PDA

View Full Version : What Tools Do You Need At Each Level?


Cindysphinx
12-15-2009, 08:11 AM
Had a conversation with a teammate yesterday. She was telling me about a ladies 7.5 combo match she lost recently. She and her partner were 3.5s. Opponents were a 4.0 (bumped to 4.5) and a 3.5. First set 7-6 (with benefit of receiving 3 games and toss due to opponent's tardiness); second set 0-6, lost 3rd set tiebreak.

Anyway, she said something I've been mulling. She said she thought she personally could have been more competitive if she knew how to lob. It was the one shot she desperately wanted in that match. No matter how hard or well she hit the ball from the baseline, there was no getting it past a 4.5-ish player who is draped over the net, secure in the knowledge that a lob will not be forthcoming.

I started wondering if there are certain shots you really must own at various levels.

I'm a 3.5 doubles player, and I think I won't make 4.0 or be very successful there without the following tools in the box:

Topspin FH and BH groundstrokes
Solid volleys
Flat and slice serve
Topspin and slice lob
DTL FH and BH service returns
Approach/half volley
Good overhead

I think I could do fine at 3.5 without the approach/half volley, the DTL returns, and the slice serve. But not 4.0.

I think I can do pretty well at 4.0 without the following:

Slice BH
Drop shot
Drop volley
Kick serve

What do you think? What's indispensable at your level?

jpr
12-15-2009, 08:49 AM
interesting topic. my answer would have changed each year for the past several years.

now my answer is, its all relative. i know that sucks but hear me out. if we're talking doubles, the key to winning (and advancement) is taking the net. i would argue that your serve need only be good enough for you to volley effectively; which means if you have a half volley, good defensive volley, and consistent offensive volley then your serve doesnt need to be great. just good enough, which usually means consistency and placement.

i used to think that i need power, placement, & consistency on all shots. i'm 4.0 trying to move up to 4.5. i've seen bigger impact from improvements in my mental game & fitness, than actual strokes. that has been enough to compete with avg 4.5's but i get blown out by a 5.0.

Santa, I would like more of everything :)

OrangePower
12-15-2009, 08:54 AM
interesting topic. my answer would have changed each year for the past several years.

now my answer is, its all relative. i know that sucks but hear me out. if we're talking doubles, the key to winning (and advancement) is taking the net. i would argue that your serve need only be good enough for you to volley effectively; which means if you have a half volley, good defensive volley, and consistent offensive volley then your serve doesnt need to be great. just good enough, which usually means consistency and placement.

i used to think that i need power, placement, & consistency on all shots. i'm 4.0 trying to move up to 4.5. i've seen bigger impact from improvements in my mental game & fitness, than actual strokes. that has been enough to compete with avg 4.5's but i get blown out by a 5.0.

Santa, I would like more of everything :)

Yup, all relative.

For example Cindy, you mentioned that for 4.0 you feel you absolutely need a topspin BH but you could do without a slice BH. No doubt this is true for you.

Then again, there are many female pros (well, not as many as there used to be, but still several) who have a slice BH but can't consistently make a topspin BH. Nevertheless, I get the feeling that they would be competitive at 4.0 :-)

UnforcedError
12-15-2009, 09:13 AM
I think it is all relative and you are at a level because of the collection of skills you have, there isn't a specific set of thing you need to do well. I play at the 4.5 level and some people are there because they serve well, others because they move really well, some can crack big forehands others can't. Some have really bad backhands. Even at the 5.0 level people don't have great tools on all the shots.

As far as your teammate goes, some good doubles players will take positions right over the net taking up lots of room and cutting off angles, it takes a decent lob to keep them honest and off the net.

ksteph
12-15-2009, 09:28 AM
Very good topic Cindy!

This was my first year playing at the 4.0 level and let me tell you...for me, I had to make alot of adjustments. I have a pretty good FH and my BH wasn't as consistent, plus volleying wasn't my strong point but my overheads are one of my strongest shots...but I digress.

My point of view, the tools you need to be successful at the 4.0 and above are:

Singles:

A consistent forehand/backhand
A very consistent serve and knowing where to place it
Knowing how to come up and close at net
Lot's of patience (learn how to play against a pusher...ugh!)

Doubles:

Aggresive at the net
Placing your serve to set your partner up
Reading your opponents
Lots of communication with your partner


At the 3.0/3.5 level, you can get away with having one consistent shot and not being a very good volleyer. But the 4.0 level, you will see alot of heavy topspin forehand/backhands and players using more mechanics when placing the ball.

This year has really been a learning curve for me. Now that I'm 100% healthy, hopefully I can put the above plan in motion this spring/summer.

tfm1973
12-15-2009, 10:15 AM
interesting thought cindy. but honestly i don't think it's so simple as saying -- if i have tools A, B and C -- i'll be able to compete at the next higher level.

i've run into guys who can't lob and don't lob and whenever they try to lob it winds up being crushed in their face. they compete just fine because they instead hit topspin dippers or hard groundies with the idea that their opponents will cough up a weak ball. no finesse involved.

i think more tools just gives you more options but you could very well choose to just hone your existing tools to razor sharpness and stick to plan A.

ronray43
12-15-2009, 10:23 AM
IMHO, at 3.5 you can get away with keeping the ball in play and waiting for your opponent to make an error, and you can just about always count on several double faults per set from your opponent. At 4.0, unforced errors will kill you, because a good 4.0 will give you very few unforced errors. Also, at 4.0 you have to hit winners when you have the chance; just keeping the ball in play will get you killed because a decent opponent will hit a winner at the first opportunity. And, giving up several points in a set by double faulting has cost me many, many 4.0 matches.

So, in short, and IMHO, the difference I've experienced between 3.5 and 4.0 is shot making consistency, the ability to hit winners when the opportunity presents itself, and serve consistency--4.0s have it; 3.5s don't.

gameboy
12-15-2009, 10:55 AM
My pro says pretty much exactly what ronray said...

raiden031
12-15-2009, 11:23 AM
I agree with ronray except for the winners (in singles that is). In doubles you do have to be able to put the ball away at 4.0, but in singles most of the guys who could beat me soundly had trouble hitting winners against me. But the key for them was not to give up nearly as many free points through UEs like the 3.5s do.

Tennisman912
12-15-2009, 12:13 PM
It is all relative. It just isn’t that simple to classify. Because each player is like a worker with a toolbox full of skills they have. We all have different tools (skills) that work for us in our game. My toolbox is different than anyone else’s and vice versa. So what it takes for one to improve isn’t the same as someone else because of our different tools we prefer or utilize. Someone with a phenomenal FH for their level can cover a lot of weaknesses in other areas.

About the best you can do is a very general list of things most players at a level have but even then those with one superior tool (skill) can overcome the lack of other tools up to a certain level. I can certainly come up with a list skills a player at a level has usually has, but not everyone would agree with it in all likelyhood.

About the only absolute I can give is that the higher you move up, the more the mental side of things comes into play. By learning to use the mental side, you can quickly improve your success by incorporating things that help you instead of the shooting yourself in the foot. The sooner you learn to use the court and positioning to your advantage (at every level), the easier the game can be. For example, the right court position can really help you, especially in lower levels as most have little concept of this. For everyone, learning to serve smarter can help tremendously and go a long way toward holding serve much easier. For a 4.0, learning not to overhit and that consistently keeping the ball in play is much more important than the one in 10 spectacular service return you just hit. For an advanced player, shot selection is important. Hitting the right shot at the right time can make life much easier. Things like this can help you much more than many give it credit for. Playing smartly and intelligently can help a great deal.

Good tennis

TM

Cindysphinx
12-15-2009, 12:31 PM
Aw, come on. I think there are some shots that people will eat you alive if you lack.

I mean, I hope anyone doesn't think you can compete at 4.0 ladies doubles without a BH volley. When I first started playing 7.5 combo doubles, the first thing opponents did after we spun the racket was test my BH volley.

I know 3.0 women who cannot hit a BH volley, so they don't even try. They alley camp and let all BH middle balls through to their partners. OK for 3.0.

