I want to play on a non-playoff team...is this irrational?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Brian11785, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    So this is my first year playing USTA 3.5. I ended up on a team that went 6-2 this season and made city playoffs. A team that will have 5 out of the 12 of us justifiably bumped up to 4.0 next season (I am not one of these.) I understand that, come playoff time, it ends up being a matter of "whose 4.0/4.5s playing down to 3.5 are the best." That fact is pretty gross, but I understand the way the game is played.

    The coach of the ringery-est team was a real smug d-bag at city, pulling some petty machismo BS to a harmless self-effacing joke one of our players made. One of their singles lines won 6-0, 6-0, and the winner hooked our guy on about 10 calls. And kept grunting at unnatural times. And kept retrieving balls between our player's first and second serves that were SITTING AGAINST THE NET. Obviously coached gamesmanship. Really necessary in a beatdown?

    I just wanted to yell at the self-satisfied captain: "Congrats, your team of average fifth graders won the first grade spelling bee! You don't have to be so openly proud of yourself."

    So, I've basically decided that I am going to put myself out there next season on a team that doesn't look to be playoff bound. Maybe a new team or a team we played this season that had cool guys. I have a feeling that the club that hosts my current team might be just that come the fall, since so many of my teammates (including the captain) got bumped up.

    Is my playoffs-induced disillusionment common?
     
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  2. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Every team has its balance of competitive and social- it just sounds like you would be happier on a team that is more social. Those teams tend to balance playtimes evenly and the best players don't play much more than the other players. Even if these teams do make playoffs they still will balance playtime rather than putting out the best lineup they can.

    This is more common for women's teams but I do know of a couple men's teams that are run this way. You may be better off just deciding to be captain. Explain to players the team philosophy before the season starts and stick to it. You would likely have trouble keeping top line players happy but it doesn't sound like that is a huge downside for you.
     
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  3. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Two things:

    First, not all playoff bound teams are full of ringers and gamesmanship. There are teams out there with players that are strong within their level but still completely legit, and that are generally good guys that show good sportsmanship.

    Second, I do agree that even with a legit strong team, there is usually a different vibe than with a team that has no playoff aspirations. Playoff teams generally prioritize winning, will play the better players more, and will generally be more serious about things. While weaker teams often spread out playing time more evenly and are more laid-back.

    Pick whichever style suits you better, but don't start off with the assumption that all playoff-bound teams are full of ringers and jerks.
     
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  4. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    Your assessment is correct.

    I am a pretty competitive person, generally speaking. But there is something about sandbagging (particularly if I feel that I am the sandbagger) that deflates my competitive spirit. It's like, to be a team that goes to nationals, you have to be so good that you should beat the average player at the level you're playing 6-1, 6-1. What's the fun in that?
     
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  5. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, I was using hyperbole there. I don't believe that literally every team in the playoffs is this way. But I think this element will always be there, because it's what the system rewards.
     
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  6. JLyon

    JLyon Hall of Fame

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    not problem with that, having fun and playing with friends can be more fun then trying to win a pen or towel or whatever they award now at Nationals.
    Besides you play enough fun then the team can get good but you do run into sandbaggers and DBags everywhere
     
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  7. lostinamerica

    lostinamerica Semi-Pro

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    There is no problem with that. Play where you feel comfortable.

    As for me, I play for the playoff weekends. If I get real lucky, I play for 3 weekends. Districts, Sectionals and Nationals. Most years it is only 2 weekends and some years only 1 or none. I've only got to that third elusive weekend once. Fortunately, there is 40s, tri-level, combo among other events that add more playoff weekends.

    As for removing balls against the net between serves, I do that because I don't want it in my field of vision. I don't find that gamesmanship.

    Grunting, that may or may not be gamesmanship. At the lower levels, I find gamesmanship more prevalent. I ran into a nutjob about 6 weeks ago that would trash talk between serves.
     
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  8. SwankPeRFection

    SwankPeRFection Hall of Fame

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    Get better and move up out of the bs 3.5 leagues. You'll find that the better non-bs players are usually in the 4.5 range. I see bs all the time in 3.5 league in my area, but up in the 4.5 and higher range, it's just good play and no bs calls or stupid tactics. It's just good tennis.
     
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  9. storypeddler

    storypeddler Semi-Pro

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    No. I just think it depends on why you play league tennis. Some people play to meet new people, to get exercise, to work on their own game, etc. Others play to compete for league titles and championship status. Nothing wrong with either one as far as I am concerned.

