Playing to win.....or playing to get better.

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by cigrmaster, Dec 20, 2009.

  1. cigrmaster

    cigrmaster Semi-Pro

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    On Monday I found myself playing to win to the detriment of my game. I play on a regular basis a 4.0 player who is 33( I am 52) and runs like the wind. He gets everything back and the only way I can beat him is to abuse his backhand with my down the line slice ( I am lefty) and coming to net and playing a conservative all around game.

    After beating him 4 and 4 on Monday, I decided enough was enough. My down the line top spin forehand is pathetic and my favorite shot, my backhand topspin to either side is being struck way too conservatively and not being hit with power for out right winners.

    I decided I am going to work on my game no matter the score. I lost 3 and 3 but I was beginning to get my game back. I hit a ton of unforced errors and about 15 double faults but I felt good. I have now made a commitment to forget the stupid score and to just start hitting the ball like I know how.

    Does anyone else find themselves doing this?
     
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  2. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    All the time! But there are two sides to this. First, you want to win, you see what you need to do to beat the very flawed people you play. Eventually you see the limitations of this. Sure you can beat these people, but will you ever learn to play with the big dogs playing that way? You begin to play to improve, not to win.

    You start to hit the ball with power, and you don't worry as much about it staying in. You lose all the time, but you just shrug because your goal is to improve, not to beat these hackers. Then you come across a highly rated player whose weapons seem to be accuracy more than power. You begin to wonder if you aren't pursuing the wrong goals. Perhaps if you'd stayed with your accuracy game, you might be as good as this guy? Then you overhear top ranked players talking about how power is over-rated, and that plenty of great players don't smash the ball that hard. So you question yourself again.

    So what type of game does allow a person to get better? There have been alot of different styles even at the very top of the game over the years. But you won't master a style if you keep changing your mind about what you need to do. I've always been a poor sprinter, but a good long distance runner. I'm not very tall, so I think it wouldn't make sense for me to try to become a serve and volley player. I work on outlasting my opponent from the backcourt. Figure out what your strengths are and build on them.
     
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  3. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Once you know how to win, using the lesser player in the best way for your game is perfectly reasonable. In fact many would say it is optimal.

    However, that only applies after you actually beat the guy. Not after you decide that you are "better" with any other criteria than actually beating the guy in matchplay.
     
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  4. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    it doesn't matter if you win or lose as long as you look good :)
    (so i am in the camp of playing to get better)
     
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  5. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    But if you don't win, you're not better.
     
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  6. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    nope, you are not better than the guy who beat you but you are getting better by having worked on your shots.

    if winning was that important, people would play with lower level players and avoid playing with players who are at their level or higher.
     
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  7. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I agree with your points, but in the context of the OP's thread, working on your strokes to get "better" before you actually can beat the guy, is losing the opportunity to work on winning, which is more important than working on your strokes.
     
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  8. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    the solution is to work on his shots with another hitting partner for a month a so and then schedule a rematch with the guy who has beaten him :)
     
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  9. AlpineCadet

    AlpineCadet Hall of Fame

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    I do both, depending on the score, but most of the time it's apparently "playing to get better" because I don't hold back much. :X
     
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  10. Lex

    Lex Rookie

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    Now that you've figured out how to beat the guy, play more aggressive and see if you can destroy him another way.

    With that strategy, you can hit your more aggressive shots and get some work in other areas.
     
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  11. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Actually I think you really need both.

    You need to have matches where you are deliberately being aggressive, for game improvement.

    You need to have matches where you find a way to win no matter what, in order to get match tough.

    And you need to be doing both in actual match conditions. It's easy to go for your shots during practices. Not as easy when you're keeping score.

    Obviously there's a time and a place for everything. If you are playing a tournament or league match where a win is important, that's not the time to decide to be aggressive come what may.

    But during friendly matches, make your mind up at the beginning of the match whether you are going for the win or going to be aggressive, and then stick with it either way.
     
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  12. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    I agree you need both... I also agree if you want to improve in the long run there are times that you might go through a losing period while learning.

