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View Full Version : UGH! I play so well in practice, but I lose every league match!


kennydoe
12-07-2009, 05:34 PM
I'm SO frustrated.

I've been playing a lot of doubles in the past few months - my game has really improved - I'm playing a lot smarter, I'm keeping the ball in play more, better volleys, etc. etc. I think I'm about as good as a 3.5 doubles partner can be.

...but that's only in practice matches.

We show up at the 8.0 league matches (this sometimes happened in men's too), and i get cold, i get tight, sometimes i shake. I'm a mess at the league matches. I have some good spells - but I can't seem to get it together to win a match. I'm the team captain and I'm REALLY good at organizing and communicating - my players love me. I feel like I'm letting them down somehow.

I'm a musician - a performer for many many years every single weekend. I have zero issues with getting in front of people. Granted, I'm a 6.0 musician and a only a 3.5 tennis player, but still...should that matter?

Does anybody else have a problem once practice matches end and league matches begin?

Cindysphinx
12-07-2009, 06:58 PM
Oh, sure.

I can *rock* a practice session. It's anyone's guess how I'll do in matches. All you can do is keep playing more league matches until it becomes routine. I used to have terrible butterflies before a league match. Now, I have to resist the urge to glance at my watch between points sometimes. :)

fruitytennis1
12-07-2009, 07:40 PM
As Cindy said play more league matches. Also in practice do more than rally and volley, put it together. Or in league matches just let it go and play(its hard to think like that but eventually it will happen)

Jim A
12-07-2009, 07:55 PM
so you're playing up a bit in doubles (8.0 as a 3.5) and are wondering why you are having trouble?

2 thoughts come to mind
1. Inner Game of Tennis
2. In practice are you playing to improve or playing to get better? I ask because many of my teammates would beat me in a practice set (and do) but when it counts, I typically win easily. When we are in practice I'm working on specific items (midcourt volley on an approach, hitting 5 strokes before attempting to end the point, first serves only, etc) that when it comes time to utilize in match, I've been in that position.

JHBKLYN
12-07-2009, 10:18 PM
You answered your own question and so did Jim A. No matter how many league matches you play, if you're just a good 3.5 doubles player, most of the time, you're not going to beat good 4.0 doubles players. Only solution is to get better.

kennydoe
12-08-2009, 07:17 AM
Wife just got bumped to 4.5, so technically, we are a true 8.0 team.

There are certianly matches where I feel i'm playing 'up', but the point of my thread was more about the mental part of it - I'm very competitive in practice matches, but once the league matches start, i get tight.

it's mental, it's nerves. I'm looking for others' experiences with this and how they overcame them if they were able to.

Thanks
kenny

Riosfan
12-08-2009, 07:23 AM
it's about controlling your emotion. now you have nervous and tension about facing opponent. those are the dominant emotions you are letting control you.

you must control the emotion and banish the nervous and tension and replace it with something more useful.

I always try controlled anger. think like this person wants to kick my *** and humiliate me on this courtm, they want to beat me 60 60. instead of playing the match, try to approach it as a physical conflict. you are nervous you lose. if you are a fighter with a demonic atttiude you will do better.

sphinx780
12-08-2009, 08:06 AM
Here's what helped me, especially in mixed...maybe it'll help you, maybe not.

First, I remind myself that this is social tennis. It's for fun (or pens!)...there is nothing at stake other than enjoyment. You've lost before, you'll lose again...in the big scheme of things, who cares?!?

That being said, I take the approach that if I'm going to lose, I'm going to do it by playing my game and working on improving my play. Essentially, I look at it no differently than a practice match. This helps me relax and keep from letting the nerves get to me...well, most of the time anyway.

JRstriker12
12-08-2009, 08:15 AM
This is a problem that a lot of players have.

IMHO - really it comes down to playing more matches. It's okay and normal to feel nervous and a little tight before a match, it's only normal, but eventually you'll find a way to calm your nerves. FWIW- don't even the best musicians get a little nervous before a performance, but the feeling fades one you get on stage?

In tennis, this comes from focusing on winning the match - something you really can't control. I find it's much better to focus on the small things I can control, such as playing the best I can or making sure to keep the ball away from the person at net, or to limit the backswing on my volleys. I also try not to let mistakes get to me - errors happen to even the best players - I just focus on the next point.

Also sounds like you are putting a lot of presure on yourself since you are team captain, which is making things worse for you.

Even team captains lose and make mistakes on court. You can't be expected to win for the whole team. When you are in a match, you are a player just like everyone else. Go out, do the best you can and leave it at that.

