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View Full Version : Opinions on the "drop and hit" baseline points game/drill


HunterST
10-16-2011, 02:15 PM
For those who may not know, the drill works like this: One Player (doesn't matter who) feeds the ball to his opponent. The opponent hits a cooperative ball back to the feeder. After that second hit, the point begins and is played out just like a regular rally. First player to 21 points wins.

I like the drill a lot. Sense there are no serves or Return of serves, the players can really groove their strokes and work on point construction. It's a fast paced, fun game and a darn good workout.

However, I do have some concerns about the game. When I play it, it seems like everyone plays much better than they do in a real rally. I'm wondering if that indicates there is something about it that makes it not directly applicable to a real match.

Also, the angles are different. Starting the point in the middle naturally leads to more "up and down" shots. In a real match, the serve is going cross court so the points are naturally more angled. Maybe it would be a good idea to make the feed ball a cross court shot in the game?

I'm curious what some of you coaches (and players) think of this drill/game. To what extent do you use it? Do you use any variations of the rules I mentioned?

thor's hammer
10-16-2011, 02:31 PM
I play a lot with a friend who just likes to hit; doesn't like to play sets. That's ok, cause I can get that with others, and we end up going at it full out usually for a couple of hours straight. Great workout, and great opportunity to work on groundstrokes and patterns.

That being said it can get a little ragged at times, cause there's no keeping score, so we do sometimes play points, (I call the game you describe "third ball"), and I find that keeping track immediately changes things - tends to throttle things back a bit.

So IMHO it's not the same as playing a practice set, much less a real match, but still useful.

HunterST
10-16-2011, 02:34 PM
I play a lot with a friend who just likes to hit; doesn't like to play sets. That's ok, cause I can get that with others, and we end up going at it full out usually for a couple of hours straight. Great workout, and great opportunity to work on groundstrokes and patterns.

That being said it can get a little ragged at times, cause there's no keeping score, so we do sometimes play points, (I call the game you describe "third ball"), and I find that keeping track immediately changes things - tends to throttle things back a bit.

So IMHO it's not the same as playing a practice set, much less a real match, but still useful.

Yeah, definetly not the same. It's good for working on point construction and practicing baseline rallies. Those things are hard to work on in a practice set because the serve and return of serve don't let the rallies get going.

Torres
10-16-2011, 02:49 PM
It's a useful drill to the extent that it helps you get an idea of your winner / UE count and how/where you hemorrhage points in a rally, and what you need to work on in different areas of the court. But to get the benefit out of it, your opponent really needs to be playing 'normally' rather than going for ultra consistency which quite a few players I've seen do when they get faced with a first to 21 type drill.

The drill is better though and more realistic if you introduce the serve, with 2 points each, then rotating the server etc.

HunterST
10-16-2011, 02:56 PM
It's a useful drill to the extent that it helps you get an idea of your winner / UE count and how/where you hemorrhage points in a rally, and what you need to work on in different areas of the court. But to get the benefit out of it, your opponent really needs to be playing 'normally' rather than going for ultra consistency which quite a few players I've seen do when they get faced with a first to 21 type drill.

The drill is better though and more realistic if you introduce the serve, with 2 points each, then rotating the server etc.

Hmm, why not just play a practice set or tie break if the serving is going to be incorporated into the drill?

OTMPut
10-16-2011, 04:06 PM
i enjoy playing a small variant - clean winners 3 points, point won at the net 3 points.

encourages point construction and offensive play.

spaceman_spiff
10-17-2011, 01:52 AM
The thing about rally games is that they don't work on the two most important shots of the game (serve and return). These are two of the biggest weaknesses for a lot of players, especially the return, which is why people do these rallies better than proper points. But, all it's doing is ignoring the weakness.

For example, a guy I started hitting with a couple of years ago used to always love doing these rally games, and he was quite good at them. He'd usually beat me 3 out of 4 times because he is faster than me and rallies really well. But, when we would play sets, I would beat him half the time purely because my serves and returns were much better.

His serve had good pace but little placement, and his returns were quite weak as long as I didn't get too predictable. I even used to go S&V against him because he floated so many balls back.

Eventually, the number of easy points I was winning because of my returns or his weak ones opened his eyes, and now we play a lot more practice sets so he can focus on improving his serve and return.

It's no use being good at rallying if you can't ever get yourself into a rally.

OTMPut
10-17-2011, 02:13 AM
of course this is not end all for practice. this improves endurance, consistency and placement. at my level the average shot length in a point is like 2.3 or 2.7, with most errors coming out of serve returns. playing sets is not a great way to build stroking proficiency.
and serve/return practice without a game context is quite limited as well.

gully
10-17-2011, 04:50 AM
We often do a variant we call five-ball, where the ball has to be in play for five strokes before a point can be earned. Good for point construction, patience, and grinding, as often balls 3 and 4 in the sequence are used to try to establish an advantage. Games to 11 make a good workout.

