Reality Check Time

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by skraggle, Oct 29, 2007.

  1. skraggle

    skraggle Professional

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    I used to think I could get from my current 4.5 to a 5.5 someday with enough hard work and a decent amount of talent. Then, this weekend, I watched part of the Arcadia Open and saw a 5.5 match between a guy named Vince Mackey and a younger guy. Mackey absolutely destroyed the kid, and I was amazed/disheartened at the ability gap between myself and a 5.5 like Mackey.

    MAYBE one day I can make it to 5.0. But 5.5 looks to be out of reach.

    Ouch.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2007
    #1
  2. Venetian

    Venetian Professional

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    I believe in you! :)
     
    #2
  3. smiley74

    smiley74 Rookie

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    Don't give up!!!

    Maybe he just had an exceptional day and played out of his head.

    If you want it bad enough and put in the time, you can make it happen!!

    I wonder if you could contat the Mackey guy and find out his training schedule and stuff. That way, you could try to see what you need to do to improve.

    Hang in there and keep plugging....

    Go Skraggle!!!!! :p

    Just think, I am looking at you wishing- man, I wish I could be a 4.5!hehehe
     
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  4. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Count your blessings. You could top out at 3.5 like I expect to.
     
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  5. cknobman

    cknobman Legend

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    Lol you just described me
     
    #5
  6. Sakkijarvi

    Sakkijarvi Semi-Pro

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    Everyone tops out somewhere. I play baseball, amateur league -- but I'm not ready for Yankee Stadium...you get my point. And I'm after being my personal best, but take note that I am a 45 year old man, not a former college player or teaching pro.

    I've clawed my way toward 4.0, have been advised I'm supposedly 'there'...and tonight I play a 4.5 player, and a lefty to boot -- in our 4.0+ league. Give me a great workout and a decent match and I'm into it, not crying over ...'I couldah been a contendah'...
     
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  7. WBF

    WBF Hall of Fame

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    If you can manage 5.0's at some point, I can't imagine a bit more experience and work putting you into 5.5's.
     
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  8. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    I agree it's a stretch...

    ...but it's not impossible. Let's start by looking at the descriptions of NTRP levels 4.5 through 5.5:

    4.5
    You have developed your use of power and spin and can handle pace. You have sound footwork, can control depth of shots, and attempt to vary game plan according to your opponents. You can hit first serves with power and accuracy and place the second serve. You tend to overhit on difficult shots. Aggressive net play is common in doubles.

    5.0
    You have good shot anticipation and frequently have an outstanding shot or attribute around which a game may be structured. You can regularly hit winners or force errors off of short balls and can put away volleys. You can successfully execute lobs, drop shots, half volleys, overhead smashes, and have good depth and spin on most second serves.

    5.5
    You have mastered power and/or consistency as a major weapon. You can vary strategies and styles of play in a competitive situation and hit dependable shots in a stress situation.


    What you basically see is that the progression is from "good shots, errors at the wrong time" to "good shots, few errors." So how do you make that happen? Well, there's a couple of ways, and you have to read between the lines to come up with them:

    - Become a better athlete. Everybody thinks it's all about strokes and strategy, but if you can't run and gun with the big boys (or girls), it ain't gonna happen. Cross training, speed, quickness, and agility drills, footwork drills, and so forth help a lot.

    - Start playing 5.5 players. Or even better than 5.5 players. To make a long story I've told on TW forums several times, I'm 59 years old, about a 5.0 plus on a good day, and I often play Men's Open tournaments...which means I'm usually facing a 19-year old with spiky hair who runs like a deer and has a 125 mph serve. When I first started this experiment, as you can imagine, I got turfed...double bagels, and I didn't win a whole lot of points. In my last tournament, I lost 6-3, 6-1. I haven't won a match yet, but I'm getting closer. Yes, you have to have the strokes, fitness, and so forth, but the only way you'll actually get to the next level is to jump in and test the water at some point. It'll be cold at first, but it warms up surprisingly fast.

