Rally pace

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by vin, Jun 9, 2004.

  1. vin

    vin Professional

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    I am having trouble finding a good level of pace to consistently rely on during groundstroke rallies of a match. I normally try to hit the ball hard and this often causes me to tighten up, lose my timing, and sometimes injure myself. When I try to ease up, I end up being tentative and sometimes lose my timing just as bad as a result.

    What are the typical guidelines on how hard to hit the ball during a rally? I assume it's somewhat based on an individuals game and abilities. Any advice on how to determine the best rally pace for yourself and help improve consistency at that pace?

    Thanks,
    Vin
     
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  2. Cypo

    Cypo Rookie

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    I've found that my consistent pace also depends on the opponent - the slower/spinier the ball is, the lower the pace at which I can play it consistently. I suspect that more advanced players force their pace regardless of the opponent, but I can't. I hope to get there by being able to play consistently first.

    Anyway, one thing that helps is starting out with the intention of finding this pace for the match - early on concentrate on keeping rallies long. This also helps to relax and focus. I tell myself "deep and in", that's all I want to do, keep the ball deep and in. In the course of a rally, a ball will come (hopefully from your opponent) that can be played forcingly, and of course you play it that way, but whereas later in the match, you might be thinking "Ok I'll look to slice to that two handed backhand and come in" in the beginning just concentrate on keeping the rally going to get the feel for what the right balance between wailing and wimping.
     
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  3. ohplease

    ohplease Professional

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    For me, rally pace means hitting the ball just hard enough such that the odds of my opponent hurting me on any given shot is less than half. For most players, especially if you make them move a couple steps, this is much, much less pace than you think.

    There are two major advantages to this approach:

    1) Given that most players' shot tolerance rivals the attention span of a neurotic squirrel, simply hanging out, essentially daring your opponent to try a shot they can't reliably hit - this will win you a ton more points.

    2) You get to hit a lot of balls, initially. It's extremely unlikely that any amateur tennis player can consistently step in the ring with any opponent and start hitting winners. This approach lets you get a groove such that you can bang against this particular person, this particular day - only a little later - like when you're closing out the first set.

    Essentially, you're throwing down a gauntlet to your opponent, saying I don't believe you're good enough to consistently hurt me off the apparently weak shot that I just gave you. If they can, you're now in a position where they can drag you out of your comfort zone, and you're in trouble anyway, so you might as well go nuts and have some fun, because odds are, barring them breaking a leg or you playing out of your mind, you ain't gonna win.

    I've found that if the necessary rally pace to neutralize an opponent is such that I can execute that shot ~75-90% of the time, then it's an easy win. ~50-75 and we're looking at more of a dog fight. <50% and it's time for stupid tennis.

    Good luck.
     
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  4. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    I agree that early in the first set, it's good to just come out and see how many balls you can get in to get your consistency down even if you are losing points and some games. Then by the end of the set you will have confidence in your consistency and can decide whether you should be going for more or not. Don't try to crush a slow deep ball, just hit it back slow and high and deep. The timing is very difficult on slow balls. Easier to hit a fairly hard ball back fairly hard. Really a person needs to master 3 paces, slow, medium, and hard. Sounds like you either hit soft or hard and can't find that happy medium! Good luck.
     
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  5. orange223

    orange223 New User

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    Wow, kev and ohplease, I needed that type of advice. I lost a match Monday night to a guy who hits at about 70% of my pace. Have been asking myself for 3 days now, how did he beat me? He let me beat myself by his staying consistent and my "going for too much." Great advice you two gave.
     
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  6. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    You guys probably wont beleive this but a lot of your trouble with off pace balls is your footwork. Footwork not only involves how to move your feet, but the timing of your footwork as well.

    If you practice with hard hitting players all the time, your footwork timing will adjust to that. When you play against someone who is hitting slow balls over and over again and is going more for different placements and different heights you will find your timing to be off. A lot of it is coming from your feet. Grooving the feet with the energy of the swing is important.
     
