How do you approach a match with a clearly superior opponent?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by PushyPushster, Apr 16, 2008.

  1. PushyPushster

    PushyPushster Rookie

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    So, I managed to back my way into the UltimateTennis playoffs seeded just about dead last. I'm trying to prepare mentally for my division-winning opponent. Here are the options I'm currently considering:

    1.) The 'ole 'Hey, I'm an underdog so there's no pressure here' technique. Everything's just groovy.

    2.) Put the Rocky theme on continuous loop and down a few raw eggs.

    3.) Just curl up in the fetal position after taking the court in order to minimize the length of the beatdown.

    Any ideas?
     
    #1
  2. flash9

    flash9 Semi-Pro

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    Enjoy the moment!

    Relax and Swing through your shots!

    Play your game.

    It is very unlikely you will win if your opponent is that much stronger, but look at it as a great opportunity to play against a stronger player. :)
     
    #2
  3. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    Enjoy the challenge of seeing how good you can do. Can you win games, can you hit winners.? Try not to give too much away. See if you can find something to pick on, if they have any weaknesses.
     
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  4. bronco_mba

    bronco_mba Rookie

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    Go all Santoro on your opponent. Mix spins, pace, placement, etc., anything to keep your opponent off balance and uncomfortable.
     
    #4
  5. Fedace

    Fedace Banned

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    I like this idea the best. but if this is not your natural game, then you could be shooting yourself in the foot
     
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  6. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Personally, I like #2. However from a tactical standpoint, I would go for less unforced errors rather than for more winners. I would make him earn the win, not hand it to him on a silver platter.
     
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  7. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    Ditto. I just go out, play my game as smart as possible, and force the opponent to beat me. I play a lot more conservative when I'm not going to get free points myself.
     
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  8. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    I have an Open coming up this weekend...and one way or another, I'll have to face a 5.0 or + no matter which direction it goes main draw or consolation.

    My first goal is trying to get the return in, and get a rally going as best I can manange. If I can just get the ball in play, I think I'll be able to play some, and enjoy the crap outta playing a great player.

    My second goal is to serve aggressive enough...to keep my opponent from taking the immediate offensive on the return.

    Frankly, I just want to get the ball in play, and play out some good points. I am not even thinking about winning or losing--- just not looking like a total goof for showing up. :mrgreen:

    And congrats on this opportunity to the OP. You should enjoy seeing what you can do on the court with better players. Depending on your game, technique, and skill level, I find...you have more weapons as you play up to a certain point if you have good stroke mechanics and footwork. At some point though, the better players tend to have serious weapons they can really punish you with. That's whats gonna happen to me! <smile>
     
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  9. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    What level are you at? I find it to be a blast playing with 4.5-5.0 players as a 3.5/4.0 player myself - it's tough to win points, but I find I play some of my best tennis.
     
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  10. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    I couldn't disagree any more with the advice given so far. The key to beating someone better than you is to make them beat you with what they do the worst. Pound the backhand OVER AND OVER. Don't mix it up- POUND the backhand. Bring them to the net and lob them repeatedly to make them beat you with overheads. Find what they do the worst and keep making them do that every single point. In rec tennis people vary SO MUCH if you compare what they do the best to what they do the worst. Seriously- don't let that player get a single forehand return against you and I guarantee you you will do much better than if you "play your own game".
     
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  11. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    I know a lot of higher level players that have backhands that would hurt you just as much as their forehand. I would bet that if you aren't at the level of your opponent, and they have an unsteady backhand, you're probably going to have trouble really "pounding" any stroke. Most 4.0 and above players have a good, solid backhand - be it slice or topspin.

    If you're not at their level, odds are, your lobs aren't going to be tremendously effective and you'll rarely be able to command the point.

    Your best bet (if you are able) is to play to their weakness, but only if you aren't sacrificing your strength to do so. If you've got a solid FH and can direct it well, then by all means attack them at their weakness. If your backhand is terrible and they're directing your shots to their backhand crosscourt, you're going to work yourself into a less-than-positive situation.
     
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  12. ohplease

    ohplease Professional

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    I agree with the sentiment, but there comes a point where exploiting what the other guy does badly is tough to do. Good players are often good precisely because they know how to hide or avoid their weaknesses.
     
