now a 4.5. I've learned from the last few years of playing 4.0 is that the more patient you are the more they will miss. I will play matches where I just will not go for winners at all and just keep the ball in play. Sure you'll meet guys who will just beat you up, but a patient game will win you a lot of matches. Don't drop off the team, take your lumps, learn your lessons. You'll be a much better player, maybe the results won't show this season, but they'll be much better the next. Have faith. You can do it!

mauricem
04-25-2009, 09:05 PM
I remember some vids you posted a while ago. I thought at the time your strokes were way better than a 3.5.

I know theres a lot more to winning sets than having nice strokes but you seemed very solid to my untrained eye.

If you're getting cleaned up at 4.0 I need to reassess my skill level:(

btw did your opponent come to the net much? I really need to develop a good topspin lob for singles, how about you?

drake
04-25-2009, 10:58 PM
I kind of remember your video last year some time. If I recall, posters were rating you all over the place from a 3.0 to 5.0. I do recall you are fairly athletic with a solid forehand, meaning proper grip for the spin and pace you generated. I'm guessing, the 4.0's picked on your backhand because I recall your backhand grip being a sort of a weak eastern that could get you into trouble. You should consider working on a full eastern, someone of your abilities should pick it up fairly quick and would pay off in the long run up to the next level. Work on more spin off both wings to stay in the point longer, especially against the 4.0 pusher. You can do it!

raiden031
04-26-2009, 03:04 AM
I'm not sure what the OP expected, but if you haven't proven yourself against the next level, what makes you expect you can compete two levels up? It's no different than a junior dominating the 14s jumping to the 18s - you're going to get owned. Beating the occasional 16 year old (or 3.5 player in this case) isn't proof.

I spent more time playing against 3.5s than 3.0s, although it was mainly in singles ladders and pickup matches, but they are usta players. I guess the reason I expected to do alright was because thats where USTA rated me. Couple months ago I played another guy who got bumped up to 4.0 in an unsanctioned singles tourney draw, and I beat him in straight sets. Although he's a doubles player in league matches, so maybe he would suffer the same fate at usta singles. There's a big difference between 4.0 singles and doubles it looks.

raiden031
04-26-2009, 03:06 AM
I won't speak for Raiden, but I think I could take a wild guess about what he expected. Maybe he figured that if he just played his game well and perhaps did a few things a bit better, that would be enough.

That's what I thought when I moved up and promptly got owned.

My expectations were to lose more often than I win, but to be more competitive than I am showing myself to be. Getting bageled like this was kinda my worst case scenario. LOL.

raiden031
04-26-2009, 03:10 AM
Yeah, I remember that whole feeling of waiting for the opponent to hit a short ball and feeling like it never came. These players at higher levels don't hand out gifts, do they?

Were you able to hit any short angles to draw him off the court? How did that work?

The one thing I didn't try was short angles or bringing him to the net with drop shots. Those have never been a big part of my arsenal but I think I need to start looking into those shots.

The only time I really got free points was on my serve. Other than that, nothing I did really worked.

GeoffB
04-26-2009, 06:48 AM
Man, it's tough. Last year, I was successful in 4.0 flex league (which really means 3.5 with a few 4.0 dubs players), but when I went into official league play 4.0 (I played singles for my team), I went 1-5 (my first two results were 6-2, 6-1, and 6-1, 6-0 losses) and got bumped down to 3.5. I worked during the off season on my game a lot, improved my play, went 6-1 and 4-0 in the next two 4.0 flex leagues, but like I said, those are almost always weaker than official team league play, so I was nervous as I started my first USTA team league match yesterday.

After 25 minutes on the court, I had lost the first set 6-0. Ugh. After all that hard work in the offseason. No real need to elaborate - we're all tennis players here, so you all know the kind of crap that was going through my head.

Amazingly enough, I actually recovered to win the next set 6-3 and take the match in a 10-pt "super tiebreak" (my opponent and I were both disappointed that we didn't get to play out the 3rd set, scheduling issues forced the tiebreak).

Some of this is luck. I know, it's not *all* luck, but a serve that landed a few inches in, rather than a few inches out, gave me the crucial hold to start the first set, and a down the liner that was again a few inches in got my early break. If I'd missed these shots, who knows, the entire momentum might have stayed against me...

