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View Full Version : Losing the will to play! Tips needed


*Val*
01-06-2013, 01:41 PM
Hi guys

Need a bit of help improving my game and finding the motivation to keep on with the sport really. Recently I've been practicing more regularly, but with people quite above my level and it can be quite disheartening constantly being the worst player on court.

It's winter so I'm only really playing once a week indoors with these club players. Now I'm not really a club player, I haven't really played the sport competitively, more just recreational though I've always played seriously and put in the effort to improve my game. I think when I'm on form I actually have a pretty decent game, with a big serve, decent forehand and strong backhand. I don't really have a great 2nd serve though and my net game is basically non-existent. I think my NTRP ranking (when in practice) would be like 3.5 or so.

These club players play at a really high level though. I'm not sure what their NTRP ranking would be but at least 4.0-5.0+. One of the best players there has played for something like 12 years, and the rest play at pretty much the same level which makes me think most have at least 6+ years of playing under their belt. I only started playing the back end of 2008 (starting around August), for about 4-5 months regularly (almost every day!) which is actually when I learned most basics and probably the bulk of what I know now. But in early 2009 I herniated a disc in my back which kept me out for about a year. I started playing again late 2010/early 2011 but struggled serving altogether because of my back. I only played sporadically from then on, mostly during the summer of 2011, stopped again over winter and then some during spring/early summer of 2012 which is when I felt I began to hit some form, but again had to take time out pretty much all of the bulk of summer and early autumn due to a surgery (unrelated to back) which required a few months to recover. So in total I've probably only really played for 1.5-2 years, sporadically.

It was late autumn last year coming out of surgery that I decided to actually get playing more consistently (with a view to playing in some leagues come new season), which is when I started playing indoors with the club players (which I guess is their off-season practice). So I've been playing there for the past 3 months or so. As I say I'm probably the worst player there which kinda grates on me and probably annoys the other players who I'm partnered with. It's pretty much exclusively doubles since there aren't enough courts. This makes matters worse since other players rely on me and I only really ever built up playing singles, and I don't have much of a net game. Because of this it always seems the losses go to me and my pairing.

On the plus side I feel like I have improved, since playing with people much above your level forces you to play better. Recently I've been getting some wins (after exclusive losses) and when I (that is to say, we) do lose it's rarer that's it's a blowout 6-1, 6-0 or whatever, so I'm able to hold serve more. But I think my problem is that I feel the pressure and expectation playing with these people above my level, and I'm a bit of a headcase so I mess up a lot thinking I have to prove myself. So I have been playing ridiculously sporadically. It mainly started with terrible serving problems when I first started playing with them. I've been getting this under control though. Last time I played with them I was serving bombs and many aces - in fact when my serve is on form I probably serve close to the level they serve at, if not better than some of them (I'm probably the tallest player there at 6'1", so that helps). In my first match (last time I played) I laid down like a dozen aces or more.

After that though it went to my head again and I started playing sporadically. By now these guys probably know I'm really hit and miss; I can play shots which are on their level (and can hit at their pace), but I'm not consistent enough. I constantly alternate between silly mistakes and solid shots and sometimes wonder shots. I felt like I hit rock-bottom though after my serving started going south again towards the end of the session and I accidentally smashed the ball straight into the back of my partner (the same guy who I said is probably one of the best). I think I've only ever done this once before and not quite so bad. I was really apologetic but after that I'm not sure I even want to show my face there again!

So what do I do? Am I simply playing with people too high above my level to the point where the practice will simply be too disheartening and mess up my mental game? Is singles (my preference) better practice to find that consistency? This is especially bad when it comes to net game, since all of them have excellent net games and probably years of doubles practice. When the ball goes past me and I don't make the volley they look at me like 'how did you miss that?' and I look at them like 'how do you make that?' Should I step it down and play with people more my level? There were some other players coming a few weeks back who I think were closer to my level (some worse), who likewise had inconsistencies and were obviously developing. They stopped coming. I'm starting to think that's because they were also discouraged by the haughty club players.

That's the thing, I feel like I'm making a fool of myself half the time. And I guess this is the broader issue with tennis. If you saw all of us there you might think I'd be one of the best players, I'm tall and pretty athletic and show up in all the latest tennis gear and whatnot. And some of the other guys are like short, kinda oldish, some carrying beer bellies etc (not to depreciate them or anything). And yet since tennis at this level is almost purely a technique game, it doesn't matter - they can still boss the point without having to move as much due to superior technique. So I can put in tons of effort but they can afford to play the sport complacently. That's the thing, my sport was football (soccer) until I took up tennis, and I'd played that since I was like 8 or something. I played that at a very high level - I played a very physical game and was an extremely hard worker. I figure if those guys came over to the football pitch in that sort of physical condition (and gathering that they probably aren't experienced football players) they wouldn't last five seconds.

