Is it a good idea or bad idea to play "down" if you want to move up?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, May 16, 2012.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    I have a friend and occasional doubles partner who is a 3.5. She is bound and determined to be bumped up this year. She plays 4.0 ladies, 7.0 mixed and 8.0 mixed.

    Last year, she played some 3.5 and 4.0 singles and thinks she did not get bumped up because of her poor singles results. She plays a very aggressive serve and volley game in singles and doubles, which yields a lot of spectacular winners but a lot of errors also.

    Before the spring season, she was on the fence about playing 3.5. Her pro told her it would be a mistake to play 3.5 and she should only play 4.0. I don't know why he thinks this, although I suspect it is because she has said her goal is to move up.

    I told her I thought she should play 3.5 as well as 4.0. My feeling was this was her last year to introduce new skills and work on consistency before being bumped up, not to mention that being a strong 3.5 is just plain fun. I also think if you have a 4.0 game, you will dominate in 3.5 so that playing 3.5 will not drag you down.

    Recently, she played a 3.5 match with a new partner. They won, but she found it frustrating because her partner didn't do things like switch behind my friend when she poached. This experience reinforced her aversion to playing 3.5.

    What do you think? Can playing 3.5 hurt a player whose goal is to move up to 4.0?
     
    #1
  2. jdubbs

    jdubbs Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2010
    Messages:
    2,268
    Yes it will hurt her, tell her to play 4.0. Crushing opponents is not that much fun and will actually hurt her game, and will get boring after a while.
    4.0 will be a much more fun challenge.
     
    #2
  3. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2012
    Messages:
    1,965
    It never hurts to know how to beat everyone...3.5, 4.0, 4.5, etc. I'd say that if she is rated as a 3.5, she should play at that level and up if desired. She might find herself as a 4.0 in the future and playing combo with a 3.0...you never know
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
    #3
  4. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2007
    Messages:
    2,707
    Playing about 30% against players below you will allow you to practice shots that you wouldn't be able to under the pressure of higher competition.
     
    #4
  5. cak

    cak Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Messages:
    1,013
    Looking around my club, it looks like you advance in the computer faster if you play your level. Heck, the ones that advanced the fastest played only their level.

    Note: this is in the computer. It would probably help her game more to play up.
     
    #5
  6. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    Messages:
    6,404
    Location:
    The Great NW
    Since your friend plays doubles, although the posts above are true, in addition she will have better partners and thus play a different game of doubles by playing up.
     
    #6
  7. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2007
    Messages:
    4,045
    Location:
    NorCal Bay Area
    In general it depends on goals, and on tennis playing style.

    If the goal is to improve, independent of what the computer might do, then of course the best is to play at both levels. You get the exposure to the game at the higher level, but still get to learn how to beat those at your own level.

    If the primary goal is to get bumped up, then it depends on the style of game. Players that win through smarts and consistency are probably better of playing just at their level. Players that are aggressive are probably better of playing at just the higher level. This is because an aggressive player is likely to get pretty similar results regardless of the strength of the opponent (within reason of course), whereas a player that is more consistent will have more variance in results based on opposition.

    In your friend's case, since her primary goal is to get bumped up and she is an aggressive player, she should play only 4.0. Otherwise her inconsistency will lead to some dissappointing results in 3.5 that will reduce her chances of getting bumped up.

    EDIT: Just to mention again that in principle I am against players playing up, but I'm putting that aside for purposes of answering your question :)
     
    #7
  8. shell

    shell Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,337
    I can certainly buy into the rationale that OrangePower is offering. Your friend does sound like she could be fairly inconsistent, but would enjoy the 4.0 game style much more. Play up.
     
    #8
  9. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    Well, yes. She does play up.

    She has time and opportunity to play 3.5 and 4.0. The question is whether, given that she is already playing 4.0, she should also play 3.5.

    I was mulling the answers, and I think there may be a common misconception at play here. That misconception is that someone who is ready for a higher level could have such poor results at the lower level that it could prevent them from being bumped.

    Honestly, I do not see how that could happen, and I have never seen it happen.

    When someone is a strong 3.5 bordering on 4.0, that is what they are. They should be able dispatch other 3.5s routinely. If they encounter low 3.5 opponents, they should crush them without losing more than a couple of games. When they encounter high 3.5 opponents such as themselves, they should have a competitive match.