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  13. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    slapshot- even if they have a "solid" backhand its likely to be FAR less effective than their forehand. There are very few lower level players that can consistently attack off of the backhand side. And if you are playing against a better player than you, simply being in a sitaution where they can't attack you is a major victory
     
    #13
  14. bumblebee

    bumblebee Rookie

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    blast em off the court, james blake style... or u could pretend to be fabrice santoro XD
     
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  15. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    But see . . .

    If you are supposed to follow Wardlaw's Directionals, you can't attack the backhand against a superior player, can you? If we're in a forehand crosscourt rally, I can't change direction to the backhand unless I get a weak ball to attack (yeah, right) or I get an inside ball, perhaps by running around the backhand (good luck against someone who is spanking the ball).

    In general, however, Spot has won me over on his "attack the backhand" idea, for my level at least. I find that serving to the backhand is far more likely to give me a first ball I can work with.

    Whether I make a hash of that first easy ball is on me.
     
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  16. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Different people mean different things when they say "attack" the BH. For some it means hitting the ball to the right side of the court, for others it means hitting a deep penetrating ball there. Well if the guy gives you balls that you can hit deep, penetrating balls off of, then maybe he isn't a whole lot better than you. If you are merely hitting balls to the ad side of the court, well, haven't we all heard of the inside out FH? I don't think you are going to be in much of a winning position going there.

    In my opinion, if winning tennis matches could be so easily broken down into a bumpersticker-like "strategy" like: Attack the BH, then there probably wouldn't be shelf after shelf of books on it and Forums like this one. Oh well, simple strategies for simple minds...
     
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  17. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    In pure playing ability very strong 4.0 to weak 4.5. I've been playing 4.5 tourney's so far this year (1-3 record), then will do this Open, and back to play the 4.0 guys for the rest of the year I guess, unless it just isn't as fun. Mayby I expect too much of these 5.0's. I am expecting unreal killer forehands, explosive backhads with huge topspin, crushing returns, and serves at 115 mph, including massive kick and twist serves. I could be building this up in my mind, but it sounds incredibly fun, LOL!

    Slapshot - So you've done this? How bad do you think the mismatch was? Were you able to get into any good long rallies? Your post encourages me!
     
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  18. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    LuckyR- all I know is that I repeatedly beat people far better than me just by resolving to make them hit 90% backhands. People make it more complicated in their heads because they feel more proactive if they are "mixing it up" and might not feel mentally stimulated by doing the same return of serve over and over and over and over.

    And books aren't necessarily focused on 4.0 and below tennis where backhands are so much weaker than forehands. And people don't pay for books that are 1 line long.

    POUND THE BACKHAND!
     
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  19. PushyPushster

    PushyPushster Rookie

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    Heck, if I could do all that I wouldn't be seeded in the hundreds. You must not have read my screen name. ;)

    Okay, I'm sold. Keep going to the backhand and prepare to lob. Both of those things are in my very limited tennis toolkit. We play tomorrow, so if the score isn't too embarrassing I'll post the results.

    Thanks for all the suggestions!
     
    #19
  20. shell

    shell Professional

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    I've recently been in the same position. My strategy going in was to make something happen. What I forgot was the patience and consistency to wait for the right opportunity.

    I would say be prepared to rally against balls that are not going to be comfortable, they will be deep and penetrating at that level. But also be prepared to change into an aggresive position if you get the chance. Take the opportunities given you and go for it, or set something up. They will come, but not often.

    Hope this helps.

    BTW - I lost. But I really feel that it would have been a better score line if I had played a little more consistently instead of feeling I had to hit a great shot. I didn't get blown off the court, which gives me some encouragement for the next time!

    Good luck, and don't forget to have fun. These are great chances to feel a little different kind of tennis.
     
    #20
  21. investorofmercy

    investorofmercy New User

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    I hope you are not playing me...I hate Santoroized players...lol I am playing Ultimate also at 3.5. Not sure what level you are but I am seeded 22nd and play the 109th seeded player.
     
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  22. investorofmercy

    investorofmercy New User

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    I guess the key at that level regardless of how good they are IN the level is....limit your mistakes. Most points are won on unforced errors at 3.5.
     