This is all just a long way of saying that you shouldn't despair too much. It takes a long, long time to get competitive at a new level in tennis. You need to want to win, but this is no sport for people who can't handle losing. You just have to bounce back from a discouraging string of losses. Good luck!

raiden031
04-26-2009, 06:59 AM
I played against a 3.5 today in a ladder match. I won 3 and 3. This guy had a few winners against me (baseline to baseline), unlike the 4.0 that gave me the beatdown yesterday. I was thinking about that beatdown the whole match today. Biggest difference was the 3.5 gave me alot of free points today that I didn't get yesterday. The difference between winning at 3.5 vs. winning at 4.0 has never been so clear until playing those back to back matches.

mental midget
04-26-2009, 07:18 AM
what you find as you climb the rankings is more and more players doing what you're . . . supposed to do, in a given situation. you're not necessarily going to see screaming winners from absurd court positions, but short balls will be punished, volleys put away, groundstrokes will be deep, etc.

i play in a 5.0 league at a pretty big tennis club. almost all ex-college players. matches are . . . work. you need to play smart, within yourself, and try to work points to a place where you can bring your weapon(s) to bear.

stick with it. better competition takes some getting used to. familiarity will ease some of the pain. in the meantime, work on footwork and preparation-if you're not there on time, or off-balance, stroke mechanics go out the window.

beernutz
04-26-2009, 12:38 PM
I think because there are more 3.5s than any other USTA level, there is a more variance in the abilities of 3.5s than at any other USTA level. Consequently you may end up playing a lot of 3.5s and beating the crap out of them but still not be a 4.0. Conversely, you may get smacked by a string of 3.5s to the point where you question whether you really belong as a 3.5. Just pointing this out because you (Raiden) seem to be judging how well you think you should be doing against 4.0s based on how well you've played some 3.5s in pickup games and non-league matches. Hang in there, learn from your losses, work on your weaknesses, and kick some 4.0 butt.

Bud
04-26-2009, 01:37 PM
I played against a 3.5 today in a ladder match. I won 3 and 3. This guy had a few winners against me (baseline to baseline), unlike the 4.0 that gave me the beatdown yesterday. I was thinking about that beatdown the whole match today. Biggest difference was the 3.5 gave me alot of free points today that I didn't get yesterday. The difference between winning at 3.5 vs. winning at 4.0 has never been so clear until playing those back to back matches.

Perhaps the 4.0 that gave you the beat down was actually closer to a 4.5

aldoggie
04-26-2009, 06:25 PM
The guys in 4.0 are going to be more consistent. It will cause you to figure out ways to win points instead of figuring out ways not to lose points. Don't look at it as a negative. Think of it as a step towards being a better player. When you play these guys just think to yourself "what can I do to win this next point?" and then do it.

MNPlayer
04-27-2009, 06:20 AM
I've had a pretty similar experience, after starting to play 4.0 this year. I got moved up from 3.5 USTA where I was winning consistently in doubles. Also was undefeated in a 3.5 singles club league. I switched to 4.0 mid-season and only won 2 matches. Against better 4.0 players, I get destroyed.

Basically, I think I've got to improve all parts of my game, especially: 2nd serve, backhand, and hitting deep consistently. Underlying all of this (other than the serve) is proper footwork, movement, and setting up earlier. I've been hitting with a really good baseliner lately and he really makes it obvious when I'm not hitting quite deep enough. I feel like he's jerking me around on a string. At 3.5, most players could/did not do this, so I had no reason to change.

The good news is that when I take a point off good 4.0 player, it feels more satisfying! I usually have to "earn" it more by proper point construction, forcing shots, etc - not just waiting for an error.

Even though I've been losing, 4.0 tennis is way more fun! Keep at it! :)

Casey10s
04-27-2009, 08:37 AM
Playing people of different levels through the years, I have noticed some things. Shots that work at one level may not work at a higher level and vice versa.

Raiden, don't know about your playing style so I will make a few suggestions.

When moving up, just getting the ball in play is not going to work as well. You have to start to find ways of winning points rather than extending the points and waiting for the other person to miss. The other person will get a ball in his zone and will go for his shot.