Suicide at 4.0, as 4.0s will get a whiff of that missing stroke in the warm-up and pick on that one shot all night long.

Nellie
12-15-2009, 12:38 PM
I think that to improve from 3.5 to 4.0, you would need to:

1) not miss overheads (don't need to be great)
2) have a second serve that is not a dink shot (some spin needed)
3) have no big holes - essentially, you can hit back volleys/ground strokes, return serve to the middle of the court, etc.

Anything else (TS groundstokes, etc.) is just gravy.

Ripper014
12-15-2009, 12:40 PM
In general the higher you go an axiom comes true... you will only be as good as your weakest shot. In doubles how ever there are some deficiencies that as a team you can hide if your partner can fill those gaps.

When I find a weakness in my opponents game I approach it in different ways. If I feel I am just a better player than you I will attack your best shot and break it down... and once I have done that the match is over. If I sense you have a weak shot (ie. backhand) I would attack it mercilessly until you would overplay the shot and then I would fire the odd shot back to the forehand to open back up your backhand corner. Or... I would choose to attack your weakness on key points in the match, and make you hit your least favorite shot under pressure.

So I believe that as your skills get better you need to be a more balanced player overall. So if you are not a very good volleyer... you better be able to hit an awfully good approach shot (near winner) on the way to the net.

Tennisman912
12-15-2009, 12:54 PM
One other important distinction is: it isn't just what skills you have, it is how you use those skills that determine what level you are competitive at. My point is someone who may have a weaker BH than most of his level can still be a great player in doubles if he/she has very good court positioning skills which can be used to minimize his/her need to hit that backhand, other than serve returning of course.

But even returning serve you may be able to hide a weakness (any weakness) if the server can't place it well or doesn't hit it hard enough to keep one from running around it as in my weak BH example. Or maybe just doesn't try to serve to where you can do the least amount of damage (which is surprisingly common). A match is a whole give and take between various players trying to mask their weaknesses and accentuate their strengths. Whoever does this best has a better chance of winning. Or whichever player's weakness that matches an opponent's weakness is worse, i.e. in my poor BH example, a server who can't serve well enough to get his/her serve to the opponent's much weaker BH consistently is at a disadvantage.

TM

crystal_clear
12-15-2009, 12:57 PM
1. Serves
2. Volleys including deep volleys, poach, and overheads.

Ripper014
12-15-2009, 01:04 PM
Aw, come on. I think there are some shots that people will eat you alive if you lack.

I mean, I hope anyone doesn't think you can compete at 4.0 ladies doubles without a BH volley. When I first started playing 7.5 combo doubles, the first thing opponents did after we spun the racket was test my BH volley.

I know 3.0 women who cannot hit a BH volley, so they don't even try. They alley camp and let all BH middle balls through to their partners. OK for 3.0.

Suicide at 4.0, as 4.0s will get a whiff of that missing stroke in the warm-up and pick on that one shot all night long.


The thing these women need to do is to learn to hit a BH Volley back deep... it does not need to be a winner just something defensive to keep you in the point... (push?) until as a team they can get in a better offensive situation.

As a partner you would have to be aware that you would have to cover more of the middle of the court (protect her backhand volley with your forehand volley) when serving to the ad side of the court and hopefully you have her returning on the deuce side of the court. On the deuce side serving you have the alley helping to protect her backhand side, if the returner wishes to take risks at returning down the line let them. You can also adjust your serving patterns to help protect shots from being delivered to her backhand volley. Doubles it about teamwork... and how as a team you can work things out to make you stronger as a whole than that of individuals.

Cindysphinx
12-15-2009, 02:04 PM
The thing these women need to do is to learn to hit a BH Volley back deep... it does not need to be a winner just something defensive to keep you in the point... (push?) until as a team they can get in a better offensive situation.

As a partner you would have to be aware that you would have to cover more of the middle of the court (protect her backhand volley with your forehand volley) when serving to the ad side of the court and hopefully you have her returning on the deuce side of the court. On the deuce side serving you have the alley helping to protect her backhand side, if the returner wishes to take risks at returning down the line let them. You can also adjust your serving patterns to help protect shots from being delivered to her backhand volley. Doubles it about teamwork... and how as a team you can work things out to make you stronger as a whole than that of individuals.

Ah, but that is my point.

It is possible to adjust to compensate for a partner's glaring weakness (lack of a certain shot) if you are not playing challenging opponents.

Once you have your hands full, it is hard for a partner to compensate for a lack of a certain necessary shot.

Take the BH volley for instance. If I am serving in the deuce court, I cannot serve wide because the returner may go up the line to my partner's BH. If I am serving to the ad court, I cannot serve down the middle (reply straight up the middle to my partner's BH will be hard to cover). If I come in, I will wind up taking dippers at the service line when my partner closer to net could have picked off the ball with her BH volley. Bottom line: The lack of a certain shot can cut off options and variety in us as a team.Better players will exploit this.

Interesting discussion, Ksteph. From your remarks, it sounds like you found the transition to 4.0 somwhat different from what Raiden has described. Raiden suggested IIRC that the big problem was that his best 3.5 stuff didn't bother 4.0s. It sounds like for you the issue was one of finding that 3.5 weaknesses were now exploited at 4.0.

Does that mean it really does come down to not lacking tools?

Taxvictim
12-15-2009, 02:10 PM
What tools do you need at each level?

2.5 - cigarette lighter and bottle of Advil.

3.0 - a decent portable cooler that will hold more than a six-pack of Bud.

3.5 - a bottle opener for those foreign beers that can't be opened by hand.

4.0 - a corkscrew.

4.5 - a tennis bag that has two shoulder straps.

5.0 - a killer pair of Oakleys.

Cindysphinx
12-15-2009, 02:11 PM
OK, wait. New thought.

What I have experienced in doubles is that you can lose just because you are missing. Or you are overhitting. Or your are positioning badly. Or whatever.

But when playing better players or experienced teams, you often lose because they steamroll you with a certain weapon or tactic that you just can't counter. That can result in a very fast bagel, as my non-lobbing friend discovered.

So what are the tactics in doubles that someone can use to steamroll you, and what are the tools one needs to counter those tactics?

Well, at 3.0/3.5 doubles, a common tactic is lobbing relentlessly. The cure is an overhead.

At 3.4/4.0, I am finding that the common tactic is rushing the net relentlessly. The cure is S&V (to win the race to the net), lobs, topspin passing shots. Doesn't that suggest you'd better own at least one of these three tools (S&V, lobs, topspin passing shots), and preferably all three?

Similarly, another tool you will see at 3.5/4.0 will be aggressive or signaled poaching. The cure is DTL returns on both sides, and lobs. Better have those tools in the box or it's going to be a long night.

Right?

Ripper014
12-15-2009, 02:37 PM
Ah, but that is my point.

It is possible to adjust to compensate for a partner's glaring weakness (lack of a certain shot) if you are not playing challenging opponents.

Once you have your hands full, it is hard for a partner to compensate for a lack of a certain necessary shot.

Take the BH volley for instance. If I am serving in the deuce court, I cannot serve wide because the returner may go up the line to my partner's BH. If I am serving to the ad court, I cannot serve down the middle (reply straight up the middle to my partner's BH will be hard to cover). If I come in, I will wind up taking dippers at the service line when my partner closer to net could have picked off the ball with her BH volley. Bottom line: The lack of a certain shot can cut off options and variety in us as a team.Better players will exploit this.


I think you are giving your opponent too much credit... that they can consistantly make that shot up the line... and if they can, then your serve is not penetrating enough or swinging the opponent wide enough off the court because they are getting there too comfortably to make a good return. Your serve should be a weapon that forces a more defensive return.

What most good players do is play constistant high percentage tennis, players at lower levels play high risk tennis. Good players hit down the line occasionally to keep the opponent honest, lower level players believe hitting regularly down the line is a good strategy. Unfortunately lower level players remember the great shots far too long... and their failures not long enough. Hence why pushers are so successful at the lower levels of play... they do not go for the high risk shots until pressed to do so.

