3.5 to 4.0 Action Plan?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by asked_answered, Sep 7, 2011.

  1. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the tips, Nickarnold2000! The 4.0 I'm playing has already forced me to return better and increase my court coverage in just two practice matches. And my footwork is definitely something I need to work on.

    Oh, and going from 4.0 to 5.0 in your forties is really impressive (and inspiring)!
     
  2. nickarnold2000

    nickarnold2000 Hall of Fame

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    Thank you but one thing I forgot to mention is that I don't have any kids(that I know of at least!) so I have more time than the average guy to work on things. :)
    Tennis really is a life time game.
     
  3. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I have one very busy child, so my time for tennis improvement is a bit more limited than yours. :)
     
  4. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Well, I've played two 3.5 league matches against solid 3.5s so far, the first at Line 1 singles, the second at Line 2 singles, and, though I've won both (6-3, 4-6, 1-0 (10-6) and 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-7)), I haven't managed to consistently execute my simple strategy of hitting to my opponent's weak side and attacking any short or weak replies. The first guy I played ran everything I hit down and returned it all with moderate pace, and I ended up falling into playing his game and just outlasted him. The second player had a really strong but inconsistent serve but hit his second serve the same way, which led to a lot of free points for me. When his serve was in, it was a challenge to return, but I began to get it back more consistently, as the match progressed. He generally hit groundstrokes deep and with a great deal of pace, which elicited some of those cannonballs-into-the-fence shots I hate or replies sent right back to him. (I did manage to counterattack sometimes, though, causing some errors and even managing a couple of forehand winners.) He was right on the edge of overpowering me, and I wasn't able to focus on hitting to his weaker side (his backhand). I'd say that if my serve hadn't been as effective as it was and his as ineffective as it was, I'd have lost the match for certain.

    So, though it's nice to know my strategy going into a match, I can tell I have a long way to go before I can execute it well.

    On the positive side, I've got a lesson lined up this week with a pro who has agreed to provide a tailored plan of improvement for me. Hopefully, between the great advice received here and his plan, I'll reach my goal of playing at the 4.0 level in the not-too-distant future.

    (And, yes, I plan to video one of my future matches and post a link to it here.)
     
  5. polski

    polski Semi-Pro

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    While strokes & mental preparation is important, my biggest area of improvement when I went from 4.0 to 4.5 was my fitness lelel.

    In order to maintain the level of play at 4.5, I find it crucial to have very strong legs & core. My shoulders don't have to be ready for the WWF, but they need to be in shape as well.

    Try to get into the gym 2-3 days per week and spend some time running 2-3 days per week. Makes a huge difference when you get into long rallies with harder hitters.
     
  6. polski

    polski Semi-Pro

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    From watching the video, I would highly suggest involving your lower body more on your serve. You rely almost exclusively on an arm swing & that not only limits your power, but can also lead to injury. Involving your legs more will add pop, even if you don't swing as hard.
     
  7. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the fitness and serving tips, Polski! I had a lesson this past week that addressed my serve, and the mechanics I learned should take care of my power and potential injury issues (with a lot of practice). As far as fitness goes, I'm in decent shape, but I could definitely improve my strength and conditioning.
     
  8. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Playing with the 4.0E player has been great fun. We've played four practice matches so far, and his game appears to have improved mine. (Tonight, I came the closest yet to winning a match (6-7(6-8 ), 4-6.) My return is getting back a lot more often, my groundstrokes are getting stronger and more consistent, and my approach/net game is even working better. I've also managed to hit more often to his weak side (backhand). It will be interesting to see if my time playing him translates into better play during my 3.5 league matches.
     
  9. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    That's great!

    Trust me, once you hang with a solid 4.0 for a while, going back to 3.5 is going to be a much easier pill to swallow for matches! You'll probably come out with a lot more pace then they are expecting!

    -Fuji
     
  10. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I hope so, Fuji! :)
     
  11. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    I'm sure it will! :)

    The same thing started happening to me when I started to play legit 4.5's more and more often. Just practicing with them made 4.0 seem like such an easier game to play. I believe playing with the best players you possibly can makes it SO much easier to improve.