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  7. KingBugsy

    KingBugsy Rookie

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    Bill- I feel I have gone through that situation many times. One day hitting with a player who hits with pace, then the next day hitting with someone who has no pace, and favors the moonballs. I have felt the loss of timing first hand. Personally I find it more difficult to adjust to that slow pace. Any advice on how to make the adjustment. Sometimes I feel like my feet are stuck in quicksand when playing an opponent with no pace...
     
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  8. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    I think alot of people's eyes get big when they see a slow ball coming and think since it's moving so slow they can just take a big whack at it. But it's like playing teeball and taking a big whack and hitting the stand instead of the ball. It's just takes a lot of practice of hitting through slow balls to find your natural swing for dealing with them, but trying to kill them is often a bad idea. I never thought footwork was a problem but you do need to take small steps and keep moving forward to those slow balls and then keep the head down, eyes on the ball, and follow through on the swing. My backhand seems to be improving as I am in the habit of dropping in rally balls on that side and hitting at least the first one with no pace on a dead drop.
     
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  9. perfmode

    perfmode Hall of Fame

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    Hit soft enough to get the balls over consistently but with enoug pace so that they can't tee off on it. Just make sure your shots aren't going to f*** you up and put you on the defensive.
     
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  10. ucd_ace

    ucd_ace Semi-Pro

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    I agree that it has a lot to do with the opponent... it has a lot to do with yourself as well. I just take a long swing thinking to do everything that I'm supposed to do technique wise. It's hard to descibe it. Just stay loose and take an easy swing and you'll be okay. The pace on your shot is a result of whatever your opponent puts on it. It's just works for me, if you can understand what I'm talking about give it a try.
     
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  11. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    A good workout drill is to have your partner do just that, hit slow and medium pace balls all over the court with an occasional fast one at different heights clearning the net. Your brain has to work overtime because you have to calculate where you think the ball is going to bounce, recover, and then move to get into position and hit from your strike zone. Grip changes, footwork, footspeed, anticipation, rotation, and preparation will all be tested.

    DRILL: Have your hitting partner stand on on side on the court either duece side or ad side. He will be near the ally of either one - whichever you choose.

    You must hit the ball back to him/corner all the time. He is allowed the whole court (singles) and can hit it anywhere anytime. His job is to keep the ball in play and run you. he is to make you constantly make adjustments with your footwork and timing for your swing. He is to keep you adjusting with slices, medium paced topspin, loopy slow balls, drop shots, slow balls hit with sharp angles that arent winners and not have so much on it so you can't get it.

    Your job is to take a good controlled strokes and get it back to him for more. You will be very tired.

    Do this for a half hour and work your way up to an hour. Take water breaks when you have to. Try and anticipate his shot by his swing - then get there, dont give up, concentrate on every ball, you must get everything back. Nothing is going to get by you. Be determined. Focus. You're a human backboard.

    ;) hehehe
     
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  12. Cypo

    Cypo Rookie

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    Do you mean that with proper footwork it's possible to hit at your pace off a slower ball ? Or, do you still have to hit slower on a slower ball, even with good footwork ? I mean - if I get my footwork correct, can I take a faster swing at the ball ?

    It really makes sense to me that the footwork is a key factor - I often feel unbalanced with players who hit slower that I like.
     
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  13. perfmode

    perfmode Hall of Fame

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    It means that you need to learn how to adjust your footwork for both shots.
     
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  14. orange223

    orange223 New User

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    Good question, Cypo; I hope someone answers that one!

    Do I need to take some mustard off of my shots when returning slow balls to ensure that I keep my shots in bounds? Obviously, I guess, since I was shellacked 6-3, 6-2 by that guy on Monday night who hits at only 70% of my pace. He didn't move the ball around too terribly much and wasn't aggressive at the net, but boy, did he return every shot I hit! Very quick tennis player, but no pace on his shots. It was a match of patience and he won it well.

