Practice Games: Your Approach?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by TimothyO, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    In practice games what's your approach:

    A: Play as in a league match and try to win no matter what?

    B: Play aggressively, not caring about W/L, while pushing the envelope on technique?

    I have many friends who take approach A. They win lots of practice games but over the last year+ they seem to play the same or even more conservatively! One friend who used to complain about lack of pace and passive play has become the Perfect Pusher in her league play (3.5 women's singles)...she wins constantly as a result but she CAN'T hit with pace now...everything is a floater to the middle. And she plays the same way in practice!

    I start out a session using approach A for a couple of games to find my "foundation" but then I switch to B to build confidence when hitting more aggressively in match play. And so even though I've been playing for a much shorter period of time than my Fellow low level friends I can now serve better (no dinky waiter-second serve...a proper kick serve)...and I can T-off on floaters quite well.

    It just seems like such a waste playing a "conservative match game" during an entire practice. Is there a benefit to taking that approach for an entire session? Should I be doing that?

    The funny thing is since I've focused on hitting winners off floaters I can easily win games by patiently waiting for the usual dinker-floater seen in low level play...I just don't see the point of doing that during an entire practice session.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
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  2. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

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    I usually go with a practice agenda. Sometimes it is topspin second serve only to backhand. Sometimes serve to wide and volley. Sometimes just grind from back court hitting cross courts. Sometimes just chip and charge. Practicing in a game setting is very effective for me. I have been able to improve much quicker compared to some of my conservative mates.
     
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  3. holytennis

    holytennis New User

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    I suggest you go with B. The whole point of practice matches is to take risks, and try out new things. That is the only way you can learn new things and improve your game.
     
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  4. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    don´t forget the tactical side of training. trying to figure out how to beat a strong opponent should be part of your practice.
    so it´s not only play conservatively or risky but also play smart:)
     
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  5. maxpotapov

    maxpotapov Hall of Fame

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    I would play any match with approach B.
    Trying to win no matter what destroys my game. Trying to do the right thing no matter what score actually helps me to make progress and win more. "Lose the battle win the war" approach made Pete Sampras into a champion:
     
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  6. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    Max,

    In my own tiny, pathetic, low level way I did the same thing during my last singles season. I knew I'd have to forfeit some matches as we were dealing with my father in law's illness and imminent death. With zero hope of winning the division I played as aggressively as possible.

    It's not like I was a wild man and hit balls over the fence. But I did push my personal envelope on serve pace and placement, deep and low slices, and maximum topspin. I won a few games but lost every match. Best thing I ever did for my confidence!

    No longer had any nerves. By the end of the season I could put practice serve after practice serve in on my first attempt which freaked out opponents. And even when an opponent was clearly ahead they STILL got massively nervous and began to choke while I remained calm.

    I doubt I'll play that extreme in the future but I'll certainly be more confident and calm than in the past.
     
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  7. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    Excellent point! And something I initially forgot last night during some practice games.

    I was paired with a very weak female player against a very experienced male and wall-like female pusher. At first I didn't pay attention to the opponents whom I've known for a year. I was just testing my new strings and doing some stuff our ALTA coach told us to focus on.

    We lost the first few games and then we started to focus on the opponents. Both had weak backhands which we attacked. The pusher-female couldn't handle pace so I started hiitting harder to her and she starting hitting late and wide. The male liked to feed off pace with spinny shots so we dinked him...and he then over-apun shots into the net or hit long.
     
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  8. maxpotapov

    maxpotapov Hall of Fame

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    I always had really weak nerves, my knees were literally giving up and hands were shaking and almost cried every time I played a competition when I was a junior, unless opponent was way weaker than me. Now, this is how I had to compensate - completely numb myself by countless defeats, while trying to overcome my technical weakness. As a result, I don't even have a concept of second serve any more. I can serve two weaker serves when I need to catch my breath, but usually I just hit two first serves as I don't want any fear to miss to creep into my mind. And my double faults are now down to 15% or so :) Pete Sampras approach really works.

     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
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  9. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    My approach is the same in practice and match play: (1) focus on executing my shots one shot at a time, and (2) focus on executing my gameplan one point at a time.
     
