How much is having a consistent serve the difference between winning and losing?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by HughJars, Nov 13, 2013.

  1. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    My daughter's serve is one of the most consistent in her HS league. Many of these girls on this level try to hammer the ball as hard as they could and the result is double fault after double fault. Instead of trying to hit a 100mph serve like many of the girls, My daughter hits her first serve around 60-70mph consistently.. and rarely double faults.

    Having said that, my daughter is a 4.0 and she subs in a 3.5 league every Thursday and there is not a person there who would get even a game off of her so I don't agree with your hypothesis. Although I'm basing this on what I'm seeing on Thursday nights. You might make the argument that there are stronger 3.5 leagues were you are but from what I've seen here, a strong serve is not going to tip the scales enough to beat a 4.0 player with a weak serve.
     
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  2. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Once again, a 4.0 will beat a 3.5, regardless of serve.
     
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  3. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Top 30 in a strong section generally would be a three star on Tennis Recruiting. Three stars in the 16s are generally 5.0 players, so this girl would be like a male 4.0. You say you're a 3.5, so it doesn't make sense. Are you sure she is ranked this high?
     
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  4. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Huh? Youre daughter has a strong serve. If you read my OP properly, I said a player with 4.0 groundstrokes with an inconsistent serve (hence not a 4.0 player overall). Your daughter is a good player. Good for you.

    We dont have "3.5 leagues" here. There are 18 divisions. The average rating of four players that make up a team detirmines what division you play in. I would say the average ability of players in my division is about equivalent to a 4.0 in 'Merica.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
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  5. TomT

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    @Mrnoital and LeeD
    HughJars' hypothesis was that "a player with 3.5 strokes and an accurate, consistent serve will beat a player with 4.0 strokes and an inconsistent serve (eg: low first % and weak second serve)."

    Which is a bit different from saying that a 3.5 rated player with an accurate, consistent serve will beat a 4.0 rated player with an inconsistent serve (eg., low first % and weak second serve).

    There's a rather wide variance in stroke mechanics in 4.0 and below, and therefore the terms "3.5 strokes" and "4.0 strokes" are essentially meaningless.

    So, I take HughJars' hypothesis to be saying that a player with not very good looking stroke mechanics, groundstroke technique, but with an accurate and consistent serve will beat a player who has better stroking technique but a miserable serve (eg., low first % and weak second serve).

    Of course it depends on how big a difference there is between the two players' strokes and between the two players' serves, as well as other variables. But if we change the "will beat" to "can beat" then I basically agree with the amended version of HughJars' hypothesis.
     
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  6. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Once again, refer to my OP. I said a player with 4.0 strokes and a weak serve will lose to a player with 3.5 strokes and a strong, consistent serve.

    Simples. :)
     
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  7. goran_ace

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    It would be a good matchup, but if I were betting on it I'd take the player with the better strokes/baseline game. The serving advantage is that he's not giving away as many easy points on the serve, but he's probably not going to be winning any points outright on his serve either so once the ball is in play the advantage goes to the guy with the better strokes.
     
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  8. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I'd take 4.0 strokes and less consistent serve, because a pattycake serve won't get pummelled at this level.
    A good consistent serve and 3.5 strokes only get's you pummelled, as the guy with 4.0 strokes can return your serve every time.
     
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  9. 2ndServe

    2ndServe Professional

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    I really hope you guys are smart enough to not compare the effects of a good serve in a men's match and a good serve in a women's match.

    A good serve in a med to high level men's match can dictate everything and sets up a strong forehand or a volley. A good serve on the women's side is one that doesn't get the server consistently punished and puts her at somewhere close to neutral.
     
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  10. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Really interesting responses so far.

    How does this hypothesis hold up at the pro level? Who is an example of a player with a weak serve and a strong ground game? Dare I say it, Nadal?

    Versus someone like who has a consistent all round game, but a ground game that's relatively less superior. David Ferrer?

    The results dont favour the the player with the most rounded game here...probably because at the pro level a weak second serve at this level is still a decent serve, and not something that can be mauled, like a patty cake serve can at 4.0. The ability to hold serve is necessary to even get to this level.

    This doesnt consider mental strength either...
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013
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  11. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    ^Well Nadal's serve isn't weak by any means. He rather use spin and placement than power. I don't often see his serves hanging in the middle of the box without spin, waiting for the smackdown like I can see in say, WTA matches. I don't see him being threatened by big returns very often either. He can force you
    to stay on the baseline or force you out of the court with his serve without going for big numbers. He already served 135mph+ serves (USO '10), but he has no point in doing so given that it has no purpose given his playing style.