Also, be prepared for your good shots to come back. A person who is a probably more than a half a point below me comments to me that he will hit shots against his normal partners that don't come back. When we hit, I take the same shot and hit it back offensively and he is not ready for it. He tells me it takes him a while to get used to these shots coming back. Maybe you need to keep focused that the ball will be coming back in play.

Also, there may be shots that don't work at the lower levels you were playing but may work at the higher level. Experiment a little bit. Maybe hit some moon balls or try some off speed shots with the thought of winning points off of it.

Other points that may have been brought up already:

Keep the balls in play but start to hit the ball offensively.
If you see a weakness, exploit it. If a guy struggles with his backhand, make sure he hits it a LOT.
Change up your shots and styles. Don't let the other person get too comfortable.
Don't make silly or stupid mistakes.
Hang in there. During a match, things can change.
Have different styles of play. If playing a pusher, you may want to come into the net more. Someone who goes for big shots often but will make mistakes, play a counterpunching mode to let him give you points.
Be patient. Over the long haul (say a few months), you will find things that will work and other things that don't.
Relax when you are on the court. Don't press.
Take some lessons. Have someone critique your shots so you can work on improving your game.

Annika
04-27-2009, 08:52 AM
"Progress not Perfection"

raiden031
04-27-2009, 08:56 AM
Playing people of different levels through the years, I have noticed some things. Shots that work at one level may not work at a higher level and vice versa.

Raiden, don't know about your playing style so I will make a few suggestions.

When moving up, just getting the ball in play is not going to work as well. You have to start to find ways of winning points rather than extending the points and waiting for the other person to miss. The other person will get a ball in his zone and will go for his shot.

Also, be prepared for your good shots to come back. A person who is a probably more than a half a point below me comments to me that he will hit shots against his normal partners that don't come back. When we hit, I take the same shot and hit it back offensively and he is not ready for it. He tells me it takes him a while to get used to these shots coming back. Maybe you need to keep focused that the ball will be coming back in play.

Also, there may be shots that don't work at the lower levels you were playing but may work at the higher level. Experiment a little bit. Maybe hit some moon balls or try some off speed shots with the thought of winning points off of it.

Other points that may have been brought up already:

Keep the balls in play but start to hit the ball offensively.
If you see a weakness, exploit it. If a guy struggles with his backhand, make sure he hits it a LOT.
Change up your shots and styles. Don't let the other person get too comfortable.
Don't make silly or stupid mistakes.
Hang in there. During a match, things can change.
Have different styles of play. If playing a pusher, you may want to come into the net more. Someone who goes for big shots often but will make mistakes, play a counterpunching mode to let him give you points.
Be patient. Over the long haul (say a few months), you will find things that will work and other things that don't.
Relax when you are on the court. Don't press.
Take some lessons. Have someone critique your shots so you can work on improving your game.


Whats interesting is that my problem seems counterintuitive. Against 3.5s, I can usually control the rally early on, and construct a point so that basically I win the point by forcing an error or hitting a winner within a few strokes (unless my opponent hits a UE first). So these are advanced concepts that work up to the pro level, but it doesn't work for me against 4.0s. My guess is that what I thought was an offensive shot, is not really that offensive because its placement and pace are not quite good enough. These shots are just like rally balls to my 4.0 opponents who can anticipate and set up for them without issue. For me to actually force an error against a 4.0 will probably require alot more precision than I have developed, leading to more UEs on my part. So thats why I think I need to take a step back and actually improve consistency in my rally ball, and then gradually work in my style of ending points in such that I'm more patient and selective of when to do it, and that these pressure shots are more precise as well to generate weak responses.

Cindysphinx
04-27-2009, 09:05 AM
One decision you have to make when you move up is exactly *how* to improve. You can hone the shots you already have. Or you can try to introduce new ones (or ones you don't hit much due to lack of confidence/experience).

Like, I don't like to take my FH crosscourt. I can do it rather defensively, but I can't really smack it and expect it to stay on the court. I don't set up for it right. I know this.

The way I've been dealing with it is simply not to hit my FH crosscourt. I take it up the line or inside out. Or I lob it. Anything to avoid having to hit a topspin angled FH crosscourt. Is this a bad thing? It will be if I ever play a lefty. I can't decide whether to just keep taking that FH to the ad court for 2 hours straight, or whether to stop and work on taking the FH crosscourt.