The standard policy I have for myself in doubles is that the person closest to the net has full autonomy, when coming to the net I will cover every ball I can including balls that may be obviously my partners but just in case he/she chooses not to hit it. This has served me well as balls do sometimes squeeze through the seams. But I always encourage my partner to be active... but if not it is okay, since I will still try and cover any shot I can reach.


Interesting discussion, Ksteph. From your remarks, it sounds like you found the transition to 4.0 somwhat different from what Raiden has described. Raiden suggested IIRC that the big problem was that his best 3.5 stuff didn't bother 4.0s. It sounds like for you the issue was one of finding that 3.5 weaknesses were now exploited at 4.0.


Both will probably happen... your shot will be less effective against better players... if you are leveling up against established players you will not have anything they have not seen before, and as such they have probably devised an effective strategy against it. And as you play higher level players they will be more effective at recognizing your weaknesses and knowing how to best exploit them. This is not limited to 3.5 to 4.0 the process is the same all the way up the chain... the weakness may be more subtle as would the exploits... but it happens all the way up the chain.

sureshs
12-15-2009, 03:07 PM
When I first glanced at the title, I read it as "Which Fools Do You Need At Each Level?"

LOL

kylebarendrick
12-15-2009, 03:19 PM
Part of the issue is the definition of a tool. I have a bunch of fantastic tools to use against 3.0 players. All of these tools would be useless against a 5.0. I also think you are differentiating too much. I don't think it matters much (especially in the "new" 4.0 level) if your backhand is a topspin or a slice. You just need to have a reliable backhand.

Everyone has holes in their game that can be exploited - even Federer gets his backhand picked on. It just takes a different level of player to exploit your weaknesses. So rather than build a shopping list, look for the one or two shots that tend to let you down and focus on those for a while.

Raiden.Kaminari
12-15-2009, 05:02 PM
For Federer, it's a choice of getting killed by his forehand, or being beaten by his backhand.

Anyway, back to the original topic. A lot of good posts in here. It's not just one shot or another.

For 4.0:
1. You need to be more consistent
2. You need to move faster
3. You need to recognize patterns (helps with anticipating)
4. You need to be able to apply patterns of play
5. You need to apply more tactics (doubles patterns of play)
6. You need to be more aggressive at the net
7. You need to be able to place your serves. Related to #4 through #6.

Everything depends on your personal style of play. It appears you are a player focused on topspin.

Why you need a dropshot / drop volley at 4.0 (related to #3 and #5)
1. You break your opponent's baseline rhythm
2. Your opponent can not hit a transition shot
3. Your partner is great at the net
4. You are great at the net
5. You both have got great wheels to cover the emergency lob

Why you need a slice backhand at 4.0
1. So you can actually disguise the dropshot
2. So you can throw off the opponent's rhythm
3. So you can hit the ball low to the net

Why you need a kick serve
1. So you can be prepared for 4.5
2. So you can throw off your opponent's rhythm
3. So you can serve the ball consistently

Every NTRP level just means you will see more consistency, more control, more depth, more angles, more fitness, more athleticism, and more power. Hopefully you did your part to do well at the new level.

LeeD
12-15-2009, 05:57 PM
I don't think each specific shot is nearly as important as your ability to take your opponent's out of their comfort zone.
Big groundie hitters you slice low and angle short.
Great movers and all around players you hit hard but near them.
Huge servers you get it back low skidded.
Flat hitters you bounce it up around forehead heights.
Always defensive lob high enough to make even a short lob semi tough. Add side, back, or top spin as needed.
And as said, you never "own" any shot! Just go above your level and find that out.

coloskier
12-16-2009, 11:57 AM
In singles the most important shot at the 4.0 level is a CONSISTENT BH. Otherwise your opponent will pound it mercilessly until you prove you can return it all the time. By "pounding" I don't mean the opponent will hit it hard, I mean that you will receive nothing but shots to your BH, even if they are floaters. Once you get to 4.5, you'll have to have a consistent AND penetrating BH.

Cindysphinx
12-16-2009, 01:14 PM
I may have to re-think the need for a drop shot.

Last night, my partner and I were crushed. I doubt anything could have saved us against these opponents.

One tool I would have liked to have would have been a drop shot/short angle. One opponent (3.5) had absolutely no ability to get a ball over the net if she had to run forward. The other opponent (bumped to 4.5) was older and so was vulnerable when moved around.

My partner missed most of her short shots, and I never even tried one. :(

Casey10s
12-16-2009, 08:30 PM
Had a conversation with a teammate yesterday. She was telling me about a ladies 7.5 combo match she lost recently. She and her partner were 3.5s. Opponents were a 4.0 (bumped to 4.5) and a 3.5. First set 7-6 (with benefit of receiving 3 games and toss due to opponent's tardiness); second set 0-6, lost 3rd set tiebreak.

Anyway, she said something I've been mulling. She said she thought she personally could have been more competitive if she knew how to lob. It was the one shot she desperately wanted in that match. No matter how hard or well she hit the ball from the baseline, there was no getting it past a 4.5-ish player who is draped over the net, secure in the knowledge that a lob will not be forthcoming.

I started wondering if there are certain shots you really must own at various levels.

I'm a 3.5 doubles player, and I think I won't make 4.0 or be very successful there without the following tools in the box:

Topspin FH and BH groundstrokes
Solid volleys
Flat and slice serve
Topspin and slice lob
DTL FH and BH service returns
Approach/half volley
Good overhead

I think I could do fine at 3.5 without the approach/half volley, the DTL returns, and the slice serve. But not 4.0.

I think I can do pretty well at 4.0 without the following:

Slice BH
Drop shot
Drop volley
Kick serve

What do you think? What's indispensable at your level?

Cindy,

I think you are making this way too hard. Here is how I categorize levels.

A 4.0 can hit all shots consistently (FH, BH, Serve, Volleys, Overhead, and also include court coverage and mental toughness) in play and will make few mistakes. A 4.5 will have all the same shots but will have one killer shot (big serve, big forehand, net game, or something else) or can cover the court better than most people. A 3.5 will have one shot mentioned above that is suspect. A 5.0 will have 2 big shots and no weaknesses and a 3.0 will have 2 weaknesses and no big shot.

Also, this can be additive. A 4.0 can have a big shot but will have one big weakness. A 4.5 can have 2 big shots but will have one weakness (say a great serve and forehand but a weak backhand). Same for a 3.5, one big shot and 2 weaknesses.

I play against some very good people (high 4.0 and 4.5) and they don't have all the shots you mentioned but they fit the above description. I play occasionally against a guy ranked in the top 30 in the country in the 35's and he is ranked a 5.0. Every shot is very consistent, can cover the court, and has great mental toughness but he doesn't have a killer shot. His game is that he makes extremely few unforced errors (that is his strength).

What I would do is too get all of the basic shots consistent. I know you are in your late 40's so court coverage may be an issue when you are playing people significantly younger. Therefore if court coverage is a weakness, you must develop a killer shot to be competitive at 4.0. You should be able to hit crosscourt until the cows come home without missing badly. You need to be able to not miss easy balls. Keep volleys in play unless your opponent hits a good shot. All of the variation in shots are nice but they aren't really needed. A kick serve is nice but I know a lot good players who don't have one and they are competitive as hell.

AlexTennisAllDayLong
12-16-2009, 08:42 PM
4.0s usually still mostly just consistency...lots of pushers.
4.5s tough topspin and good angles off forehand and backhand with above average serve.
5.0 smashin ? haha fast serve and hard forehand/backhands on every kind of shot

Oldracquet27
12-17-2009, 08:30 PM
As a woman also, what i notice is that there is a shot you need to improve if you want to pass the 3.5: THE SERVE, specially in the women field where not too much attention is given to it, it will give you the edge for sure. You need to have consistency with it and eventually more power and specially a second serve that is not a dink. A good 3.5 will hit a winner with it all the time. The technique got to be good if you want to keep moving up, so some classes are really worth it and practice a lot with your bucket of balls at the court.

