"Skills" v. "Strategies"

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Aug 29, 2012.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I had a thought-provoking exchange with a woman who plays on a 7.5 team I captain. For background, she is a 3.5, but not one of the strongest ones. I will summarize the email exchange.

    I watched her play doubles last week and wrote to tell I thought she was playing really well. Given that our upcoming season is non-advancing, I took the opportunity to ask does she want a challenge (playing the toughest teams on a high court), or would she prefer to pair with a weaker partner on a lower court (or against easier opponents). I said these situations require different skill sets.

    She said she didn't agree with me on that. Every time you play, you have to try to win. You can't be expected to bring different skills to the court depending on partner or court assignment, she said. You figure out your opponent's weakness and exploit it.

    I said I thought these situations required different skill sets. Being the weaker player against strong opponents means you will see every ball, and they will try to isolate you. Being the stronger partner against weaker opponents means they will target your partner and you need skills to get in the point and finish points without missing too much.

    She said we are really saying the same thing: You have to be an all-court player and have to bring all your skills to the court and strategize with your partner to try to win.

    What do you make of this?

    The thing that is weird is that I feel like I win more when my partner is as strong as me or weaker. I feel like I am good at getting into points when my opponents would prefer to target my partner. I feel like I crumble when my opponents are hammering at me to get the win because my partner is stronger. But maybe everyone doesn't approach it that way?
     
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  2. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    You need the skills to execute a particular strategy.

    You can fantastize about particular strategies, but it won't do you any good if you don't have the skills to materialize the strategy.
     
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  3. willshot

    willshot Semi-Pro

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    .??? a 3.5 does not have any skills. thats why they are 3.5. at 3.5 level the only strategy is to keep the ball in the court. stop unforced errors and you'll win 90percent of the matches in 3.5. simple as that.
     
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  4. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    You obviously have not been keeping up with the posts in this forum, or you would know that 3.0s these days are serving at 110mph. :)
     
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  5. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    I agree more with your buddy. For example, if one of my opponents has a weak backhand return, regardless of whether or not I'm stronger or weaker than my partner, I'm going to exploit that weakness. If I'm the stronger player, exploiting that weakness prevents the opponents from targeting my partner (and hopefully sets him/her up for a put-away). If I'm the weaker player, it prevents them from attacking me too strongly (and hopefully sets my partner up for the put-away).

    When I'm returning, I'm going to do whatever I can to drive the ball at the server's feet, pass down the line (when there's a hole), or lob down the line. When I get a chance to rush the net, I'm going to do that.

    Regardless of my partner, my goal is always to set him/her up with chances and/or put my opponents under pressure.
     
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  6. tennisee

    tennisee Rookie

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    I think I agree more with your partner.
    I partnered a guy yesterday whose skills were better than his strategy. We were down 0-3 in the set, I had a chat with him, discussed what was happening on court and what we should do to win. We came back to win by changing strategy, not skills.
    I'd say skills are what you bring with you to every match, and they change only slowly. Strategy is how you choose to apply your skills to best effect. Strategy can be quickly modified, but you can't decide to quickly improve your skill. You may choose to employ different skills among those you possess, but that is strategy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012
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  7. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Cindy- I don't think it has to do with the opponents as it has to do with the partner. On my team we often talk about Tonto's and Lone Rangers. (yes its time for a more updated reference) But anyway- the thought is that some people can thrive in the role of being the best player on the court and as captain my job is to give them someone who compliments their skills. Other people are better off being the complementary player where they may have significant weaknesses to their game but if they are put in the right situation then they can be a star. An example of a Tonto might be someone who is just a great closer at the net so if you put them with someone who will generate a lot of popups then they will thrive. Where as the person who generates a lot of popups may thrive with many different players on the team.

    Often we see this come up when people transition between mens, womens, and mixed. When a guy has a lot of trouble transitioning from men's to mixed often it means that they are more of a tonto type player and have trouble creating chances for their partner. There are women who are dramatically better at mixed for the same reason- they are better off being a complimentary player and when they have to be the one creating chances in women's tennis they struggle.

    And the genesis of this theory was seeing that putting 2 lone rangers together could be detrimental to the team. We never put the best 2 players together for men's tennis because when we do it then the guys end up overlapping too much. Its just been dramatically more effective to split them, put both of them with a partner that compliments their skill set and try and win 2 lines rather than 1.
     
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  8. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    As a 3.0/3.5- I can say with absolute confidence this is 100% true.