GeoffB
12-08-2009, 09:13 AM
It takes a really long time to close the gap between practice and matches. How long have you been trying?

I came back to competitive tennis a couple of years ago after an almost 16 year break (the last three setter I'd played was in college). However, I hadn't completely put down my rackets - over that period of time I still rallied occasionally and now and then played some doubles, mainly with players who were better than me. That meant that I still had a particularly big gap between my strokes and my competitive experience.

I'd say it took me 30-40 matches over the course of a year before I started feeling at all comfortable out on the court in a tournament/league situation. My strokes were waaay worse in match play - I got tight and hit lots of spinny, gutless topspin shots, committed lots of double faults at the wrong time, etc... I still practice better than I play (most people do), but at least the gap has narrowed.

I'm not trying to sound discouraging here - I'm just hoping that by hearing this, you'll take it a little easier on yourself. People get frustrated when they don't turn it around in 4-5 matches, but really, I think it takes more like 40-50. And I think that competitive match readiness is a bit like fitness - it's not something you achieve once and then you're finished - you have to maintain it or it goes away.

I found that flex leagues helped, because they allowed me to get in a lot of semi-formal match play. More laid back but still organized, cheaper, and easier to log a *lot* of matches. But whatever you do, I think you probably need to organize a genuine 3-set match most weekends for a year (doesn't have to be USTA, it can just be a friendly, but don't just rally and play a casual set, try to play a full match).

jazzyfunkybluesy
12-08-2009, 09:25 AM
Play a bunch of practice matches.

michael_1265
12-08-2009, 09:33 AM
I'm SO frustrated.

I've been playing a lot of doubles in the past few months - my game has really improved - I'm playing a lot smarter, I'm keeping the ball in play more, better volleys, etc. etc. I think I'm about as good as a 3.5 doubles partner can be.

...but that's only in practice matches.

We show up at the 8.0 league matches (this sometimes happened in men's too), and i get cold, i get tight, sometimes i shake. I'm a mess at the league matches. I have some good spells - but I can't seem to get it together to win a match. I'm the team captain and I'm REALLY good at organizing and communicating - my players love me. I feel like I'm letting them down somehow.

I'm a musician - a performer for many many years every single weekend. I have zero issues with getting in front of people. Granted, I'm a 6.0 musician and a only a 3.5 tennis player, but still...should that matter?

Does anybody else have a problem once practice matches end and league matches begin?

I have recently been through the exact situation you're describing (I'm a captain too). I was actually playing well in informal matches with people a level up from me, and losing in matches at my level.
First of all, you have been playing up, so it is not surprising that you are taking some losses.

Food for thought:
1. Are you getting beaten soundly or losing in 3rd set breakers? If the latter, you are doing fine; you just need to develop a good tiebreak mindset.
2. Are you losing your serve? If so, you have an area to focus on, instead of just berating yourself for losing.
3. When you lose points, is it because of your unforced errors, or because of superior shotmaking by your opponent?
4. What kind of partners are you setting yourself up with (other than your wife)? Sometimes, as a captain, you tend to take the difficult matchups. Set yourself up for success sometimes. Play #3 doubles against a lousy team, anything that will get you into a little rhythm and impart confidence.
5. Think about the points you lose in a non-judgemental way. What could you have done in a different way to win the point?
6. Try to reach match intensity in every practice.
7. Is your partner talking to you? If you are playing up, your partner(s) will likely have a better understanding of the game. Take advantage of that.

I'm still working through these issues; the points listed above have helped me out.

Mike

mikeler
12-08-2009, 09:41 AM
If you are not taking a lesson, then like the other users have said, schedule practice matches, play leagues and tournaments. The only way I could ever get comfortable in those situations was to make them become routine.

precision2b
12-08-2009, 09:58 AM
As others have said play more matches. And I try not to think about if am winning or losing I try to focus on my technique (hitting through the ball, footwork, ect,ect) and just playing that point. That seems to help me with my jitters and get into a groove… :mrgreen:

Annika
12-08-2009, 12:02 PM
Play some tournaments. :shock:

35ft6
12-08-2009, 12:06 PM
I think if you actually had somebody record and track your practice sessions, you will see you miss a lot, but since isn't counted in the form of a score, you just forget about it.

A friend said the opposite, that he thinks he barely misses his backhand during matches but misses a lot during drills. Maybe he has a point, but during live points, he has a huge court to hit into, and in drills he's forced to hit it to a specific area. But also, he actually does miss a lot during matches, not sure why he doesn't realize this.