Another thing is learn how to PUT THE BALL DEEP. After 3.5, women are more effective attacking, if you give them easy middle and short balls, you are lost.
Try to focus on putting that ball deep with the amount of power you can handle.

THE DROP SHOT, is a shot you NEED FOR SURE. It helps so much with a slow player, to change pace, to disrupt your opponent game if she is a great baseliner and so on .....
And last but not least improving your consistency, you can miss , but good misses not wild ones.

Cindysphinx
12-17-2009, 09:12 PM
^Hmmm. I'm not sure what to think about the serve.

I mean, I'm happy with my serve, which is definitely not a dink on first or second. Still, it seems like there is a lot of weak serving at 3.5. I have noticed stronger serving of late at 4.0, but even at 4.0 there are some women with breathtakingly weak serves -- they wave it over to the service line, just starting the point. They're 4.0 and I'm not. Hmmm.

I'm not sure about the value of depth in doubles (I don't play singles), though. There are a lot of net crashers at 3.5/4.0, so I'd say being able to vary your depth is probably most important so you can put the ball at their feet.

Still on the fence about that bloody drop shot. We have been working on drop shots and drop volleys in our clinic. And it is one heck of a mess, with balls flying all over that bubble! :)

EP1998
12-18-2009, 09:16 AM
If you're focusing on doubles, I wouldnt bother practicing drop shots. Unless you have four hours a day to practice you need to focus your time on other things. I would focus on execution of volleys from every part of the court, seeing and reacting and moving to the ball (hugely important), overheads from every part of the court, up and back movement, serves (consistency) returns and reliable groundies that dont sit up for the net person.

escii_35
12-18-2009, 10:10 AM
Cindy,

I think you are making this way too hard. Here is how I categorize levels.

A 4.0 can hit all shots consistently (FH, BH, Serve, Volleys, Overhead, and also include court coverage and mental toughness) in play and will make few mistakes. A 4.5 will have all the same shots but will have one killer shot (big serve, big forehand, net game, or something else) or can cover the court better than most people. A 3.5 will have one shot mentioned above that is suspect. A 5.0 will have 2 big shots and no weaknesses and a 3.0 will have 2 weaknesses and no big shot.

Also, this can be additive. A 4.0 can have a big shot but will have one big

+1

I never thought about this way. I would also add, nearly all 4.5 players have good foot work/speed.

One of my fav 4.0 50+ female partners had a huge forehand and net game but no overhead and a meh backhand. On an 8's team nobody expects a sub 5' 6 female to have the bigger forehand and net game than the 6'2 dude. :twisted:

skiracer55
12-18-2009, 02:18 PM
Had a conversation with a teammate yesterday. She was telling me about a ladies 7.5 combo match she lost recently. She and her partner were 3.5s. Opponents were a 4.0 (bumped to 4.5) and a 3.5. First set 7-6 (with benefit of receiving 3 games and toss due to opponent's tardiness); second set 0-6, lost 3rd set tiebreak.

Anyway, she said something I've been mulling. She said she thought she personally could have been more competitive if she knew how to lob. It was the one shot she desperately wanted in that match. No matter how hard or well she hit the ball from the baseline, there was no getting it past a 4.5-ish player who is draped over the net, secure in the knowledge that a lob will not be forthcoming.

I started wondering if there are certain shots you really must own at various levels.

I'm a 3.5 doubles player, and I think I won't make 4.0 or be very successful there without the following tools in the box:

Topspin FH and BH groundstrokes
Solid volleys
Flat and slice serve
Topspin and slice lob
DTL FH and BH service returns
Approach/half volley
Good overhead

I think I could do fine at 3.5 without the approach/half volley, the DTL returns, and the slice serve. But not 4.0.

I think I can do pretty well at 4.0 without the following:

Slice BH
Drop shot
Drop volley
Kick serve

What do you think? What's indispensable at your level?

...with this thread, but here are some thoughts on this post:

- Let's go back to the description of a 4.0:

"Has dependable strokes, including directional control and depth on both forehand and backhand sides on moderate shots, plus the ability to use lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys with some success. Occasionally forces errors when serving and teamwork in doubles is evident. Rallies may be lost due to impatience."

One of the key things I'd underline from this description, and you get into it in one of your later posts, is "dependable strokes." If I have a really cool slice serve that goes in one in 20 times, then it doesn't really buy me anything, especially at the 4.0 level. The NTRP descriptions, as I have noted in the past, are a little off, because you have players, for example, at the 4.0 level who rarely, if ever, come to the net...but they still win a lot of 4.0 matches. So at 4.0, I think the most important aspect of your game should be dependability of strokes, ability to move well on the court, and mental toughness. You may not need to hit winners, but you have to hit three balls back, every time, and give the other player a chance to take gas one more time.

- The above description talks about doubles, a little, but it's primarily the strengths of a 4.0 singles player...and you play mostly doubles. Later on in this thread, you get into what kind of teamwork is required to win at 4.0, and that's really the key. Most doubles teams play like two singles players who happen, momentarily, to be on the same side of the net. You know your doubles tactics pretty well, if you're mostly going to continue to play doubles, you need to find a team/partner with whom you are simpatico in terms of your approach to doubles...and I believe if you do so, and work harder on doubles teamwork than anything else, you will be a 4.0 by next year. Remember, NTRP ratings don't just come from league matches. They also come from tournament results. So if you want to play league, do it for practice, find a good partner who may or may not be on your team, and go play some 3.5 doubles events and see if you can elevate your level that way.

- Having said all that good stuff, let's talk about strokes for a minute. It's possible to have a winning game without the full spectrum of strokes that we know of. Bjorn Borg had a dependable forehand, a strong serve, an equally dependable two-handed backhand, and the athletic ability to run like a greyhound all day. Kind of like a really fit 4.0, right? And from what I remember, he won Wimbledon a few times and the French Open a few more times.

My game is based on a lot of variety, so from the time I was a junior player, I wanted to have all the strokes at my command. If you only need one drop volley per season...but if it's on break point, match point for you...well, then it's an indispensable shot, on some level. Drop shot, drop volley....from your posts, I'm betting that a lot of the time, you're playing teams who only come to the net to shake hands at the end of the match...and you like coming to net...so would a drop shot or drop volley be a good thing to have? I suggest that it might...but your mileage may vary.

I'd also say that a kick serve is one of my "must haves" from the 3.5 level on up. It's like a topspin forehand. You can hit it right down the middle of the box and it's still pretty effective because it kicks up, it has lots of clearance over the net, and a lot of players don't like kick serves. As a second, serve, i consider it to be almost indispensable.

Similar with slice backhand. If you want to be opportunistic and move into the net any time you have even a remotely short ball, it's a good idea to have a slice backhand in your arsenal for the following reasons:

- There are times when you won't be in position to hit over your backhand, and if you have a slice, you can still get the ball back and hit the spot you want.

- Topspin kicks up, slice stays low...sometimes kicking up is not a good thing, especially in doubles.

- A lot of players don't like low slice balls.

Having a slice backhand will improve your backhand volley. Another way of looking at it is, if you have a clean backhand volley, it isn't much of an adjustment to come up with a slice backhand...so...how's your backhand volley?

OrangePower
12-18-2009, 02:51 PM
If you want to be opportunistic and move into the net any time you have even a remotely short ball, it's a good idea to have a slice backhand in your arsenal for the following reasons:

- There are times when you won't be in position to hit over your backhand, and if you have a slice, you can still get the ball back and hit the spot you want.

- Topspin kicks up, slice stays low...sometimes kicking up is not a good thing, especially in doubles.

- A lot of players don't like low slice balls.


Slice forehand is hardly ever mentioned - why is that? Why put the slice backhand in such high regard but not the slice forehand? After all, all the points you make above are equally valid regardless of which side you're hitting from.

Ripper014
12-18-2009, 03:19 PM
^Hmmm. I'm not sure what to think about the serve.