    Also, like Cypo also mentioned, I feel unbalanced against slower hitting opponents. I feel my timing is off and I don't hit the sweet spot near as much as I do against hard hitting players. I guess in baseball they call that a "changeup" pitch. Throws me for a loop on the courts.
     
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  15. ohplease

    ohplease Professional

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    Isn't the whole point of offense making your opponent uncomfortable?

    Robbing them of time or rhythm with pace or pretty strokes is nice and all, but in truth - I don't care how I get to you - just that I do. If you can't pass me, I serve and volley. If you can't hit on the move, I'll move you around. If you'd rather hit it hard than in, I'll rope-a-dope you all day long.

    On any given rally ball, you've got to prove to your opponent that:

    1) You can get to the ball such that you're positioned to hit it well.
    2) That once you're there, that you're disciplined enough to not try and hit it TOO well, given the ball's trajectory or the score or what you can consistently execute.
    3) That you understand that "hitting it well" actually means making your opponent prove 1) and 2) - as opposed to hitting through them, or for the ego feeding, low percentage, clean winner.
     
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  16. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, Perfmode got it right. Let me ellaborate on what he means and what I am trying to say. I will take my finding on this subject and use it with something you can purchase to help improve this area of the game. One of my favorite Tennis Books is Scott Williams "Serious Tennis". I believe his system is perfect for the aspiring tennis player. The system is very informative for a player with a coach and one without a coach. It is very adaptable.

    The first five areas of Scott's S.M.A.R.T.S system involve: Seeing, Movement, Adjusting, Rotation, Transfer. These five areas are primarily linked to the brain and feet. They are happening BEFORE you hit the ball.

    Conditioning your brain to respond to only one style of play (hardhitters) will prevent you from being able to adapt quickly during a match to a style you may not be used to (pusher). Your footwork, the timing of your footwork, how much footspeed to use, when you should be set, when you should transfer your wieght, etc. will be impaired. You will feel ok on some shots, but deep deep down you know you dont feel right and it will effect your confidence thorughout the match. All of you know this feeling, something is nagging at you deep down inside. Or for some of you that have experienced frustration playing against a pusher, suddenly you get this dark feeling inside that it is not going to be your day. You feel the frustration building inside. Remember what happens when frustration builds up? Your focal vision can easily go astray. That means the first item on the list (SEEING) becomes impaired.

    The five areas prior to the last "S" in this system (which stands for Swing) is where you are getting most of your rythym and confidence from during play. When your in shape, seeing the ball as soon as it leaves the strings, moving quickly and efficiently, making your adjusting steps (i.e. running around yoru backhand, etc), preparing your rotation on the backswing and for the forward swing, then transferring your weight into the shot, you have a lot of confidence that your going to swing well and be in balance against your opponent.

    When we play a pusher who is able to hit the ball all over the court with different spins and hieghts it really tests these five areas. Most of the time we see the ball too late (mainly because of unorthodox swings, frame balls, etc.), we move to late, we cant adjust (we are too close to the ball, too far away, hitting the ball out of our strike zone for the grip we are using), we cant rotate properly, we then are off balance when we swing, we lunge, we mess up.

    If you can relate to what I am saying, I believe that 80% of losses to pushers (maybe even higher) is because we dont spend enough of our time on our conditioning, our footwork, nor our footspeed, and we dont practice hitting against balls that a pusher will hit.
     
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  17. lendl lives

    lendl lives Semi-Pro

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    pushers basically accept that they suck and try to make the best out of a bad situation. psychologically right of the bat you have the upper hand on them. i recenlty lost a 4 hour match to a pusher in 4.0 singles. i guess the captain said he's the best pusher in the league. basically everything buangalo has said about pushers is right on with me. i've never played with or agains them before and this loss and bungalow have taught me alot. now i'm going to search these guys out (instead of refusing to play with them). i just can't see ever losing to one again after a few more matches against this style.
     