    Plus Ferrer's issues with Nadal or similar ranked players aren't only on the court, much between his ears. If you watch their match in Paris, that's how Ferrer should play more often. He didn't in London, and I can't say that the Nadal in London was vastly superior to the one in Paris, albeit by a small extent. And I frankly don't believe Ferrer has a better serve than Nadal.

    So no, I do not think it's a fair comparison.
     
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  12. dknotty

    dknotty Semi-Pro

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    Without doubt the single most important shot in tennis is the serve, thereafter the return of serve.

    My own approach to serves is that I vary them between a kick, slice and flat serve. Sometimes I'll do 2 flat serves of pretty equal pace (if the first one is out), other times I'll do a first serve slice or kick. Mostly random but my aim is to have enough variety to keep my opponent guessing.

    As a result I tend to get a lot of free points of easy put- aways.

    If your serve is inconsistent, then it puts so much pressure on the rest of your game that you often crack. However, if you're confident you can serve well and hold your serve most games then it really does free up the rest of your game.

    It is no coincidence that most ATP games are decided on break of serves.
     
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  13. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    A 4.0 should beat a 3.5 regardless of serve. Rec level players have a pretty wide performance variance. I suppose if you add the condition, "playing at their level ..." which hopefully we can both agree does not happen in every match.

    Huge mistake bringing pro players into this thread, my friend. Huge. Mistake.
     
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  14. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    12345678901
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
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  15. anubis

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    well, i'm an average 3.0, so I don't have a good serve to begin with. My percentages are normal for my area. Obviously you're not a 3.0 if you're having a lot of success with your serves vs. 3.5 and 4.0 players.

    No 3.0 in my area has a good serve, period. That's why we're 3.0s! When your serve becomes a weapon, you're entering 4.0 territory.
     
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  16. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    It's a consistent serve in her division. I would not say it's strong.
    I think the problem your having with some of the responses is that you're hypothesis includes the fallacy of a 3.5 player with 4.0 strokes.
     
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  17. Dimcorner

    Dimcorner Professional

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    Funny that was the first thing I noticed when I saw myself on the video! I thought man, I finish my serves too upright and I'm leaving some power on the table. :)

    I am working on that and trying to get timing and feeling down.

    But back on topic. At the 3.0 to 3.5 level if you can develop a consistent serve with good control of direction and spin you will get a lot of free points or easy returns from your opponents. You don't have to blast aces but you do pressure them quite a bit when you have that weapon. I don't know if it's enough for a mid 3.5 to beat a mid 4.0 CONSISTENTLY however. The 4.0 will usually just kill you with better defense and transition offense even if they did give you a pitty patty serve. The 4.0 can probably do more with the return than the 3.5 even if it is a soft 4.0 serve.

    There is a 4.0 computer rated that practices with a 3.5 team I just joined and he pretty much will win 95% of the times against the 3.5's. He is not blasting out difficult serves, but he is just that much more consistent in returns and rally shots and has more consistent attacking options than the 3.5's.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
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  18. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    Once you develop those things, you should be well past a 3.0-3.5 level. Heck, watching a level 4 girls tournament ( far beyond a 3.0-3.5 play) the other day, their serves are still far from fully developed.



    Apparently the OP was not comparing a 3.5 player with a 4.0 player but a 3.5 player with a strong serve to a 3.5 player with 4.0 strokes... which is a fallacy because 3.5 players don't normally have 4.0 strokes.
     
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  19. TCF

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    I do not agree at all with the advice about 'crunching the stomach' or that you are 'too upright'. Thats not the way we teach nor the way any top junior coach I have ever visited teaches.

    Just the opposite. Most people do not stay upright enough. They allow their shoulders to fall down, end up bent over, etc.

    Power comes from the ground, up through the legs, then a nice easy throwing motion, letting the skeleton do the work, not trying to muscle the ball. Nothing to be gained by 'crunching' or bending.

    I have a 9 year old girl with killer serves, we have lots of kids of all shapes and sizes with great serves....easy, easy, easy power, upright, upright, upright!!!

    Like this guy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcjZ5r_YHV0
     
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  20. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Thanks for your thoughts, mate, great stuff
     
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  21. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Yep righto.
     
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  22. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Did you even read the OP??? Maybe do that.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
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  23. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    My pleasure.

    I think the takeaway from this thread is: the primary difference between lower level NTRP players (3.0-4.0) is the serve, because the rules of tennis favor the server. If you're not serving well, or don't have a serve that gives you an advantage, you're automatically playing at a disadvantage.