I mean, I'm happy with my serve, which is definitely not a dink on first or second. Still, it seems like there is a lot of weak serving at 3.5. I have noticed stronger serving of late at 4.0, but even at 4.0 there are some women with breathtakingly weak serves -- they wave it over to the service line, just starting the point. They're 4.0 and I'm not. Hmmm.

I'm not sure about the value of depth in doubles (I don't play singles), though. There are a lot of net crashers at 3.5/4.0, so I'd say being able to vary your depth is probably most important so you can put the ball at their feet.

Still on the fence about that bloody drop shot. We have been working on drop shots and drop volleys in our clinic. And it is one heck of a mess, with balls flying all over that bubble! :)


Just because you are playing at a level does not mean you belong there.

IMHO, offering strategies at levels below 4.5 are hard to provide... since at that level it is still about consistancy. You can attempt specific strategies... but in general the team that plays the highest percentage tennis will win 95% of the time (ie. keep the ball away from the net man and lob when in trouble). This is why the pusher is so effective.

Yes, there are times you will finish off points with grandeur... like that of a much better player and think well that strategy worked well. But more often than not an error will creep in before finishing the point (ie. missing the easy winner). Also you will notice that attempted shots down the line are more prevalent at lower levels of tennis than higher levels... why... because it may look great when it works... but it is not a precentage play. Maybe I am not that good a player, but in doubles I have usually made up my mind where I am going to return the serve and if I see the net man moving I just make a better return cross-court if that is where I am going... lower for sure... maybe with more pace and definitely with more spin. I am not going to try and change my shot to down the line... unless of course I am dealing with someone that has a weak serve then I would hold the shot on my racket and pick my shots.

As for hitting a drop volley... learn to walk before you can run. Develope a solid reliable deep second serve first, your partner will appreciate it... and you get to use it a lot more. Same is true about a good return of serve... there are lots of things to improve on before worrying about finesse shots that are not the bread and butter of your game.

skiracer55
12-19-2009, 08:10 AM
Slice forehand is hardly ever mentioned - why is that? Why put the slice backhand in such high regard but not the slice forehand? After all, all the points you make above are equally valid regardless of which side you're hitting from.

...and I do use a slice forehands for an approach for exactly the same reasons. For me, there's another reason, too, which is that if I'm serving and coming in, I'm going to leave my grip in Continental so I can volley. If the ball turns out to be a forehand groundstroke and I don't have time to change grips, I can just hit a Continental (slice) forehand.

Let's talk further about this. As Peter Burwash once said, "Tennis is a series of controlled emergencies." A lot of the time, there may be an ideal shot to hit, but all you have time/position for is to shovel the ball back as best you can, pass the problem back to the other side, and get ready for the next shot. If you watch the WTA or ATP players, a lot of the time, they don't take a full stroke, they just block the ball. For example, against a 130 mph serve, if you didn't read it, probably all you can do is block it, get on your bicycle, and start getting ready for the next ball. The Bryan brothers are incredibly aggressive at taking the net, and a lot of the time, the other team hammers a ground stroke at them that they can only block back...and get ready for the next ball, which is okay, because they have taken over the net. So a lot of times, it might be nice to hit a really clean, full slice as an approach shot, but if I don't have time, I just block it into the open court, make the other guy run three steps, and move in...

OrangePower
12-19-2009, 10:28 AM
...and I do use a slice forehands for an approach for exactly the same reasons. For me, there's another reason, too, which is that if I'm serving and coming in, I'm going to leave my grip in Continental so I can volley. If the ball turns out to be a forehand groundstroke and I don't have time to change grips, I can just hit a Continental (slice) forehand.

Yeah, I use the slice forehand on occassion myself... as an approach shot off a low ball, and also sometimes from the baseline just to give my opponent a different ball from my regular topspin.

It's just interesting to me that the slice backhand gets so much attention (as a shot that needs to be developed as a player gets better), but no-one ever mentions the slice forehand. But like you I think it's a great shot to have in your tool-chest.

ttbrowne
12-19-2009, 04:04 PM
At 3.5, you need to be able to get TWO forehands back in a row. Do this everytime and you'll win 70% of the points.

Cindysphinx
12-19-2009, 05:14 PM
^Seriously? No way.

I think you are thinking of 2.5, not 3.5.

larry10s
12-20-2009, 04:28 AM
doubles should be 2 people playing as team. not as 2 people. doubles is about taking control of the net
you need to find a partner who understands doubles strategy and court positioning like you do. you should be able to find someone in the 4.0s to fit that bill .downside will be your threads will be lower in number because you wont be griping about what your partner did or couldnt do. (JK)
main skill at net is volley , overhead (also getting to net in the first place) So transition volley in the serve and volley . chip and charge return or deep return and come in return. dtl return not as great a priority right now because you will hit more volleys in a match than dtl returns.imo so learn how to volley p.s. if they poach alot a driven return right at the center strap will often be behind the poacher and "wrong foot him/her". works when they do I formation also. angle volleys oppotunity to finish the point will come up mors often than drop volleys so i would give more time to that. you will be learning touch with angle volleys and the next step the drop volley will come more easily. again imo
lobbing effectively is very helpful but it doesnt have to be topspin. over their head and deep. if they get to it because its not a topspin lob and it sits up some when it lands SO WHAT. you by then have taken the net and are in control of the point.
serve placement accuracy and a second serve thats not a marshmellow also is helpful.
my transition to 4.0 the difference i saw was the ball came back after a good shot by me and it took a sequence of strokes to win a point

larry10s
12-21-2009, 07:15 AM
cindysphinx what conclusions are you forming?

Cindysphinx
12-21-2009, 08:12 AM
Larry, I think I'm concluding that most people don't agree with the premise of the question in the OP.

Remember, I was wondering whether there were some tools that were necessary at a higher level. The catalyst for this idea was my friend, who was helpless because she lacked a certain shot -- a lob.

Most folks aren't buying that and instead believe the "tool" you need is to play better. Better consistency, better shots overall.

I still think that tennis does depend in some way on the sum of its parts. NTRP puts us in matches with players who, theoretically at least, are just like us. These players will be a package of strengths and weaknesses, and you never know how you'll match up until play begins. If you get into a situation where the opponent drapes herself on the net or doesn't have an overhead, you can beat her if you have a lob. If not, you might well lose.

I still think that is a valid concept. For instance, our clinic pro seems to have decided that he wants us to develop "touch." Right now, none of us have it. We can't take off pace, so we cannot hit drop volleys and drop shots. "Touch" is a tool. Maybe it will become a tool that is important for beating certain opponents.

Nellie
12-21-2009, 08:57 AM
I would like to agree, however, that developing a plus serve, all other things being equal, is a sure fire way to improve levels.

Even if your serve is good, a better serve sure helps (let's say it gets extra 4/5 points per match is the difference between a 4-6, 4-6 loss and a 6-4, 6-4 win.

larry10s
12-21-2009, 09:38 AM
Larry, I think I'm concluding that most people don't agree with the premise of the question in the OP.

Remember, I was wondering whether there were some tools that were necessary at a higher level. The catalyst for this idea was my friend, who was helpless because she lacked a certain shot -- a lob.

Most folks aren't buying that and instead believe the "tool" you need is to play better. Better consistency, better shots overall.

I still think that tennis does depend in some way on the sum of its parts. NTRP puts us in matches with players who, theoretically at least, are just like us. These players will be a package of strengths and weaknesses, and you never know how you'll match up until play begins. If you get into a situation where the opponent drapes herself on the net or doesn't have an overhead, you can beat her if you have a lob. If not, you might well lose.