    I have a friend who goes to city finals in singles almost every season (ladies 3.5). Her first serve motion is comical and goes long or into the net 90% of the time. Her second serve is a waiter serve that floats in 99% of the time. She slices everything on the backhand and dinks on the forehand. She can't hit an aggressive winner and just waits for an opponent to make a UE. It's painful to watch her opponents steadily lose a match because you can see they're beating themselves trying winners.

    And when she meets a similar player she gets into 3-set epics that last over four hours as both players dink to the middle.

    She's very, very patient.
     
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  9. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Interesting replies.

    Spot, I think we think alike on this to some extent because we captain. Captaining has made me think carefully each week about how two people are likely to do as partners and what kind of opponents they can handle.

    As a result, when I take the court as a player, I have different expectations based on the relative strength of my partner, what skills she has, and what kind of opponents we will face. I can imagine that someone who doesn't do line-ups would think that you just show up and play.

    The perfect test case is combo. A 3.5 player can play 6.5 combo and 7.5 combo. Many of my 3.5 friends consider 6.5 combo beneath them. I think they are making a big mistake.

    I think a 3.5 player should play 6.5 combo until she can win consistently at 6.5. The reason is that it teaches you the skills needed to win when you are the stronger player, and as I said I think those skills are different from those needed when you are the weaker player.
     
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  10. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    In mixed, where there is often a big differential in ability between the man and the woman, there are certain skills that are much more valuable than in normal doubles. The ability to be quick at the net, poach, and cover a lot of court are far more valuable for the stronger player than if the two players are reasonably even in ability.
     
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  11. josofo

    josofo Semi-Pro

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    i see what your getting at.


    if you play someone who you know plays above your usually level a lot of times you will play better than you would vs the usual hacker as your current level.


    but this actually has a lot to do with just the human psychology of it all. and not the practical nature of which playing style is more effective.
     
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  12. josofo

    josofo Semi-Pro

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    i think its more of mental thing though.


    cuz lets say you played an A match to beat one of the better 7.5 doubles teams. that level of play would certainly work to beat a 6.5 doubles team.
     
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  13. dcdoorknob

    dcdoorknob Hall of Fame

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    I also think you are really saying the same thing just going about it different ways.

    You think the mindset should be completely different when you know you will be the better player vs. when you know you will be the weaker player, and I can see your point. You will have to use different parts of your game to be effective in those 2 situations.

    In her mind though, she's showing up to the court with a similar mindset each time (a general, ready to go out and play mindset), and a willingness to see and adjust with her partner to the differing match conditions as they present themselves. This is fine too imo.

    In her mind she is bringing the same "skillset" to each match, and just choosing which parts of that set will be most effective to employ in each match. You are instead calling those different parts of your game which you would expect to employ in the 2 differing situations as different skillsets entirely as opposed to just different parts of the same skillset. It's really mostly just semantics imo.
     
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  14. dizzlmcwizzl

    dizzlmcwizzl Hall of Fame

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    Maybe I am splitting hairs but I don't think what you meant was a shift in skill sets or strategies between lines 1 and 3. The skills you employ or the strategies you use should vary by opponent not by ability level. There are many 3.0 players that have an inconsistent serve return relative to the rest of their games, much like I do. And even though I am a much better player than the average 3.0, you would likely employ the same tactics and be forced to play the same types of shots against me as you would a typical 3.0 with a poor service return.

    Instead I think had you asked her if she wanted a different experience you might have had a more successful exchange with her. The conversation could have gone like this ...

    "Sheila, in the past you have frequently played 3rd court with other typical 3rd court players. I was thinking you might benefit from playing with and against better players. What do you think about playing line 1 dubs with Maxine or Joan this season?"
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012
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  15. SoBad

    SoBad Legend

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    This is a directed...

    ... oh, never mind...:oops:
     
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  16. jmverdugo

    jmverdugo Hall of Fame

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    I agree with you team mate, you have what you have and you make your strategies according to your opponents of the day, you cannot change your skills for that given day but you can work out a winning strategy, within your skill set, against that particular team.

    By the way 3.5 do have skills, feet speed, anticipation, good hands, these are all skills 3.5 have and use, and still are 3.5.
     
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  17. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    The basic strategy I see being used by veteran 3.5 players is isolating the weaker player. This seems to be done on almost a subconscious level. This works really well with the typical one up/one back club strategy. The stronger player's hands get cold from never seeing a ball except by accident. When they do finally get one, they are so out of rhythm they usually miss. Or, to get into the point the stronger player has to take unnecessary chances poaching at the wrong time, throwing percentage tennis out the window. This can be lessened by playing correct doubles, with both players moving together as a team, side-by-side, lessening the available angles to the opponents--but at 3.5 you're not gonna' see much classic doubles strategy.