    - Variety is the spice of life, and it's also one of the underappreciated keys to moving up the NTRP ladder. Everybody wants a great forehand. Well, that's not enough. I have six forehands:

    - A block for service returns against a 125 mph serve.

    - A standard rally ball, which is a cross-court semi-Western grip open stance forehand with decent pace and length and moderate topspin.

    - A slice forehand hit with a Continental grip. Don't laugh, it's extremely useful when I'm run wide out of court to the right. I can float it back to the middle of the baseline and get back into the point. I used to try to rip a winner down the line, but that never went in, or if it did, my opponent was standing there with a big smile on his face, waiting to plug it back into the court, where I was not.

    - An inside out flat ball that I rip as hard as possible for a winner. I don't try this on every ball, obviously, just on those balls where I'm in perfect position and the court opens up just right...say, after a wide slice serve to the forehand in the deuce court.

    - A heavy topspin ball crosscourt, aiming for the intersection of the service line and the sideline.

    - A major league moonball, hit with lots of topspin with a full Western grip.

    Do I use all of these all the time? Not on your life. If all I need to do is hit three rally balls to win the point, that's all I do. I start pulling out the other stuff...which, does, of course, involve taking more risks, if the "three balls and you're out" strategy doesn't work.

    So the message is, when you get above the 4.5 level, yep, everybody hits the ball pretty hard, but you start finding that the real way 4.5 plus players distance themselves from the pack is that they can do more with the ball and can use the whole court. There's two kinds of variety, offensive and defensive, and they're both important. If you have a great hard, topspin forehand, that's nice, but you're a one-trick pony. I'm going to use my offensive variety to move you around, put you in awkward positions, so when you whale away at the ball, you'll give me an error more often than not. On the other hand, when you connect on a huge forehand, which you of course will, I won't try to whale it back at you, I'll hit some slice, or a moonball, to break up your rhythm and let me get back into the point...defensive variety...
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2007
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  9. Jackie T. Stephens

    Jackie T. Stephens Professional

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    You can get up there if you practice and watch the game and his style of play.
     
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  10. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Six forehands. Wow.

    I'll bet it is really seven, if you count a topspin lob.

    Uh, I have four forehands:

    1. Regular old topspin groundstroke.

    2. Torehand slice when my shot tolerance is exhausted and I just want the point to end.

    3. Topspin lob I'm afraid to try.

    4. Pathetic push. :)
     
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  11. counterpunchingrules

    counterpunchingrules Rookie

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    dont worry dude. i thought the same exact thing as you a couple of years ago. it takes a lot of hard work and practice (and most important, not giving up) to advance from the 4.5 skill pool.
     
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  12. Jack the Hack

    Jack the Hack Hall of Fame

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    ski, good post!

    To add depth to your NTRP descriptions, you may want to look at this document:

    http://dps.usta.com/usta_master/usta/doc/content/doc_13_12278.pdf?4/3/2006 3:19:51 PM

    This chart was created by the USTA last year, and it contains descriptions of the characteristics of each level by stroke, which is a little more specific than the general outline you posted above.
     
    #12
  13. pmata814

    pmata814 Professional

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    Maybe he was sandbagging!
     
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  14. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks much...

    ...hope this is of some use to all, I have a bunch of other posts people have (ahem) Found Value In, all of which I'm planning to pull together in a book called "The World (of Tennis) According to Skiracer55"...wuddia think? And I will go take a look at the updated NTRP descriptions...
     
    #14
  15. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Okay, so there you go...

    ...as I said in my post, "more variety" isn't the only answer. You also have to be an athlete, and you have to put yourself in harm's way by exposing your game to the games of more accomplished players (remember when I told you to go play a Women's Open event?). And you can't develop variety unless you have a good, basic, reliable shot to start with. But now you know at least one way to prevent stalling out at the 3.5 level, which is to develop some variety in your game. So go ahead...what have you got to lose?
     
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  16. NoBadMojo

    NoBadMojo G.O.A.T.

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    Not trying to discourage you, but I think the biggest jump there is goes from 4.5 to 5.0. also, the better you get, the harder it is to improve.