    As mentioned no matter how much you practice it is different for some people when they have to take into matchplay. Some people have better focus and preform even better, while others crumble under the pressure of expectation.

    There is no real answer to this question as everyone needs to decide if winning today is more important than building a possible strong foundation for the future.

    Oh... and of course there are those that would rather look good, and thats ok too. It is all about the individual.
     
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  13. papatenis

    papatenis Semi-Pro

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    Let's say we played each other 100 times, and you win 51 to my 49. Does that make you better than me?
    I think winning is when you gave everything on the court.
     
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  14. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    I think it depends what you are trying to achieve... if the goal is to win the match... then yes you lost. But if the goal is to improve you strokes under the pressure of matchplay, and you are accomplishing that... then maybe you are winning. You have not have won yet... but you are getting closer to your ultimate goal.
     
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  15. kevsaenz

    kevsaenz Rookie

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    playing sets or playing 11's i play to win. drills like down the lines or cross courts are for working on strokes imo.
     
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  16. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    im playing 7-8 years. very much still improving. taking lessons 2x week and playing 2xweek. against the lower players i run around my fore hand to hit backhands. i topspin bh returns instead of slice.i look at those games as lessons at no charge:) when i play league or matches that are important i try hit my best shots.
     
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  17. papatenis

    papatenis Semi-Pro

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    You are a true tennis player! BRAVO
     
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  18. darrinbaker00

    darrinbaker00 Professional

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    Yes.

    I think you must not win a lot of matches.
     
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  19. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    hey. maybe that's why federer lost the 5th set to del potro at the 2009 US open final.
    federer was going for his best shots but they failed to go in.
     
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  20. papatenis

    papatenis Semi-Pro

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    Del Potro won because he hit his "best shots".
     
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  21. papatenis

    papatenis Semi-Pro

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    Win or lose, I play for the fun of it.
     
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  22. andfor

    andfor Hall of Fame

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    True. Goes without saying and because most of us here are not pros playing for fun should always be a goal. Now how one prioritizes their own personal goals are an individual preference.

    Example goals:
    Giving 100% effort in each match and practice.
    Good sportsmanship.
    Emotional control. Not getting mad.
    Playing to win. Playing for fun. NOTE: These two can go together if one wants.
    Improving a deficiant shot or getting in better shape, stronger faster, etc.

    In matches for me playing to win is always the objective. But not the primary focus. 100% effort, good sportsmanship, emotion control (always a work in progress) and executing a game plan or adjusting a losing game plan are my personal and primary focus. In the end goals and objectives are different for everyone.

    I would suggest playing with the game you have to win during matches that matter in tournaments or team events is the first way to go. Playing practice matches and trying to implement new shots and tactics are the best way to then make them ready for primetime.

    Good luck out on the courts.
     
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  23. papatenis

    papatenis Semi-Pro

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    You couldn't of said it better. BRAVO!

    For me, I play my game, if my opponent has a better game, then he wins.

    Tennis is a simple game, don't make it complicated, go out and have fun!
     
    #23
  24. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Of all the players I've went against that range from 2.5 all the way up to 4.5, I feel like we all had significant limitations in our strokes, when compared to an elite player in the 5.0+ range. The best players might've been consistent, but didn't have weapons to pressure their opponent or end points when the opportunity was there. Those that had weapons, were very inconsistent with their strokes.

    I feel like if someone were to spend most of their time working on all their strokes, basically working on various depths, angles, amounts of spin, etc. and with minimal actual competitive match play, they would still reach a decent level of play before significant match experience and playing with the right strategy for an opponent would actually be necessary.

    My take is that the lower the level of the player, the more time should be spent working on the strokes, and less time to be spent playing matches. Which interestly, the exact opposite is usually the case in reality. Then as skills start leveling out, you need to find ways to maximize your game with the tools you've got that probably aren't getting any better.
     
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  25. Jim A

    Jim A Professional

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    For me it depends on the situation.

    For a league/tournament match, the goal is to win. I'm not going to work on things if I paid $40 to play or have teammates counting on me. Every point/game/set matters

    Anything outside of that is fair game. I had a great league/tournament record this year and atrocious outside of it (probably like 6-18) since the focus was completely different.
     
