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View Full Version : Reflections Of A Would-Be Singles Player


Cindysphinx
06-17-2009, 05:19 AM
OK, so I slept on my stinging defeat in singles yesterday, and today I'm all ready to be philosophical. :)

For reference, I only played one singles match in 2007 (as a 3.0, where I won by just hitting conservatively until she missed), one in 2008 (as a 3.5 where I lost to a pusher on clay) and this last one in 2009. I am a total newbie on a singles court, no doubt about it.

Several things struck me about last night:

First, I was shocked at how much easier it is to hit an overhead in singles than doubles and how different it feels. In doubles, you have to beat two opponents with your overhead, and experienced doubles players will backpedal as you prepare to hit and know how to block it back to keep the point alive. In singles, players tend to stand at the center hash and then break one way or the other to have a shot. The surprising thing is that it was really easy to just wait for her to break or lean and hit the other way. It wasn't necessary to put a crater in the court, or aim for a net person's feet, or keep your eye on two people, or slice it to angle it away. I could see her quite clearly and still keep my eye on the ball and make good contact, and putting a clean overhead into the spot she just vacated was plenty good enough.

Second, I learned that Any Volley Will Do. When I first started learning singles, I would miss a lot of volleys. Just going for too much pace or going for too much angle, because you really need weight on your volleys in doubles. Not to mention the indecision that can overwhelm you as you deal with having too many options in singles. Nah, there's no need for all of that angst. Just move cleanly to the ball and send it crosscourt. If she looks like she's going to get it, just slide over and send the next one crosscourt also. Easy as pie.

Third, I learned that Backspin Is Your Friend. If I didn't feel comfortable re-directing the volley for whatever reason, adding as much underspin on the volley as possible was a winner every time. In contrast, you can get into trouble with that in doubles if the opposing net player has wheels.

Fourth, I learned that it is much easier to see where your opponent is going to hit the ball. I'm not sure if it was just this opponent, or maybe in doubles you have so many things to watch that it is hard to dial in on your opponent's racket. But if I did hit a bad approach or volley, I knew instinctively where she was going with her shot and could take off in that direction early. I was never wrong, not once. I also knew where her serves were going before she hit them. What's up with that? Is that some bizarro doubles racket-reading skill that I didn't know I had?

Fifth, topspin lobs aren't as valuable in singles as in doubles. This doesn't make any sense to me, but this opponent didn't care at all if I spun a great ball high to her 1HBH. She just spun it right back. In doubles, the topspin lob is slow death to a lot of players, who seem completely unable to hit on the run and are unwilling to give chase if a lob goes over their heads.

Sixth, a good serve wins you just as many points in singles as in doubles. I was really surprised by how many of my slice serves she didn't get into play or hit very short. I figured a singles player wouldn't have the pressure of a net player and, lacking the need to be accurate, would blast a lot of serves for return winners. Nope. Singles players miss too.

Seventh, I really need to work on my defense. In singles, you really wind up hitting a lot of balls when stretched out or otherwise in trouble. I don't feel that way in doubles. I missed way too many of these balls, and I didn't even know what kind of shot would be the right one to try.

I wonder . . . . for all of the singles players who are struggling to learn doubles (and I know there are a lot of them), what things feel different for you?

jrod
06-17-2009, 05:30 AM
...I wonder . . . . for all of the singles players who are struggling to learn doubles (and I know there are a lot of them), what things feel different for you?

I play both singles and dubs, but I play at a higher level in dubs (4.5) than in singles (read: too old?). Also, I consider myself a more instinctive dubs player whereas I tend to overthink things in singles (i.e. too many options sometimes).

The one thing I occasionally struggle with when moving from singles to dubs is reaction time on volleys, particularly when all 4 players are at the net. Usually I can make the adjustment in few games but sometimes I find it hard to get comfortable.

sboo
06-17-2009, 05:36 AM
The two things I find most difficult since I play 90% singles are achieving a consistent cross court return that can't be attacked by the net player (since I am a big fan of slicing my backhand deep in singles) and remaining active/involved in the point while I'm at the net and my partner is at the baseline.

tfm1973
06-17-2009, 05:39 AM
1 - in singles you can outfit somebody. as in you are more fit and healthy than they are - therefore you can play longer points without getting tired. once a singles player gets tired - you start seeing errors pile up. in doubles -- pretty hard to outfit somebody since points are shorter and far less running around.

2 - similar to the fitness aspect but in singles - speed kills. a speedy quick player who can cover a lot of court can beat someone with superior strokes especially if they combine that speed with consistency and good defense. a speedy player who makes someone hit one extra ball is gonna give people fits.