    If someone thinks they are 4.0 material, then they have nothing to fear from playing 3.5 also.

    They do, of course, have much to gain by playing 3.5. These things are:

    Learning to deal with no pace.
    Learning to deal with pushers.
    Learning to build and finish a point.
    Learning to deal with unexpected spins and placement.
    Learning how to play your game when you are expected to win.
    **Learning how to support a weaker partner.**

    This last one is absolutely key and something that cannot ever be practiced by a 3.5 who is playing up at 4.0.
     
    #9
  10. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782
    Cindy, you know you could darn well be writing this post about me. Though, I know you aren't, and while I'm not 'bound and determined' to get moved up, I kind of expected it last year.

    And I'm playing both 3.5 and 4.0. And I'm now faced with the real possibility of staying 3.5 another year, because I've already lost two 3.5 matches to computer rated 3.5 players (plus one to a self rate).

    At the end of the day, it is what it is. But if my number one goal was to move up, I would only play 4.0.
     
    #10
  11. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    I haven't looked up your opponents, but . . .

    I would not assume you won't be bumped up because of two singles losses to computer-rated 3.5s. If your scores were close, it is quite likely they will be bumped up and your loss is strong enough to get you bumped up also. Geez, when I bumped from 3.0 to 3.5, I barely had a winning record.

    Anyway, I am glad your number one goal isn't to move up. Moving up without having the skills to move up is kind of pointless. Me, I think you will move up because you play a 4.0 level of tennis.

    Cindy -- off to go look at Topaz's recent match results
     
    #11
  12. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    OK, Topaz. This is nuts.

    Your record for 2012 in 3.5 singles is 13-2. You are frequently giving up just 2-3 games for each win. In one loss, you won 8 games; in the other loss you won 5 games.

    So how are your 3.5 results possibly hurting you?
     
    #12
  13. dcdoorknob

    dcdoorknob Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2010
    Messages:
    3,560
    I guess I just don't get the mentality honestly. If one does only play up and somehow manage to get bumped up despite not learning how to easily dispatch those that are not at the top of their current level, I don't hold out much hope for that person when it comes to actually winning very often at the higher level. So congrats on manipulating the system into putting you at a level which is higher than your skillset will let you even achieve mediocre results. Really what fun is that?
     
    #13
  14. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2007
    Messages:
    4,045
    Location:
    NorCal Bay Area
    This is no misconception. I personally know a couple of 4.0 players who also play up at 4.5, and they have similar success (about .333) at both levels.

    Let me illustrate how this can happen using an extreme example: Imagine a player with a 5.5 level serve but 3.5 level ROS and groundstrokes. This player holds serve 90% of the time whether playing against a 4.0 or a 4.5. Somewhat randomly and rarely, this player can fluke a ROS winner. So this player can win some matches by (a) holding serve, and (b) lucking out with a few winner returns strung together in one game to break serve. The success rate of this player will be very similar at both 4.0 and 4.5, although at both levels this player will lose more than he wins due to his general inability to break or to contend in a rally.

    The above example is extreme, but you get the picture - an aggressive, risk-taking player can, on the occassional 'on' day, beat players at a higher level, but on the more common 'off' day, lose to players of the same level.

    In terms of how this impacts ratings:

    A 3.5 (for example) playing up at 4.0, and winning say one in three, actually has a decent chance of getting bumped up (depending on exact scores, opponents' ratings, yada yada). That's assuming no matches at 3.5. But if that same 3.5 was also playing at 3.5, and winning one in three, that would likely be enough to drag down their DNTRP and keep them at 3.5.

    [EDIT: Just adding my standard disclaimer for the record that I am in principle against playing up.]
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
    #14
  15. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    I will see your hypothetical and raise you a baseless argument.

    Yeah, you've identified a fluky situation, but it is one that doesn't happen often if at all.

    More typical is a player wins most of the time at the lower level and has competitive losses at the higher level.

    I suppose it is possible to have an aggressive player who plays her A game at 4.0 but pushes at 3.5, figuring that is the best way to win. Because pushing is her B game, she is not good at it and has competitive results at 3.5 when she should perhaps dominate. Or perhaps she gets tight at 3.5 because it would be so embarrassing to lose to an "inferior" opponent.
     