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  26. darrinbaker00

    darrinbaker00 Professional

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    Yes, and winning is much more fun than losing. ;)
     
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  27. papatenis

    papatenis Semi-Pro

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    Yes, only if you played your game.
     
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  28. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I respect your opinion and although I agree with your observations, I come to the opposite conclusion.

    I agree that the lower the level of the player, the less honed their strokes are, all the way to to 5.0 and beyond. However, because of this reality the relative importance of the non-stroke component of matchplay (fitness, competitiveness, tactics, mental strength etc) are thus more important in the lower levels. So to win matches (which is the only real measure of tennis excellence) working on stroke production is always important but it is relatively less important in the more common levels (3.0 - 4.0).
     
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  29. ohplease

    ohplease Professional

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    Best post in the thread. I completely agree.
     
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  30. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I am better than you the days I win and worse the days I lost.
     
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  31. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I agree.........
     
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  32. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    Although I tend to agree with the observations... I disagree with the highlighted portion of it. In my opinion the only measure of tennis excellence is how far you are able to take your tennis game. Winning at the 3.0-4.0 level is is not a very high bar... and in order to improve beyond, then stroke production is important. So though winning early is a gauge of where you are in the process of being a skilled tennis player it is not the only determining factor. Building a strong foundation for your tennis game will serve you better in the long run over just winning. But I admit learning to win is also an important skill to have.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
    #32
  33. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I think we are in agreement but are addressing slightly different facets of the big picture. I agree that winning at 3.0 - 4.0 is not a high bar. However, I never said that it was. Whatever your definition of a high bar, winning at 4.5, 5.0, 5.5 etc... winning matches at that level (not stroke prowess) "is the only real measure of that tennis excellence". Of course, stroke improvement is a large part of that formula but it is only a part of the picture not the ultimate goal.
     
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  34. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I say you're both right. :)

    I think Raiden is right that most players don't practice enough.

    I think Lucky is right that things like fitness can win you a lot of matches.

    For the player who is interested in improvement, however, I think Raiden makes a good point. You can study all the tactics you want, but if you can't control the ball because of poor technique, then you won't do well. You can be as fit as a fiddle, but if you don't get in good position because of crummy footwork, you won't do well.

    I'd say the only time I play to win is when I am playing a league match. In practice matches, practice sessions and social matches, I am playing to develop a certain skill or achieve a certain goal. Sometimes I will lose a social or practice match because I insisted on doing a certain thing repeatedly until I get it right (say, lob the net player on the return). I lost the battle, but I figure I will win the war.
     
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  35. EKnee08

    EKnee08 Professional

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    It all depends on your goals!
    A match or sets which do not count for anything can be considered practice, when you are working on hitting various shots, strategies, etc as well as working on match toughness. That is, whatever, you want to work on. This way, you will improve. On the other hand, when you are participating in a tournament, a USTA league or country club league is another matter, you should employ your top game.

    Years ago, I played in a "Monday night" league at a local club specifically to work on the items above. When I played in tournaments against the same players as in the league, I brought my "A" game which over time improved due to the "practice" in the league.
     
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  36. matchmaker

    matchmaker Hall of Fame

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    The eternal question:

    I am on the side of trying to improve. However, one also has to try to be competitive, hitting to many UE's isn't good for anything.

    I often find that if my footwork is okay, I can go for quite a bit and still keep it in. It is a matter of concentration more than anything.

    Just today, my BH was rather messy in the beginning of the match. I could probably have started to run around it, but then I would not be doing myself a favor in the long run, as my backhand would never gain confidence. So I kept trying to hit it well, adjusting difficultly my footwork, but in the end I did hit a few good BH's, even some winners, although I kept on making some UE's, although less at the end than in the beginning.

    But now I feel a lot more confident in the shot. I am actually sure that if I could repeat all the points that led to a UE on my side, I would now be able to execute the shots well, and win the rally.

