3.5 to 4.0 Action Plan?

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

  1. dcdoorknob

    dcdoorknob Hall of Fame

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    USTA mixed leagues (at least the ones I'm familiar with) don't allow people to partner who have a difference of more than 1.0 rating points. So in 8.0, you can have a 4.0/4.0 pairing, or a 4.5/3.5 pairing, but that's it. 5.0/3.0 is not allowed. He can't play 8.0 mixed, unless it is with a 4.0 partner I guess.

    We probably shouldn't derail this thread though.
     
  2. g4driver

    g4driver Hall of Fame

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    I was just shocked at his comment. I was tired after the 2.5 hour match and gave up a lot of blood to no-see-ums in the process. :(

    Thanks for keeping me straight dcdoorknob. ;)

    P.S. If you don't know what a no-see-um is, consider yourself lucky:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratopogonidae
     
  3. heninfan99

    heninfan99 Legend

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    I think you have a few options and ways to improve.
    1. Hire a good coach if you can afford to. Often Division 1 players will coach on the side for cheap.

    2. Video tape your weakest shot. In 3.5 it's often the serve that needs the most work. You may be shocked by what you see. Try to get a simple, smooth motion and a consistent ball toss.

    3. Rent or buy a ball machine after a pro reviews and tweaks your strokes.

    4. Don't Practice, just play. Many very good players don't practice. They just play a lot and watch pros and incorporate what they can into their games. Just competing is a training strategy and as I get older it seems like the way to go.

    Good luck and know that 3.5 and 4.0 in USTA can sometimes get blurred. I think if you defeat four different 4.0s you can pat yourself on the back or get a foam finger and run around town. You'll have graduated from low average to slightly better average. :)
     
  4. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the tips! I've had the benefit of coaching from three experienced pros in the last six months, although I haven't had the time to have a lesson for about two months.

    I videoed my serve about three months ago, and the only real difference today is that my second serve has a lot more arc:

    Serve Practice

    Of my shots, my weakest by far is the volley. I'm working on it. :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2012
  5. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I've run into some "3.0" players who were clearly much better than their self-ratings indicated, although sometimes the USTA's own system messes up. For instance, back in the fall of 2010, I was a 2.5T due to playing lousy in one tournament in 2009. (I was rated a 3.0 back in 2000 or so and didn't play actively again until 2009.) As all of my later matches were played in 2010 in tournaments and in a mixed league, my eventual results in the 3.5 fall 2010 men's league struck me to 3.0 in mid-season, then to 3.5 at year-end. Prior that point, every time I told the folks I played that I was a 2.5, they were totally shocked. (And I tried appealing up numerous times during 2010 to no avail.) So, it's not just the self-rating system that can be inaccurate.
     
  6. g4driver

    g4driver Hall of Fame

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    In this case, a 3.5 Captain told him to self rate at 3.0 even though the guy clearly knew he wasn't a 3.0. It isn't the players so much it a small percentage of Captains

    I don't blame the player. A local 4.0 Captain in town was banned by the USTA from being a Captain for several years due to breaking rules regarding self-rated players according to several close friends.

    As for as going to 4.0 goes, read a few books. Sun Zu, "The Art of War" and G. Gordan Liddy's "Will", while not tennis related made me look at
    matches in a different light. The biggest difference in my game as been mental. Reducing UEs, being patient and knowing that every opponent may require a different strategy, but too many UEs & DFs, and the lack of mental toughness will lead to failure.
     
  7. asked_answered

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    Thanks for the tips! I've made strengthening my mental game a priority for the past month, and it seems to be helping my game a lot.
     
  8. heninfan99

    heninfan99 Legend

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    NICE video. I really respect your work ethic & effort.

     
  9. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks! I'm in it for the long haul. :)
     
  10. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    How's your power coming along in your serve bud? :)

    -Fuji
     
  11. floridatennisdude

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    Nice, smooth follow through. That serve can keep you competitive at 4.0. Add some deeper knee bend to it when you are ready to speed up the arm swing and that thing will be nice.
     
  12. asked_answered

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    It's getting a little better, thanks! I've added more knee-bend to my first serves, along with a faster arm swing, which seem to have helped on the power front. (Those two changes have decreased my ability to get it in as often, though.) I need to dedicate some serious practice time for consistent, more powerful serves and, of course, for better placement.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2012
  13. asked_answered

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    Thanks! I have been trying to add some knee-bend along with a faster arm swing, which have increased power but thrown off my consistency a bit. I need to practice, practice, practice. :)
     
  14. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    That's good to hear mate!