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  10. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    I don't understand why there is such a divide between the two. Playing aggressively doesn't have to mean teeing off on the first ball you get, aiming at the lines. That's just low percentage tennis and is a losing strategy. That's a mental issue, not a technique issue. That said, trying to win no matter what doesn't have to mean chipping and pushing every ball into the middle of the court.
     
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  11. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Excellent! It continues to surprise me how many tennis players don't understand the fundimentals of high percentage tennis.
     
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  12. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

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    when i go out on practice matches i play my same strategy, but gutsier. i go more for the lines, hit harder, more spin, run around forehands, etc. i use practice matches more as confidence builders for my shots. like hell if i can do this now, why cant i do this in a match.
     
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  13. maxpotapov

    maxpotapov Hall of Fame

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    Yet that's almost always the case with level 4.5 and below players
    For higher level players definition of "winning no matter what" changes of course, but those players have enough confidence in their technique and other fundamentals
     
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  14. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    For discussion purposes I present them as two options but there are of course shades of gray here.

    The key is that "high percentage tennis" varies SIGNIFICANTLY by level.

    Hitting very deep cross-court with significant pace using strong top spin is "high percentage tennis" for skilled players and a losing proposition for low skilled or new players.

    The timing requirements for such shots provide little margin for error. It takes lots of practice to hit deep with pace using spin because the timing is harder than for flatter, low paced, loopy shots to the middle of the court.

    But that's "high percentage tennis" for lower skilled or new players. In so many 2.5, 3.0, or even 3.5 matches it's the player who hits slow but consistently who beats the player trying to pull off aggressive winners.

    A female 3.5 singles friend of mine has only lost a few of the many matches she has played over the last 18 months. She has repeatedly and steadily won her divisions and lost only one match on a USTA 3.5 team as their line one singles player. She hits with zero pace, her shots are loopy to the middle, has a hard first serve that's in only at random, and a dinky/floater second serve. She just hits in until her opponent hits out or into the net by getting frustrated. She refuses to practice more aggressive shots because she wins quite easily with this approach which is doomed against better players who T-off winners on her floaters (I'm not a 3.5 player but have practiced EXTREMELY hard against floaters since I noticed they're so common at my low level...I relish the chance to attack high floaters since I've spent so much practice time hitting winners off them...except for a good second serve the rest of my game is still noobish!) :) She knows she doesn't NEED more aggressive shots to win at 3.0-3.5 since so many players at these levels beat themselves by over-hitting.

    So I choose to "hit above my wieght" in practice games so that in match play I'll be able to hit a little more aggressively with confidence.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
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  15. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    High percentage tennis varies by level (see above).

    If 2.5-3.5 players tried to hit like Nadal every shot they'd lose (lots try and the do lose with amazing frequency).

    At the same time if Nadal hit like winning 2.5-3.5 players with low paced, loopy shots that clear the net high and fall well inside the baseline he'd be doomed.
     
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  16. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    High percentage tennis is a tactics issue, not a technique or execution issue, and applies equally to all levels of tennis.

    BTW, Nadal typically hits balls that clear the net high, and land well inside the baseline. But, he hits the crap out of the ball.
     
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  17. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

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    i think you need to practice your tactics and try to be somewhat match like in practice games because thats what you will have to be doing when its match time. But also you should be ballsier on some shots because thats how you win matches. So i kinda think you should go for that DTL BH drive more times than you really should. and i think you should go harder because if you know can repeatedly hit a a little deeper or a little closer to the lines, then why not go for it in a match.

    so op, i know exactly what you mean.
     
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  18. maxpotapov

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    How would you formulate high percentage concept for 3.5 level players? Can you provide few examples?..
     
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  19. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    At the tactics level I agree (eg hitting cross court groundies).

    And at the technique level there are certain fundamentals that apply to both noobs and the ATP top four in stroke mechanics.

    But how those fundamentals are applied means that Nadal can routinely hit the crap out of balls taking groundies well below the net and return them with amazing pace using top spin. Low level players trying that in a match lose....fast.
     
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