Gh0st
06-17-2009, 06:37 AM
I play mostly singles... not a big fan of doubles. It can be fun but at the level I play I don't see enough balls. Waiting to serve every four games I can get tight sometimes when a couple of long deuce games happen in between.

Overall I just prefer singles because if I mess up, its on me. I hate having to rely on a partner to hold serve or win a point. I get frustrated when I'm setting us up for break points but my partner can't convert. The mistakes start to rub off on me.

I guess some of that stems from not having a regular doubles partner but who knows.

Nellie
06-17-2009, 06:48 AM
I find the focus in singles to be getting to the ball and hitting it back. I hate playing the pusher in singles because it is hard work.

In contrast, I find doubles to be much more about where/how you hit the ball since I can get to most balls in doubles, and I lose more points from the netman. I love playing the pusher in doubles because I can rush the net and hit overheads all day.

OTMPut
06-17-2009, 06:57 AM
I hate doubles.
I am a bit selfish. I need to hit all the balls and want the whole of the opponent and the court for myself. It is a pleasure to understand the guy on the other side and work the match.

Some of your observations are perhaps your opponent specific (plus a very small sample set - 3 matches?) and level specific. I do not think anything will do for volleys; nor can you guess easily where the opponent is going to hit.

charliefedererer
06-17-2009, 07:20 AM
Some of your observations are perhaps your opponent specific (plus a very small sample set - 3 matches?) and level specific. I do not think anything will do for volleys; nor can you guess easily where the opponent is going to hit.

I was about to post this same opinion, but you beat me to it.

seleswannabe
06-17-2009, 08:16 AM
I agree on the physicality part that someone else mentioned. Being fit goes a long way in singles.

I also agree with you on the defense part. Playing good defense and then getting yourself into an offensive position in singles is key for me.

Lastly, I think singles is definitely more mentally draining than doubles, but at the same time, I have an easier time focusing during a singles matches.

I'm glad that you came away with some positives after your loss. After some bumps in the road, I am slowly learning to enjoy doubles and understand how to play it. It's mind-boggling how different the two games are isn't it?

Jim A
06-17-2009, 08:18 AM
Cindy, in singles there is a lot of adjustment that goes on. Your opponent adjusted at 2-4.

Mistakes come with mental/physical tiredness as well. I try to get out quickly on my opponents and go for the break. The first 2nd serve I get i the match I go for it. Regardless of if it goes in or not, it gives them something to think about (as long as it was close)

I'm not saying I don't think on the court and try to adjust/gameplan etc. However sometimes I think you take this to a whole new level and maybe even overthink. There are days you just go hit the cr*p out of the ball and see where it lands. Chances are once you were down a point in the 2nd set, you didn't really go for your shots but tried to end the point on one stroke, a big difference since hitting your shots can still mean a 5-6 stroke rally.

Sunny
06-17-2009, 08:40 AM
Played in HS, didn't play for 25 years (raising kids etc...) Picked up my racquet 2 years ago. I play Singles only in USTA and win most matches
3.5/4.0 rather quickly. I play flex league singles and on 3 USTA ladies teams.

I partially agree that fitness is important but placement and shot selection can
drain and frustrate even the most athletic twenty somethings. I feel like
playing smart and offensively brings about the win. At least it's worked for me.

I do play doubles on USTA combo mxd and ladies and do okay, but much prefer the baseline and groundstrokes. Doubles is much trickier to me than
singles. In singles you go for everything, no time to wonder whose ball it is:)

I think you will find singles quite addictive! Plus you get mega calorie burn
which is a happy bonus!

Swissv2
06-17-2009, 09:06 AM
Two words, one big difference: Net Play.

I am curious on how your rallys go? Do you end up finishing the point at net, or staying back and ending the rally at the baseline?

During doubles, I finish points off easier at net because the ball is not hit as hard.

Cindysphinx
06-17-2009, 09:26 AM
Two words, one big difference: Net Play.

I am curious on how your rallys go? Do you end up finishing the point at net, or staying back and ending the rally at the baseline?

During doubles, I finish points off easier at net because the ball is not hit as hard.

I mentioned this in my other post describing my crushing loss, but in short I played the net like a demon. I won almost all of my points there with volleys and overheads. I made reckless charges, coming in on anything short (and lots of things that weren't short) and approaching to her BH. Hence my remarks about Any Volley being good enough. I should have won the first set at 6-2, but I got timid on key points and stayed back one or two shots too many, which let her dominate from the baseline.