    I think what any player should try to develop is a complete game. Many low level players keep on hitting the same shots in order to win. These people, often called pushers, are actually very succesful on short term. But on long term they never substantially improve, so they will never go up to the higher categories.

    Of the pushers I know, I am sure, that if I met them at a tournament, I could win and hence I am not afraid of them. Sometimes in practice matches I will tank a game or even a set if conditions are very hot and nothing is at stake. But I know that if I bring my A game, I have nothing to fear.
     
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  37. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    To do our best we can all benefit from the full package (strokes, fitness, mental game etc). Thus anyone who argues that strokes are not important is wrong. In my experience very few, if any folks underemphasize stroke importance, if anything most view stroke prowess = tennis excellence, which is incorrect, winning matchplay = tennis excellence. Of course strokes are a major part of winning (probably the single biggest part) but the minor pieces of the puzzle usually are emphasized below their relative importance in my experience, hence my previous posts.
     
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  38. jc4.0

    jc4.0 Professional

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    If you're playing in a tournament or league match, I say focus on your strengths, bring the best game you can to the court that day; don't experiment too much.

    If you're playing with your buddies or just a club ladder, definitely forget the score and work on game improvement, every single time. If you don't work on your game it will atrophy, so find a good coach and take clinics too.

    One more bit of advice - You should play people who are better than you at every opportunity, because you'll learn a lot, and it will bring up the level of your game. If you're losing a lot, schedule a few matches with people more on your level to keep your confidence going. Don't play too much with lower level players, they'll just ingrain your bad habits and it won't advance your game.
     
    #38
  39. ALten1

    ALten1 Rookie

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    3.0 to 4.0 not a high bar. For who, a 5.0 player? I'm sure pro's think the 5.0 to 6.0 level is not a high bar. If you are a beginner winning at a low level is hard.
    I think you have to learn how to win to know what it's like to close out a match. Once a person learns how to win (which is typically going to be less accomplished players, like me) they should focus hard on getting better.
    I don't have a lot of tennis experience but I did grow up in a pool room.
     
    #39
  40. dlk

    dlk Hall of Fame

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    You know, I never thought about it much. In fact, I probably scoffed at it. But 100% effort does always translate into a satisfying experience when doing/playing anything, especially tennis. Despite rooted in selfish maxim, the side-effects usually result in a positive benefits to others.
    If anything, you know you did not cheat yourself in the pure workout of tennis. That naive running for everything is one of the most fun aspects of tennis. Staying 100% focused helps with everyday-life.
     
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  41. mtommer

    mtommer Hall of Fame

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    I agree. I actually want to feel I've accomplished something if I win and "just winning" isn't what I seek to accomplish.
     
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  42. TennisNinja

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    How about... Playing to get better so I can win!
     
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  43. cigrmaster

    cigrmaster Semi-Pro

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    Well the experiment is still a work in progress. Thanks for everyone's responses, very interesting opinions.

    I have been playing my regular partner and we are now pretty much at the point where when I go for everything and work on what I need to the score is tie break he wins or 7-5 he wins.

    Wednesday we played and it was freezing here in Florida( 60 degrees) and I decided to just play strategy and crucify his backhand and beat him 6-3 3-1 and we retired. I was in the mood to let him know I could still beat him when ever I wanted.

    Thursday I played my cousin who is another human backboard who runs like the wind but is older than I am. I worked on things the first set and lost 6-2, and then decided to murder his back hand and play to win and won 6-3.

    I took a lesson a couple of weeks ago to work on my down the line forehand and my forehand volley. While we were playing the pro told me I need to use my power game, hit winners and stay out of long rallies. He said you are just to old and slow. My conditioning was much better a couple of months when it was much hotter and I was playing more. Once it warms up again, if I can drop 20 pounds and get down to 205 ( I'm 6' 4") I am hoping my speed will get better.

    Through all of this I have still been experimenting with what type of strings I should be playing with. I am trying soft poly's and co poly's. I had been playing over the summer with Luxillon but it hurt my arm( loved the way I played), then switched to Gamma Pro, but that was way too lively. Tried some Goucho Gut which again was too lively, but I think I am getting closer to what I like.
     
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