    I'm sure you'll get it down! It comes with more practice of course! :)

    -Fuji
     
  15. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Yes indeed; more practice is needed for everything in my game! :)

    Have you decided whether you'll adjust your serve takeback or keep it as it is?
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2012
  16. g4driver

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    Another part of the 3.5 to 4.0 Action Plan you might be missing: Illegal Doping :rolleyes:

    Yep, the Self-Rated 3.0 I played last week sent me an email with this:

    Great playing the other night. I learned a lot. What I noticed about myself is that I faded quite a bit in the 3rd set, while I you seemed to get stronger. I’ve decided that I need to start bringing energy drinks to my singles matches, instead of just drinking water. Question for you: What were those pills you were taking? Or should I ask, did I see you taking some sort of pill? I see the pros doing that, but have never found out exactly what those were.

    He didn't reply when I replied with "Alleve. I have two titanium screws in my back after two back surgeries. I play with pain every day."

    It is bad enough the guy self-rated at 3.0, then beat a 4.0 0 & 2, but this email was so poorly veiled, I should have replied: "Hey, I juice. Lyle Alzado & Mark McGwire are my heros." :shock:

    For crying out loud, do any other 3.5 and 4.0 players actually think 40somethings juice? lol
     
  17. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    LOL

    Either this guy is a complete moron, or else he was under the impression you were taking some kind of (legit) energy gel or something and just wanted to find out what.

    Either way, as a fellow 40-plusser singles player, +1 for on-court usage of anti-inflammatories!
     
  18. g4driver

    g4driver Hall of Fame

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    Having meet and played with the guy, and getting the same impression from a good friend of mine, I am sticking with my first impression: complete moron!
     
  19. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    *laughing*
     
  20. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Hahaha more practice is always good!

    As far as I know, I've started to adjust it into a more "traditional" stance. I haven't video'd it yet, but I did start consciously tucking in my arm which has seemed to help my shoulder, so I really can't complain. Pace is a bit less of course, but that will come with more practice of course!

    I did also add a bit more knee bend which is working wonders with accuracy for some reason. I think I'm just striking the ball higher off the ground which is giving me a lot better angle and leverage. Hopefully I'll get some videos in the next month or so! School is super busy right now so we shall see! :)

    -Fuji
     
  21. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    It sounds like your serve is doing very well, Fuji!
     
  22. asked_answered

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    So, my quest to play at the 4.0 level continues. My spring season was lousy score-wise: 0-7 with only two close matches. I did better last fall, despite everything about my game being less developed. My big problem this spring was two-fold: 1) too much self-imposed pressure to perform well and 2) trying to work on too many aspects of my game during each match. The two strong matches later in the season (one at #1 singles and one at #2 doubles) involved me just trying to stay in a relaxed state of concentration and only focusing on one or two of the shots I was trying to hone.

    And then, tonight, something finally clicked. I played my weekly match against the 4.0 guy at my club and split sets with him over a two-hour period, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, before we ran out of time. I was hitting both first and second serves well, returning most of his serves deep, striking my forehand cross-court or down-the-line with precision, power and depth; hitting similarly effective driving backhands and slice backhands cross-court and down-the-line; hitting my approach shots well, and even volleying well. The 4.0 was serving and hitting well, too, unlike the other couple of times I took sets or the match from him, and we had some long, strong rallies. I was relaxed and focused for almost the entire match. I hope that feeling and consequent higher level of execution will return the next time I play.

    There might just be hope for me, after all. :)
     
  23. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Hey buddy!

    Hows your game coming along! Haven't heard from you in a while!

    -Fuji
     
  24. asked_answered

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    Hi, Fuji!

    My game is doing okay, but about a month-and-a-half ago I injured my shoulder with my one-handed backhand, which forced me to switch to a two-handed backhand. That shot seems to be developing, but it'll be a while before I'll feel like it's a reliable shot. Other than that, my serve is working well (first and second), my volleys have improved a ton, and my forehand is getting better. As in the past, my biggest weakness is the approach shot. (I'm going to take a lesson on it tomorrow, actually.)