I have to say, I haven't much enthusiasm for hitting the FH crosscourt. If I make the shot, what do I have? Either I have approached crosscourt (a no-no), or I have hit into the other player's wheelhouse.

Anywho, Raiden, what do you think you're going to do? Develop some new tools or hone the ones you have? Or do you already have all the tools?

Cindy -- who hit her first drop shot in about a year yesterday and won the point, but who can't get too stoked because she hit it out of desperation

raiden031
04-27-2009, 09:19 AM
One decision you have to make when you move up is exactly *how* to improve. You can hone the shots you already have. Or you can try to introduce new ones (or ones you don't hit much due to lack of confidence/experience).

Like, I don't like to take my FH crosscourt. I can do it rather defensively, but I can't really smack it and expect it to stay on the court. I don't set up for it right. I know this.

The way I've been dealing with it is simply not to hit my FH crosscourt. I take it up the line or inside out. Or I lob it. Anything to avoid having to hit a topspin angled FH crosscourt. Is this a bad thing? It will be if I ever play a lefty. I can't decide whether to just keep taking that FH to the ad court for 2 hours straight, or whether to stop and work on taking the FH crosscourt.

I have to say, I haven't much enthusiasm for hitting the FH crosscourt. If I make the shot, what do I have? Either I have approached crosscourt (a no-no), or I have hit into the other player's wheelhouse.

Anywho, Raiden, what do you think you're going to do? Develop some new tools or hone the ones you have? Or do you already have all the tools?

Cindy -- who hit her first drop shot in about a year yesterday and won the point, but who can't get too stoked because she hit it out of desperation

I think its bad to avoid the FH cross-court since that is the highest percentage shot.

I do need to use more drop shots and lobs to add another dimension to my game, but because they aren't real effective to use as a primary strategy, I tend to neglect them. I focus more on what you see the pros doing most often, such as topspin groundstroke rallys on both sides, backhand slice, and being able to put away shots at the net and hit some killer overheads.

But really I think my biggest weakness is just being able to grind it out against an opponent that doesn't give you many opportunities to attack because they have great anticipation and defense.

sureshs
04-27-2009, 09:45 AM
I had a suspicion this would be my fate at 4.0 but thought i was being too hard on myself. Looks like these players are the real deal.

4.0 players are the real deal ??? I play with 4.0 league players all the time.

Most of them have a low-%tage first serve, a dinky second serve, flawed technique on every shot, awkward motions, and even wrong grips.

You give them way too much credit.

Casey10s
04-27-2009, 10:01 AM
Whats interesting is that my problem seems counterintuitive. Against 3.5s, I can usually control the rally early on, and construct a point so that basically I win the point by forcing an error or hitting a winner within a few strokes (unless my opponent hits a UE first). So these are advanced concepts that work up to the pro level, but it doesn't work for me against 4.0s. My guess is that what I thought was an offensive shot, is not really that offensive because its placement and pace are not quite good enough. These shots are just like rally balls to my 4.0 opponents who can anticipate and set up for them without issue. For me to actually force an error against a 4.0 will probably require alot more precision than I have developed, leading to more UEs on my part. So thats why I think I need to take a step back and actually improve consistency in my rally ball, and then gradually work in my style of ending points in such that I'm more patient and selective of when to do it, and that these pressure shots are more precise as well to generate weak responses.

Here is something else to keep in mind. VARY your shots. Don't hit the same shot over an over. By varying, this will cause UE and lead to more offensive shots by your opponent. Hit topspin, flat balls, slices, offspeed, crosscourt, down the line, down the middle, short, deep, and what else. Hit the shots you feel comfortable hitting and don't try to hit shots that you can't hit (e.g. a drop shot off the lob). Therefore you minimize your mistakes but you can give the other person fits since he has to change his strokes to match your shots. But you should have your shot picked as the ball is coming off your opponents racquet. Any later than that and you will probably screw yourself up by changing your mind during your swing. Also, stick with your main shot and use the variations maybe 10 to 20% of the time to keep your opponent guessing.