    Groundstrokes require practice too, of course, by the more competitive the matches get, the less you actually get to hit a comfortable groundstroke. In many of my matches (the mid to high level opponents in my rating bracket), if I give them a ball in the strike zone the point is basically over barring some defensive miracle or unforced error. And the same is true in reverse. If they give me a short ball that I can swing at, the point should be over soon.

    Your best chance of getting the ball you want is from a defensive return of serve. If you get the defensive return, you should be able to keep your opponent on the defense until the point is over; hence why the rules of tennis favor the server. The moment you hit one bad shot in a rally, the tide changes. This might not be true in your area's 3.5 rating bracket, but it will be when you get bumped up, so get ready for it. Practice what you can control: serve. Then practice the next sure fire shot: the return. On the return you know they have to hit it to you. Everything after that is all experience-based improvement.

    Oh, and I strongly recommend ignoring Mrnoital. +$0.02
     
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  24. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    Unfortunately yes, but you either can't comprehend the responses or you keep changing your mind in regards to the original intent.

    First you tell me you are not comparing 3.5 to 4.0 players. I reread your post and clarified that you are apparently comparing a 3.5 with a good serve ( a fallacy) with a 3.5 with a weaker serve but with 4.0 strokes (another fallacy).

    In fact you thanked Spiral for saying the exact same thing I did. We both said "A 4.0 should beat a 3.5 regardless of serve" I said it first and You thanked him but told me I did not understand your post. So go ahead and tell me what I'm missing because I can't wait to read it!
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
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  25. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    In all fairness, I was correcting LeeD with my response, include the language "should" and then adding the condition "assuming they're playing at their level," with the caveat: rec levels players performance, relative to their level, varies greatly.

    Please stop using the word fallacy, unless you want to be held accountable to your own logical fallacies (which you probably don't).
     
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  26. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    that is because serve strength is included in ratings. ratings don't represent a certain level of technique but if you actually lose or win matches against those level players. of course technique helps with this (the more the higher you get) but if you beat 4.0 players with a crappy serve you are a 4.0.

    that being said in most cases higher level players do have a decent serve because you need to hold serve relatively consistently at some point.
     
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  27. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    NTRP is only used for placement in competitive match play.

    People who have never placed before look at the USTA rubric, guess based on the info there, and then place. After that it is only your win/loss that determines your NTRP.
     
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  28. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    That's why I said 6.0 futures player to 7.0.
     
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  29. anubis

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    You could also call NTRP a handicapping system. Saying it's a "level" implies that the more you play, the more "points" you can earn to "move up to" the next "bucket".

    I imagine that the greater majority of people remain in the same NTRP grouping for their entire recreational tennis career, for good reason.
     
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  30. 2ndServe

    2ndServe Professional

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    I agree with this, also a very easy grip, like 2 out 10 pressure. Just step up to the line loosey goosey, with no tension in the arms shoulders wrist core etc. Once you get the racket going with no tension, you can really let the momentum build and crack it. It's also the loosey mindset that helps in crucial spots, as the serve is the first thing to go for most when things become crucial.
     
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  31. Avles

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    Brad Gilbert says, in Winning Ugly:
     
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  32. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Interesting, Avles.

    That's inconsistent with my experience, but I think I know what he means. A guy who can't defend a forehand to his BH will lose almost every time around where I play.
     
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  33. shindemac

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    I want to address this. At the 3.0 men's level, it's really about getting your serve in and not double faulting. Unless he is doing a patty cake serve, at this level he hasn't learned how to do spin yet, so is most likely using 2 first serves which tend to be very inconsistent. Women's 3.0 is not the same as men's 3.0, so this is the reason why your observations are different. If I were playing this type of player, I could probably serve a slow 65 mph serve into their strikezone, and they would probably make an error.

    Like I said, you need to read the situation and determine what's best for your tennis development. I never mentioned speed was the only way to get a better serve. I will quote myself as this is the first sentence I wrote in this entire thread!
    So yes, in your daughter's case, she has the best serve out of her peers!!! Good job!

    Now back on topic to 3.5 men's serve. (uggh) Even though speed has been bandied about, placement, consistency, and strategy is just as important. How much of each you need is actually determined by your competition, that's why I'm hesitant to give numbers. The only reason I gave numbers is so people can understand that this goal is attainable, but again, everyone needs to decide what's the best number for them. I only gave a starting example based on my experiences. But ultimately, the numbers don't even mean much because most players don't have a way to track them. You'll know when you've reached your goals when you are holding >90% of your serve games, and when your opponents consistently comment on how fast or how much spin or how much whatever your have on your serve. If you've achieved this, and you're still losing your matches, maybe it's time to focus on something else like your return of serve...
     
