10 Boring Strokes FTW or 1 Beautiful Stroke and Lose?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by TimothyO, Jun 13, 2014.

  1. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    A friend and I had an interesting conversation last night about the hell that is 3.5/4.0 rec tennis.

    To win consistently at this level takes, well, consistency. That generally means hitting conservatively and waiting for your opponent to make a mistake. Punishing floaters or merely executing textbook ground strokes with depth and pace without committing too many UEs is beyond the reach of most players at this level.

    But that assumes one's primary objective is purely winning even if that means hitting 5-10 really boring safe shots.

    On the other hand, there is great satisfaction at hitting a perfect stroke with excellent depth, pace, precision, and spin. Players at this level can accomplish that sometimes but getting that one perfect stroke often means enough bad ones that they lose a match.

    So what is your priority for mid-level rec tennis? Is it winning matches even if that means playing "old man tennis" and hitting as safely as possible? Or are you willing to push the envelope in match play and accept that to achieve those few perfect shots you're going to commit enough UEs that you'll might/probably lose?

    NOTE: I'm not talking about crushing monster winners here. I'm talking about trying to hit what would be a standard deep, hard, slightly aggressive neutral rally shots for higher level (5.0) players. Instead of poking, slapping, or slicing the ball in fear of missing you take your proper full stroke, not like a maniac, but trying to find the right angle and stroke speed to hit as well as you can.

    Recently I've tried both to compare the two approaches and I've gotta say that it has been more personally satisfying (and helpful developmentally) to focus on form and shot quality over "just make the opponent hit one more ball". I've won taking the conservative approach and it's pretty easy to win that way at 3.5/4.0 since most opponents will happily oblige you by committing lots of UEs. Just hit 4-5 crosscourt shots as simply as possible and by the 5th or 6th shot the odds are very high a slightly more aggressive opponent will flub something.

    With this different, less conservative approach I've taken losses that I otherwise would not have and that has led to a huge milestone developmentally: calmness and confidence. After one recent match an opponent commented specially on how calm and focused I played. No matter the score or situation he said I went about my business hitting my serves and strokes and seemed unshakable (and, yes, I lost the match).

    It's not that I didn't care. It's that I realized that any given match offers different opportunities for personal gain: a win or (given our meager tennis skills at 3.5/4.0) a chance to explore our skills limits and become more comfortable in those areas.

    I know that practice is really the best time for that sort of development but the reality is that most rec players don't get to practice and most of their tennis time is spent in matches. And there's nothing like the "pressure" of match play find your skill limits. Which is the point of this approach: you realize that there is no "pressure" in rec match play because nothing is at stake. And would you rather remain virtually unchanged in skill development hitting the same weak slice over and over to make your opponent hit one more ball so you can "win" a bag tag or learn more about your personal skills envelope and maybe improve as you build confidence in your more aggressive strokes?

    Tennis at this level is a strange sport. It significantly rewards stale, safe play with wins which can inhibit skills/confidence development while punishing mere attempts at using proper technique since executing those techniques effectively and consistently is usually just beyond players at this level.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
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  2. Alexrb

    Alexrb Rookie

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    I was at that stage about six months back. I simply asked myself what was more important: Winning or improving? I chose improving, and haven't regretted it one bit.
     
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  3. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    Ugly but effective works at any level more than pretty but ineffective.
     
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  4. SpinToWin

    SpinToWin G.O.A.T.

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    cough cough Nadal cough cough
     
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  5. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    Seriously people Nadal has text book form and incredible shot selection. It's pretty much perfect tennis when he is in form.
     
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  6. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    I never really buy into these threads. The people that win - even at 3.5/4.0 levels simply have better strokes. They hit a consistent ball that has more pace and more spin then their opponents.

    The losers just IMAGINE that they have bigger strokes because every once in a while they rip some flat as hell winner down the line - after shanking 10 balls into the net. The bad news is that the other guy CAN DO THAT TOO - but he chooses to hit normal forehands (60%) power and win.

    And this is true at nearly every level - even up into the pros. You always need consistency - but as you go up each level the winners just tend to hit with more pace and power.