    #15
  16. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2007
    Messages:
    4,045
    Location:
    NorCal Bay Area
    Absolutely agree with the bolded part. But I do have two real-word examples (players I know) that when 'on' (maybe 25% of the time) are competitive 4.5s, and when 'off' (75% of the time) are weak 4.0s. They have very big games but are extremely inconsistent, and wouldn't know how to tone it down even if they wanted to.
     
    #16
  17. JoelDali

    JoelDali G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    Messages:
    10,496
    What overgrip does she use?

    I would tell her to continue GOATing the 3.5s then she'll get bumped and start Annaconing(tm) the mid tier 4.0 players.

    If she switches to an all poly setup it will psych out all of the low end 4.0 spider vein hackers.

    I think I know who this poast is about.

    :D
     
    #17
  18. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782
    Because you know, as well as I do, that your record has nothing to do with it. Too many of those wins, already, were 'competitive'. One was 10-8 in a TB, and another was a sudden death point. Three losses to 3.5s (one of the 4.0 losses was to a 3.5).

    So, yeah, those things, even if I win, can lower my DNTRP. Still lots of matches to go though.

    So I take a risk when I play 3.5 singles...of losing and staying down. To eliminate that possibility, I could just play 4.0, where I would likely win a few, have a few competitive losses, and get blown out a few times. But that would probably be enough to get bumped.

    I *do* think I know who you are talking about...
     
    #18
  19. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782
    This is a good point...and there are more than a few players I know who are complaining about being bumped up. I look at them and say 'what did you expect, you plowed through everyone at 3.5'. But now they are just 'average', and that doesn't sit so well!
     
    #19
  20. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782
    But, Cinday, an argument in FAVOR of what your former partner is doing was perfectly displayed last night. A match where it looks like I blew someone out, where all I had to do was stand there, occasionally serve second serves (didn't need to hit first serves) and sometimes return.

    Those kinds of matches don't help my game. And it didn't even help my confidence, because I know full well she did all the work to lose that match. I didn't really have much to do with it.
     
    #20
  21. smarog

    smarog New User

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2011
    Messages:
    48
    This. Just play at your level and the rest will sort itself out. You'll get bumped when the computer says so. Quit wasting other people's time by playing up.
     
    #21
  22. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    But . . . That kind of match does help your game. Are you saying there is no way you could have lost?

    All it would have taken was a bad night. A loss of focus. The fact that you managed to win without leaking games against a weak opponent is progress, right?

    And I doubt you can identify the lady. Indeed, it could have been written about any of three people.

    And yes, the bump to 4.0 stinks. Why people are so bound and determined is beyond me. Me, I wanted a 4.0 game, not a 4.0 rating.
     
    #22
  23. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782
    Ok...devil's advocate.

    I'm a benchmark 3.5. I play up. I've won at 4.0. I've lost at 3.5. So what is the harm of me playing up at 4.0 as well as 3.5? Clearly I didn't waste the time of the people I beat or played competitively. So why not?
     
    #23
  24. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782
    I'm starting to think that wins like that, that don't really require me to do anything other than keep the ball in play, are making me a bit lazy. I dunno. Just a theory. And yes, it was that bad.

    KH?

    And it is true...it isn't as if I'm not capable of blowing a huge lead (I've already done it this season!). I would say that my mental focus has improved. Yet, I still did not use last night's match to work on things like...slice, or serve and volley. Because I do know just how tenuous that focus can be.

    But it was still pretty terrible.

    And you also know that a 4.0 rating does not necessarily equal a 4.0 game!!!!
     
    #24
  25. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    Of course you should play up.

    So. Why didn't you use plan B when you were way ahead in the score?
     
    #25
  26. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782
    Plan B? hahahahaha...

    I don't really have one!

    Big leads can slip away quickly! In that one match that went to a match TB...I was up 5-0 in the first set. Uh hunh. Ugly, but true!
     
    #26
  27. Rjtennis

    Rjtennis Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,788
    I would rather play at a level where I am at the lower end of the field. It helps me to improve and gives me a good idea of what areas of the game I need to improve on. To each his own, but I think playing up helps you to improve more rapidly.
     