I still think that is a valid concept. For instance, our clinic pro seems to have decided that he wants us to develop "touch." Right now, none of us have it. We can't take off pace, so we cannot hit drop volleys and drop shots. "Touch" is a tool. Maybe it will become a tool that is important for beating certain opponents.

consistency is a common theme as you go up the ladder BUT as you go up the ladder the tool box has to have the tools necessry for the job. if you can not execute certain shots then your ability to change tactics and strategy is impaired. so if the tools are missing you can do only certain certain jobs (ie play 4.0 and up). from 4.0- 5.0 the disparity of a persons ability to use their best tool and the inability to use their weakest one is large. as you go up the disparity shrinks. so to your original question a hammer and screw driver ( fh bh) will come in handy more often than jewlers forceps(drop shot) so proably you need to get great at those as you learn to use the jewelers forceps. i hope you follow my analogy

raiden031
12-21-2009, 09:45 AM
Remember, I was wondering whether there were some tools that were necessary at a higher level. The catalyst for this idea was my friend, who was helpless because she lacked a certain shot -- a lob.


I don't have a lob, and I can beat any lower level players in doubles regardless of what they do because my other strengths make up for it. So if you can get free points by lobbing over someone without an overhead, I could just as well hit a dipper topspin shot and win the point that way.

SlapShot
12-21-2009, 09:54 AM
I don't have a lob, and I can beat any lower level players in doubles regardless of what they do because my other strengths make up for it. So if you can get free points by lobbing over someone without an overhead, I could just as well hit a dipper topspin shot and win the point that way.

But, for the sake of argument, is your lack of a lob hindering you from winning at your own level?

Each shot exists for a valid reason - there are times to hit a dipper, and there at times to hit a lob. And what one considers a quality lob at 3.0 would likely get destroyed at 4.5.

That's the rub of the NTRP system (and an argument we've had over and over) - what is a weapon at one NTRP level can be a liability at a higher level, so there is no objective "needs" at any NTRP.

That being said, you can make some gross generalities and be at least mostly accurate. Most 4.5 players have multiple serves, and can serve to spots. Most 4.0 players can hit a solid overhead. Most 3.5 players can hit with some modicum of intent, and can generally hit with a couple of spins and paces.

raiden031
12-21-2009, 09:55 AM
But, for the sake of argument, is your lack of a lob hindering you from winning at your own level?

Each shot exists for a valid reason - there are times to hit a dipper, and there at times to hit a lob. And what one considers a quality lob at 3.0 would likely get destroyed at 4.5.

That's the rub of the NTRP system (and an argument we've had over and over) - what is a weapon at one NTRP level can be a liability at a higher level, so there is no objective "needs" at any NTRP.

That being said, you can make some gross generalities and be at least mostly accurate. Most 4.5 players have multiple serves, and can serve to spots. Most 4.0 players can hit a solid overhead. Most 3.5 players can hit with some modicum of intent, and can generally hit with a couple of spins and paces.

I lose at my current level because I have weaknesses that I can't overcome. I would say botching a return of serve has cost me 10-times as many points as my inability to hit a good lob.

skiracer55
12-21-2009, 10:22 AM
Larry, I think I'm concluding that most people don't agree with the premise of the question in the OP.

Remember, I was wondering whether there were some tools that were necessary at a higher level. The catalyst for this idea was my friend, who was helpless because she lacked a certain shot -- a lob.

Most folks aren't buying that and instead believe the "tool" you need is to play better. Better consistency, better shots overall.

I still think that tennis does depend in some way on the sum of its parts. NTRP puts us in matches with players who, theoretically at least, are just like us. These players will be a package of strengths and weaknesses, and you never know how you'll match up until play begins. If you get into a situation where the opponent drapes herself on the net or doesn't have an overhead, you can beat her if you have a lob. If not, you might well lose.

I still think that is a valid concept. For instance, our clinic pro seems to have decided that he wants us to develop "touch." Right now, none of us have it. We can't take off pace, so we cannot hit drop volleys and drop shots. "Touch" is a tool. Maybe it will become a tool that is important for beating certain opponents.

- I would agree that as you move up in level, in general, it's a good idea to have more tools in the toolbox, and yes, to an extent, at just about any level, but kind of starting at 4.0, you kind of have to have all the shots. For example, you can probably win a 3.0 match without being able to hit a volley, but you probably can't win a 4.0 match without a volley. A 4.0 doesn't need to have a great volley, but if, in the warmup, it becomes obviously that a 4.0 opponent has no volley, then the smart player is going to force that opponent to come to net on every ball.

To go up in level somewhat, take an Open player, and that might be a 5.5 to a 6.0 level. That player needs "all" the shots, but can probably still win matches at that level with, say, not as much touch or as good a drop volley as the opponent...if the player without a great drop volley also has a 135 mph serve. Or, to quote one of my former coaches, "You have to be able to do everything, but you don't have to be able to do everything well."

- There's a difference, per the above discussion, between a tool and a weapon. Let's take the lob, for example. At a 3.0 to 3.5 level, as you point out, even a so-so lob can be a winning shot if the opposing team drapes themselves over the net. At an Open player level, you need a lob, but it's often just a defensive move to throw another ball up and give the other player/team a chance to take gas one more time...which does happen, but percentage wise, not that much, because most Open players can hit a winning overhead from just about anywhere on the court.

- Your toolkit, at any level, is always your choice, and is pretty idiosyncratic, IMHO. Ron LeMaster, my good friend and ski racing guru extraordinaire, told me something a couple of years ago, which is that the approach a ski racer takes often originates in his or her personality. Case in point, Anja Paerson, of Sweden, is a very strong athlete, and a direct, straightforward person, and that's the way she ski races...full on, go for it, let's charge. Kathrin Zettel, of Austria, looks like a librarian, and has a cool, calculating personality to match. At less than 120 pounds, she finesses her way down the hill.

The same is true for tennis players, I believe. We know all about the 6 basic playing styles. I'd submit that it's possible that a style of play chooses you according to your personality, not the other way around. I can rally from the baseline, but I really don't like doing it. Ever since I was a kid growing up on a tennis court, I always wanted to force the issue, to construct creative points, to shorten the point and force the issue. So I've naturally gravitated toward serve and volley, chip and charge. I've got all the shots, and they're all pretty good, but if I had to put the stamp of greatness on any one of my shots, it would be my backhand volley, and, as I say, that's not an accident.

So my suggestion is, rather than try to figure out what shots or moves a generic "player" needs at whatever level, figure out what you need based on what you like, and take it from there. It is a game, after all, and however hard you work at it, tennis should be fun, and it should be your game, not somebody else's...

LeeD
12-21-2009, 10:56 AM
Wow, SkiRacer...
That is one of you very best posts ever!
Good stuff.

Cindysphinx
12-21-2009, 11:00 AM
I would like to agree, however, that developing a plus serve, all other things being equal, is a sure fire way to improve levels.

I dunno. This relates to a discussion we had recently on the Tips and Instruction board: Is it better to develop a strength or fix a weakness?

Back to my non-lobbing friend. She has a very good serve. She thinks it is a good idea to spend time developing this serve from "very good" to "super good."

I question this. The marginal return of spending an hour improving an already good serve is small. This is especially so when you are a middle-aged female 3.5 player, facing opponents who play 7.0 and 8.0 mixed who are used to returning serves from guys with more spin and pace than you could ever hope to generate. The marginal return of learning to hit a lob seems immense. Hitting a lob will win you points outright, plus keep your opponents honest so that your passing shots are more effective.

Raiden, imagine you greeted your opponents at net with "I'm Raiden. Pleased to meet you. I don't lob, ever." No matter how good your topspin dipper is, it won't win you the point if your opponent is close to net and expecting that shot, right?

LeeD
12-21-2009, 11:04 AM
At higher levels, you are only as good as your lowest 1/3 shots. You might try to mask this by hitting your best 1/3 shots, but you will be exposed sooner or later, maybe not the next match, but for sure, before the next 5 matches.
Tell your friend to spend 15 minutes on her serves, and the other 45 on her lobs.

Cindysphinx
12-21-2009, 11:07 AM
So my suggestion is, rather than try to figure out what shots or moves a generic "player" needs at whatever level, figure out what you need based on what you like, and take it from there. It is a game, after all, and however hard you work at it, tennis should be fun, and it should be your game, not somebody else's...

Maybe we can tweak this a bit.