    Watching Federer destroy a guy like Santoro is a prime example of this happening at the pro level. Even guys on this forum are guilty of this.

    I am convinced that Matt Lin's rally forehand is bigger then most of our 3.5/4.0 winners.. Especially if you factor in spin..

    You don't need to play old man tennis - you do need to add pace AND spin to your groundstrokes as you move up..
     
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  7. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    Haha I wasn't going to say it explicitly but yeah haha.
     
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  8. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    If you want to improve, bunting the ball won't help you get there. That being said, those who think playing aggressive risky tennis is like playing like the pros are basically clueless. The pros don't play that way. They set up their points off a consistent foundation, and even their more aggressive shots are very much controlled.
     
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  9. counterfeit25

    counterfeit25 Rookie

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    I used to play like that, until I started recording my matches on video. You get a different perspective when reviewing your match off the court, on video. The rare beautiful outright winners I hit are completely overshadowed by the horrific unforced errors I commit when trying to achieve the former. So overall, my matchplay when playing like that is quite ugly, win or lose.

    However, I must say it is extremely satisfying in the moment, to blast untouchable winners past your opponent. So I still go for these shots if I feel confident to win the match, just to take a break from all the grinding.

    As a natural ball basher, I would get bored with tennis very soon if all I did was wait for my opponents to make an error. So, I've been working on a solution recently: move the ball left and right from the baseline (safe topspin shots), wait for short ball, approach and finish the point at the net. It seems to be working fine so far, and it makes for some interesting points.
     
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  10. 7zero

    7zero Rookie

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    interesting thread: solving same dilemma. Our local league is dominated by player who not only plays consistently (no extreme pace) but he does not bother with proper technique - he just does anything to return it back over the net. He has extremly good eye-hand coordination, he is able to hist last moment half volleys and all those funny looking but succesfull shots. My idea is that losing players at this level (including me) are just aiming to play all the time stroke properly (textbook like) and not be able to do it. But our winner has in my eyes simply resignated to any improvement or trying to build up better shots - he is winning so why do bother?
     
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  11. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    Then you don't play mid-level tennis. You are 100% wrong.

    The best examples are two friends at our club, one male, one female, both 4.0 singles players with spotless winning records. Both usually win their divisions and go deep into playoffs. The female has win city champion a few times at her various levels and leagues.

    And both have TERRIBLE strokes. Neither can hit with spin. Both have waiter serves: their first serve is hard and usually misses, their second is a dink serve. We call the female Samurai Girl since she can only slice a backhand. The male is notorious for tapping the ball lightly like he's playing badminton with a bunch of toddlers.

    And both are fast and get every ball back. To watch one of their matches is to watch their opponent slowly strangle themselves with UE after UE. Their soft floaters look so juicy and easy to put away and they are if you're a 5.0. But for the typical 3.5/4.0 they're a death trap. Their games are like the La Brea tar pits of tennis players.

    Now, there ARE mid-level rec players who can hit with spin and pace. I definitely hit with lots of spin. My ground strokes jump up and my slices and go nearly sideways, especially low speed drop shots.

    But I'm not delusional enough to believe that my combination of spin, pace, depth, and consistency is anywhere close to 5.0s and above. And I've never seen another 3.5/4.0 anywhere close to that level of quality and consistency. In fact, 3.5/4.0 is DEFINED by inconsistency.

    However, I have met lots of 3.5/4.0s with delusions of grandeur, which might explain your position. :D
     
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  12. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    There's risky tennis from the pro's perspective and risky tennis from the mid-level rec player's perspective which is precisely my point.

    Take the usual neutral rally ground strokes of a D1 college player and above. They're the type of strokes that you're SUPPOSED to hit: relaxed, consistent, good depth, sufficient pace to apply pressure.

    My point is that even the standard, neutral rally strokes of a high level player are really tough for mid-level rec players to maintain on a consistent basis. We can hit a few but not a few consistently in a row. It's tough even when hitting them based on the Wardlaw directionals which is the definition of patience.

    In fact, to your point, when I try to "play like a pro" and "develop a point" to the point that there's an opportunity ball to pounce on the point usually doesn't get that far! Instead, as I'm calmly hitting my cross-court shots and recovering to a good position for my next shot my opponent will inevitably make an error.