    Maybe if I could hit with Fed every day I'd get to top 10 easy? :lol:

    -Fuji
     
  12. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I'm sure that would do the trick, Fuji! *grin*
     
  13. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I ran into a strange pusher/aggressive baseliner hybrid at Line 1 singles in my third league match of the season tonight. I lost 1-6, 2-6. His shots either arced way over the net to land on or near the baseline or they bulleted just over the net into the corners of the court. He was good at lobbing me, when I came to net, but I did manage to get into some volley exchanges with him that I even occasionally won. We had some long baseline rallies, especially in the second set, when I hit a ton of shots to his backhand (no winners from him from there), but he won most of the rallies on my errors, being more consistent than I am. My serve was pretty bad, too, as I'm in the process of trying to increase the pace of my first and second serves, which has reduced my accuracy a lot. (He also managed to get most of my serves back, usually as lobs, which was pretty impressive for a 3.5.)

    On the positive side, I returned serve well, even hitting a few winners off my return.

    My opponent has a very strong singles record (only lost once at singles in the past three seasons), so I didn't expect to beat him. I did hope that I'd have a closer score, though. Oh well.

    It's a long steep hill to the 4.0 level, but I'm going to keep climbing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  14. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I had a redeeming loss at Line 1 singles today. I played a guy who hits strong strokes with heavy topspin and who has great righty slice in his first fast serve and really strong kick in his second, if slower, serve. I played him last spring and lost 0-6, 0-6. Today, I lost 3-6, 6-3, 0-1 ( 8-10 ). I'm happy with my play, even though he forced me into a defensive game during rallies. (My first and second serves were strong today, though, and not at all defensive.)

    This was another one of those almost-overpowering opponents, especially off his forehand, and he made it really difficult for me to keep shots directed to his backhand. I'm looking forward to the day when I can take his kind of shots and pound them to the backhand side, instead of just getting them back with some pace inside the court.

    And, as a nice bonus, we both had fun. :)
     
  15. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    Well I'll tell you from my experience playing all over the southeast. I learned that if you have a descent backhand and a good put away forehand or vice versa...you can win at the 4.0 level. A good serve always helps but I found that there are two many guys(including myself) that can get back the best serves. I have what I consider a below average serve but I've beaten more guys because I have developed a very good backhand and my forehand has always been a weapon coming out of baseball. The best weapon in my opionion you can have is legs and stamina. The only thing that beats that is pin point accuracy and power. I remember my first 4.0 tourney after winning something like 9 singles tournaments the year before a guy that was about 50 years old just served to my forehand and absorbed whatever power I was giving to open the court up and then he would literally push the ball to my backhand and walk to the net and there was nothing I could do about it because it was "all" slice at the time. The next week I went down to the park and found the guy with the best one hander and worked with him for about 10 minutes....I then went out and played a truck load of pick up matches so I wouldn't worry about winning and losing and developed it where it was a weapon and then I cleaned out a lot of 4.0 singles tournaments. I'm now starting to beat even a lot of 4.5's but my serve is holding me back. 4.0's tend to try and end too many points off my second serve on the return whereas the 4.5's are smart enough to just roll me off the court and put me on defense. So I'd work on my ground strokes big time to succeed at 4.0.


     
  16. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    As for doubles...personally I say two things are key. You need to be able to get your serve in deep and you need to be able to volley. I remember several years ago winning a 4.5 doubles tourney by spinning the ball in the box in the middle of the court on both sides but I served and vollied first and second serve. Now my partner did have to duck out of the way of a couple of missiles but in the end we beat 3 teams doing this. Take all the nonsense out and just don't beat yourself. I can't even begin to tell you how many 4.0 doubles and 8.0 mixed tourneys I've won. I also learned to lob well. I know that's not popular with some players but a good top spin lob will get the best doubles players off the net and you'd be surprised of the players that don't know what to do with a lob once they do go get it. when you do run across players that you know will give you a problem....use the elements to your advantage....make the big servers serve in the sun if you can and even things out some. When all else fails....hit the middle and if you ever are in any doubt....hit the middle some more...did I mention hit the middle?lol I just won another men's 4.5 doubles in August...We served and vollied...and we beat the middle of the court up. It's safer and it takes away the angles....and whatever you do try to get to a point where you don't hit more than two ground strokes from the baseline. That will get you beat everytime.

     
  17. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    yea...I've seen plenty of them....I'll tell you a couple of things I was told. The first one will sound crazy but it works. Some time leave the ball short on purpose in the middle of the court. You'd be surprised of how some people try to hit the ball with the same pace from short as they do from the baseline....and with not as much room to play with the balls will initially go long for them. Most will adjust but the balls generally don't have the bite that they have from the back of the court. The other thing is to actually hit the ball to his forehand but try to make him stretch where he can't get his all into the shot....then take the next shot and leave it short on his backhand side of the court. Most can't run around the backhand and get set up to hit their forehand if done correctly. Once i mastered this a lot of guys are easy pickings because they don't know how to adjust to that.