I will walk that volley remark back a bit, though. I practice singles with a friend, and she hardly ever wins a point at net against me. This is not because I don't cough up short balls, or because I have blazing groundstrokes. It is because her volleys are just miserable, and she doesn't react to lobs. Typically, I will hit my pitiful excuse for a passing shot, and she will volley a fat sitter to the T. Then I can run up and hit it anywhere and win the point.

So you do have to hit a technically correct volley, but it doesn't have to be anything for the highlight reel. Hitting a solid volley with underspin placed away from them is enough to apply gentle pressure. It doesn't have to be a rocket, which is what I find is needed in doubles.

Did I "overthink" during the match? I don't think so. Did I try to "adjust" to the fact that I wasn't winning points at net anymore? Yeah. I would have been crazy not to look around for something that would bother this opponent once she had run off 4 games to take the set, no?

The adjustment that always has worked in the past is to start approaching to the FH side (which has the advantage of letting me hit a nice crosscourt angle). Once I couldn't hit that shot at all, she knew she could park on the BH side and anticipate the increasingly poor approach shots I was hitting.

And no, I surely didn't try to hit winners early in the point from the baseline. I desperately wanted to start and continue rallies so I could have a look at a short ball. Unfortunately, I kept undoing any good thing I had just done with a missed service return, errant BH or botched approach. I was thinking things like, "OK, you know you are setting up way too far from the ball. Move your butt and get over there and you will be fine," followed by slovenly footwork to set up too far from the ball and waving it long with no topspin.

To pick one sad example. :)

RoddickAce
06-17-2009, 09:29 AM
The thing I struggle with in doubles the most is finding a goto tactic. I have trouble implementing my tactics in doubles because I like to run around my backhand and try to wrongfoot my opponent with angles. But in doubles, this tactic doesn't work at all. ><

Kostas
06-17-2009, 09:38 AM
I'm mostly a doubles player but I'm trying to transition to playing singles also.

I find the hardest part for me in singles is my decision making. I doubles I usually always know what to do in a given situation. It seems to come naturally.

In singles, I find myself making bad decisions all the time. The most frequent are:

Trying to hit winners on shots I should be playing defense on (i.e. getting pulled off the court and trying to blast a cross-court forehand).

Coming to the net at the wrong time (mostly on medium-short balls that I should just recover normally).

Overhitting on general rally shots.

Cindysphinx
06-17-2009, 01:09 PM
In singles, I find myself making bad decisions all the time. The most frequent are:

Trying to hit winners on shots I should be playing defense on (i.e. getting pulled off the court and trying to blast a cross-court forehand).

I used to do this, and I have learned to stop. I have replaced it with a different mistake: Becoming too invested in a rally and being unwilling to take a cut at balls that present an opportunity to do so. I just generate no offense at all from the baseline, because I might miss if I actually try to move my opponent around.

Coming to the net at the wrong time (mostly on medium-short balls that I should just recover normally).

Yep, although for me it is coming to the net in the wrong way, not the wrong time. "Coming to net" seems to have two dimensions: (1) coming in to set up a winning volley, and (2) coming in to win the point outright from the midcourt, with swinging volley or sharp angle. I can do No. 1, but not No. 2. So I am too predictable.

subaru3169
06-17-2009, 01:12 PM
hi cindy.. i'm sure you know i'm not a doubles player at all, i just play doubles since that's what most tennis ppl i know play.. like i said in another post, it's a totally different entity from singles

fitness is one thing and you don't really have to cover the entire court.. but one thing that is quite salient is the difference in strategy depending on the opponent and your own style of game.. one other reason i don't want to be competitive in doubles is that there would be double the amount of players to analyze.. in singles, you can read many players' games after a couple games.. in doubles, you have two ppl to search weaknesses in.. too inconvenient for me

however, i still play doubles.. but i will hit like a singles player.. i will never hit balls short, most of my groundies are in no man's land.. but i'm also an all around player as i charge the net about a third of the time in singles, so i can handle my own in doubles.. mostly lol

Cindysphinx
06-17-2009, 01:26 PM
2 - similar to the fitness aspect but in singles - speed kills. a speedy quick player who can cover a lot of court can beat someone with superior strokes especially if they combine that speed with consistency and good defense. a speedy player who makes someone hit one extra ball is gonna give people fits.

Is speed really that much of an advantage, though? There seems to be a lot of self-selection among singles players. I have not seen many slow-footed players or obviously out of shape players.

I lose to slower players in singles. I can get to most any ball, but doing something with it against an alert opponent -- and one with the same caliber of wheels you have -- is nigh on impossible.