    That UE is usually one of two types and easily recognized by mid-level rec players: either the guy's a maniac and whacks the ball into the back fence, or he gets tight and nervous and dumps the ball into the net with a stiff, weak swing.
     
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  13. 7zero

    7zero Rookie

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    I reckon we play same league by your descriútion of winner :)
     
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  14. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    I think the main thing a rec player needs to think about isn't pace, but depth. That's what separates higher level players from lower level players, the ability to hit deeper on a more consistent basis. Novak Djokovic's depth is what prevents 99.9% of the tennis population from attacking him on a consistent basis (with exceptions like Federer, Nadal, Murray, Wawrinka, etc.). The key to getting more depth, in my opinion, is the extension towards the target, and the amount of contact time you have with the ball. This is why I'm not a big fan of heavy topspin. You can be just as effective with good fundamentals if you really drive the ball well.
     
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  15. SStrikerR

    SStrikerR Hall of Fame

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    To me, both winning and improvement are important. I think you want to work on improvement during practice, and use what you know you can use during matches. However, as you improve you need to slowly implement the things you're getting better at in practice, in order to be comfortable using them in a match setting.

    example - Back in high school I played this guy 5 times my final 3 years. The first time I won, pretty much by out pushing the kid. The next three matches, I tried implementing different things such as serve and volleying, approaching more often, drop shotting, etc. Just aspects of my game I was developing. He on the other hand, showed no change whatsoever. He beat me those matches. The last time we played, I beat him in three sets. Again, he played the same. I was playing with more variety, but my execution had improved enough that I managed to scrape out a win. Now, over a year later? We've played three more times. He still plays the same exact way, and I've only dropped 3 games to him in 3 matches.
     
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  16. torpantennis

    torpantennis Legend

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    I've personally discovered a playing style that both allows me to attempt pretty shots and that's safe and efficient: BH slice! It kinda automatically adds variety to my game, and now I can either lure the opponent to net with a pretty short slice, or I can approach the net myself with a low bouncing DTL slice approach.

    No more stupid ball bashing and attempting perfectly placed FHs. Those errors are long gone now. Boy, the joy of finding the touch for that perfect slice!
     
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  17. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    @Maximagq: Yeah, it is so hard to keep the ball deep consistently. I have been having a problem that I only recognized recently. I hit pretty deep in practice rallies, but sometimes in a match (usually singles) the pressure of playing for points breaks down my strokes and I start hitting short. The problem was that I was shortening my already short back swing too much and gripping the racquet too tightly. Maybe unconsciously I was trying to end the point too early.

    Now I consciously try to prepare early - have the racket all the way back by the time the ball bounces - and try to hit a deep, spinny shot at a safe speed to a safe spot from where the opponent cannot attack easily. The shot usually ends up having some pace as well since I have to swing fast to get the spin I need for the arc.

    I try not to think about hitting a winning shot (not easy to do), unless it is an obvious putaway. This is a huge shift in mindset, more than anything else, for me. The last two weeks I have had better results (sets against couple of decent 4.0 rated players in unofficial matches) playing this way.

    So if I were to summarize my approach, it would be: hit deep, hit safe, don't think winners or extreme angles unless it is a short ball or a floater/sitter of some sort that gives you a safe angle.

    Now on top of all this if only I could shed a few years and become younger... lol!
     
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  18. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    YOu lost so much credit with me when you think Nadal has ugly strokes! I have viewed hundreds of his photos and videos and they all look mechanically efficient and effective!!!!!!!!! That's beauty.
     
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  19. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Raj good point about racket fully back before ball bounces. Some coaches here claim that racket should start going back after ball bounce. It works for very low level play or perhaps if you are Agassi
     
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  20. HRB

    HRB Hall of Fame

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    Are you talking what is more fun, because last time I checked...for me, and HOPEFULLY everyone NOT getting paid, that is the goal!

    I'm sorry, playing safe "old man tennis" bores the hell out of me...so I've always stuck with my high risk/reward play. I fully accept my UE's and DF's may cost me, and in the beginning they often did, but over time I approved at MY GAME, rather than approving by playing another style that bored me.

