Originally Posted by J011yroger
How would you describe your game? Were you a S&V player back in your heyday?
Also, if it is any consolation, I am right there with you in the land-bound white man category.
In doubles matches when my partner serves and I have to hit an overhead off of a lob return I usually get a standing ovation if I can get far enough off the ground for a credit card laid flat to be slid under my feet.
You have motivated me to go video my serve since it has been a while, and I am curious if there is a difference between my normal frame in MPH and my prestige codenamed SGO.
Might as well tell my tennis history here. My style of play has evolved through the years, with several distinct eras:
Phase I - The formative years:
I started late. I took a few group lessons when I was 12, then broke my arm, and didn’t play much until I was a 14-yr-old 9th grader trying out for the high school team.
I was pretty athletic, but my tennis skills were raw – in junior high, my 4x100m relay team won the WA state championship at the Hershey meet, and second place was 40m back. And I could dunk a volley ball by the time I started high school (hands too small to palm a basketball). I also had the second fastest time in the district at the 75m hurdles in junior high (the guy with the fastest time was Donnie Marshall, who went on to have an NBA career). Won a handful of blue ribbons in the high jump (even though my form sucked), and broke 19 ft to letter in the long jump my sophomore year. I gave up track and field to focus on tennis after 10th grade when I realized I was the only white guy in the starting blocks, and I wasn’t winning races anymore.
My tennis game in high school was all based on utilizing my physical advantages over my opponent. I was 5’11”, 155 lbs (about the same size I am now). But I always had a speed and quickness advantage against 99% of the players I faced. My 2hb was solid and reliable, but my fh was god-awful. I could find a way to loop or shovel it over the net if I had to (often with a moonball). On the forehand return, I was better blocking it back with a volley stroke.
I developed a reliable kick serve with my POG mid (not huge). It was basically a tool to get me to the net. I served-and-volleyed on every serve, first and second. This was my most effective strategy since my fh was so weak. I had an eastern fh grip for my forehand volley then. I was good at closing on high balls, but not so good at low volleys.
I was JV my freshman year. My sophomore year, I qualified for district in singles. Junior year, went to state in doubles.
I switched to Wilson Profile 2.7 OS before my senior year, as this racquet made my S&V style more effective. Played 1 adult NTRP tournament that year and won it (4.5). Finished my first year of USTA 18s (the only year I played enough to get a ranking) as the 22nd ranked junior in the PNW. Placed 3rd in state in doubles my senior year. I also forced myself to switch to a conti fh volley grip, which was tough, but would play dividends later.
Phase II - The physical prime years:
In my early 20s, my serve with the Profile 2.7 OS (strung at 78 lbs with Problend) developed into a huge weapon. My freshman year at Stanford, I started ranked #18 on the non-varsity ladder at Stanford. Challenge my way up to #2. The guy I beat for the #2 slot was allowed to practice with the varsity. But the coaches didn’t think my game was worthy – probably had something to do with my ugly forehand. By age 20, I was serving harder than any of the guys on the Stanford team (which won the national team title twice in the early 90s). The coaches and players marveled at my ridiculous pop attained via an insane jump serve motion (landing 6 feet inside the baseline) as if I was a Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not oddity. Coach Lele Forood called me Karsten Braasch when she walked by. Alex O’Brien called me Edberg. They thought it was funny that someone could serve that hard with such an unconventional motion. I have to give credit to coach Frank Brennan for fixing a major flaw in my forehand, which would pay off years later.
I coached the Adidas tennis camp at Stanford the summer of ’93. I had no trouble beating 14-year-olds ranked in the top hundred because they could not get my serve back.
I played sporadically in my early 20s. My big jump serve stayed big enough for me to do well in both of the tournaments I played at age 24, taking home a $40 check for placing 2nd in the ’94 Gig Harbor Open. Next tournament I entered was 3 years later - finished runner-up in a 5.0 tourney, beating a couple of seeds along the way, after only practicing for 3 weeks prior.