     
  18. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for singles and doubles tips, chatt_town! I'm working on pretty much everything in my game, because everything needs work. :)
     
  19. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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  20. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks very much for the thread links, skiracer55! There's alot of very interesting and informative reading in those threads.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011
  21. SVP

    SVP Rookie

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    objection

    Are you a lawyer by any chance? "Asked and answered " is a common objection in court, counselor.
     
  22. yonexpurestorm

    yonexpurestorm Rookie

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    i read through the ntrp thread. lots of good stuff in there. trying to move through the ntrp rankings gets real tough and takes a good amount of time and practice. ive been practicing around 5 times a week for at least 2 hrs each practice and i am finding the 4.5 level real tough to break through. i think 4.5 is a weird level with a really wide range of players. i play a lot of usta and ppl really sandbag at the higher levels of 4.5. id consider myself in the upper echelons of 4.5 and just breaking into 5.0, but its tough to find 5.0 tournaments so the next level is open. and from my experience at open it is tough to compete at that level.

    if there is one thing i think you should take away from some of ski racers comments is that just playing sets is not practice. playing sets is good to get match ready, but you will never have your strokes properly tuned unless you drill them. i play a lot of sets and try and incorporate what i have drilled into my matches. i really like just rallying and telling my partner to only hit me bh, or move me around so i can work on foot work. and while rallying i can really focus on the mechanics of my stroke. then ill play some drop points and try and hit those strokes without thinking about the mechanics. i have found this to really help in my tournament play.
     
  23. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Why, yes, SVP, I am. (I practice civil litigation and family law, rather than criminal law, as you do.) :)
     
  24. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks, yonexpurestorm! I definitely need to find someone to drill with, so I can go into matches with grooved strokes, rather than shaky ones. :)
     
  25. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks much...

    ...one thing you also ought to take away from "On NTRP" is where I say that I believe that NTRP is inherently self-limiting. A lot of players spend their lives on the court trying to get to [insert desired NTRP level here]which most of them never do, because they're not willing to pay the dues I outline in "On NTRP".

    But let's just say that you do achieve [insert desired NTRP level here]? Now what? I'm 63 and a couple of seasons ago, I decided I was going to stop wasting my time with NTRP, age divisions, and all that other lame happy jive and skip right to Men's Open events. I played three this season. First one, I won a lot of points, but lost 6-0, 6-0. Next tournament, I won a lot more points...I had ads to win my serve in 50% of my service games, and had my opponent down 15-40 in two of his service games...but couldn't close the deal, and lost, again, 6-0, 6-0. In my third match, I lost 6-1, 6-2. and had plenty of chances to break it open and win the match. Next year, same deal, and my simple plan is: (1) Work my ass off to win a match, and (2) Once I do that, win two matches...and (3) Well, you get the joke.

    I'm not telling you that NTRP is shuffleboard for yuppies...although I might have thought it, once or twice...all I'm saying is that the world, and the world of tennis, is somewhat wider and deeper than NTRP, and y'all ought to partake of that deeper world...
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011
  26. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I'll just note that I'm trying to improve the level of my play to whatever that eventually becomes. My near-future goal is to play at a 4.0 level, regardless of my actual NTRP rating. For the more distant future: who knows? :)
     
  27. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    That's fine...

    ....and you've come up with a useful distinction, which is the difference between "having the attributes of a 4.0" versus "being ranked as a 4.0." On the surface, a 3.5 to 4.0 game plan, on paper, ain't that complex. See the following descriptions of 3.5 versus 4.0:

    "3.5
    You have achieved improved stroke dependability with directional control on moderate shots, but need to develop depth and variety. You exhibit more aggressive net play, have improved court coverage and are developing teamwork in doubles.

    4.0
    You have dependable strokes, including directional control and depth on both forehand and backhand sides on moderate-paced shots. You can use lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys with some success and occasionally force errors when serving. Rallies may be lost due to impatience. Teamwork in doubles is evident."

    So there it is, in a nutshell. The interesting thing, to me, is that these generic descriptions do not get at what, IMHO, is the essence of going up the ladder in terms of tennis improvement, which is that the two most important shots in the game are the serve and return, in that order.

    I coached a 3.0/3.5 and a 4.0/4.5 group last year, and I could get them to run around and hit groundstrokes and do groundstroke drills all day long, but I could not convince any of them to spend 30 seconds on their serves, returns, or volleys.