I love getting into cross-court forehand rallies. I'll hit my usual forehand (a deep flat shot with topspin that makes the ball dip at the end) a few times and then I may put more topspin on it and hit a short angle, go down the line (also approach the net) if I get an off-speed ball, hit it down the middle, or some other variation. Same thing on the backhand. I will hit some topspin backhands, mix in some slices, try some angles, heavy slice down the line (a new shot from this winter), or topspin backhands down the line. This variation can throw the other person off balance since they don't know what to expect.

The higher you go, the more the players will get in a groove hitting. At the lower levels, the strokes are more inconsistent and so you can hit the same shot over and over and get a missed shot eventually. At the higher levels, the person will not miss and will eventually attack and end the point if you keep hitting the same shot.

raiden031
04-27-2009, 10:08 AM
4.0 players are the real deal ??? I play with 4.0 league players all the time.

Most of them have a low-%tage first serve, a dinky second serve, flawed technique on every shot, awkward motions, and even wrong grips.

You give them way too much credit.

I don't think that the players I've encountered at 4.0 are really that skilled as far as shotmaking ability, but the consistency they had was surprising, because I didn't realize my shots would be so ineffective. It just puts things more into perspective that I am once again, worse than I thought. Again this is only singles I'm talking about. I feel like I can do alright in doubles.

ohplease
04-27-2009, 10:13 AM
Playing people of different levels through the years, I have noticed some things. Shots that work at one level may not work at a higher level and vice versa.

Raiden, don't know about your playing style so I will make a few suggestions.

When moving up, just getting the ball in play is not going to work as well. You have to start to find ways of winning points rather than extending the points and waiting for the other person to miss. The other person will get a ball in his zone and will go for his shot.

Also, be prepared for your good shots to come back. A person who is a probably more than a half a point below me comments to me that he will hit shots against his normal partners that don't come back. When we hit, I take the same shot and hit it back offensively and he is not ready for it. He tells me it takes him a while to get used to these shots coming back. Maybe you need to keep focused that the ball will be coming back in play.

Also, there may be shots that don't work at the lower levels you were playing but may work at the higher level. Experiment a little bit. Maybe hit some moon balls or try some off speed shots with the thought of winning points off of it.

Other points that may have been brought up already:
Keep the balls in play but start to hit the ball offensively.
If you see a weakness, exploit it. If a guy struggles with his backhand, make sure he hits it a LOT.
Change up your shots and styles. Don't let the other person get too comfortable.
Don't make silly or stupid mistakes.
Hang in there. During a match, things can change.
Have different styles of play. If playing a pusher, you may want to come into the net more. Someone who goes for big shots often but will make mistakes, play a counterpunching mode to let him give you points.
Be patient. Over the long haul (say a few months), you will find things that will work and other things that don't.
Relax when you are on the court. Don't press.
Take some lessons. Have someone critique your shots so you can work on improving your game.

One of the better posts in the thread.

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOUR SHOTS. It's about leveraging your shots against your opponents. At a certain point (like now), you simply will not be able to reliably hit through your opponents, or get them out of position at will, or wait for them to hand you an error. You will have to first keep them neutral, then put them farther and farther behind the rally. Then you've got to be solid enough to execute the hard earned winner opportunity that you've constructed for yourself. That's alot to do to win a single point, and it doesn't sound like you're ready to put on the hardhat and grind. You're no pro, and odds are you will not be able to reliably construct a point that does all this in less than 4 shots. Heck, there are plenty of good D1 college players that can't do it, either.

You've got some weapons that look pretty good w/your feet set. Fantastic. Good for you. That earns you opportunities to have those weapons neutralized by better opponents - who are also doing you the FAVOR of showing you how bad your footwork/defense/shot tolerance/patience are.

Finally, pro style tennis, as seen by the top 10 or 20 on final weekends has very little to do w/what it takes to win at the club level, and is arguably a hindrance to club players getting their heads screwed on straight.

Maybe not having a true weapon keeps you from getting to #1, but solid court craft, defense, and disciplined play will take you a heck of a lot farther than 4.0.