Perhaps the thing to do is figure out what kind of opponents exist, and make sure you have something in your tool box for all types.

Take the example of a good volleyer. What tools could you have to deal with that?

I would say they are:

Topspin dipping passing shots
Lobs
Getting to the net first (S&V)

In my case, I can execute any of these three, with S&V being the most difficult tool to use. My friend, I would say, cannot execute the lobs or S&V. She was left with just the one tool, which wasn't good.

Take the example of a pusher in singles. What tools work for that?

Taking the net
Bringing them to net
Slicing and moonballing

In my case, I have only one tool (taking the net). Not good enough, perhaps? Thank goodness I don't play singles! :)

skiracer55
12-21-2009, 11:17 AM
Wow, SkiRacer...
That is one of you very best posts ever!
Good stuff.


...I really appreciate it. I will probably feature it in my upcoming book, The World According to Skiracer55, which will be the best of my postings over the last few years, under the aegis of Skiracer55, to this forum, Epic Ski (Barking Bears), and Roadbike Review...

raiden031
12-21-2009, 11:28 AM
Raiden, imagine you greeted your opponents at net with "I'm Raiden. Pleased to meet you. I don't lob, ever." No matter how good your topspin dipper is, it won't win you the point if your opponent is close to net and expecting that shot, right?

Well I think my point is that I usually have options against net players that don't require me to hit lobs. I hit some decent passing shots as well and people rarely see me as someone who they can bully from the net. This works pretty well against 3.5 players, but then once I play against a good 4.0, my backhand weakness becomes a problem because they are better at targetting the backhand. Maybe a backhand defensive lob would be helpful, but they are also better at overheading those that aren't perfectly placed.

LeeD
12-21-2009, 11:41 AM
Backhand defensive lobs, best with lots of slice, and higher than the netman's reach. Lots of slice insures depth control and height control.
Don't hit flat lobs ever. A mishit is disasterous. And, it's the easiest to overhead.
At least a hard sliced defensive lob, mixed with regular topspin lobs, give the opponents a different look and need for different judgement on their overheads.

duketennisgal
12-21-2009, 12:28 PM
Backhand defensive lobs, best with lots of slice, and higher than the netman's reach. Lots of slice insures depth control and height control.
Don't hit flat lobs ever. A mishit is disasterous. And, it's the easiest to overhead.
At least a hard sliced defensive lob, mixed with regular topspin lobs, give the opponents a different look and need for different judgement on their overheads.


Curious, how do you hit a backhand hard slice defensive lob? I can only hit topspin lobs so I'm just curious. I can hit a low deep slice backhand but can't imagine how to turn that into a lob.

I think the biggest tool to have as you climb up the levels in awareness of what your strengths really are and the ability to work the points to take advantage of your strenght and your opponents weaknesses. I'm a 4.5 player, I know that my weakest shot is my backhand and my strongest shot is my inside out forehand (probably from running around my backhand so much). I work points to set my forehand up for the winner.

Another key tool is the return of serve, I've noticed as the levels go up, players tend to have better serves, not necessarily more powerful serves, but better placed and with more spin. A really good return of serve can get you a couple of breaks a set. Many players go for out right winners on most returns, a well placed really deep return is just as effective and much less risky.

skiracer55
12-21-2009, 12:29 PM
Maybe we can tweak this a bit.

Perhaps the thing to do is figure out what kind of opponents exist, and make sure you have something in your tool box for all types.

Take the example of a good volleyer. What tools could you have to deal with that?

I would say they are:

Topspin dipping passing shots
Lobs
Getting to the net first (S&V)

In my case, I can execute any of these three, with S&V being the most difficult tool to use. My friend, I would say, cannot execute the lobs or S&V. She was left with just the one tool, which wasn't good.

Take the example of a pusher in singles. What tools work for that?

Taking the net
Bringing them to net
Slicing and moonballing

In my case, I have only one tool (taking the net). Not good enough, perhaps? Thank goodness I don't play singles! :)

...I *think* what you're really talking about is the doubles toolkit, not what a singles player needs. Go back to your OP. You were discussing a match where one of the partners couldn't lob, which was a losing game against a couple of decent volleyers draped over the net. So in a doubles context, it kind of doesn't matter if you have a decent lob, if your partner doesn't, guess what? That's right, any smart team is going to send every ball to your partner, crowd the net, and you'll be a spectator.

Earlier in this thread, I said "You know your doubles tactics pretty well, if you're mostly going to continue to play doubles, you need to find a team/partner with whom you are simpatico in terms of your approach to doubles...and I believe if you do so, and work harder on doubles teamwork than anything else, you will be a 4.0 by next year. "

In that context, I would say that "simpatico in terms of your approach to doubles" definitely includes, but is not limited to, an agreement on what is the required toolset for whatever level you are at or aspire to. Doesn't mean that you can't, initially, partner with someone who doesn't have an overhead (which I agree is pretty much de rigeur for where you are and want to go next), but if your future partner doesn't have an overhead...well, at a minimum, he or she probably needs to (a) acknowledge that it's a problem for you as a team and (b) it's something he or she plans to address with what we in the corporate world call "an action plan." (Is there any other kind?).

So that's kind of, IMHO, where you need to go with all this. First, figure out what you need to add to the toolbox for 4.0 doubles (maybe nothing). Then start scouting around for possible partners who think like you do, have the same goals, are willing to commit to action plans...and, most of all, are fun to play tennis with...

Marshredder
12-21-2009, 12:36 PM
The key 2 shots in a match are the serve and return of serve. You win a game by breaking serve. If you cant serve, you will be broken every time, and if you cant return serve well, you're never going to break.

LeeD
12-21-2009, 12:39 PM
In doubles, compatibility is key to winning.
Two great players, say 5.5's, can easily lose, in doubles, to 2 4.5's who are in sync, playing doubles like one.
Quite often, the two superior players don't have similar styles, and each player's style actually makes the other look worse!
So find that compatible partner, and your level raises by easily .5.

larry10s
12-22-2009, 04:09 AM
Wow, SkiRacer...
That is one of you very best posts ever!
Good stuff.

i agree . great post. all your comments are well thought out, on topic and problem solving oriented. when your book is ready for sale can i get an autographed copy??:)

Ripper014
12-22-2009, 05:53 AM
At higher levels, you are only as good as your lowest 1/3 shots. You might try to mask this by hitting your best 1/3 shots, but you will be exposed sooner or later, maybe not the next match, but for sure, before the next 5 matches.
Tell your friend to spend 15 minutes on her serves, and the other 45 on her lobs.

I can live with this statement... you don't need the total package to win at lower levels... Think of Chris Evert... for most of her career the only time she went to net was to shake hands. And I would argue when she came to the net during a match, her approach shot was so good there was not much left to do but bunt the ball into an opening.

At lower levels I think it is important to have a good foundation of your basic strokes before working on more trivial shots. I have a complete all-round game... and I feel I can pretty much hit any shot, but I feel I am at a disadvantage when playing with someone who is extremely solid either off the ground or serving and volleying. The reason is though they have nothing I have not seen before nor cannot handle... I feel over the course of a match their consistancy will catch up with me. Unless I am having a very good day...


My suggestion to all lower level players is to strengthen the core of your game and build around what you do best. I am not suggesting you stop learning new strokes but to realize where the strength of your game lies.

Ripper014
12-22-2009, 05:57 AM
The key 2 shots in a match are the serve and return of serve. You win a game by breaking serve. If you cant serve, you will be broken every time, and if you cant return serve well, you're never going to break.

Well actually now that we have tiebreakers you can win without breaking serve... but your point is well made. These are definitely important and the return of serve is neglected by most lower level players.

Ripper014
12-22-2009, 06:04 AM
Curious, how do you hit a backhand hard slice defensive lob? I can only hit topspin lobs so I'm just curious. I can hit a low deep slice backhand but can't imagine how to turn that into a lob.