    In terms of match results, I played a guy last week in a friendly match from my league team who is a very strong 3.5, and I lost 6-4, 2-6, 0-1 (8-10). I'll be playing in the 3.5 singles draw of a USTA tournament this weekend, so I'm hoping the decent play of my practice match carries over to my tournament matches. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for checking in!

    How are things on court for you?
     
  25. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Always happy to check in! :)

    That's really unfortunate about your shoulder! I wish it well my friend! The 2HBH is really tough, I can't hit the thing nearly as clean as my 1HBH, but I'm also trying to learn it as a precaution for my elbow. I don't want things flaring up again!

    That's great about your serve and volleys! Have you been playing any doubles at all?

    Awesome! I'm sure you'll win that match next time! Good luck in your tournament!

    I'm finally not hobbling around the court, after I got my back fixed from some amazing advice here on TT. I've fixed my serve up the point of it being solid again. The take back is definitely traditional now, and I've changed from platform stance, to a hybrid of pinpoint/platform. It works pretty well, although I've lost quite a bit of pace, but my percentages are way up. I also have my kick and twist serves back to normal. I am getting them bouncing over my head which is a huge relief on 2nd serves. Not having to rely on the slice or the flat any more really takes the pressure off.

    My forehands gotten a lot cleaner and I'm able to make some big plays off it now. My backhand slice is deadly, but the flat is still a bit too timid for my liking.

    I also have a tournament coming up! Next Thursday is the first night of it. Somehow my paper work got totally jumbled around since I was a junior at time of registration, I'll be in the 4.0 Men's Draw. It's going to my first tournament in something like 4 odd years, so I'm pretty excited, albeit a bit nervous. I heard some decent players are making it out, and I look forward to watching the Open and 5.0 matches! :)

    Definitely let us know how your tourney goes!

    -Fuji
     
  26. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks all around, Fuji! :) (As for doubles, I only play it occasionally, but I'm getting more comfortable with it.)

    From what you've described of your game, I think you'll do great in the 4.0 draw of next week's tournament. Good luck and have fun! :)
     
  27. Playtennis

    Playtennis New User

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    What is an early start rating and how do you find out what it is? Thx.
     
  28. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Early start ratings are ratings provided mid-year by certain USTA sections for league players that reflect match results to that date. In Texas, they reflect moves up or moves down and affect what leagues can be played in the fall. The section websites have links to the early season ratings. (The Texas Section posts its early season ratings in mid-July.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2012
  29. asked_answered

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    I played my tournament matches yesterday. I lost in the first round to the second seed 4-6, 3-6, lost my consolation match to a strong league player I've never beaten 6-4, 2-6, 1-0 (6-10), and lost my mixed 3.5 doubles match late last night 3-6, 4-6. I served really well, volleyed well, but my groundies were a little too inconsistent in my singles matches, particularly my two-handed backhand shots. Then, for some strange reason, my two-hander was great in my doubles match, although it didn't help my partner and I get a win. So, I had fun and felt like I played well throughout all three matches.
     
  30. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Hey bud! Sounds like your night went the same as mine.

    Last night was my first tournament match in years and man did it show. I lost 6-1, 6-2 to a very strong 4.0. He's played in the 5.0 club league (which is normally an inflation of 1 full NTRP rating) and it really showed how much he's improved since his rating of 3.5 last year. The guy had such an odd game style I couldn't get any footing. He just came in on EVERYTHING and he was able to volley off to the corners no problem. The only games I won were my own service games in which I was able to keep him back and out hit him from the baseline.

    I play the next round tomorrow and I hope I can do a bit better. These nerves are terrible! It was my first time playing in front of a relatively "large" crowd and I really wasn't used to it!

    -Fuji
     
  31. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Hi, Fuji. Your first opponent sounds like a tough guy to beat. That said, I bet you'll do great in your next match, now that you have your first one behind you. Good luck!
     
  32. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Thanks bud! It's indoor tomorrow and not on some weird low bouncing surface so I'm hoping for some better results! :)

    -Fuji
     
  33. ctromano

    ctromano Rookie

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    work on a consistent 2nd serve that you can place and go to automatically, then work on service return depth, once you get those two down you can think strategy, otherwise the easy thing is to win most of your 3.5 matches and let the usta do the rest.
     
  34. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I've got the second serve, and I'm working on the service return and winning aspects now. :) Thanks!
     