Steady Eddy
12-08-2009, 12:13 PM
Some people really are better in practice than in matches. If this is how you are, then maybe you're taking the matches too seriously and tightening up. Just relax. Go for your shots and if it's out, there's another point coming along. Don't steer the ball. Just let it happen and you'll find your stroke.

Vyse
12-08-2009, 12:20 PM
my problem is i can play real well in practice like you but once matches start, i become a big time pusher. I sometimes get scared to hit the ball hard and many of my shots land very short. I also notice that once one of my strokes (mainly my serve) starts to fail me, the rest of my strokes will, too as my confidence diminishes. It sucks, but I think experience will fix it.

Tennisman912
12-08-2009, 12:29 PM
Kennydoe,

I completely agree with 35ft6. Most people are delusional about how many shots (easy ones or UE) they miss in a match situation. They only remember the one great one instead of the 5 or 10 gimmies they missed. The sooner you recognize and understand this, the better off you are and the faster you will improve because you are really paying attention to what is really hurting you on the court. Is it service returns? Short backhand? Volley? You need to know what is wrong in the real world and not what you may think is happening on the court to fix it in a match situation. As 35ft6 say, the vast majority don’t even realize this or have any concept of what is happening, even if you point it out to them (if they ask, which is rare). As an example, keep track of how many returns you don’t get into play. At the 3.5 level, you will be surprised how high this number is and how many opportunities you throw away without giving yourself a chance.

Once you know what you are doing wrong, you can fix those technical issues or strategic issues. After that, it is all about match experience so you get used to that uneasy feeling you feel in the beginning. Over time (and how long depends entirely on you) you start to look forward to having the chance to perform and really want the shot that matters in the match. Unfortunately, it takes time, sometimes a lot of time.

Also keep in mind that a 3.5 at 8.0 is certainly a team liability, even if you technically are an 8.0 team (rightly) as you say. You can expect to be picked on mercilessly as the most likely weakest link on the court. You must know this and if not, this is a great example of how easy it is to fool yourself into thinking you are doing everything right when much of it is probably out of your control as that weak link, until you improve.

Good tennis

TM

mikeler
12-08-2009, 12:36 PM
my problem is i can play real well in practice like you but once matches start, i become a big time pusher. I sometimes get scared to hit the ball hard and many of my shots land very short. I also notice that once one of my strokes (mainly my serve) starts to fail me, the rest of my strokes will, too as my confidence diminishes. It sucks, but I think experience will fix it.


Yep. You just have to keep playing and then the nervousness will become manageable.

gameboy
12-08-2009, 06:56 PM
I have a similar problem. My strokes are pretty good, but don't matter much in the matches since my serves are inconsistent (too many double faults) and my service returns are horrendous (I keep hitting the bottom of the frame on any topspin serve).

So, when I am rallying, I am all-world, but don't win that many real matches. Sigh...

JRstriker12
12-08-2009, 07:25 PM
I have a similar problem. My strokes are pretty good, but don't matter much in the matches since my serves are inconsistent (too many double faults) and my service returns are horrendous (I keep hitting the bottom of the frame on any topspin serve).

So, when I am rallying, I am all-world, but don't win that many real matches. Sigh...

RX - practice more serves and return of serves and less rallies.

Play a set where you only get one serve and you only hit your second serve. This will give you some pressure in a practice situation and help you practice getting it in.

Also think of developing a top-spin serve as a second serve.

On the flip side of that, have your partner hit top-spin serves to you and practice returning. If you want to crank up this drill, have in serve from the service line.

35ft6
12-08-2009, 07:37 PM
As 35ft6 say, the vast majority don’t even realize this or have any concept of what is happening, even if you point it out to them (if they ask, which is rare).I do agree some people play better in practice, and some are gamers, but yeah, most people don't have a true idea of how much they miss period. Not just that, but they don't seem to realize how different opponents/playing styles will affect them differently. That's why, say, most 4.0 guys who lose 1 and 2 to a 5.0 player much better than them will say they played horribly. Sure, they might sort of say "he's better" but mostly they'll think about how they don't miss as many shots against their regular 4.0 partner, and they hit a lot more winners against said 4.0 guy as well. But it doesn't have to be just a guy who's flat out better, it could just be his playing style. So they say "I play terrible in matches!" but maybe it was a poor matchup? Or they're used to practicing with a certain type of player?

But yeah, in general, people only remember their good shots. If most people saw videos of themselves playing for an hour or had somebody track even their practice, they would be amazed by how many shots they miss for absolutely no reason at all.

Mick
12-08-2009, 08:18 PM
i think in doubles, the most important shot is the serve. if you serve well and your doubles partner is a decent volleyer, it's very difficult for the other team to break your serve and if they can't break your serve and your partner's serve, they cannot win.
groundstrokes aren't as important imo.