    If you are a 3.5, the best way to get to 4.0 and above is to crank up an unreturnable serve and develop a return that'll stand up to any serve you're gonna see any time in the next 15 years of your tennis career. All the other stuff, yeah, you have to work on it. But the next time you get out on the court to work on your game, lose the forehands and backhands, and spend at least an hour working on your serve...
     
  28. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the tips, skiracer55! I had a lesson on September 28th that involved, among other things, learning new serving mechanics, and I've practiced my first and second serve almost every day for at least thirty minutes at a time since then. I can tell that my serves have finally started to improve by the trouble my opponent had with my first and second serves yesterday.

    Practicing my return is also a high priority for me, but it's a whole lot more difficult to do without someone willing to hit a bunch of serves to me. I need to find someone to do that....
     
  29. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Sounds good...

    ...looks like you are about to cross the line that separates people who play tennis from tennis players...
     
  30. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I just need to slip effective practice time into the gaps between my professional and family obligations. :)
     
  31. maggmaster

    maggmaster Hall of Fame

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    I am literally right where you are, trying to get from 3.5 to 4.0 so that I can continue improving. I really don't care about the numbers, I just want to be able to compete at a higher level. For me, the ball machine has been invaluable. For the last 18 months I have put in an hour a day, right after work, on the ball machine. I start with a 200 ball warm up and then pick something to work on for the rest of the hour. I carry cones in my bag and set up targets, I copy drills from the hand fed drills used by the Spanish academies and approximate them on the ball machine, anything that I miss gets served over before I start my next drill. I have noticed a definite improvement in both my league matches and my tournament matches. Just throwing that out there for you to think about.
     
  32. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the ball machine/drill tips, maggmaster! That's an impressive amount of work you've put in, and I'm glad it's had a positive impact on your matchplay! (It sounds like you're well on your way to meeting your goal of playing at a higher level.)

    I spent an hour on the ball machine yesterday, focusing on replying to strong topspin shots, then working on properly hitting shots sent to me softly. (Both types of shots cause me problems in matches because I tend to overhit them.) I definitely like the idea of doing specific drills with the ball machine (or, ideally, with another person).
     
  33. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Excellent...

    ...the numbers are just reference points, the idea is to do as they say in the Air Force, which is to Aim High. With that in mind, let's take a look up the ladder at the 4.5 level:

    "4.5

    You have developed your use of power and spin and can handle pace. You have sound footwork, can control depth of shots, and attempt to vary game plan according to your opponents. You can hit first serves with power and accuracy and place the second serve. You tend to overhit on difficult shots. Aggressive net play is common in doubles."

    So the serve takes on a heightened importance, and we're now talking about having a game plan. With that in mind, go take a look at the following thread, where I talk about the relationships of shot making, structuring points, and developing a match strategy:

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=399606
     
  34. Bedrock

    Bedrock Semi-Pro

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    Dayly
    if you have no partner to hit use the wall:
    250 volleys forehand
    250 volleys backhand.
    at the wall 100-200 overheads (if you do not know how I can explain)
    200 serves (use scroing like in real match)

    Rally for 200 on each side (or at the wall).
    < 1000 jumps (jumprobe)

    at least once a week
    run 8-12 laps

    Keep during this for 6 months if you body can stand it.

    Start playing singles with everyone 3-5> sets a session.
    If you can play sets 3 times a week that would be great.

    However it will work if you already developed appropriate technique (Or at least have solid understanding of it).

    USTA will push you to next level (you do not have to switch divisions by yourself)
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2011
  35. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the tennis training and fitness suggestions, Bedrock!
     
  36. vegasgt3

    vegasgt3 Rookie

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    Great Advice!!!
     
  37. Dave_D

    Dave_D Rookie

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    This is pretty good reading here. I've been playing competitive tennis for about 3 years now alternating between USTA, KSWISS Flex Singles and some ALTA thrown in every now and then. I definitely prefer singles over doubles. Right now I'm at the 3.5 level as well and looking to move to 4.0 hopefully by next year.

    If you lived in the Atlanta area asked_answered, I'd be happy to serve to you for your returns...that's one thing I need to work on a lot (consistency of it).

    Keep up the good work!
     
  38. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    My theory on returning is to make sure to get it back. It's that simple. You'd be surprised how many will it off the fence if you just even chip it back to the t. I do this with big servers as I've only run across may 3 players that had the kick and the speed to get to the net and volley off winners consistently. Most that have good or great serves can't get to the net and their volleys are average. So it's like you just get the return back and let them set up your next offensive shot for you.:)

     
  39. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the thought! I live in Texas, so working on returns with you probably won't happen. :) (I certainly need the drilling, though!)