Phase III – Evolution into a Complete Player
At age 29, re-joined the indoor tennis club I had grew up around, and started stopping by to hit serves or play pick-up singles every day after work.
I had switched from the Profile 2.7 OS, to the Prostaff 4.7 Stretch OS. This tweener allowed my to shape my groundies more and learn how to make better use of spins. I taught myself the “racquet drop yank”, which allowed me to hit my serve just as big as before, but with less jump.
I had just as much confidence in my serve, only now I was getting more reps on my groundies too. I focused on my footwork and developed my forehand into a reliable shot (not a weapon, but a solid 4.5 level shot good enough to hang with good players). My 2hb developed into a pro-caliber major weapon. I could really do some damage with it.
I developed more of an all-court style – I still S&V’d against most players, but sometimes I’d mix it up to keep the returner honest. I was still aggressive in looking for opportunities to come to the net. Since my service games were so strong, I could afford to play defensive tennis and frustrate my opponent with safe counterpunching tennis on return games.
I played USTA 5.0 League that year, and went undefeated in singles. Won prize money twice, placing 2nd in the mixed at the Seattle City Championships, and placing 2nd in the Federal Way men’s doubles (partnering with a 4.5 junior as a favor to his coach).
I was the strongest player among the members of the club, so the head pro invited me to help out as a hitting partner for the advanced junior class twice a week. His juniors got to hit with me, and I got to hit with them for free, so it was a good deal for me. One of those juniors was pretty good, had a pro-caliber forehand, and ended up winning the WA state high school singles title 3 years in a row. I could still handle him his sophomore year since my serve and 2hb gave me enough edge, but after that, I took a year off from tennis to finish my PhD, and he passed me by for good.
Phase IV – The Racquet Geek Years
My serve atrophied from lack of practice over the past 10 years. It soon became the weakest part of my game since it was so erratic. I became a double fault machine.
However, the gradual learning process from experimenting with different weightings eventually led me to the present state. My equipment today is clearly superior to the stock frames I played with in my youth. Since my racquets are much heavier and (usually) perfectly tuned to my swings, my confidence in my baseline game is higher now than it was even during my peak competitive level years. My forehand (with tuned heavy frame) is lightyears better (strong eastern grip). I can hold my own from the baseline with 5.0 players and it’s harder for them to pick on my forehand now (unless I show up with my racquet not quite tuned). Unfortunately, I have to hold my own from the baseline, because my serve is not good enough anymore to serve and volley regularly and win consistently that way against 5.0s.
My heavy techno-racquet also makes me a better all-around volleyer than I used to be.
For competition, I consider myself a mixed specialist these days. I don’t spend enough time on the court to feel confident for league singles (injury risk too high, and I hate losing to players that I would kill if I had more time to practice), but my tuned racquets make me a force for doubles.
My game fits well with mixed doubles, since I can hold serve easier even when I have an off day, and my best skill these days is my ability to take over a doubles match when I’m the strongest player on the court. It allows me to use my speed and play the ¾ court game without being as rough on my body as singles – I love singles too, but singles is a young dude’s game. I have a 4.5 rating for league – I’ve managed to get hurt enough and practice little enough to keep from getting bumped up to 5.0. Playing mostly mixed also helps preserve my rating.
My singles style now:
Heavy spin serve if feeling good, but only come in behind it if it’s giving my opponent trouble. Just loop in the serve if feeling rusty. I use a lot of counterpunch style from the baseline. Wait for the short ball, then crush a down-the-line 2hb approach and follow it in. Or sometimes I draw my opponent to the net and then rip the pass. I use a lot of low moonballs on both sides if my opponent lets me, and sometimes I use a firm slice forehand on shoulder-ht balls if my opponent doesn’t like low balls on one of his wings. I like to mix up pace and spins a lot. My current style is similar to Andy Murray’s style.