Fedace
12-08-2009, 08:27 PM
I'm SO frustrated.

I've been playing a lot of doubles in the past few months - my game has really improved - I'm playing a lot smarter, I'm keeping the ball in play more, better volleys, etc. etc. I think I'm about as good as a 3.5 doubles partner can be.

...but that's only in practice matches.

We show up at the 8.0 league matches (this sometimes happened in men's too), and i get cold, i get tight, sometimes i shake. I'm a mess at the league matches. I have some good spells - but I can't seem to get it together to win a match. I'm the team captain and I'm REALLY good at organizing and communicating - my players love me. I feel like I'm letting them down somehow.

I'm a musician - a performer for many many years every single weekend. I have zero issues with getting in front of people. Granted, I'm a 6.0 musician and a only a 3.5 tennis player, but still...should that matter?

Does anybody else have a problem once practice matches end and league matches begin?

Better Volleys ?? Keeping the ball in play more ??? That is NOT what WINS matches.. Yes it will win you more points but not Matches. I said this before. You have to play with Purpose. Play the ball with idea of how you are going to win the point. Tactics Meaning hitting the ball where Opponents aren't and where the Open spots are.
1. Dont' just hit volley to put the volley in play. Hit the volley with an idea that it will come back and what you wnat to do with next volley or Overhead. Where do you want to hit the winning volley ?? UP the middle with some stick on it. What if they lob ?? where do i want to smash,, up the middle or angle in the alley ??
2. What should i do in 15-15 all point. or 0-0 point ? Play conservative or Aggressive ? What if it is 40-30 or 40-0,, close out point. play serve and volley or stay back ? Hummmmmmmmmmmmmm,,,, what gives me the best chance to win the point and close out the game ??
3. Where should i hit the return of serve on the 1st one or 2nd serve ? where is the opening on the return on the charging S&V player ? Mix in the angle return with Lob return ??

gameboy
12-09-2009, 10:35 AM
RX - practice more serves and return of serves and less rallies.


Easier said then done. I actually have a pretty good kicker. It is just that one or two games during the set, I will get into a funk and get a double fault or two and end up losing my serve. I have been working on it, but my toss just goes every now and then.

Return of service is really tough. There are only few guys I know with a good spin serves and they are not going to want to hit 50 serves in a row for me so that I can practice. Logistically, preparing against a good kicker is tough.

JRstriker12
12-09-2009, 11:14 AM
Easier said then done. I actually have a pretty good kicker. It is just that one or two games during the set, I will get into a funk and get a double fault or two and end up losing my serve. I have been working on it, but my toss just goes every now and then.

Return of service is really tough. There are only few guys I know with a good spin serves and they are not going to want to hit 50 serves in a row for me so that I can practice. Logistically, preparing against a good kicker is tough.

Much easier done than said.....

Did you try playing sets where you only have one serve? This helps with your consistency. Also, nothing is easier than going out with a backet of balls and hitting serves alone.

On return of serve, you can also have a partner serve from near the service line so you get more reps and they don't get so tired. Then switch roles every ten serves or so.

If you want to improve, it's worth the effort - right???

Rule26
12-09-2009, 11:23 AM
In practice matches or practice in general, the object sometimes seems to be to grove your swings so you practice hitting back to someone.

As opposed to practicing strategy - also when you push yourself during practice instead of the ball, your game may look and feel uglier at your limits but you will be raising your limits.

If time, $$, pros are available -Try playing in some satellite clinics that blend strategy in their drills. Also get a bucket of balls and practice your serves at least an hour a week.

Rent a ball machine for an hour per week. Set it for the first half hour at speeds just comfiortable tenough that you can position yourself to put the ball in your hitting zone and have the machine spread you all over the court and then the last half hour set it up deep and have it hit iagonally accross the court to your backhand at just a bit flatter but faster speed. Try to return the second halfhour with alternating shots on your backhand hard down the line and also across court over the reach of a netman with a topspin to the far corner.

Record the settings from both and try to see how much you can raise the speed in the next 6 months.

Cindysphinx
12-09-2009, 11:36 AM
Better Volleys ?? Keeping the ball in play more ??? That is NOT what WINS matches.. Yes it will win you more points but not Matches. I said this before. You have to play with Purpose.

Funny thing. I was doing a clinic yesterday, and our pro said exactly this thing. Don't just hit shots for the sake of hitting shots. Mix it up. Throw them a curve ball. Never let them get comfortable. Know why you are doing what you are doing, he said.