  35. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    I'm glad to hear your 2nd serve is coming along! :)

    Figured I'd give you a final update on my tournament! Lost 0 and 1, but it was the weirdest set up ever. It was first to 4 and we both had a lot of trouble getting grooved. EVERY game went to deuce so it makes it hurt even more that I lost so badly. Opponent was another bloody serve and volley player. He plays 5.0 doubles and it shows. His serve was O.K. but his volleys were way more then solid!

    Super fun day and it gives me lots to work on and look forward to! I definitely didn't feel outmatched today like I did on Thursday.

    -Fuji
     
  36. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks!

    I wouldn't worry about the score of the second match. It sounds like you played some solid tennis and had fun. Good luck with your next tournament!
     
  37. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

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    Welcome!

    Thanks bud! :)

    I wish you well in your next tournament as well!

    -Fuji
     
  38. asked_answered

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    So, the mid-season ratings came out for my section today, and I discovered that the two guys I played and lost to in my last tournament just got moved to 4.0. :)
     
  39. asked_answered

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    Based on my most recent match results, I'm a solid-to-high 3.5, instead of the low-to-mid 3.5 I was at the beginning of the year. As I've noted before, I'm a lefty. I have a strong first serve that 4.0s have trouble with, and my second twist serve has plenty of kick that causes 3.5s and some 4.0s serious trouble if they try to hit it aggressively. My two-handed backhand, though only a couple of months old, is solid, and my forehand, though still flukey, is strong. My approach shot is getting much better, and my volleys have progressed to competent. So, I think it's time to focus on figuring out a strategy and set of tactics I should implement to help me push past the 3.5 level into 4.0 territory. Any suggestions? (Thanks in advance!)
     
  40. struggle

    struggle Hall of Fame

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    if you speak the truth, you sound like a 4.0 pretty much to me. might be time to work on your gameplan, strategy etc.
     
  41. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I don't think I'm a 4.0 yet, but I'm getting closer. :) Regardless, I think it's time to work on the aspects you listed.
     
  42. ChadW

    ChadW Rookie

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    Great 'journal-style' thread here. You've come a long way in the months since you originally asked for help.

    I hope I'm not intruding by getting involved so late in the game.

    Personally, I'm a 3.0 player looking to get to a 3.5 level. My biggest failure is consistency. I often hit a hard, top-spin heavy ball, but too often mis-fire (net, long, side-to-side). I'm comfortable with my serve compared to my opponents at this level. I've improved over the last 6 months or so (as I've been playing 5+ times/week. But am still so frustrated at how slowly the improvement comes.

    I've heard of the 'bounce-hit' strategy, and I'll use that from time to time to slow down my game and just work on hitting the ball back in, but eventually, slowing down my stroke causes as many mistakes as just using my regular swing. I've tried serving and volleying in singles (I play a lot of doubles also) though my volley often lets me down. I'm working on my volley form (bending knees and getting below the ball) now that I've corrected my volley grip (continental).

    With all the hitting I do (practice with a partner and competitive matches), I feel like my improvement should be coming along quicker. What recommendations do you have for generally improving consistency? As we know, a lot of this STUPID game is mental; how do you improve/stabilize your mental state during a match?

    Thanks in advance for sharing your experiences.
     
  43. IA-SteveB

    IA-SteveB Professional

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    ChadW, take this for what its worth. I am a 3.5 player that has been playing since late March after not playing for a long time. I spent a lot of time hitting with friends, playing league singles and doubles and playing in a few USTA tournaments. I was hitting at least 3 times a week. I got really frustrated at how slowly my progress was going and I realized that the weaknesses in my game were from me just not using correct fundamentals. I stupidly thought my athleticism would help correct any flaws in my game and I would come around. Nope.

    I then took a few lessons to focus on the weak aspects of my game, like volleying. I realized my problems with volleying wasn't a lack of ability, but bad form and execution. Once I learned and repeated good form, things came around and I turned a corner. Athleticism, coupled with good form helped me turn that corner and I think I am on my way to an upper 3.5 rating.