    And good luck with moving up to 4.0!
     
  40. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the tip! I'm trying to develop an safe return and an offensive return. The safe one is developing at a more rapid pace than the offensive one, though, as you'd imagine.
     
  41. yonexpurestorm

    yonexpurestorm Rookie

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    i used to have real trouble with returns. some things that have really helped me get better were:


    - first realize a grip that work for you. i start with my right hand(fh) in my SW grip and my left hand in my bh grip(eastern). this way if the serve goes to my fh its already ready, and if it goes to my bh my left hand is ready and all i need is a quick two bevel adjustment to hit my bh. ppl use a lot of different grips for this, but find something that works for you.
    - take a few steps back from where you want to start and during the toss begin to move forward to have your momentum already going forward.
    - split step and land on the balls of your feel a milisecond before your opponents strings hit the ball. this take some timing at first, but once you grove their serve it really helps. also make sure to land and bend your knees and get low so you can lunge either way and be able to explode into the ball.
    - dont take a full swing. try and block the ball back with a little topspin. use their pace and redirect it. the slower and weaker their serve the more swing you can take.
    - i always try and hit right at their feet. i noticed when i serve the most annoying thing to deal with is when you just served and the ball is right back at your feet, not giving you any time to move back and set your shot. a perfect shot a few inches from the baseline right at the hash mark will automatically put u on the offensive.
    - one more thing that really helped me. since the serve always has a lot of spin and action and is ussually going pretty fast, i will try and watch the ball hit my strings to make sure i get a clean shot. i noticed a lot of times i would lose concentration and look at where im hitting and i would shank. if you really watch the ball hit your strings you will see a complete diffence in the percentage that you hit the sweet spot.

    hope this helps.
     
  42. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the return tips, yonexpurestorm! I am actually trying to do much of what you suggest, particularly watching the serve to my racquet. The one thing I could definitely add is aiming for the server's feet. I like that idea. *grin*
     
  43. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Aiming for the feet is definitely my go-to return. When receiving on the ad court my secondary goal against most people, particularly right-handers, is to hit a forehand into the opposite alley, even if I have to run around my backhand to do it. If my partner moves over and covers down the line and I follow the shot in, I've had a lot of luck putting the server immediately on the defensive and having to hit what is most people's weakest shot, a backhand. I practice the heck out of that return using my ball machine set on an elevated table to better simulate a serve and it has really helped. I do like all of yonexpurestorm's suggestions too.
     
  44. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the return and drill tips, beernutz!
     
  45. Dave_D

    Dave_D Rookie

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    I find that on the first serves I go for the safe return unless it's just a slower speed serve, then I'll put a little more on the return. Then on the 2nd serve I go on the offensive right away, hitting to their backhand, or leaving the ball short to see if they can come up and put the shot away.
     
  46. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks, Dave D!
     
  47. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Dec 17, 2009
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    I had another bad loss today at Line 1 singles: 3-6, 0-6. I didn't expect to beat my opponent, considering his strong record, but I had hoped for a closer result. He had a great serve and hit with consistency and good placement. But he didn't hit with power, just a lot of topspin. After he figured out how to block my kick serve back, I was toast. Why? Because my forehand disintegrates when faced with high, looping shots with little to no pace like the ones my opponent hit today. Once I started screwing up my forehand, the rest of my game slipped from the resulting frustration, including my serve, despite its improved power and kick. (He also hit to my forehand as often as possible, when he noticed what was happening.) I need to drill against no-pace and looping shots over and over again, if I ever expect to improve my playing level. *sigh*
     
  48. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    I have four words for you...

    ..."go to the net"...
     
  49. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Heh. I did, and he lobbed and passed me at will. So, I ended up struggling from the baseline. I should have just gone down fighting at the net, though, as he might have started missing some of his passing shots or hitting weaker lobs.

    I really let my failing forehand get to me, in the second set. I wasn't thinking strategically or tactically; I was just trying to keep my temper in check.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2011
  50. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    That means your approach shots weren't doing the job..

    ...among other things. You could spend some time drilling against high, looping balls, but that's a tough nut to crack from the baseline. The right answer is to put him in a hurt locker where he can't get into an endless series of high, looping groundstrokes. And how do we do that? Hint: The two most important shots in the game are the serve and the return, in that order...
     

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