It makes sense. How many threads have we seen here where people (especially singles players) say how they just can't seem to get into a rhythm in doubles? Well, why let your opponents get into a rhythm? Vex, annoy and irritate them so that they are back on their heels, wondering what is coming next.

I think there is something to this. I think one of my goals for the next few months will be to develop more variety in doubles.

beernutz
12-09-2009, 11:50 AM
I think a 3.5 man and a 4.5 woman is the worst possible 8.0 mixed team combination.

JRstriker12
12-09-2009, 11:56 AM
I think a 3.5 man and a 4.5 woman is the worst possible 8.0 mixed team combination.

Now it is. Before the bump, you could of had what was basically a 8.5 mixed combination if the 3.5 was borderline 4.0 or about to be bumped..

How I know this? I'm not going to say...(cough, cough) :oops:

kennydoe
12-09-2009, 01:06 PM
I think a 3.5 man and a 4.5 woman is the worst possible 8.0 mixed team combination.

I think it depends on the opponent. it's not bad if you're playing two 4.0s, but if you're playing a 4.5 man w/ 3.5 woman it's a recipe for a loss.


Thanks for all the responses guys/gals. i'm glad I'm not alone.
I DEFINITELY have returning-serve issues. I need to practice that. The guy on the other side of the net gets into my head and I think too much.

my brother came to my last match and video'd about 20 minutes of the match. It was a GREAT tool to see mistakes and make corrections before getting to the court. I didn't realize a lot of things about my technique that i need to be more mindful of - things i know that i don't do. i highly recommend it.

I like the idea of the mindset that my opponent is my enemy. I think that might help me. Also, i hope that experience will help. i think i think too much - that's half my problem. The other half is bad returns.

leeroy85
12-14-2009, 08:39 PM
Don't overhit. Keep balls low to force opponent to pop up ball so you can put i away.

J011yroger
12-18-2009, 09:07 PM
I DEFINITELY have returning-serve issues. I need to practice that. The guy on the other side of the net gets into my head and I think too much.

If you want to meet me at Glen Head this weekend (Blizzard not withstanding) you can practice returning my serve. I need to practice hitting it anyway, so no trouble to have someone on the other side returning. Not too many people in 9.0/10.0 return my serve too well, so if you can get a bit of a handle on it, you should be golden in 8.0.

J

kennydoe
12-19-2009, 05:46 AM
That's a really nice offer, thanks. I would love to take you up on it.

I don't think there's any open time today ( at a time the roads will be passable) and the only open time tmw is 5-7 and we already have 4 for dbls.

I might be able to do early afternoon today depending on what time the snow starts/ what time they cancel everything.

Send me IM to KennyInvisible and let me know where I can call you.

Ttyl
thanks
Kenny

athiker
12-19-2009, 07:24 AM
First to the couple people who mentioned playing first serve only practice matches, I love that idea. So simple yet I've never thought of it. Plus it would really keep things moving and I like that too. More importantly, what a great way to simulate that 2nd serve pressure and learn to loosen up on it by repetion under game mental situation. Every serve is a 2nd serve from the get-go...nice.

Second, the guys that seem to get the most nervous on our doubles teams say it is mostly about not wanting to let down their partner. I don't have any solutions for that, but you may want to explore that a bit, espeically if your partner is a 1/2 or full rating above. Maybe try a 6.5 league where you are the lead dog. Imagine, your confidence playing in 6.5 vs. 8.0!

Finally, something that helped me was playing more singles. I came back to tennis after quite a break and immediately started playing doubles w/ the neighborhood group. I had never played doubles before. It was fun learning new strategy and the social aspect, but it felt like such a "jerky" game in that if I missed a few of a certain shot I would lose confidence and my response would be to shorten (tighten) my swing and push more. In singles there is more time to work through issues w/ your stroke b/c you may easily hit 3 or 4 forehands on each point. In doubles, depending on what positon you are playing and how points happen to go you it might take a full game or even two before you really stroke 3 or 4! So in doubles I think it is easier to give up on your strokes and revert to over conservative tight play.

So I joined a local singles Tennis Ladder, a singles Compass Draw and also started playing more "friendly" singles matches with guys from the doubles group. This has improved my doubles match play tremendously. This killed 2 birds with one stone. It multiplied the number of matches I played (experience) and gave me confidence to keep stroking after a flub or two b/c I felt they were simply mishits and based on singles the next strokes would be good ones. Let us know if anything helps...good luck.

Oh, some nice slow deep breaths in and out never hurt either! Doubles match play seems to go so fast at the start, take a moment after the first few points breathe.