So I guess all of this put together kinda gets discouraging and makes me think of going straight back to football (which I'm already playing again these days) and forgetting about competing in tennis, which is a real shame because I love this sport. Can anyone give me some tips to banish these thoughts and keep motivated and to improve my game? Do you guys go through these low points? Tennis is a really tough game mentally and I'm a bit of a headcase. Being a headcase wasn't as much of drawback during my footballing days since it translated well into a high-intensity game where you rely more on teammates and where you can't outright defeat yourself with errors.

Cheers guys, any tips or advice would be helpful

sundaypunch
01-06-2013, 02:15 PM
Welcome to tennis. Being new to the game, you can be a great athlete and easily lose to out of shape non athletes that have played for a while. It is a tough sport in that someone that is just slightly better than you can often beat you very easily. It is great to play people better than you. If it is too lopsided it is no fun for either of you.

You will enjoy the game more if you find a league with people at your own level (there is a reason that USTA doesn't have 3.5's playing 5.0's). If you play 3.5 and win almost all of your matches you will get moved up to 4.0. Eventually you will find a level that gives you a good mix of players that are better and worse than you. As you improve you will move up.

Yes, you are just playing with people that are too far above your level now. If you subject yourself to a beat down every time you go on the court you won't last long in the sport.

psv255
01-06-2013, 02:23 PM
I've also had problems with beating myself up over not keeping up with players above my ability, and other overly self-conscious and self-deprecating thoughts.

But then again, if those people you play with are willing to play with you over and over again, I'd say that you have nothing to worry about! I think taking the time to identify and attack specific weaknesses in your game would be the best way out of your "tennis depression." It definitely helped me to focus on more specific things; it got the fear of inferiority out and got me improving again.

Hope this helps; good luck!

*Val*
01-06-2013, 02:35 PM
P.S sorry for the absurdly long post kinda needed to get that all out.

Yeah you're right, I guess I'm really self-conscious about how others perceive me (I was the same with football) and kinda hate the prospect of being the kinda 'clown' of the group since I do actually take it seriously and always look to improve. My response in football was always to just put more effort and miles in to the point where I was always the best or among the best in the team, but progression in tennis is really not so straight forward. I guess in tennis if you lose, most times you can only blame yourself; in the case of the doubles matches I always feel to blame and in singles, well there is no one else to blame. When you lose in a team sport like football it's often just a lack of team effort or the opposing side were too good, it's much easier to pick yourself and play again, and easier to play through losses IMO.

But I guess that's why tennis is such a mental sport, there are no headcases in the top 4!

But yeh I'll probably look for some other people to play with in the off season, though it might involve going back outdoors during winter. Though I'm worried that this will make me look like a quitter, and confirm the notion that I'm a bad player. Personally I'd like to keep going just to show I'm not afraid of playing with them and am determined to get better but I'm worried it'll simply frustrate my efforts to improve. I can't learn to win until I can actually beat the players ! - doesn't help that it's almost always doubles because I feel like I can't gauge my level and progression from it, too much standing around the net having balls blasted at/past you. There was a period early last year when I was practicing a fair bit in singles with one of the team captains from the same club (I think I was given this privilege because I'd known him for quite a while since he lived near me, he invited me to play) and though he would pretty much always beat me, I could take him to like 6-4 in a set and so on and I was really pleased with my progress. That's when I felt I had hit some form, hitting balls over and over and over in singles really made for good practice.

isilra
01-06-2013, 03:30 PM
Well i hope i was playing with players who are better than me and have some passion to improve their game. My hitting partner is one of my oldest friends and he just consumes my energy on the court. He doesn't want to improve, he still arms the ball after numerous advices, i feel like i'm forcing him to play. It is really hard to improve yourself if you have a hitting partner like that.

The improvement comes with the challenge. Not only with tennis, it's my general rule in life. You can only improve when you need to improve. So i'm pretty sure you will gain a lot more by playing better guys than you. The problem is if they wanna play with you or not. If they are your bros, than even if they don't, continue playing with them. But if they are just strangers, than you should watch for their reactions. To be the unwanted man can threat your comfort level and it's just a better idea to find somebody else to play. If that is not the case, go on, i'm sure you will improve a lot if you have the passion for it.

Also i'd suggest going for singles more. If you suck at net game, either take some lessons or just go for singles and be the defensive player that don't approach net so much. You have the physical advantage, so maybe you should consider making your playing strategy based on your power. You can change to a crazy topspin game and send them your bombers, just wait for mistakes. This will also give you some more consistency. You say you have a good serve. You are tall too and you don't have an excuse to make it a true weapon that everyone is scared of because you can simply practice it by yourself.

A man can't do everything well. You just need to know your own weaknesses and hide them with other aspects that you do perfect.

max
01-06-2013, 03:38 PM
This is really an excellent question that must be looked at by every player.