    And I can tell you from personal experience, there are sometimes jerks and Neanderthals on poor teams just like there sometimes are on good teams. There are also very strong players on very good teams who are the best of sportsmen and are a joy to play with and against.

    Competition does sometimes bring out the worst in people, but it had to already be in there for it to rise to the surface. I would advise you to decide what you enjoy more---playing to win at the possible cost of fun or playing for fun at the possible cost of winning. Then follow the path that fits you best. All the best of luck to you.
     
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  10. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    I intentionally play on teams that are unlikely to advance to playoffs. The whole experience of advancing was a letdown when I actually went the first time.

    1) played people that I didn't necessarily enjoy playing
    2) put a bunch of miles on my car
    3) paid a bunch of cash for hotel, food, and drink

    On the plus side, I did enjoy the time with teammates, etc. just wouldn't want to do the whole playoff deal again when I've got my own life to worry about.
     
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  11. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the advice, everyone. As you've said, I think different people get different things out of playing leagues. For me, it's (1) getting better/competition experience, (2) social aspect, (3) playoffs/winning.

    To be fair, there were no other instances of shadiness other than the ones I mentioned (aside from the forgivable grievance of their fans cheering our team's unforced errors in a tight doubles match--not everyone knows tennis fan decorum.) The guy playing the other team's #1 singles line (he won easily as well) seemed a cool guy. My teammate watching with me said he knows the guy, and he is a class act.
     
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  12. goober

    goober Legend

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    I have never seen a team at the 4.0-4.5 level that advanced past districts without out of level players. I have seen some teams make it to districts with legit players but they always lose. But I agree that not all playoff teams have ringers and jerks. A lot of teams are nice guys that just manipulate the system. One captain I know acts like a really friendly guy and always offers beer to the opposing team after matches. But he won't think twice about sending in his top players to tank a singles match against a 3.5 playing up to keep their ratings down.
     
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  13. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    This was my experience. The third-place finishing team in our city seemed like an actual 3.5 team. My team placed second and will probably be getting a wildcard to sectionals, we are mostly 3.5s with a few non-extreme self-rates and one person who has no business in 3.5 (and probably 4.0.) And this guy lost his doubles match against the team that won. Also, our singles lost 6-0, 6-0 and 6-0, 6-1, if that shows you the level of sandbagginess going on for the other team.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2013
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  14. michael_1265

    michael_1265 Professional

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    If you lived in the Richmond, VA area, I'd have a great team for you to play on. I have captained for five years, and I haven't gotten a sniff of the playoffs. It's a great group of guys, though.

    Actually, I don't care that much about the playoffs. It would be nice to win a little more often, though...........
     
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  15. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    My own experience is at the 4.5 level, and I really haven't seen nearly as much out of level players as seems to be the case for you.

    For example my team played against the 4.5 team that ended up going to Nationals from Norcal last year... I don't recall them having any self-rated players, and even though their players were good (and they did beat us of course), the matches were competitive and we felt like we had our chances. I guess it's possible that their players have been managing their rating over multiple years, but I just don't think so - I've run into many of them over the years and I think they are all legit.

    Maybe it's a regional thing though, or else you've had bad luck with the teams you've faced. Or maybe 4.0 is different to 4.5 in this respect.
     
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  16. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    This is true, but hey, why stop there?

    Get even better and move out of amateur 4.5 and into 5.5. That's where the real tennis is.

    Easy peasy.
     
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  17. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    I think it might be a case of it being easier to cultivate a team of 3.5 ringers than it is 4.5 ringers just because there is so much of a larger pool.
     
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  18. Brian11785

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    Thanks for the offer. Would take you up on it if I lived there.

    My captain just sent out the notice that he will be captaining the 4.0 team for the club next year and that his co-captain is taking over the 3.5 team. 5 of them got bumped up to 4.0 and a couple of the ones still in 3.5 don't really live close to the club and are playing because they are coworkers of the departing captain. So not sure who'll be left. Hopefully enough to make a team.
     
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  19. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

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    I played open tournaments the last 2 weekends and lost to seeded players in both. The consistent pace that these kids hit with is well beyond what I can handle at this age. When the balls slowed down in the second set I actually made the sets respectable (3,4) but I had absolutely no chance of winning and frankly the kids might have been giving me a few games to make me feel better.

    I believe I played my last 4.0 match yesterday and will quit tennis before playing as a 4.0 again. The BS at this level is beyond belief.
     