Oh, the other thing that struck me about singles versus doubles is the significant aversion this player (and other singles players I know) have of coming to net. It's like a memo went out to all the singles players entitled "Stay Away From The Net; It's Radioactive!" I would hit a very short ball, either intentionally or by accident, and this opponent backpedaled furiously to retreat to the baseline.

At first, it was almost unsettling, and I didn't know what to do. Hit a drop shot? Ignore it? Bust out laughing? I mean, you simply don't see people backpedaling furiously to the baseline to avoid being at the net in doubles.

I discovered the play that worked, but too late: Take a few steps in on my own short balls, and then try to hit my next shot quickly and deep when she was still crossing the Hot Sands of No-Man's Land.

Steady Eddy
06-17-2009, 02:11 PM
To me doubles is tennis, and singles is like spending time on the treadmill. (BTW, I don't like the time I spend on a treadmill.) I suppose singles does provide exercise, but it's not fun like doubles is.

North
06-17-2009, 02:23 PM
I play 90% singles. In doubles, since I don't get to hit every ball, I feel out of the match at times and have a much harder time staying focused. I play singles in total silence, only speaking to call the score. The constant need for talk that seems to occur in doubles also really throws my concentration, as does the fact that the court seems so crowded with someone else on my side of the court.

I have no problem with the net because in singles I S&V, chip-and-charge, and finish points at the net whenever I can. But in singles I will put my first volley down the line rather than cross court like in doubles - I find that difficult to adjust to.

I don't find overheads more difficult in doubles because I hit them hard enough that people are usually backing away rather than trying to block them back - I figure if the two people on the other side want to crowd in thinking I will have to politely angle my overhead away (making for a more difficult overhead) that is their problem. I never aim for anyone but I don't make the overhead more difficult at my expense.

Return of serve is also different in doubles if the opponents come to the net. In singles, returning deep crosscourt or down the line (off the right kind of serve) works well. In doubles I have to remember to keep the ball low at the feet of the server coming to net.

Sunny
06-17-2009, 03:03 PM
It is surprising but in many of my singles matches my opponent will decline to take volleys & overheads during warm-up. Sooo they are either really good
or they're not coming in.:)

volleyman
06-17-2009, 07:59 PM
My problem in trying to get my singles game back in gear is that I use the alleys a lot in doubles. All of my unconscious aiming points include that extra width. When I get on the singles court, I find myself consistently missing the sidelines by a couple of inches. Great doubles shots, but there are only two people on the court....

Cindysphinx
06-17-2009, 07:59 PM
I think I declined to take any volleys or overheads last night. I didn't feel like I needed the warm-up on that, and I'd rather spend the time on warming up my serve.

I have a new approach to warming up my serve that is really helping. I used to try to hit good first and second serves, just trying to hit my targets. Now, all I do is try to focus solely on getting a perfect toss and using my legs a lot for the warm-up serves. I don't care if the warm-up serves go in or are hard or have some particular spin. I just want to get it through my thick skull what a good toss looks like and what a knee bend feels like.

I am serving much better in matches since I started doing this.

Cindysphinx
06-17-2009, 08:00 PM
My problem in trying to get my singles game back in gear is that I use the alleys a lot in doubles. All of my unconscious aiming points include that extra width. When I get on the singles court, I find myself consistently missing the sidelines by a couple of inches. Great doubles shots, but there are only two people on the court....

That's part of what I meant about Any Volley Will Do. If you are used to hitting the biggest angle you possibly can on volleys, you feel quite constrained in singles to know you have to be careful not to angle volleys into the doubles alleys.

Yeah, at times singles feels like I am playing on a bowling alley.

subaru3169
06-17-2009, 08:20 PM
Yeah, at times singles feels like I am playing on a bowling alley.

i know, right?? sometimes i wish there were bumper guards lol

Topaz
06-18-2009, 03:02 AM
Yeah, at times singles feels like I am playing on a bowling alley.

These days, when I play doubles, I feel the opposite, like I'm playing on a postage stamp, because there's too many d*mn people on the court!!! ;)

Gh0st
06-18-2009, 08:52 AM
[QUOTE=Cindysphinx;3569817
Oh, the other thing that struck me about singles versus doubles is the significant aversion this player (and other singles players I know) have of coming to net. It's like a memo went out to all the singles players entitled "Stay Away From The Net; It's Radioactive!" I would hit a very short ball, either intentionally or by accident, and this opponent backpedaled furiously to retreat to the baseline.