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  23. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    I've run into some 4.5 level players in mixed, and had moderate success (lost one match 2 and 3, and another 3 and 3), played some dubs with a couple of 4.5 players and we were on serve when we ran out of time, and hit almost weekly with a 5.5/6.0 player who isn't 100% yet. I know that I wouldn't have a chance against the 5.5 player if we were to play a match, but it's just an adjustment thing (pace/topspin).

    To be fair, I've got a 3.5 rating but somewhat regularly get asked what college I played for. ;)
     
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  24. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Well give me one piece of info that may clarify this issue: in a rally where you are pounding every ball to the other guy's BH, what stroke are you using to do this?

    PS- if you are beating those guys, they aren't better than you, you're better than them.
     
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  25. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    That's the rub here - if the person you're playing is clearly better than you, odds are you aren't going to be able to direct the ball to their backhand as efficiently as if you happen to be at a similar level.
     
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  26. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    LuckyR- I am not talking about hitting wicked shots to the backhand. When I serve, 95% of the time I am just tossing up spin serves to the backhand. No aces, no pace they can't handle. Just sending EVERYTHING to the backhand and making them try to attack me off of that side. Pounding is about repetition. I have just come across very few players who can consistently attack balls off of the backhand side below the 4.5 level.

    If my serve goes to the backhand, then the next ball tends to be weak enough that I can hit the next ball to their backhand as well. You keep the pressure on the backhand and you will keep getting weaker balls back that you can do something with. Thats the whole point. People get in trouble when they get away from this and try to attack the superior player's strength.
     
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  27. PushyPushster

    PushyPushster Rookie

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    Nope, I took a step up to 4.0- this year. I've noticed that more people at this level can make me pay for my short, paceless groundies, and that's been a struggle. Maybe I'll actually take a lesson and learn how to swing my racket properly this year ... nah, who am I kidding?
     
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  28. fridrix

    fridrix Rookie

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    I played a couple of clearly superior opponents my last season at 3.0 singles (I got bumped up). The only success I had was being extremely aggressive and catching them off guard a bit. I had to hit the best shots of my life to get any points at all.

    Also, I had a nemesis who got bumped up to 4.0 after going a season at 3.5 singles w/o losing a set (we met in 3.5 tournaments)... I developed a game plan (à la Brian Gilbert) to really attack his weaker side, the forehand, and it seemed to work for a while but I still only ended up with a couple of games.

    I think the Santoro tactic is great, but I don't have the finesse to make that stuff work consistently. In sum, I think you have to be confident and try to take control of the situation.
     
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  29. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    What level are you, if I might ask, that a sub-4.5 player is clearly a better player?

    I don't mean for this to sound snide, as it might - I've just noticed that anything from 3.0-4.0 can be a crapshoot talent-wise.
     
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  30. Vik

    Vik Rookie

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  31. Tennis Truth

    Tennis Truth Rookie

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    My experience has been that a strategy like "pound the backhand" can work well at 3.0 and 3.5, but is less effective against a 4.5. Here is why. If a 3.0 or 3.5 has a weak backhand, he may give you unforced errors and weak replies that you can hurt him with.

    But, a 4.5 is much better overall, and his "weak" backhand is probably going to be more "neutral" than "weak", and while it might not really hurt you, he is probably not going to make many unforced errors or give you a lot of short balls. If you "pound the backhand" against a 4.5, you are not moving him much, so he can camp out on the backhand side. Not hitting on the run makes it easier for him to hit backhands, and he can run around his forehand. Plus, he does not run much, while you may be running a lot.

    When playing against higher level players, you need to mainly play your game, the game you are good at. Still try to make some tactical modifications, but if you make a substantial change from the way you usually play, that means you are changing from a game you are comfortable with and are good at, to a game that is more unfamilar to you.

    Lets face it, you will usually lose when you play someone much better than you. Play hard and try a few things. See how your game matches up, and then figure out what you need to do to better compete at that higher level.
     
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  32. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    My experience as well. Nothing jawdropping, just consistent with a solid level of power and placement. It's not like you're playing Fed - a 5.0 or 5.5 player is a solid player, and if you're a 4.0 or 4.5, you'll most likely be overmatched, but it's not quite like jumping to the pro level.
     