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  34. Avles

    Avles Hall of Fame

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    >90%? There's only one ATP player who holds that often (Raonic, 91%). Isner is at 90% even, everybody else is <90%.

    On the WTA side, only Serena holds more than 80% of the time (84%). World #7 Sara Errani has a 59% hold percentage.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
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  35. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    The qualifiers and caveats don't change anything.

    I am completely confident in my logic and cognitive ability so I encourage you to take your best shot. On the other hand, you seem obsessed with following me from thread to thread, quoting me and trying to offer a witty retort. It hasn't worked yet.
     
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  36. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    And he's 100% right. In recreational tennis, consistency is the most important. At levels like NTRP 3.5, I have seen consistent players, with unspectacular strokes, unspectacular serves, unspectacular returns... win lots of matches. At that level, they generally call this type of a player a "pusher".

    Once you're at a level where everyone can consistently keep the ball in court.... that to me is when you need to start to develop weapons. Whether it is the forehand, the backhand, the serve, the return, the net.

    If I were to define the "most important shot in tennis", I'd say it is the shot that is most likely to win points for a given player at a certain level.
     
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  37. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    I'm not exactly sure what your point is. Are you just reinforcing what I said? I was offering my daughter's experience as an example of the serve being important at all levels of play. I was in fact supporting the contention of the OP although it went right over his head.

    I would also clarify that while my daughter has a more consistent serve than the vast majority of the players in her division, it is not the best serve. Two out of the three girls she lost to have more developed serves.
     
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  38. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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    Good to know that someone's completely confident in your logic and cognitive ability.
     
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  39. jussumman

    jussumman Semi-Pro

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    Your opponent looks 3.0 but you play more like 3.5 and serving more like 4.0. Then again, with such a low strung racquet it should be much easier to hit some bombs and against a 3.0 guy that's all you need to do to hold serve. Nicely recorded night match havent' seen those here yet.
     
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  40. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    The point is (and maybe you are obliquely touching on it) that if this 3.5 player develops an excellent serve he will be a 4.0 player.
     
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  41. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    As long as the forehand is consistent, yes. I actually posted above how a 3.5 can practically be guaranteed to achieve 4.0.

    1) Have a dependable 90% second serve that can be hit to the opponent's backhand.

    2) When rallying, be able to hit a forehand to the opponent's backhand from anywhere on the court -- over and over and over and over again.

    3) Be able to beat a 3.5 pusher.
     
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  42. shindemac

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    I'll quote myself for the response.

    Stop looking at the numbers!!!
     
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  43. shindemac

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    This. Yep. Yes.
     
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  44. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    There are lots of people who pay me money who trust my logic and cognitive ability.:)
     
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  45. GuyClinch

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    1. 4.0s aren't 4.0s if they can't hit serves in. So this mythical matchup is impossible. The 4.0 might not actually serve better then the 3.5. Maybe his serve is worse - but it won't be a weakness. Once again a 4.0 BEATS 3.5. That's how they get to be 4.0.

    2. The serve is not the most important shot in rec. tennis (under 4.5). The forehand is. It's not even close - around 85% of your shots you hit are going to be forehands. I don't know who started this myth - but Gilbert is correct.
     
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  46. shindemac

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    This is 110% true! That's why I serve all my serves to the backhand for them.
     
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  47. texastornado

    texastornado Rookie

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    I think the guy with the 4.0 strokes but not great serve will crush the 3.5. Typically at that level players are not hesitant to come in and put away the short ball. At least what I've noticed to be the main difference between those two levels is the ability to hit with depth and pace and the movement forward to put away easy shots.
     
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  48. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    That's the way I see it. I called a 3.5 player with a good consistent serve a fallacy. I also said a 3.5 player who strokes the ball like a 4.0 is a fallacy and good ole TimeSpiral told me I was wrong and to stop using the word fallacy.:)
     
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  49. dknotty

    dknotty Semi-Pro

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    Stupid comment. THE MOST IMPORTANT SHOT IN TENNIS IS THE SERVE. THIS IS FOLLOWED BY THE RETURN OF SERVE.
     
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  50. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    He is correct and you are wrong.

    At the 3.5 level, it's not even remotely the most important shot. The idea for many players is to simple get it in the box to start play. How can it possibly be the most important shot when these players are years away from developing it as offensive tool?
     

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