StringingIrvine
04-27-2009, 10:16 AM
heavy slice down the line (a new shot from this winter)

My favorite shot as well, i find that if you hit it deep enough its hard for my opponent to get to and put a lot of juice on it because it is so low. As opposed to if you hit a heavy topspin down the line the ball will jump up and allow them to counter punch.

i think the difference between a 3.5 and a 4.0 is just consistency. A solid 3.5 has the shots of the 4.0 but maybe not the discipline to use it when they need to and not off every shot.

slick
04-27-2009, 10:21 AM
Just my 2 cents.

I play mainly 4.5s but also frequently 4.0s. The main difference I see between the high 4.0s and 4.5s from the weak 4.0s is unforced errors. Usually the weak 4.0s have some weapons, typically a good forehand and a good first serve but they have some big holes in their game , typically backhand and second serve. To beat them all you need to do is avoid their weapon and make them beat you with their weakness which will usually break down pretty quickly. The top 4.0s and 4.5s usually don't have a glaring weakness and can usually bring enough pressure to avoid hitting their weaker strokes. Of course their game gets quickly broken down against a 5.0 who usually has multiple weapons and brings extreme pressure al the time.

Specifically it sounds like you need to improve your approach shots and decision of when to approach if you are getting passed consistently. 3.5s typically think an approach shot is good if it is angled towards a side line usually without much pace or depth. This type of shot creates a wealth of passing opportunities for a strong player who won't panic and usually complete the shot. At higher level play the approach has to be hard and deep or a near winner to be consistently successful. You can't just hit a weak approach and hope for the best like you can against a 3.5 who will hit it right to you or miss a lot of the time. This is why very little net play is seen at the pro level these days.

coyfish
04-27-2009, 10:23 AM
4.0 players are the real deal ??? I play with 4.0 league players all the time.

Most of them have a low-%tage first serve, a dinky second serve, flawed technique on every shot, awkward motions, and even wrong grips.

You give them way too much credit.

I would like to find that league . . . Im a 4.5 player but I play lots of 4.0's. Last time I saw a "dinky" 2nd serve was in the 3.5 level. Unless you consider 80mph+ 2nd serves "dinks."

3.5 there is a lot of variety. You see a lot of big hitters but not consistant. You also see a lot of pushers still. Lots of different skill levels hitting with all sorts of styles / grips. Fun to play in this group because you never know what to expect. Once you get into the 4.0 level (at least where I live) there is more strategy, placement, and constancy going on. Most players have "solid" dependable groundstrokes and placement. Can't win at this level anymore just pushing it back.

At 4.5 I can beat most 4.0's simply because I hit a bit harder and more consistantly.

Just wondering what your talking about when you say "wrong grip." You can hit a forehand with continental , eastern, semi west, full west . . . no "wrong" way.

sureshs
04-27-2009, 11:13 AM
I would like to find that league . . . Im a 4.5 player but I play lots of 4.0's. Last time I saw a "dinky" 2nd serve was in the 3.5 level. Unless you consider 80mph+ 2nd serves "dinks."

3.5 there is a lot of variety. You see a lot of big hitters but not consistant. You also see a lot of pushers still. Lots of different skill levels hitting with all sorts of styles / grips. Fun to play in this group because you never know what to expect. Once you get into the 4.0 level (at least where I live) there is more strategy, placement, and constancy going on. Most players have "solid" dependable groundstrokes and placement. Can't win at this level anymore just pushing it back.

At 4.5 I can beat most 4.0's simply because I hit a bit harder and more consistantly.

Just wondering what your talking about when you say "wrong grip." You can hit a forehand with continental , eastern, semi west, full west . . . no "wrong" way.

Mostly the BH grips are wrong. Serves are sometimes with Eastern.

I guess the standard varies with region and age. But these people I am talking about are seasoned 4.0 league players. They lose to 12 year old junior girls when their coaches set up a practice match before a junior tournament.

I find the 80 mph second serves a little hard to digest. I have seen numerous 4.0 league matches being played and haven't seen this with any consistency.

sureshs
04-27-2009, 11:17 AM
Perhaps the 4.0 that gave you the beat down was actually closer to a 4.5

That is what I suspect, and probably applies to some of the other posters' comments too. He could be a sandbagging 4.5, or a 4.5 who is coming back after a layoff for reasons of work or injury.

raiden031
04-27-2009, 11:36 AM
That is what I suspect, and probably applies to some of the other posters' comments too. He could be a sandbagging 4.5, or a 4.5 who is coming back after a layoff for reasons of work or injury.