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  18. Kobble

    Kobble Hall of Fame

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    I remember Agassi telling an interviewer the biggest reason he was winning more was not because of his improved fitness, but his ability to make better small adjustment steps. He said that it was the real key to creating what appears to be a still ball just before impact.

    As far as pushers go, they are a rude awakening for players who are used to hitting in a groove. I had that problem because I played with only 5.0 and above players when I started. So, the pushers broke up the ryhtym I was used to. I was used to tracking down balls from side to side, but pushers made me chase balls forward/backward, and diagonally. It just takes experience to get past them.
     
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  19. lendl lives

    lendl lives Semi-Pro

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    right on kobble
     
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  20. Cypo

    Cypo Rookie

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    Wasn't quite what I meant, but thanks.
     
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  21. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Cypo,

    Timing your footwork, footwork itself, and footspeed all relate to the above information in "Seeing" the ball.

    Yes, you will be able to hit more balls at your preferred rate of swing speed and be confident you will put it where you want it to go vs. being off balance which throws off your swing path and causes lots of problems.

    However, swinging away at everything is not what I mean as well.

    Whatever ball you receive and where it is your hitting from will require you to still calculate what you can do with that ball, by having better footwork and footspeed it simply gives you more opportunity to execute properly.
     
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  22. Cypo

    Cypo Rookie

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    Thanks again BB. I 'll confess, I was hoping the answer would be 'with proper footwork you will be able to hit slower balls as you would faster ones'. It's taken me a long time to accept that sometime you have to just play the ball back, and even though I've got relatively successful at it, I don't really like it. I read 'Coaching Tennis' last night and in it Scott says as well, you play slower balls more slowly. Oh well, for a brief moment, I thought there was a key out of the slow ball prison.

    Anyway, I guess I knew it, because when I play against men, I know that my best chance is to take the pace out of their shots - I just hate being on the receiving end of it !
     
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  23. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    LOL
     
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  24. TwistServe

    TwistServe Guest

    I don't think pushers "accept that they suck".. Some probably think they're good. They know they can't hit the winners so they'll just consistently push the ball back to you and force you to error. That's their strategy and it's worked for them.. Obviously their game can't move to the next level, which is where they got it wrong.. We're in this for the long run :twisted:
     
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  25. Max G.

    Max G. Hall of Fame

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    In the long run we can change strategies!

    I used to be a pusher at one point, and can still play some pretty damn good defense when I get stuck near that accursed baseline :lol:. I still have my defensive lobs in the arsenal for when they're needed.
     
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  26. TwistServe

    TwistServe Guest

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  27. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    I played a defensive specialist this weekend and lost. Some people call them pushers, but they are what I call defensive specialists and worthy of more respect than they get. He also had a good volley and decent approach shots but just no pace on his groundstrokes. After losing a tiebreaker, I switched back to my old more defensive racquet to have longer rallies with him and won the first two games of the set before losing the next 6 in a very hot match. This kid was a solid-strong 4.0 and had OK passing shots and good lobs. The top 4.0 player around basically doesn't hit with pace but just hits the right shot at the right time. That is smart and good tennis in my opinion.
     
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  28. Cypo

    Cypo Rookie

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    Kevhen - what happened after the first two games in the second ?
     
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  29. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    Heatstroke! He looked horrible and I still looked fresh but my legs weren't moving and we were both starting to cramp a little from the heat and lack of cooling wind. I was trying to move him around the court but was bringing him to net too much and wasn't as effective when he was bringing me to net. He returned my serve well and I struggled serving big when looking into the sun at midday. The last 6 games seemed close in score to me but somehow he was winning them. Afterwards while inside in air conditioning I felt sick and started sweating profusely so I think it was a mild heat stroke. I think I will just play doubles at my next tournament!
     
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