    #27
  28. Maui19

    Maui19 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2010
    Messages:
    1,649
    Interesting topic. There are a lot of challenges to improving one's game, but one of the biggest is that you have to learn how to hit good shots against better pace, spin, consistency and strategy. I don't see how you can do that playing at a 3.5 level--I just don't see much to be gained (although the thought about learning how to play with a weak partner is interesting).

    When you play up, you face the kind of challenges that make you a better player. It just pushes and stretches you. Of course, if you are terrible when playing up, then maybe you aren't ready, but if you are playing at the top of the 3.5 level, then you should be able to play 3rd court 4.0 competitively.

    Personally, I can't stand playing at my level (senior 3.5). It is just such awful, disinteresting tennis. I see no point in it. You get no exercise, you get no challenge (hit the ball back successfully 3 times and you will win 99% of the points), and you learn little to nothing.
     
    #28
  29. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    Let me sell you on the value of playing with a weaker player. :)

    As I said, my friend plays a very aggressive style and makes errors. She prefers partners who take the net and who know what to do when she comes to net. When she plays 7.5 combo now, she gets very strong 4.0 partners.

    So. What happens when she moves from 3.5 to 4.0 in November and plays 7.5 combo? She will have a 3.5 partner. This 3.5 partner will make more errors, 'cause that's what the lower-ranked player on a combo team does. The 3.5 player will probably not transition well or at all. The 3.5 might defer too much, leaving the 4.0 covering too much of the court. And the 3.5 probably won't know how to play with someone who does transition to net.

    My friend is going to have to figure out a way to win given her partner's limitations. This might mean staying back when her Plan A is to come in. It might mean finding a way to be more steady while still being aggressive. It might mean experimenting with new formations and tactics to find a way to win. It will often mean finding ways to get into the point when the opponents target your partner the entire match. It will definitely mean finding ways to avoid having her partner retreat to her shell like a turtle.

    Now might be a very good time to learn to partner with those sorts of 3.5 players -- especially when there will be two 3.5s across the net rather than a 4.0/3.5 pair.
     
    #29
  30. Herdsman76

    Herdsman76 Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2010
    Messages:
    308
    Although I'm relatively new to the board but not new to tennis, am I correct to assume this thread is more related to league matches rather than tournament matches?

    It might not be useful but as a 3.5 tournament player, I thought I'd share my take. Because I've never been interested in league tennis, I find myself looking for players to play matches until the next tournament comes around. In Texas, we have enough tournaments that I could literally play one a weekend. My point is that I have friends at various levels ranging from 3.5 to 4.5+ and hitting/playing matches with them has given me the experience to have some success in the tournaments.

    I consider myself a middle of the road 3.5 only because I'm not cleaning up at every tournament. But I've beaten my friends who are solid 4.0 players.

    I thought about playing both 3.5 and 4.0 in tournaments but I'm still working more on my stamina than anything... As we all know, Texas heat ain't quite that friendly to tennis players. Especially out of shape ones like me.

    The bottom line is that the player should do what's best for them. Even if they do play league tennis. Just continue to work on your game and you'll be fine. Eventually you'll level out. Getting there is what makes it fun.
     
    #30
  31. storypeddler

    storypeddler Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2005
    Messages:
    565
    Location:
    Hickory, NC
    I don't really have an answer for the original question. I just find it fascinating and hilarious to read about players who want, more than anything, to be bumped up to a higher NTRP level. And I apologize if I offend anyone with this comment, but in my experience, 9 out of 10 of them are women. As if your computer rating had anything at all to do with your actual ability to win or lose matches. I know women who would rather be a 4.0 rated player who lost every match in league than a 3.5 rated player who went undefeated. Maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but all the male players I know just chuckle over this whole ego-boosting drama.

    One question, though...if she really IS that much stronger than all the 3.5 competition, why hasn't the computer bumped her up already? And since it hasn't, maybe that should tell her something---regardless of what she wants to happen. If it's just about strong competition, she can always play up. If she is really a 4.0 skill-wise, it won't take long to get bumped up. And again, if it doesn't happen, maybe there is a reason it shouldn't. Just saying...
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
    #31
  32. storypeddler

    storypeddler Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2005
    Messages:
    565
    Location:
    Hickory, NC
    I know a couple players exactly like the ones you are describing. And you are dead on target.
     