I don't even think that is the case in my example. If I was watching my opponent from a distance, I would probably think I could beat him because his game doesn't look so impressive. But when you play against him and realize that nothing you do bothers him, thats where you realize he's better than you thought.

BreakPoint
04-27-2009, 12:15 PM
4.0 players are the real deal ??? I play with 4.0 league players all the time.

Most of them have a low-%tage first serve, a dinky second serve, flawed technique on every shot, awkward motions, and even wrong grips.

You give them way too much credit.
Then you are not playing "real" 4.0's.

sureshs
04-27-2009, 12:17 PM
Then you are not playing "real" 4.0's.

Possible. All I know is that they are regular 4.0 USTA league players.

BreakPoint
04-27-2009, 12:25 PM
Mostly the BH grips are wrong. Serves are sometimes with Eastern.

I guess the standard varies with region and age. But these people I am talking about are seasoned 4.0 league players. They lose to 12 year old junior girls when their coaches set up a practice match before a junior tournament.

I find the 80 mph second serves a little hard to digest. I have seen numerous 4.0 league matches being played and haven't seen this with any consistency.
Again, these are not "real" 4.0's then. At least not 4.0 singles players.

BreakPoint
04-27-2009, 12:27 PM
Possible. All I know is that they are regular 4.0 USTA league players.
There are plenty of 3.5's playing in the 4.0 leagues.

Also, there's usually a big difference between league singles and doubles players.

sureshs
04-27-2009, 12:34 PM
There are plenty of 3.5's playing in the 4.0 leagues.

Also, there's usually a big difference between league singles and doubles players.

They play both. But could be 3.5s playing up for all I know. But when they play home matches against other teams on Sundays, their opponents stink too. Not one guy who plays smoothly.

4.5 is the first level I can watch someone play. Anything below is an eyesore which makes me afraid it will subliminally influence me.

burosky
04-27-2009, 01:33 PM
To the OP:

Review the match in your mind and ask yourself the following questions: How was I able to get points? and How did my opponent get points? If you can answer both truthfully, you will know what you need to focus more when you practice.

oldhacker
04-27-2009, 02:34 PM
raiden - I think you are being to hard on yourself. In my experience if 4.0's are asking you to play against them then your game cannot be too far off. I am always delighted when a stronger player than me is keen for a game as it shows he at least thinks it will not be a waste of time.

And then when you play stronger players enough your own game develops until you push them close. Last summer a strong singles player (high 4.0 to low 4.5) at my club started asking me to play singles. First few games I went down 1 and 0. I felt I was in the rallies and earning chances and many game points but could never quite get there. Next few games it was more like 2 and 3, then 4 and 3 and then I won a set 7-6. It took at least 12 matches over a year to get there but I made it. The improvement was slow but, with hindsight, it was tangible and worth every minute spent on court.

Technically I would not say there has been a massive improvement in my strokes but rather my shot selection, tactics and positional play have improved immensely. In particular my transition / approach game has improved massively as I am now more patient and wait until I can hit a solid approach **** down the line off a shortish ball moving forward. Also my return of serve as I have discovered I am particularly good at hitting a forehand return of serve down the line from the ad court. Basically I now have a small number of tactics / plays which play to my strengths, work for me in singles and which I can use against different opponents.

ronray43
04-28-2009, 06:14 AM
Welcome to my world. Got moved to 4.0 ten years ago and have been losing ever since. Last year was typical--went 2-11, and the only matches I won were against a guy that self-rated 4.0 and got moved down to 3.5 in 2009 (6-3, 7-6) and to a doubles team that had one 3.5 player (in 3 sets). Of the 11 match losses, I lost 10 sets at 0 or 1, but continue to get rated at 4.0 with unsuccessful appeals to 3.5.

Doesn't seem to matter how much I practice, take lessons, change strategies, etc., the young guns in 4.0, many of whom fit the exact USTA definition of what a 4.5 should be, are simply in a class above my skill level.

Hope you fare better than I have, but plan on having to bring your game up significantly to be competitive.