    This player has a good competitive attitude. She understands what she can and cannot do. She goes all out to win with what she brings to the court. At 3.5 she's gonna' have half the game of a 7.0 and can't be expected to play like Fed--but, she can try just as hard. It's good to see there are some all court players left, Pete Sampras was the last one I can remember.
     
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  18. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    Great throwback, orange. I heard Roddick retired because he knew his serve was only at 3.5 level anymore.
     
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  19. Alchemy-Z

    Alchemy-Z Hall of Fame

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    only thing I do different with a weak partner is warm up weak...make them look stronger.

    then normally around 3-0 in the first set they figure out I am not the one they should be hitting it too...by this time it normally my serve cause I always give the first serve out no matter the toss...I bang in a few serves 4-0

    I had 4 matches with a weaker partner last season score

    6-0 7-5
    6-1 7-5
    6-4 4-6 1-0 (tie break)
    6-3 6-4

    Now it doesn't work anymore to play the weak one during warm up because all the teams are wiser now lol

    oh well I got a good season out of it tho
     
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  20. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I guess I have different competition. Whether I am playing better or worse the day of the match, I don't see that many more or fewer shots, and really you shouldn't. If you are playing both at the net, the "weaker" player is going to get the ball > 50% of the time, but usually if you are both at net, there probably was a preceeding shot that has the other team on the run and they might not have equal access to both opposing players.

    If you are serving or returning (which would be... ummm 100% of the points) then there is likely to be a side of the court that is more favorable for your opponents to hit to, likely to the baseline player. In that case hitting to the net player because they are "weaker", is a tactical error and they are likely to lose the point.
     
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  21. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    Can you please explain how you "warm up weak"? I'm not familiar with this strategy (or is it a tactic?) and may want to learn to employ it in a future league match.

    Thanks
     
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  22. leroy_sunset

    leroy_sunset Rookie

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    Shank balls, miss practice serves, dump volleys into the net. Make yourself look like a bad player in the warm-up. Then bring the heat in the first few games, get a break or two, and cruise in the first set. You've a much better chance of taking the match or at least forcing a 3rd set tie breaker that way.

    To be honest, I don't single out the weaker player, per se. I try to recognize patterns where my side dictates and dominates. If that means hitting to one player a lot (his net game is weak, he stays back, etc.) then so be it. But regardless of the weaker player, I am going to hit the best ball possible. On top of which, hitting at the weaker player often stops working when they recognize your patterns and compensate.
     
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  23. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Bingo...

    ...but let's note a couple of things additionally:

    - If you're talking doubles, then it's one of two things. Either try to pair yourself with a partner whose skills complement yours, or, if you're given a partner, have a conversation with him/her along the lines of "Gee...I'm really good at the net and you're really good in the back court, so let's try to figure out a way to make those skills work together."

    - The enemy has a vote. You can have the best skills and fashion them into a terrific strategy, on the surface, but if the opposition has a counter, then you've got a problem. Another way of saying this is that you normally go with your A game...unless the other side eats up your A game, in which case you better have a B and C game...
     
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  24. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    I see what you're saying Cindy. I'm on both a 6.5 and a 7.5 combo team (as a 3.5) and my role on each is very different. I absolutely know that when playing 6.5 my partner is going to get the majority of balls hit to him while at 7.5 sometimes I become the target. At 6.5 I have to be very aggressive about putting balls away if we want to win because eventually the 3.0 is going to commit a UE. We all make them but they are generally made more frequently by lower NTRP players.

    I'm still 3.5 in USTA but in our all doubles local league I'm a 4.0 so that hitting every ball to me usually isn't a sure-fire winning strategy. I lost a 7.5 match yesterday in part because I couldn't convince my partner to hit to the weaker of the two players. Their 3.5 was pretty good but his partner was a very strong 4.0 with great net skills who'd been previously bumped up to 4.5 for a year. So I think you clearly have to have the skills to be able to execute a strategy but ultimately having and following a strategy until it has been proven not to work is the way to win.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
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  25. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    I tried--but Fed said he was too busy changing diapers these days to play dubs.
     
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  26. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Okay...

    ...you're not gonna like it, but my answer to that is just play singles....
     
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  27. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    I would need a wheelchair or a skateboard to play singles. I'm coming up with an entirely new format for the non-ambulatory who still like playing tennis--it's gonna' be called : TRIPLES.
     
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  28. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I don't think about these things but just go out on the court and give it my 45%.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
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  29. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    I hear you, brother...

    ...we're all likely to be there sooner than later. As long as we're still hitting tennis balls, it's all good...
     
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