    I rather lose 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(9) like I did the other day, with many winners, a bunch of UE's, 8-9 Df's and SWINGING VOLLEYS (2-4) and baseline returns for winners or near misses....than win 6-2, 6-1 playing an extremely efficient, safe, game. Sorry...just doesn't do "it" (defined as fun) for me.

    Don't get me wrong, this aint "loser talk", I've won my share (3.0-4.5 in a few years)....but winning while playing "my game" is the most satisfying way.

    That being said, if anyone out there enjoys striving for perfection and playing completely low risk and in control then GOD BLESS YOU..as long as you're having fun!
     
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  21. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    Not sure if mechanically efficient is the best way to describe it. Federer is the perfect example of mechanically efficient. It does look a lot better during practice, but during matches, he does not usually have the most efficient swing.
     
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  22. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Where do you live? I'd like to see what 4.0 tennis with no strokes look like..do you have a link? Why do these people only exist anecdotally?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CbgWqh_9BQ

    Some video called USTA 4.0.

    I have searched high and low for videos of these dominating pushers. Outside of the shirtless guy in the park (Who looks like is just hustling the other guy)..you just don't see a lot of this.

    The next time you play one of these '4.0s' with waiter serves who use "amazing speed" - film it.
     
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  23. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    These guys look pretty good
     
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  24. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    Hi Suresh, I didn't know there was disagreement about this. I posted a video of Marat Safin in another thread where he has the racket fully back at the bounce of the ball. Syncing this way with the bounce has helped me a lot!
     
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  25. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Pros use a continuous loop backswing - so how far the racquet is going to be back before bounce depends on the pace of the incoming ball..

    I don't love Wegner but he is right about this kind of thing..
     
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  26. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I also use a proportional takeback but the relationship to the incoming ball is a little complex
     
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  27. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    @GuyClinch: GC, the loop does end up being continuous, since the racket never pauses at the top of the backswing. Here's the video I posted earlier in another thread: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfn8deC8UNk

    The main movement after the bounce seems to be all about adjusting to the ball's flight after the bounce, but it is continuous with the first part of the backswing.

    I guess how you describe it will depend on what you call preparation vs backswing.
     
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  28. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    Thanks for the video link – these two look a little self-rated, to be honest;)

    I agree with your overall point though – I’ve never seen good players with ugly strokes or bad players with beautiful strokes. I don’t see what fault people find with the strokes of players like McEnroe or Tsodikov (including serve), for that matter. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
     
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  29. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    It's the best way to describe beauty! Sport winners, sometimes even freakish looking, are still super attractive to millions.

    Fed is great and superb looking. Just don't put him next to Nadal.
     
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  30. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    for me, i think you've got to be a 5.0 or better to produce "beautiful" shots, after all, we are used to see beautiful shots from world class 7.0 players on TV.

    as a result, if you are 3.5/4.0, go with the 10 boring strokes :shock: :)
     
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  31. torpantennis

    torpantennis Legend

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    And if you look for that beauty and joy into your game, also remember his magic touch on the BH slice. Get that part into your game and you'll see that enjoying tennis is not just blasting hard hit winners, it's also touch, feel and beauty. Reserve that beauty of the game, reserve the BH slice. 8)
     
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  32. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    Yes, as GuyClinch mentioned, 4.0s are better off pushing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CbgWqh_9BQ
     
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  33. 7zero

    7zero Rookie

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    great point, thanks!
     
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  34. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    I think the backswing starts when the hands separate at the pro level.. BTW wasn't really disagreeing with you. From a timing standpoint you can only speed up your loop so much - so on a very fast ball you might have to start earlier and thus the racquet would be back. But the key point is that guys like Oscar (IMHO) aren't really wrong. Its just a timing thing. They key point is the continuous loop - so you start it whenever you need to do time the ball right.. They aren't really thinking (get the racquet back 'early'. They are trying to time it..

    Its kind of the same thing on the serve...for a lot of good servers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
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  35. tlm

    tlm Legend

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    Anyone that knows anything about tennis should see this but a lot of idiots that think they know something about tennis lurk here.
     