    #32
  33. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    6,782

    In my experience, 9 out of 10 underrated/lying on their self rate form/sand baggers I know are men. They would rather be a 3.5 undefeated player who blows everyone out than play at their actual level and risk losing a match. I just chuckle over this whole frail-ego thing.

    Just sayin....
     
    #33
  34. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    I just think it is kind of sad that some people can't be happy to be at the top of their level. The year before being bumped was like a victory lap. I had so much fun. I honestly did not care whether the computer bumped me up or not. I just played.

    If these ladies do get bumped for 2013, will any look back on 2012 and say they had a great time? How could they, with all the anxiety about what a nameless, faceless computer is going to do?
     
    #34
  35. Maui19

    Maui19 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2010
    Messages:
    1,649
    But don't you find the quality of tennis at 4.0 to be much more enjoyable than that at 3.5? I simply can't stand to play 3.5 anymore. I sometimes get smoked at higher levels, but it is always interesting and fun.
     
    #35
  36. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    Yes, last year I found the quality of tennis at 4.0 to be enjoyable.

    But only when it was enjoyable.

    If you are a strong 3.5, it can be less than enjoyable to destroy 3.5s.

    If you are a strong 3.5, it can be less than enjoyable to get destroyed by 4.0s.

    When you play your level (in addition to the higher level) you hopefully get your reward eventually: exciting, challenging, pressure matches at Districts and beyond.

    Boy, I remember one 3.5 match last year. I was winning my 3.5 matches easily, so I resolved to work on my Plan B. I started S&V (I usually stayed back and moonballed). Four approach volley errors and I had been broken. I tossed Plan B out the window and went to Plan A, and we won easily.

    Even in a 3.5 season when I went something like 13-0, 3.5 presented a challenge and I learned my plan B needed serious work.
     
    #36
  37. Angle Queen

    Angle Queen Professional

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2010
    Messages:
    838
    Location:
    On the deuce side, looking to come in
    You could be talking about me, too, Cindy. I am an aggressive S/Ver unless the conditions clearly indicate otherwise.

    Like Topaz, you can check out my record. And, like her, I somewhat expected the bump to 4.0 and didn't get it. But I'm not disappointed. As a "top" 3.5, I play on, and for, the teams I want to by my choice and my various captains. To me, my NTRP is merely a number. It may set a prescribed limitation but I, and market forces, ultimately determine where I play under USTA conditions. If I were not competitive at the level-of-play, no one would ask me to be on their team. That's why I sincerely appreciate the rules' willingness to let me do so. USTA aside, I have a wide variety of folks to play with...whether they are 3.0 or 4.5s. I hope that is because I not only have the skill-set, but the attitude to "play along."

    In the grander scheme, I enjoy both 3.5 and 4.0 play, regardless of if I'm on the giving or receiving end of the beatdown...although I sincerely endeavor to waste no one's time. If I'm clearly the stronger player, I'll work on things...even to the point of giving my opponents shots I've identified as their strengths (or capabilities, in the case of an obvious injury). If I'm the weaker, I'll lay it all on the line, put out every effort possible to win every point, every game. And, regardless of the scoreline, I've usually received/offered complimentary words at the conclusion. That tells me more than any computer rating or internet forum could.

    So, don't get all wrapped up in your friend's desire/pursuit. It is what it is. As long as she's enjoying herself, don't give it a second thought...except to help her along in her endeavor.
     
    #37
  38. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2006
    Messages:
    15,067
    AQ, what will you think and do if you are not bumped in November?

    I think I mentioned in one thread or another that a few years ago I set a goal to become 4.0 by the year I turned 50.

    The instant I set that goal, I started playing badly. I found myself picky about partners, opponents, court assignment. I got frustrated if I couldn't get in the line-up at 4.0. Instead of focusing on playing well and winning matches, I was focused on gaming the system and getting a certain result.

    The minute I tossed that goal out the window, I started playing relaxed tennis and just working with whatever partner came my way. And I started winning.

    AQ, did you ever set a "goal" of being bumped to 4.0? Did you have a similar experience?
     
    #38

Share This Page