Losing the will to play! Tips needed
Need a bit of help improving my game and finding the motivation to keep on with the sport really. Recently I've been practicing more regularly, but with people quite above my level and it can be quite disheartening constantly being the worst player on court.
It's winter so I'm only really playing once a week indoors with these club players. Now I'm not really a club player, I haven't really played the sport competitively, more just recreational though I've always played seriously and put in the effort to improve my game. I think when I'm on form I actually have a pretty decent game, with a big serve, decent forehand and strong backhand. I don't really have a great 2nd serve though and my net game is basically non-existent. I think my NTRP ranking (when in practice) would be like 3.5 or so.
These club players play at a really high level though. I'm not sure what their NTRP ranking would be but at least 4.0-5.0+. One of the best players there has played for something like 12 years, and the rest play at pretty much the same level which makes me think most have at least 6+ years of playing under their belt. I only started playing the back end of 2008 (starting around August), for about 4-5 months regularly (almost every day!) which is actually when I learned most basics and probably the bulk of what I know now. But in early 2009 I herniated a disc in my back which kept me out for about a year. I started playing again late 2010/early 2011 but struggled serving altogether because of my back. I only played sporadically from then on, mostly during the summer of 2011, stopped again over winter and then some during spring/early summer of 2012 which is when I felt I began to hit some form, but again had to take time out pretty much all of the bulk of summer and early autumn due to a surgery (unrelated to back) which required a few months to recover. So in total I've probably only really played for 1.5-2 years, sporadically.
It was late autumn last year coming out of surgery that I decided to actually get playing more consistently (with a view to playing in some leagues come new season), which is when I started playing indoors with the club players (which I guess is their off-season practice). So I've been playing there for the past 3 months or so. As I say I'm probably the worst player there which kinda grates on me and probably annoys the other players who I'm partnered with. It's pretty much exclusively doubles since there aren't enough courts. This makes matters worse since other players rely on me and I only really ever built up playing singles, and I don't have much of a net game. Because of this it always seems the losses go to me and my pairing.
On the plus side I feel like I have improved, since playing with people much above your level forces you to play better. Recently I've been getting some wins (after exclusive losses) and when I (that is to say, we) do lose it's rarer that's it's a blowout 6-1, 6-0 or whatever, so I'm able to hold serve more. But I think my problem is that I feel the pressure and expectation playing with these people above my level, and I'm a bit of a headcase so I mess up a lot thinking I have to prove myself. So I have been playing ridiculously sporadically. It mainly started with terrible serving problems when I first started playing with them. I've been getting this under control though. Last time I played with them I was serving bombs and many aces - in fact when my serve is on form I probably serve close to the level they serve at, if not better than some of them (I'm probably the tallest player there at 6'1", so that helps). In my first match (last time I played) I laid down like a dozen aces or more.
After that though it went to my head again and I started playing sporadically. By now these guys probably know I'm really hit and miss; I can play shots which are on their level (and can hit at their pace), but I'm not consistent enough. I constantly alternate between silly mistakes and solid shots and sometimes wonder shots. I felt like I hit rock-bottom though after my serving started going south again towards the end of the session and I accidentally smashed the ball straight into the back of my partner (the same guy who I said is probably one of the best). I think I've only ever done this once before and not quite so bad. I was really apologetic but after that I'm not sure I even want to show my face there again!
So what do I do? Am I simply playing with people too high above my level to the point where the practice will simply be too disheartening and mess up my mental game? Is singles (my preference) better practice to find that consistency? This is especially bad when it comes to net game, since all of them have excellent net games and probably years of doubles practice. When the ball goes past me and I don't make the volley they look at me like 'how did you miss that?' and I look at them like 'how do you make that?' Should I step it down and play with people more my level? There were some other players coming a few weeks back who I think were closer to my level (some worse), who likewise had inconsistencies and were obviously developing. They stopped coming. I'm starting to think that's because they were also discouraged by the haughty club players.
That's the thing, I feel like I'm making a fool of myself half the time. And I guess this is the broader issue with tennis. If you saw all of us there you might think I'd be one of the best players, I'm tall and pretty athletic and show up in all the latest tennis gear and whatnot. And some of the other guys are like short, kinda oldish, some carrying beer bellies etc (not to depreciate them or anything). And yet since tennis at this level is almost purely a technique game, it doesn't matter - they can still boss the point without having to move as much due to superior technique. So I can put in tons of effort but they can afford to play the sport complacently. That's the thing, my sport was football (soccer) until I took up tennis, and I'd played that since I was like 8 or something. I played that at a very high level - I played a very physical game and was an extremely hard worker. I figure if those guys came over to the football pitch in that sort of physical condition (and gathering that they probably aren't experienced football players) they wouldn't last five seconds.
So I guess all of this put together kinda gets discouraging and makes me think of going straight back to football (which I'm already playing again these days) and forgetting about competing in tennis, which is a real shame because I love this sport. Can anyone give me some tips to banish these thoughts and keep motivated and to improve my game? Do you guys go through these low points? Tennis is a really tough game mentally and I'm a bit of a headcase. Being a headcase wasn't as much of drawback during my footballing days since it translated well into a high-intensity game where you rely more on teammates and where you can't outright defeat yourself with errors.
Cheers guys, any tips or advice would be helpful
'Beating a non-top 30 player. Big deal. Congratulations *******s, but no, he is still not gonna make it to the SF.' -GodNovak on Wimbledon 2012
Last edited by *Val*; 01-06-2013 at 02:54 PM.