(But I agree, the serve and return need to be practiced, too.)

spaceman_spiff
10-17-2011, 05:28 AM
of course this is not end all for practice. this improves endurance, consistency and placement. at my level the average shot length in a point is like 2.3 or 2.7, with most errors coming out of serve returns. playing sets is not a great way to build stroking proficiency.
and serve/return practice without a game context is quite limited as well.

If most errors come from returns, then why are you so interested in building up stroke proficiency? What's the point of being really good in a rally if you can't ever get in a rally because of weak returns?

Practice sets are the best way for people to practice serves and returns (the two most important shots in the game) because they involve a large number of both in a realistic competitive environment. If you're focusing those two shots, set yourself some targets to work on and don't worry about the score.

Once you can hit decent returns, then you can work on improving your baseline game. (Even then, you can still do that in practice sets by setting rules like no going for winners except at net or something similar.) But to go the other way around is just putting the cart before the horse.

olliess
10-17-2011, 06:41 AM
I like to separate the rally drill from the serve and return drill. If the same guy keeps serving and the other guy keeps returning, you get a chance to build up some "rhythm" on the return -- something that's really hard to do when playing points. The serve by itself you can work on with a basket of balls and an empty court.

The "five-ball" drills or 21 and stuff are really useful for me. (Mostly, I find out how bad my consistency really is). Also reduces the time waiting around for a serve to actually go in. Another variation is to do second serves to open the point, no return winners.

Once you add true first serves I think the practice value really goes down. When it isn't going in, you're just waiting around for second serves anyway. When it is going in, it doesn't come back a lot of the time.

dman72
10-17-2011, 06:55 AM
My best tennis played is always the match following my hitting session with another guy from my league, usually Saturday mornings, where we go for 1.5 to 2 hours. This is opposed to when I simply play another match on my Saturday session.

It's about a 10 minute warm up, than 3 games or so of drop and hit 21, usually varying rules on scoring from straight up, to having an error be 1 point, a winner 2, a volley winner 3.

After that is done and we're throughly gassed, we play a set. It's more of a cool down than a match.

If there's time left than we work on serve and return with one person serving exclusively from a huge ball hopper. I usually let him serve because it's probably the best part of my game, where as my return sucks.

This is definitely more productive than just playing sets in terms of working out the weaknesses in your game, and it's way better than just ball bashing with no objective. The straight 21 works on consistency, the weighted scoring encourages aggressive play, especially approach shots and volleys.

If I could get one of the junk ballers in my league to workout this way it would be beneficial, because the guy I normally do this routine with is one of the harder hitters..much more so than the majority of guys in my league. You get used to seeing a moderately paced but heavy topspin shot, and then most of you matches are played against flat medium paced guys.

olliess
10-17-2011, 07:19 AM
Sounds like a good practice routine, dman.

But do you guys really need that much incentive to go for volleys? :)

OTMPut
10-17-2011, 07:35 AM
If most errors come from returns, then why are you so interested in building up stroke proficiency? What's the point of being really good in a rally if you can't ever get in a rally because of weak returns?

Practice sets are the best way for people to practice serves and returns (the two most important shots in the game) because they involve a large number of both in a realistic competitive environment. If you're focusing those two shots, set yourself some targets to work on and don't worry about the score.

Once you can hit decent returns, then you can work on improving your baseline game. (Even then, you can still do that in practice sets by setting rules like no going for winners except at net or something similar.) But to go the other way around is just putting the cart before the horse.

you did not get what i said. the only meaningful way in which you can practice serve & return is in matchplay. you will always get to serve and return in a match.

on the other hand, unless you are in sufficiently advanced league, you are going to get much opportunity to rally. at best 2-3 shot points.

sphinx780
10-17-2011, 09:56 AM
i enjoy playing a small variant - clean winners 3 points, point won at the net 3 points.

encourages point construction and offensive play.

Funny, we play a variant of this and call it 1,2,3. Clean winners 3 points, an error into the net, 2 points to your opponent.

I find it's a great way to reward knowing when to go for the kill and when to keep working the point and usually use this when we're looking for a high cardio workout in a shorter time period or need a day to rest the shoulder but still want to get out and hit or need to find the timing on my strokes.

I'll also use this when playing with lesser players, only I get 1 point for winners, all else being equal.

SuperJimmy
10-17-2011, 12:10 PM
I play a variant where neutral balls have to be hit 4-5 times over the net before serious play begins. And as the ball gets closer to that 4-5 number over the net, the shots gradually start to creep towards the corners. This is so that when it is finally time to go all out, both players aren't comfortably situated in the center of the court. And also, both players are bouncing and moving already such that a winner attempt on the 5th ball likely won't be successful.