I think the biggest tool to have as you climb up the levels in awareness of what your strengths really are and the ability to work the points to take advantage of your strenght and your opponents weaknesses. I'm a 4.5 player, I know that my weakest shot is my backhand and my strongest shot is my inside out forehand (probably from running around my backhand so much). I work points to set my forehand up for the winner.

Another key tool is the return of serve, I've noticed as the levels go up, players tend to have better serves, not necessarily more powerful serves, but better placed and with more spin. A really good return of serve can get you a couple of breaks a set. Many players go for out right winners on most returns, a well placed really deep return is just as effective and much less risky.

What I believe and my mindset on returning serves can be different... I sometimes get too caught up in a match. But I believe that returning serve is about neutralizing the advantage of the server... you do not need to be hitting winners off the return of serve, with that said... I do believe you should take advantage of weak serves. But the key is in realizing how aggressive you can be on your return. Just remember in most cases the server has a tactical advantage... they have total control at the start of a point, plus if their serve is a weapon... you are at a major disadvantage. So the first thing to do is to find a way to neutralize this advantage so you can start the point on even terms.

In doubles it is usuallys something low with little pace away from the net person... in singles a return deep into the backcourt.

skiracer55
12-22-2009, 08:30 AM
i agree . great post. all your comments are well thought out, on topic and problem solving oriented. when your book is ready for sale can i get an autographed copy??:)

...are first on the list. Meanwhile, for some Big Laughs and Rare Insights:


http://www.rmmskiracing.org/snownews/SnowNews-2003Feb.pdf


http://www.rmmskiracing.org/articles/RMalm-2006-03-Goals.pdf

http://www.rmmskiracing.org/articles/RMalm-2006-03-Hotbox.pdf

http://www.rmmskiracing.org/articles/RMalm-2001-10-DayJob.pdf

EP1998
12-22-2009, 08:43 AM
[QUOTE=duketennisgal;4212578]Curious, how do you hit a backhand hard slice defensive lob? I can only hit topspin lobs so I'm just curious. I can hit a low deep slice backhand but can't imagine how to turn that into a lob.

QUOTE]

It is actually not that hard to hit a chip lob. I have a two hander for groundstrokes and topspin lobs but can hit this shot with one hand quite well. It is amazing in doubles because you can get a lot of height on it with minimal risk and you can use it from a lot of parts on the court. Coaches have described me in past as having hard hands so if I can do it, anyone can do it. It is great on the run but also if you can hit it early. Basically you set up for one hander but have to get under the ball early and lift it up. I am really bad at descriptions so maybe someone else will offer something. But you can definitely do it.

larry10s
12-23-2009, 09:38 AM
...are first on the list. Meanwhile, for some Big Laughs and Rare Insights:


http://www.rmmskiracing.org/snownews/SnowNews-2003Feb.pdf


http://www.rmmskiracing.org/articles/RMalm-2006-03-Goals.pdf

http://www.rmmskiracing.org/articles/RMalm-2006-03-Hotbox.pdf

http://www.rmmskiracing.org/articles/RMalm-2001-10-DayJob.pdf

thanks for sharing.merry christmas and happy new year:)

LeeD
12-23-2009, 09:52 AM
Sliced lobs are actually the easiest to hit...
Go to an old folks tennis court, and everyone lobs with slice.
Slice autmatically controls depth, and it's easier than topspin to control height, which means over the netman's head. It's rarely used for hitting outright winners, but it's more consistent than topspin lobs.
But you need a slice backhand first of all.
For forehand sliced lobs, usually when run really wide at full speed, you can switch to conti grip, but most using SW forehand grips just chop at the ball with underspin and get it over the netman's head. Similar to a forehand wide slice, as done by Fed and Haas, but higher and taken earlier.
Think about this.... when you feed lobs to your practice partners, do you lob with topspin?

duketennisgal
12-23-2009, 10:14 AM
Sliced lobs are actually the easiest to hit...
Go to an old folks tennis court, and everyone lobs with slice.
Slice autmatically controls depth, and it's easier than topspin to control height, which means over the netman's head. It's rarely used for hitting outright winners, but it's more consistent than topspin lobs.
But you need a slice backhand first of all.
For forehand sliced lobs, usually when run really wide at full speed, you can switch to conti grip, but most using SW forehand grips just chop at the ball with underspin and get it over the netman's head. Similar to a forehand wide slice, as done by Fed and Haas, but higher and taken earlier.
Think about this.... when you feed lobs to your practice partners, do you lob with topspin?


I have a western grip, so when I feed lobs in practice I usually turn the grip to a more continental grip and then hit a flat lob, I'll have to see if I can hit it with slice. I have really good control of my topspin lob off of both sides and have never thought about trying something different but it never hurts to learn something new to throw at your opponents.

LeeD
12-23-2009, 10:20 AM
Assuming you also volley, a conti grip should be pretty "at ease".
And since you serve with a conti grip.....
And you wide fetch slice your backhands with conti grip....
But if you don't ever need a defensive lob for your tennis, then don't learn something you don't need.
As much as I constantly preach first strike tennis, I do have to throw up some defensive lobs once in a while.

skiracer55
12-23-2009, 11:01 AM
thanks for sharing.merry christmas and happy new year:)

...best wishes to you, too!

Peggy
12-23-2009, 02:56 PM
In all that list you didn't mention the ability to evaluate strength/weakness of opponents and come up with a winning strategy. Sometimes you can own a shot but only off a certain pace of ball or height of ball and your opponents take that away from you so you need to be able to figure that out and select the shot that will give you the opportunity to take control of the point or to set up your partner in doubles. Also, being able to hit the shot doesn't always translate to a critical time in the match so I agree with the 'it's all relative' and if you are competitive or beating 4.0's you should be playing 4.0. Some people get very high with lots of deficits (look at Karlovic). :)

LeeD
12-23-2009, 04:57 PM
Superior strengths (Karlovic's serve), can mask a lot of weakness's (his movement and his lack of quickness).

Cody
12-24-2009, 02:38 AM
Superior strengths (Karlovic's serve), can mask a lot of weakness's (his movement and his lack of quickness).

And his dancing. :twisted:

EP1998
12-24-2009, 05:23 AM
I have a western grip, so when I feed lobs in practice I usually turn the grip to a more continental grip and then hit a flat lob, I'll have to see if I can hit it with slice. I have really good control of my topspin lob off of both sides and have never thought about trying something different but it never hurts to learn something new to throw at your opponents.

give it a try! My topspin lob is one of my best shots but when I added this, i got even more confident on that. so it was good all around. It also improved my volley lob.

Ripper014
12-24-2009, 11:44 AM
I have a western grip, so when I feed lobs in practice I usually turn the grip to a more continental grip and then hit a flat lob, I'll have to see if I can hit it with slice. I have really good control of my topspin lob off of both sides and have never thought about trying something different but it never hurts to learn something new to throw at your opponents.

If you have a good topspin lob off both sides... and can do it in any situation you don't need a high slice lob... take the outright winner instead.

For me... I can hit topspin lobs off both sides... but I need a split second longer to make that shot compared to a high defensive lob (I am not sure why you need to put slice on a lob however).

EP1998
12-28-2009, 03:46 PM
I have a western grip, so when I feed lobs in practice I usually turn the grip to a more continental grip and then hit a flat lob, I'll have to see if I can hit it with slice. I have really good control of my topspin lob off of both sides and have never thought about trying something different but it never hurts to learn something new to throw at your opponents.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dli3Inq26Y0

Toward the end of this clip at 30-15 Steffi hits an amazing chip lob. There is a shorter clip out there but this one shows it in slow motion.

Cindysphinx
12-28-2009, 04:05 PM
If you have a good topspin lob off both sides... and can do it in any situation you don't need a high slice lob... take the outright winner instead.

For me... I can hit topspin lobs off both sides... but I need a split second longer to make that shot compared to a high defensive lob (I am not sure why you need to put slice on a lob however).

I can hit topspin lobs off of both sides, but I just cannot do it off of a fast serve (defined as good serve from a guy in mixed). For those, I just go with a slice or flat lob.