Cheers,
Ron

ttbrowne
04-28-2009, 07:01 AM
Raiden, Try this after action review...
In the second set you held serve and were just 2 breakpoints from having 4 games!
I think you should concentrate on that. You changed course and except for those 2 breakpoints, you might be playing a tiebreak.
Any player who is moving up and was in a situation like that CAN'T look upon it as anything but experience. Hang in there!

FloridaAG
04-28-2009, 07:10 AM
Just stick with it and your game will improve and you will adapt. Increased consistency and placement of shot is the biggest difference as you change levels.

bad_call
04-28-2009, 07:23 AM
get used to eating humble pie. this is a good time to examine your game and those 4.0s to see where and how to improve. btw - ice cream tastes good with pie...followed by beer. :)

ronray43
04-28-2009, 07:33 AM
the beer does help . . .

raiden031
04-28-2009, 08:03 AM
Welcome to my world. Got moved to 4.0 ten years ago and have been losing ever since. Last year was typical--went 2-11, and the only matches I won were against a guy that self-rated 4.0 and got moved down to 3.5 in 2009 (6-3, 7-6) and to a doubles team that had one 3.5 player (in 3 sets). Of the 11 match losses, I lost 10 sets at 0 or 1, but continue to get rated at 4.0 with unsuccessful appeals to 3.5.

Doesn't seem to matter how much I practice, take lessons, change strategies, etc., the young guns in 4.0, many of whom fit the exact USTA definition of what a 4.5 should be, are simply in a class above my skill level.

Hope you fare better than I have, but plan on having to bring your game up significantly to be competitive.

Cheers,
Ron

Wow that sucks about your situation. 10 years and still losing...thats gotta be rough. Although I have a very opposite problem. I am still a young gun, but just don't have enough practice and experience under me yet to win at this level. I feel like I would probably fare better against another young player who might have big strokes, but will take riskier shots. Instead I was playing against a 45 year old veteran who never misses. The good news is I want to play at this level (and even higher), but I'm discouraged that my game is that far below the top players at this level (and I'm talking about the computer-rated singles players here). I hold high standards for myself, maybe they are unreasonably high.

BreakPoint
04-28-2009, 11:12 AM
Wow that sucks about your situation. 10 years and still losing...thats gotta be rough. Although I have a very opposite problem. I am still a young gun, but just don't have enough practice and experience under me yet to win at this level. I feel like I would probably fare better against another young player who might have big strokes, but will take riskier shots. Instead I was playing against a 45 year old veteran who never misses. The good news is I want to play at this level (and even higher), but I'm discouraged that my game is that far below the top players at this level (and I'm talking about the computer-rated singles players here). I hold high standards for myself, maybe they are unreasonably high.
It's hard to underestimate the value of experience when it comes to match play. That "45 year old veteran" you played probably has many decades of match play experience under his belt so he knows how to win matches and knows his own limitations of what he can do and cannot do in almost every match situation. In effect, he knows how to win points because he knows what works and what doesn't work so he doesn't take many unnecessary risks that are more likely to fail than to succeed. It's just percentage tennis, and at this level, that's what wins matches. I'm not sure if there are really any shortcuts to gaining this match play experience. Tennis isn't just all about strokes or athleticism. To me, tennis is more like a game of chess but with a ball and racquet instead of pawns and knights. In fact, in long matches, I usually get mentally exhausted from trying to out-think my opponent before I get physically exhausted from the running and hitting. Just something to keep in mind. Good luck. :)

coyfish
04-28-2009, 12:55 PM
Yep I play at 4.5 but as i mentioned earlier I play with a lot of 4.0's. They are good but as someone also mentioned, they usually have big holes in their game. Some have bad backhands and a lot of them cover it up by slicing 90% of their backhands. Other people suck at coming to net (like me). In your warm up just feel your opponent out. Give them some high topspins, some lower slices / flats, and some normal shots. It should be obvious on most 4.0's what their weaknesses are. At least it is when I play.

Strategy does a lot more than you may think. I always looked down on strat because I thought I already knew what to do. Hit to where the opponent is not . . . exploit weakness . . . pretty obvious. The thing is when you have your shot set in your mind before the ball comes to you, it makes it much easier.

In conclusion most 4.0's still lack strategy and have "obvious" holes in their game that you should exploit.