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  20. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

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    I really think the case is that 4.5 players have a much better understanding of their level and can judge what is actually a ringer. This is my second year playing leagues and while I have heard these stories of sandbagging and cheating I have yet to witness any real sandbagging. There are guys out of level but I haven't met any who intentionally did it, and frankly they were at most about .25 point off.

    In truth, the guys at the top of the level have been for the most part a pleasure to play with as they are mostly just looking for good tennis. The guys who were a misery were the guys who thought they were at the top of the level and didn't know how to take a loss.

    I do agree though that playoffs/districts are overrated because I don't have time, but I much prefer a competitive team as the lineup decisions are much clearer. I'm looking for quality matches and want the selection for this to be made on a criteria other than who is better friends with the captain.
     
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  21. struggle

    struggle Hall of Fame

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    My measure of an opposing team is directly reflected by whether or not I'm willing or not to offer them a beer after the match.
     
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  22. lostinamerica

    lostinamerica Semi-Pro

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    If your team finished second and you are going to sectionals, it sounds like you guys did well enough. Usually any team that makes sectionals has players out of level. By your own admission, you have a guy that belongs in 4.5. Be careful not to be the ringers for me but not for thee player. How many of his players were self rates or players with very little history?

    I have seen very few players that can go directly from 3.5 to 4.5 through the years. It will be interesting to see how this captain's ringers do the next year since most will be sent 4.0. I suspect they will not be dominant but will be interesting to see. Let us know.
     
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  23. Brian11785

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    That is just it. My starting this thread is not a matter of sour grapes after losing at sectionals. It's a general disillusionment with the whole playoff process. And to an extent, that includes my team as well.
    I have had to walk away from watching matches we were steamrolling in (mostly involving the one guy) because I felt dirty about being complicit in the charade. The guys I play with are decent-to-awesome guys, but it feels a little varsity beating up on the JV at times. That's why I am wanting to play on a "worse" team next year.

    As far as the winning team goes, I understand that the sectionals is basically a battle of the sandbaggers. That's the sort of moral hazard that the system encourages. This guy has gone to nationals in the past. It is what it is. We just had a problem with the smug attitude of the captain of the other team. At one point, he walked up to us and I engaged him in some sort of small talk. When he walked away, two of my teammates he'd already p***ed off said to me "Why are you even acknowledging that guy."

    As I said, if elementary schools around the country were somehow letting average fifth graders who hated to lose to pose as two years younger and participate in third grade spelling bees, they'd start winning all of them. But they shouldn't be so smug about it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2013
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  24. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

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    I think this is the most bothersome (potentially humerous actually) thing about this. Your analogy is completely off. It really is about stupid 3rd graders who can't compete so like to think of the other 3rd graders as 5th graders to make themselves feel better.
     
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  25. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I like being on a mix of teams.

    Being on the bottom feeder team has its perks. I am appreciated. I get to play Court One. I get to play as much or as little as I want.

    If I were on a stronger team, I wouldn't get to play much at all.
     
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  26. Brian11785

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    There is an pre-established definition of what a 3.5 is. These players (including a few on my own team) are not 3.5s. The fact that this guy has been to nationals in the past proves he knows how to find the "fifth graders." As I said, I don't begrudge him anything. It's the behavior the system encourages, and he obviously cares the most and is willing to play the game the hardest. His team deserves to go to sectionals/nationals in that regard.

    But let's call a spade a spade here.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2013
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  27. goober

    goober Legend

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    I agree that there are probably regional differences. There is a difference between 4.0 and 4.5, in that 4.0 it is usually worse. OTOH in our district we had a seperate nonUSTA league formed for 4.5+ players because of all the problems in the regular 4.5 league. We had a 4.5 team that won nationals not too long ago. It had current JC and D2 players as well as former college players on it.
     
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  28. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

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    I think this is where you are completely wrong. There is a definition of what a 3.5 is which is established by a computer rather than your "pre-conceived" believe of what this is. The problem with this pre-conception is that many people believe they are much better than they are. There definitely are players who are really 4.0s playing 3.5 and the computer will bump them the next year. That's how the system is designed.

    There are a few guys I know that probably push the bounds but frankly I am just out to play good tennis and don't really care all that much.
     
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  29. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

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    I don't think that is too different then here in Norcal. I think a lot of JC and D2 players should be rated 4.5. There are a couple of teams here with exactly that lineup which are actually not the best teams, and the players are strong 4.5s but probably not at the 5.0 level.
     
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  30. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    http://www.usta.com/Adult-Tennis/US...aracteristics_of_Various_NTRP_Playing_Levels/

    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.
     
