Originally Posted by ian2
skiracer, thanks for answering that question. I agree with all you've said. I'd add that there was one single thing that jumped at me the most: the purpose behind each shot. I can't quite explain it: it wasn't just the placement combined with power, but something else that eludes me... perhaps the instinctual knowledge where to hit the ball in a given point situation? The end result was that, in this match anyway, Vasilisa wasn't hitting any neutral, let alone defensive, shots. The first shot she hit in a point immediately forced her opponent into a defensive position, and the next shot, if needed, would build on that advantage.
...and it's something I noticed in the Men's Open draw, too. It's something we'll work on the next time we hit. Playing Open or above level, to me the strokes are one aspect, but they're playing to a whole different tempo. If I watch a 4.0 or even 4.5 match, the tempo is...hit the ball, maybe with an objective, but probably not...watch it go over the net...wait to see what the opponent is doing...watch the ball come back over the net...maybe start moving to the shot, at this point...repeat, ad nauseum
The best players always have a purpose behind each point and in each shot. For the server, before the point, the thought might be "Okay, I've got him off balance, it's 40-15, I'm going for a serve out wide to the forehand, move in, look to cut off the volley cross court for a winner." The receiver might be thinking, "So fine...this jamoke is serving really well. I've got to dig in, get the return back, and make him play. Watch his toss, watch his motion, make a move as soon as the ball leaves his racket, track it down, be a ballhawk, make it!"
If the point doesn't play out that way, the top players have an ability to adjust but still keep the purpose going. As in "Okay, fine, he picked up that wide serve, now I have a forehand
volley, no problem, punch it into the backhand corner, wade in." The returner might be, "Great, got the return in and down low, he made a good volley, track it down, lob over his head and recover because he's been nailing your passing shots..." But the purpose didn't change, for the server it's still "Put the pressure on early, then tighten the vice even more." For the returner it's "Make him play, make him run, make him hit two or three winners to win a point...nobody can keep that up all afternoon."
Making those on the fly adjustments and still keeping the purpose is pretty amazing stuff, and we all need to work on this kind of tempo. Remember the Men's Final? I think it was about 3-3 in the second set, after Willie Dann won the first set. Willie, who is left handed, served and volleyed, Rich Johnson got to the ball and lobbed topspin over Willie's right shoulder...and Willie switched hands while he was going up for the overhead
and put the smash away for a winner...right handed. I was thoroughly impressed, and he's 40 years old. I'm not sure most of the spectators even saw what happened...