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  36. tlm

    tlm Legend

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    Like he said you lose a lot of credibility. Of course fed is the best example and rafa is terrible even though rafa kicks feds ***.
     
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  37. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    This. I'd like to see video of these guys with good strokes losing to the guys with the bad strokes. I am not writing that is a 'prove it' way. I am just curious.

    My guess is that in reality one of the guys strokes isn't that good - and the other guys aren't that bad.. That's why are in the same league.

    Its humbling to think your strokes aren't great..but that's how it often is..
     
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  38. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    The weird thing is Nadal's regular forehand is a lot like Feds - I mean ALOT. L backswing - small loop - across the body - straight arm at contact et al. They are really very close.
     
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  39. ricki

    ricki Professional

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    problem is that (on this amateur level) even if you hit risky big shot - its still not enough to make clear winner usually and with each next big shot the chance that you will make an error grows
     
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  40. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    Hope my experience helps you, 7zero!
     
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  41. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    @GuyClinch: A higher level player who occasionally hits with me has a phrase he repeats when he mishits a ball: Prepare early, hit late. He has very good form, and very penetrating shots, so I figure he must be doing something right. I personally am not sure about the "hitting late" part, but I think "on time" or "just in time" would work fine for me, lol!
     
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  42. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    I can name at least 40 players in the top 100 with an aesthetically more pleasing game than Rafael Nadal's.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
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  43. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Rankings/Singles.aspx

    1. Djokovic
    2. Wawrinka
    3. Federer
    4. Murray
    5. Berdych
    6. Ferrer
    7. Del Potro
    8. Nishikori
    9. Dimitrov
    10. Gasquet
    11. Fognini
    12. Youzhny
    13. Tsonga
    14. Anderson
    15. Haas
    16. Robredo
    17. Verdasco
    18. Janowicz
    19. Almagro
    20. Cilic
    21. Kohlschreiber
    22. Bautista-Agut
    23. Lopez, Feliciano
    24. Garcia-Lopez
    25. Tursunov
    26. Seppi
    27. Pospisil
    28. Giraldo
    29. Dodig
    30. Mahut
    31. Hewitt
    32. Berlocq
    33. Lu
    34. Istomin
    35. Melzer
    36. Golubev
    37. Thiem
    38. Rosol
    39. Sijsling
    40. Paire
    41. Lajovic
    42. Becker, Benjamin
    43. Tomic
    44. Ebden
    45. Mathieu
    46. Stakhovsky
     
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  44. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    it goes to show that beautiful form does not necessarily translate to winning tennis matches.
     
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  45. tlm

    tlm Legend

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    In your mind you mean there are 40 more aesthetically pleasing players to watch which means absolutely nothing.
     
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  46. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    Well duh isn't that what I said in my first post of this thread and all my other posts too? Nadal has uglier strokes than all of these players but he's more accomplished than all of them except Federer.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
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  47. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    The problem is that's ridiculous. Its like the internet fan boys who go on about how Scarlett Johnansen is ugly..

    If you saw some dude around your club with the same strokes as Nadal - who was just a guy and not a likely GOAT you would think he had the prettiest strokes you have ever seen..
     
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  48. Maximagq

    Maximagq Banned

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    Uh no, if I see someone 10 feet behind the baseline hitting 85% reverse forehands with his weight moving backward, no I would not think that's beautiful.
     
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  49. RajS

    RajS Rookie

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    I think Nadal's strokes are awesome. Perhaps not as graceful as Federer's but awe inspiring like a cat-5 hurricane or a tidal wave. The line, "What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" (from the poem "Tyger" by William Blake) comes to mind whenever I see Nadal unleash his fury on the red surface.
     
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  50. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPP1R1Gumq4

    So if you saw a dude hitting like this at your club (that is a practice session - more then good enough to deal with club level forehands)..you wouldn't be impressed with the quality of his strokes?

    I think you are full of it on this point. :p

    When people think about 'ugly' strokes they are thinking about incomplete half strokes or worse open stance hacks at the ball..(usually with slight backspin).

    These are ugly strokes - outside of some awkward Fabrice stuff no one on the tour has these kinds of things..
     
    #50

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