At first, it was almost unsettling, and I didn't know what to do. Hit a drop shot? Ignore it? Bust out laughing? I mean, you simply don't see people backpedaling furiously to the baseline to avoid being at the net in doubles.
[/QUOTE]

That might've been because your opponent didn't have confidence in hitting a good approach shot. You can really put yourself at a disadvantage if you try to attack the net when there wasn't really an opportunity to do it. There's a lot more court to cover in singles.

Sunny
06-18-2009, 09:01 AM
You mean the net Isn't radioactive?
Wow, that changes everything!

Seriously though, in singles I love net rushers because it is fun to pass them dtl
That makes me smile.

Topaz
06-18-2009, 09:12 AM
^^^shhhh!!! Don't tell them!!! ;)

UnforcedError
06-18-2009, 10:07 AM
Second, I learned that Any Volley Will Do.

Seventh, I really need to work on my defense. In singles, you really wind up hitting a lot of balls when stretched out or otherwise in trouble. I don't feel that way in doubles. I missed way too many of these balls, and I didn't even know what kind of shot would be the right one to try.



I play about the same amount of singles and doubles.

First I really disagree with the any volley will do. In doubles you generally have a target, the other net person. When watching the Bryan brothers play they don't hit many artistic volleys, a lot are just driven down at the other net person. In singles there is no target like that, usually you hit to the open court but if you leave one hanging you get passed.

When you are playing defense the goal is to just stay in the point as long as you can and make the other person hit more good shots or allow you a chance to transition to offense. If the person is not following these shots to the net the solution is easy: deep cross court and put some air under it to allow you more time to get back and in position.

In singles I don't have an aversion to coming to the net the problem is selecting the right time and shot to come in on. In general it is easier to serve and try to set up for a forehand to take control of the point then hit a good enough volley off the return that you don't get passed. In doubles coming in off serves and at every chance is the way to go.

zebano
06-18-2009, 10:40 AM
I mostly play singles but I've also gone through stretches as primarily a doubles player (I've had some minor knee problems).

Doubles -> Singles: Returns are the hardest part since I now have to take a few games to re-prioritize from low over the net to deep. I also have to start moveing my serve around more. I find in most doubles matches that just pounding it up the middle leads to a good amount of poachable balls for my partner while in singles some variety is important.
Standing around: I find it much harder to stay focused when I'm not hitting every other shot.


Doubles -> Singles:
Shot anticipation takes a little while to come back... especially recognition of drop shots is much more important. In doubles my partner will get droppers that I can't get to but in singles I have to read and react right away.
Second wind: I think there is far more exercise involved with singles and settling into the right rhythm (feet moving) is important.
Winners: I go for them in doubles, in singles I just try to apply pressure.

skiracer55
06-22-2009, 08:56 AM
...I haven't played much of any tennis at all, mostly because I was training for the Ride the Rockies bike tour (380 miles in 6 days) that I just completed last Friday. I'm probably going to do a few more one-day rides this summer, but I no longer have to get in 150 to 200 miles a week on the bike, so I can get back into tennis, maybe even play some tournaments.

I play almost no doubles any more. The last time I played any serious doubles was about 30 years ago, when I had a steady partner whose game and mine fit together well. Each of us knew what the other was doing to do in any situation, we talked a lot between points, used signals, and used our heads and our skills to win some big matches. A few years ago, I played a bunch of Saturday morning pickup doubles, and it was okay, but the whole idea was just to hit a lot of balls and play some fun points...nobody ever talked about who was doing what to whom, or why. So if I do decide to play any doubles again, it'll probably be with a partner that I sit down and talk with before we ever get on the court so we can figure out how to mesh our games so we're a doubles team instead of two singles players on the same side of the net in a doubles match.

I like singles, I guess, because I don't have to think about what my partner is doing. Every ball that comes over the net is mine, every strategic decision is mine, and there's no question about who's going to take the overhead. For me right now, it's just a lot simpler: I can just go out and play tennis the way I know how, and the chips will fall wherever they are supposed to. I also like the challenge. I'm 61, but I'm tough enough physically and sharp enough stroke wise and tactics wise to play Men's Open tournaments against 20 somethings with 125 mph serves. I don't win a whole lot, but every time I go out there, I know I'm going to have to stretch myself and play my absolute best just to win points...and I know I'm going to play some exciting, extremely high level tennis. Ain't no pushers in Men's Open. That's what tennis is all about, for me...

Spokewench
06-22-2009, 09:03 AM
I played singles this weekend (USTA 3.5) got beat in a third set tie breaker; it was windy, windy, windy. 20-30 mile per hour wind with gusts of more

Sound like fun?

It was not!

Anyway, I did lose but the funny thing is my opponent pointed out to me after the game that every time I came to net I won the point except for once in the tiebreaker! Interesting.