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  33. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    You didn't answer my question, so I'll fill in the blanks. If you are both right handed and you are hitting ball after ball to their BH, they are either returning the balls DTL or CC. Let's assume your observation is correct and they are having trouble with their return. In that case, the correct shot for them is to hit their return CC (to your BH). So essentially you are in a BH to BH rally. How is it then, that the "better" person's BH loses out to your BH? On the other hand if you are repeatedly hitting to their BH and they are (for whatever reason) hitting DTL to your FH, then this "better" player doesn't sound too good...
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2008
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  34. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Slapshot- I picked up a racket for the first time about 2.5 years ago and now I am a 4.0 player. There are about 3 things I do at an above average level. I can serve to the backhand all day (first and second serves) and many 4.0 players can't (or choose not to) do that. I have a wicked topspin lob. And I have a nice inside out forehand that I can drive to people's backhands.

    And absolutely there are guys who's first serve I have little chance of touching. Guys where if we were blasting forehand to forehand would likely wipe the court with me. Better athletes and stronger. But players vary so much based on what they do the best to what they do the worst so just serving to their backhand over and over and consistenly making them try to attack me off of that side is an easy recipe for success.

    People are always skeptical when I tell them this. Seriously in your next match go out there and just resolve to make your opponent hurt you off of their backhand side. Don't overthink it- just keep pounding that backhand and good things happen.
     
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  35. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Lucky- virtually EVERY ball I have the option to I am going to take to the backhand. The inside out forehand is no question the shot I hit the most in singles for this reason. Some people want to hit their forehand crosscourt, I just want to put it deep to the backhand. Yeah- I am notorious for running around my backhand to hit an inside out forehand. But the point is still that you got a return that the other person wasn't attackign you with.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2008
    #35
  36. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    And Tennis Truth- even for players at 4.5 with "solid" backhands, those players generally have weapon forehands. All I am looking for is balls that a superior player can't attack against. Once you get to 4.5 you do face more people who can consistently attack off of the backhand, but still those players tend to have forehands you want to avoid even more.
     
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  37. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    Fair enough, but if you're a 4.0, you should even be able to hang with a 4.5 without getting blown off of the court.

    Above 4.5, guys are generally going to either:

    a. run around their backhand and blast their forehand where they want it

    or

    b. be able to effectively use their backhand to force errors
     
    #37
  38. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I suspected the above was true. So why aren't they hitting inside out FHs off of shots to their BH side that are not "wicked shots to the backhand".
     
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  39. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Lucky- if I get a ball I can do something with and I hit a shot that my opponent is able to run around and attack with a forehand then it was simply a poor shot on my part. Go wider with the next shot. The point is just to hit enough of a ball that they have to attack off of their backhand side. No need to overhit- just deep and wide. If your goal is to make them hit a backhand and you can't get to it then you are probably facing someone you simply don't have a chance against.
     
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  40. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the post Vik. Always great to hear your input.

    As far as playing up, I promised myself to do it to start the year off, then go back down, and play where I know I can compete against same or slightly less skill level, where closing out tough matches can be a challenge mentally. I want to get a good look at the next level, the pace, spin, footwork, and tactics - and hopefully use that to give me focus points for further improvement the rest of the year.

    I've been working recently with the Wardlaw directionals - so crosscourt is high on the list as you suggested. If the guy is killing me there, I'll try to get more to the backhand as you suggest. And although is doubtful - I do have the ability to Santoro-ize my game if all seems lost, LOL. It's just hard to swallow pulling out a Santoro approach in front of other people watching. :mrgreen:

    Thanks for your well wishes - I'll let you guys know how it goes.
     
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  41. ohplease

    ohplease Professional

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    Best post in the thread.

    A very large part of tennis is about compounding slight advantages. This is why you have people who don't know any better rating themselves MUCH higher than they can effectively compete. Sure, you might not be completely wasting a better player's time during practice - but that doesn't mean you're anywhere close to being able to consistently beat them, either.

    In my own experience, the 4.5s I've seen tend to have better offense than defense, so their games tended to look more flashy. I also had the pleasure of seeing a 5.5 practice with those 4.5s. That guy pretty much didn't have a care in the world in that situation. He just played solid, boring, deep, neutral tennis, leveraging his superior consistency and depth and pushing the other guys into more and more desperate positions. The overall impression is that lesser players might win some points on fluke winners, but the end result was pretty much both inevitable and unavoidable.

