A friend and I had an interesting conversation last night about the hell that is 3.5/4.0 rec tennis. To win consistently at this level takes, well, consistency. That generally means hitting conservatively and waiting for your opponent to make a mistake. Punishing floaters or merely executing textbook ground strokes with depth and pace without committing too many UEs is beyond the reach of most players at this level. But that assumes one's primary objective is purely winning even if that means hitting 5-10 really boring safe shots. On the other hand, there is great satisfaction at hitting a perfect stroke with excellent depth, pace, precision, and spin. Players at this level can accomplish that sometimes but getting that one perfect stroke often means enough bad ones that they lose a match. So what is your priority for mid-level rec tennis? Is it winning matches even if that means playing "old man tennis" and hitting as safely as possible? Or are you willing to push the envelope in match play and accept that to achieve those few perfect shots you're going to commit enough UEs that you'll might/probably lose? NOTE: I'm not talking about crushing monster winners here. I'm talking about trying to hit what would be a standard deep, hard, slightly aggressive neutral rally shots for higher level (5.0) players. Instead of poking, slapping, or slicing the ball in fear of missing you take your proper full stroke, not like a maniac, but trying to find the right angle and stroke speed to hit as well as you can. Recently I've tried both to compare the two approaches and I've gotta say that it has been more personally satisfying (and helpful developmentally) to focus on form and shot quality over "just make the opponent hit one more ball". I've won taking the conservative approach and it's pretty easy to win that way at 3.5/4.0 since most opponents will happily oblige you by committing lots of UEs. Just hit 4-5 crosscourt shots as simply as possible and by the 5th or 6th shot the odds are very high a slightly more aggressive opponent will flub something. With this different, less conservative approach I've taken losses that I otherwise would not have and that has led to a huge milestone developmentally: calmness and confidence. After one recent match an opponent commented specially on how calm and focused I played. No matter the score or situation he said I went about my business hitting my serves and strokes and seemed unshakable (and, yes, I lost the match). It's not that I didn't care. It's that I realized that any given match offers different opportunities for personal gain: a win or (given our meager tennis skills at 3.5/4.0) a chance to explore our skills limits and become more comfortable in those areas. I know that practice is really the best time for that sort of development but the reality is that most rec players don't get to practice and most of their tennis time is spent in matches. And there's nothing like the "pressure" of match play find your skill limits. Which is the point of this approach: you realize that there is no "pressure" in rec match play because nothing is at stake. And would you rather remain virtually unchanged in skill development hitting the same weak slice over and over to make your opponent hit one more ball so you can "win" a bag tag or learn more about your personal skills envelope and maybe improve as you build confidence in your more aggressive strokes? Tennis at this level is a strange sport. It significantly rewards stale, safe play with wins which can inhibit skills/confidence development while punishing mere attempts at using proper technique since executing those techniques effectively and consistently is usually just beyond players at this level.