It is good advice to play people better than you, which forces you to pull out the best stuff you've got from your arsenal. .. no doubt.

At the same time, a tennis player has to develop confidence. This comes from playing and winning. My advice to you is to find a tennis sparring partner to play who is not quite as good as you, to play every so often, to beat and upon whom to try new strokes and strategies.

Back in my heyday, I would play most of my competitive stuff on weekends, but during the week I would have one or two tennis friends, not quite as good as me, to play on a more relaxed basis. This lets you feel good when you beat them; it lets you try out different things that you wouldn't dare risk in a "real" match.

You sound like you need a patsy.

the hack
01-06-2013, 04:09 PM
i just bought a Lobster ball machine. No people required. Great for strokes.works for me. best wishes

*Val*
01-06-2013, 04:11 PM
Btw I'm in UK so it's not NTRP ratings but I tried to place the levels within those ratings for the USA posters here. I don't know if our LTA ratings can really be converted directly to NTRP but I'm pretty sure they're playing 7.1 and higher. I'm not sure if that's in the 5.0+ range, but judging from their play, the players of NTRP ratings that I've seen and the actual descriptions which define those ratings I'd say they're mostly 4.0-5.0, I definitely couldn't conceive of them any lower than 4.0. Purely from the NTRP descriptions I'd say the best there are 5.0.

directionals
01-06-2013, 04:12 PM
You can improve a lot by playing with better players. I would love it if better players want to play with me but that rarely happens :( If they want to play with you, I'd say keep playing. Take classes or play with someone at your level to improve your net game and overheads. Apply your new skills to the high level matches. You will probably improve quickly.

psv255
01-06-2013, 04:19 PM
Btw I'm in UK so it's not NTRP ratings but I tried to place the levels within those ratings for the USA posters here. I don't know if our LTA ratings can really be converted directly to NTRP but I'm pretty sure they're playing 7.1 and higher. I'm not sure if that's in the 5.0+ range, but judging from their play, the players of NTRP ratings that I've seen and the actual descriptions which define those ratings I'd say they're mostly 4.0-5.0, I definitely couldn't conceive of them any lower than 4.0. Purely from the NTRP descriptions I'd say the best there are 5.0.

This chart might help you: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showpost.php?p=4018774&postcount=3

treblings
01-06-2013, 09:56 PM
everybody wants to play against stronger opponents to improve. not many people realize the value of playing against weaker opposition.
how can you gain confidence and learn how to actively and creatively play your own game, if all you do is struggle to win points against better players?
with the juniors i teach, we look for tournaments where they might have a 2-1 win-loss ratio. two wins for confidence, one loss to learn from:)

one of the beauties of the sport is that it takes very long to become a master(within your own capabilities). meaning you can improve basically your whole life. donīt pressure yourself into wanting to achieve too much too soon.

boramiNYC
01-06-2013, 11:42 PM
everybody wants to play against stronger opponents to improve. not many people realize the value of playing against weaker opposition.
how can you gain confidence and learn how to actively and creatively play your own game, if all you do is struggle to win points against better players?
with the juniors i teach, we look for tournaments where they might have a 2-1 win-loss ratio. two wins for confidence, one loss to learn from:)

one of the beauties of the sport is that it takes very long to become a master(within your own capabilities). meaning you can improve basically your whole life. donīt pressure yourself into wanting to achieve too much too soon.

that's excellent point, thanks!

Relinquis
01-08-2013, 01:18 AM
- tennis is not football
- you are lucky that you are playing superior players
- focus on improving one, or two max, areas only in every practice session
- focus on playing your best tennis and enjoying that, rather than only being able to enjoy winning (i.e. don't beat up on yourself)
- eventually you will get better and will win some game, sets and matches

bhallic24
01-08-2013, 08:30 AM
This is really an excellent question that must be looked at by every player.

It is good advice to play people better than you, which forces you to pull out the best stuff you've got from your arsenal. .. no doubt.

At the same time, a tennis player has to develop confidence. This comes from playing and winning. My advice to you is to find a tennis sparring partner to play who is not quite as good as you, to play every so often, to beat and upon whom to try new strokes and strategies.

Back in my heyday, I would play most of my competitive stuff on weekends, but during the week I would have one or two tennis friends, not quite as good as me, to play on a more relaxed basis. This lets you feel good when you beat them; it lets you try out different things that you wouldn't dare risk in a "real" match.

You sound like you need a patsy.


Yup, agreed, everyone needs and usually has a whipping boy. Go find yours today and learn to get more enjoyment out of the game. Problem is when yours quits out of shear frustration. Guess I gotta go find another one.

corbind
01-09-2013, 03:26 PM
Tracking...

magnut
01-09-2013, 03:44 PM
Just quit and be done with it.

If you find yourself on court the day after you quit there might be hope for you.