    I would encourage you to take a lesson from a good club pro. They will see things you don't even know you are doing and if you can iron out your form, your game will elevate. I'd even see if you can capture some video of yourself hitting. You might find some shocking details, just like I did. You could think you are doing one thing where the video tells a different story.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
  44. asked_answered

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    Hi, Chad! The two things that have helped me most with match-time consistency are 1) proper practice and 2) proper mental attitude. Proper practice for me means practicing, practicing, practicing shots with effective technique. Hitting a lot of balls on both wings, forward and back, side to side with some mental pressure involved (high expectations of accuracy or keeping score in some way) really helps me groove my strokes and movement to the ball that in turn helps ready me for actual matches. The use of effective technique makes or break my practices, though. If my technique is ineffective, the practices won't help me improve. I've personally used a combination of lessons, online research through questions posed here on TT, and video review of my lessons and practices, and it's really helped my consistency.

    Proper mental attitude is also critical for me. I'm inherently really hard on myself, when I make mistakes (even in practice), and I've had to force myself to be more self-forgiving of errors. As many have said, tennis is a game of errors, so getting upset about a missed or badly placed shot for more than a moment or two is pointless and counterproductive. I still get angry, but I've managed to mute the anger a lot faster between points than I once did. With the anger managed, I can focus on hitting my next shot smoothly and correctly to the point of the court I want the ball to go.

    I also have to remember to get out of my own way mentally and let my body do its thing without micromanaging. That's where proper practice comes into play. My body knows what to do with most balls sent my way, and, as long as I don't overthink my shots, my body's responses to those balls are usually effective. I try and keep my brain occupied with watching the ball or looking for patterns in my opponent's play. When I do, I play much better.

    I hope this is helpful, and best of luck with improving your game!
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
  45. tennis_ocd

    tennis_ocd Hall of Fame

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    Agree! Even a short video can be a real shocker. Things I saw on a quick vid and worked to correct help tremendously.
     
  46. asked_answered

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    I've had an interesting league season so far. I first played a guy who dropped to a 3.5 mid-season rating from 4.0, after playing respectably in 4.0/high 3.5 league matches, and who is a seasoned tournament player. (I know of him because he played in my 3.5 singles tournaments and did well enough based on those results to move to 4.0T.) He won our match 6-2, 6-1, though we had much better games than the score indicated. (He was definitely the superior player, though.)

    I then played a solid 3.5 guy (60-40 at line 2 and line 1 doubles over the past couple of league seasons, though weakish results in singles) and won that match 6-2, 6-1. (That's the most definitive win I've had over a good 3.5 player.)

    Other than the general playing level differences between the two players, the real kicker was my focus on hitting to the second player's backhand throughout the match. His backhand broke down, particularly as he approached the net or tried to return my serve, under consistent pressure from me. So, I'm going to try that basic strategy against my next opponent this weekend and see if I get a similar result.

    As for my training, I'm drilling on a weekly basis with strong 4.0s under the eyes of an excellent pro. My groundies and volleys have had to improve a lot to keep up with the other guys' strokes, and the pro's suggestions during drills have been very helpful.

    So, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that I'll have a decent league season this time around. I'm still a long way from 4.0, but the transition feels like it will be achievable sometime in the not-too-distant future.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  47. Coach Chad

    Coach Chad Rookie

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    I completely agree with this post....I am 3.5 working hard to be a 4.0. At this time, when I play 4.0 opponents, I win 33% of the time...around one out of every three. When I win, it is because my first serves are consistantly in, my second serve is a good "kicker"... and I hit with a purpose, (not pushing). Sometimes, even when these are clicking for me, I will drop a match because the opponent knows that my backhand consists mainly of slices. I am working hard to develop a good topspin crosscourt backhand...in the meantime, my backhand can be exploited. As a fellow lefty, my advice would be: do not be afraid to return a serve down the line with a one handed back hand, especially if your opponent serves and volleys. Work hard on your crosscourt back hands...have fun!
     
  48. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    Thanks for the tips and encouragement, Chad, and good luck moving up to 4.0!
     
  49. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Have you ever posted vids of set play, either practice or match?
    I"m a old 4.0, and can spot glaring flaws in the game pretty easily, after nearly 40 years of tennis.
     
  50. asked_answered

    asked_answered Rookie

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    I really appreciate the offer, Lee, but I have no set play footage to share. The guys I've practiced with in the past have not liked the idea, and I don't feel comfortable videoing league matches with strangers for legal reasons. I know I need to find a way to do it, though. If I do get it done, I'll post it here.
     

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