    The differences from 5.0-5.5 is often more a matter of fitness, being just a little tougher at key moments, more experiences, fewer and shorter lapses in concentration, etc. Once at the 5.0's, the stroke production is pretty much the same as the 5.5's. you've got a weapon or weapons, put short balls away, consistent, etc
     
    #16
  17. skraggle

    skraggle Professional

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    Apologies if this came off as "poor me." I'm going to keep working and trying to get better, but take it step-by-step and will try not to get ahead of myself.

    Thanks all for the words of encouragement!
     
    #17
  18. CAM178

    CAM178 Hall of Fame

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    Use this for inspiration: when I am not playing, and first pick up a racquet after not playing, I am probably a 4.0. After a couple of hours, I'm back to 4.5. After a good month, I'm back to 5.0. And then after a few months of solid playing, I'm back to 5.5, low 6.0. Yes, there can be that much of a discrepancy.

    But you've got to remember: the best in ANY field of endeavor got there through practice and hard work, not through pure talent.

    If you're a 4.5 with a good work ethic, you can easily get to 5.0-5.5.

    Good luck, and I hope to see you out there soon winning Men's Open tournaments!
     
    #18
  19. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Let me just wax forensic...

    ...on a topic that I think knits together this whole discussion. I had this whole rap about how important it is to introduce greater variety into your game, and so on, and so forth, but the real question is How do you get yourself to move off your comfortable Square 1 and take the kind of chances you need to achieve greater variety or whatever it is to make your game move forward?

    And I think the simple, cliched, but accurate answer is that you have to have the determination and heart to make it happen, and, most of all, to enjoy the journey you take in trying to better your lot on a tennis court or anywhere else you decide to excel. Case study, yours truly, skiracer55. When I was growing up, like any other All American Kid, I of course wanted to be a star in the Big Three: baseball, football, and basketball. Never going to happen, however, because I was (a) short, (b) slow, and (c) blind. I had 20/600 vision, which I didn't know, because it wasn't the fashion then to test the visual acuity of 9-year old boys.

    Naturally, I got kicked off of every team sport I went out for, which only led me to think "Okay...watch this. To hell with team sports, I'm gonna find an individual sport I like and find a way to be the best there is...". Which didn't exactly happen, but I still won some tennis tournaments, ski races, and 10K runs and had a blast doing it.

    Great success story, and testament to the Indomitable Will of the Individual Competitor, until I got really stupid in my early forties and took up ski racing. Result: I started getting injured, which didn't slow me down, because what's a broken arm and a dislocated shoulder? Or a broken collarbone? Or a blown rotator cuff? That's why we have orthopedic surgeons, physical therapy, and Hydrocodone, right?

    A teriffic philosophy, at least until I lost the sight in my left eye. How could this happen? Well, not as you would expect. I wasn't even moving at the time. This was after a morning of slalom training, and all we were doing was picking up the gear and tearing down the course. Unfortunately, one of my idiot teammates let loose of a bungy cord at the wrong time, which struck me full-on in the eye. I thought I was toast...no more skiing, no more tennis, life limited to walking out in the pasture to shovel up horse poop.

    However, a couple of great eye surgeons, pulled out the bad lens, replaced it with a plastic implant, and did Lasik in the other eye. Result: 20/20 vision, no glasses, the patient may now resume sports as desired.

    Which I, of course, did. What a difference! Before Life Changing Eye Surgery, I used to go into a tennis match thinking "Man...this guy looks really good! Am I ready for this? Jeez, I hope I can get my first serve in. I wonder how my forehand is going to be?"

    After LCES, whole different story. Now my thinking is "Yeah, fine. So you're younger, faster, stronger...so what? Okay, Jack, here's what I have on my side: I have nothing left to lose. I thought I was going to be playing shuffleboard for the rest of my life, and guess what? I'm playing you in a tennis match! You might win, but you're gonna have to beat me to do it, and that, I promise you, ain't gonna be any Chicken Delite!"

    Words to live by...
     
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