When I see others do this kind of drill they're pretty lazy with their feet and most likely flat footed. They hit neutral balls down the middle till it reaches that predetermined number and one guy just tries to rocket it to the corner for a winner - which makes it pretty useless.

skiracer55
10-17-2011, 01:36 PM
It's a useful drill to the extent that it helps you get an idea of your winner / UE count and how/where you hemorrhage points in a rally, and what you need to work on in different areas of the court. But to get the benefit out of it, your opponent really needs to be playing 'normally' rather than going for ultra consistency which quite a few players I've seen do when they get faced with a first to 21 type drill.

The drill is better though and more realistic if you introduce the serve, with 2 points each, then rotating the server etc.

...if you need to run some diagnostics on your ability to rally, it's a good drill, but what Torres says about playing "normally" is really key. The idea is to be consistently aggressive. Once you've got your rally skills tuned, up, go play some points. Another poster mentioned having one player serve a bunch and the other return a bunch so each can get grooved. The Aussies of the Laver era used to work on serves and returns for a while, then slide over into playing points. It's really good, IMHO, to play a lot of points where you're working on point construction skills, and sometimes it works really well to not keep score...just play a bunch of points...

Limpinhitter
10-17-2011, 01:48 PM
For those who may not know, the drill works like this: One Player (doesn't matter who) feeds the ball to his opponent. The opponent hits a cooperative ball back to the feeder. After that second hit, the point begins and is played out just like a regular rally. First player to 21 points wins.

I like the drill a lot. Sense there are no serves or Return of serves, the players can really groove their strokes and work on point construction. It's a fast paced, fun game and a darn good workout.

However, I do have some concerns about the game. When I play it, it seems like everyone plays much better than they do in a real rally. I'm wondering if that indicates there is something about it that makes it not directly applicable to a real match.

Also, the angles are different. Starting the point in the middle naturally leads to more "up and down" shots. In a real match, the serve is going cross court so the points are naturally more angled. Maybe it would be a good idea to make the feed ball a cross court shot in the game?

I'm curious what some of you coaches (and players) think of this drill/game. To what extent do you use it? Do you use any variations of the rules I mentioned?

I think it's a good drill, especially when you have one player against two, where the two alternate every two points, and therefore, the guy on the other side is always fresh. The guy playing alone will get worked out and worked over.

What I don't like about this drill is that it neglects the two most important shots in tennis, serve and return. Perhaps if the guy playing alone started every point with a serve it would be a more efficient use of time.

HunterST
10-17-2011, 02:55 PM
I think it's a good drill, especially when you have one player against two, where the two alternate every two points, and therefore, the guy on the other side is always fresh. The guy playing alone will get worked out and worked over.

What I don't like about this drill is that it neglects the two most important shots in tennis, serve and return. Perhaps if the guy playing alone started every point with a serve it would be a more efficient use of time.

Yeah, but I think getting rid of the serve and return is the purpose of the goal. Those two shots make it tough to really get a lot of rally practice. Obviously the drill has to be mixed with serve practice and regular play.

I also like Skiracer's idea of just playing points and not keeping score.

spaceman_spiff
10-18-2011, 02:03 AM
you did not get what i said. the only meaningful way in which you can practice serve & return is in matchplay. you will always get to serve and return in a match.


Except that, when it comes time to play a competitive match, most people are too worried about winning/losing to try something different with their serves and returns. So, they never end up improving because they are too afraid to make a change.

I think practice sets can be used for so much more than people think if you do it properly. For example, if you want to work on your consistency from the baseline, make a rule for yourself that you're not allowed to go for any winners unless you or your opponent have made your way to the net. Or, maybe make a rule that you're not allowed to go for a winner until you have hit 4 groundstrokes.

If you want to work on your net play, make a rule that you have to go S&V on all your serves (this also forces you to focus on hitting better serves if your opponent has solid returns, rather than just rolling it in). Or, you could make a rule that you have to chip and charge on any 2nd serves from your opponent.

Setting these unwritten rules will help you focus on whatever it is you want to improve while still staying within realistic playing conditions. Unless you're making major changes in stroke mechanics or something similar, I think it's a better overall tool than hitting drills.

OTMPut
10-18-2011, 02:55 AM
good points.

one could go with self made rules/constraints even in lcoal ladders. nothing like practice in real situations.

especially serving. it is 90% mental. serving where you want to (or with a pattern of play in mind) when you are 15-40 is easier said than done. no amount of serve drills will help.

spaceman_spiff
10-18-2011, 03:25 AM
I really like the S&V rule on serves. It pushes me to think more about what I'm doing with my serves and what my opponent's weaknesses are so that I can make sure he doesn't rip his returns right past me. Of course, it also helps with net play as well.

One other thing about the rules in general is that they help you learn to focus on executing a plan in a match rather than obsessing about the score and getting nervous.

ttbrowne
10-18-2011, 01:57 PM
My son and I play this game everytime we go out. He doesn't play tennis anymore so his serves suck. We used to play matches but I won all the time...no fun.

We go ALL OUT. There is no let-up. We hit as hard as we can. He can hit a Div 1 forehand so it keeps me hopping. We'll also pop in a drop shot. We love it!