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  31. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Yeah I agree... just because a player is a current JC or D2 player does not mean he is a sandbagger at 4.5... One of my hitting partners is 20 and plays for a local JC; he's probably at the upper end of 4.5 but is definitely no 5.0. He would get killed at 5.0. His record at 4.5 is around 0.800 which makes him good but not unbeatable. He is better than I am (usually beats me 4 & 4 or thereabouts), but I don't feel overmatched when I play him. Whereas when I play a legit 5.0 I pretty much feel helpless.
     
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  32. OrangePower

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    That is so subjective - pretty useless IMO.

    We've all come across pretty-looking players that look great when they practice but then can't keep it together in a match. And conversely, pusher/grinder types that look awful but just win.

    And of course we all know how good we are collectively at judging playing levels by watching a video of a player :oops:

    Really the only thing that makes a 3.5 a 3.5, is that he/she gets results that place him/her above a 3.0 and below a 4.0.
     
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  33. Brian11785

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    ....Assuming no manipulation of the ratings through tanking matches and the like.
     
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  34. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

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    I actually just looked up the record of one of the guys I was talking about and he is 11-0 and will most likely get bumped. He had a lot of close matches with strong 4.5s though. I actually split sets with him in a practice match and was pretty much in control the whole match. I let up at 3-0 in the second set. Sadly I have a lot of similar stories this year.
     
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  35. asimple

    asimple Semi-Pro

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    You seem to be set in your beliefs that there is a huge conspiracy in people controlling their ratings to achieve the ultimate goal of a national 3.5 championship. I am new to leagues but have played extensively (40 matches) in both 4.0 and 4.5 this year and haven't seen any of it, but have constantly heard about it. There are guys that are underrated but for most of them there are reasonable explanations like returning to tennis after a long absence or not understanding the ratings. On these teams which were almost all top of league there was only one guy who was shaving games, and frankly he was not even close to being bumped.
     
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  36. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    There is not a huge conspiracy. This is one captain (I'm sure every section has one) who has figured out how to get to nationals. He did last year and probably will again this year with a different crop of guys. Is very active in recruiting of players who've never played USTA; plays UltimateTennis (4.0 and 4.5) just to find guys to play on his 3.5 team. Plays them in the fall to get a computer rating, tanking a few matches along the way. During the spring, they dominate. They go to nationals and most get bumped up (some to 4.5.) Rinse. Wash. Repeat with new guys.

    Again, all respect to the guy. He wins because he is the most devoted captain in the section, as far as recruitment goes. He cares the most, and, in that regard, deserves to win. But that doesn't mean I have to pretend that his team is actually a team of 3.5s.
     
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  37. Velvet Ga el

    Velvet Ga el Rookie

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    As a former 3.5 level guy who went to nationals, OP is pretty spot on. I was a computer ranked 3.5, but by the end of the season I was easily a 4.0. And there were guys who starched me at nationals, mostly self-rated cats. It was even worse my previous season at 3.0.

    It happens far less at the 4.0 level and above because the opportunities to be gained by playing down are less and most guys with 5.0 talent or above don't want to play down.
     
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  38. lostinamerica

    lostinamerica Semi-Pro

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    If his singles are beating your singles 0&0 and 0&1 in city playoffs, they aren't doing real well at score management. That is the worst score management I have seen. That actually sounds like they were not managing.
     
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  39. sovertennis

    sovertennis Semi-Pro

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    If you're hitting you're opponent's "out" serve into the net in front of you, then walking forward to retrieve it before he hits his second serve, that certainly is gamesmanship. You can't deliberately disrupt the rhythm between his first and second serve without offering him a first serve.
     
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  40. Brian11785

    Brian11785 Hall of Fame

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    At this point, they had their computer rating from the fall and were already bumped up for next season. So aside from politeness, there's no reason for them to holld back at this point. Checked the guy who won by double bagel. He hadn't played singles all season.
     
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  41. sovertennis

    sovertennis Semi-Pro

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    Same experience here. A lot of the nonsense that goes on in 3.0 or 3.5 disappears at 4.5. As an aside, I'll never understand why a 4.0/4.5 level player would want to play at 3.5 just so (as a previous poster wrote) he could win a pen at nationals.
     
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  42. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    I don't think it disappears, just reduces by the law of averages. There are much fewer unrated players that play over a 4.5 level to start with. And many of those are former pros and college players with no interest in rec leagues.

    Sandbag self rates surely exist at 4.5, but they are less common than at 3.0-4.0.
     
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