    I think the best you can do against someone CLEARLY better than you is annoy them and take them out of their rhythm and have them fight both you as well as themselves. Playing them straight-up is folly. This assumes that the better player is a head case. A solid, feisty, experienced better player just won't fall for it.
     
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  42. duketennisgal

    duketennisgal Rookie

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    I just wanted to add what I think, even though the topic has been pretty beat.

    I am a 4.5 woman player. During a rally my weakest shot is my backhand, so by one posters logic the best thing to do if you are far weaker than me is to pound it to my backhand.

    I have played people that I am much better than, these people know that my forehand is my go to shot, they know that my backhand is defintely weaker BUT I don't let them play my backhand.

    I set the points up and basically force them to play my forehand, if they get it to my backhand great, I may not hit too many winners off it but I can hit it where I want pretty muching forcing the weaker player to play to my forehand.

    The strategy I've found that works best against me is to be a bit more patient, a weaker player has got to get the ball back as deep as he/she can and make the opponent try to go for to much.

    I've also been the much weaker player and have had no luck trying to constantly attack the opponents main weakness, but I have had better luck focusing on my own strengths and trying to be steady.
     
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  43. Rule26

    Rule26 Rookie

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    Along these posts - If you relish the fact that the situation is an opportunity to compete with superior player(s) and focus on playing to the best of one's ability by attempting to unlock their weaknesses to compete against them - the improvement of your game is a moral victory. And learning to protect your weaknesses is as good too.

    To the extent that the competition is so superior play as well as you can and remember how it felt when you were on the wrong end when you are on the other side
     
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  44. PushyPushster

    PushyPushster Rookie

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    Results

    Well, I took him to three. 7-5, 2-6, 3-6. The last two sets sound worse than they were - a lot of Deuce points and very long volleys. We were on the court for just under 3 hours. Whew!

    Anyhow, the 'pound the backhand' strategy worked as well as I could have hoped. I was dialed in with good accuracy and worked that side of the court very well. It threw him off the first set, but after that we ended up in long BH to BH rally's, and my BH was a little worse than his. Also, he had the best serve I've seen this season - very nice. I was hoping the long grinding match would eventually fatigue him and kill his strokes, but he stayed consistent all night long - well deserved victory to him.

    That's it for my ultimate tennis season. 5 of the 7 games I played went to three sets - I guess I got my money's worth. ;)

    Thanks again for the advice!
     
    #44
  45. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    #45
  46. futuretoptenner

    futuretoptenner Semi-Pro

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    My advice. Be a beast on the court.

    Imagine you are about to face a bull . It's life or death. The bull is bigger,stronger,faster but hell you know when all is said and done you'll be the survivor.
     
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  47. PushyPushster

    PushyPushster Rookie

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    Nope, I got gored. Stupid horns!
     
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  48. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    I tried that. Turns out, bulls don't like being hooked on a close call, and the red color of my Prestige only angered him more.
     
    #48
  49. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,541
    Location:
    Fort Worth, TX
    Yeah - tried that honestly. But my opponent came to net, cut through my red cape, and stuck me in the ribs. :mrgreen:
     
    #49
  50. peter

    peter Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2004
    Messages:
    902
    Location:
    Linköping, Sweden
    This topic comes in handy today for me too as it turns out.

    Later today (this evening) I got the luck of being drawn against the #1 player in the club in a small "club championsship". Now, that player is probably NTRP 5.5 or so and 19 years old. I'm NTRP 4.0 or 4.5 (my guess) and 40 years old.

    In a normal match I would probably have problems even winning a single game against him. But for this tournament there's some special circumstances. Every player is assigned a "handicap". I've got '-15' and he has '-60' which is the starting points in every game. (counting: -60, -50, -40, -30, -15, 0, 15, 30 ,40). We even out the handcap before starting so I'll get to start at 0 and he at -50. And he is also only entitled to just one serve. Every match is played as "first to 8 games". It's played indoor on a fast surface.

    So. How should I play? :)

    My normal game is fairly flat and I tend to hit big shots (especially my forehand). In a normal rally I would not stand a chance since he is much faster around the court than me.
     
    #50

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