Advantages of playing matches against weaker players

FiddlerDog

Professional
I am not referring to sandbagging ratings to win pointless 3.0 trophies.
That is a different matter.

Most everyone always seeks out better players to play casual matches with.
This winter I am taking a divergent path and seeking out weaker players once a week, because reasons.

Has anyone else done this and why?
What are some advantages of seeking out weaker players to play matches against ?
 
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S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I am not referring to sandbagging ratings to win league trophies. That is a different matter.

Most everyone always seeks out better players to play casual matches with.
This winter I am taking a divergent path and seeking out weaker players, because reasons.

Has anyone else done this and why?
What are some advantages of seeking out weaker players to play matches against ?
I've always thought that there is benefit to playing a wider range than just up.

- Playing peers forces you to learn how to win against a theoretical equal
- Playing down puts the pressure on you because you're "supposed" to win. There are many who play quite poorly when playing down. Learning how to win when you're the [heavy] favorite is also a valuable skill

Maybe the mix would be something like
25% up
50% peer
25% down

The %s can be debated but the main point is to counter those who believe they can only improve by playing up.
 

Daniel Andrade

Hall of Fame
It lets you experiment with different strategies
How to deal with pressure when you are the one who should win
It makes you feel like Federer

However, one should always go back to the better ones later on
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
It lets you experiment with different strategies
How to deal with pressure when you are the one who should win
It makes you feel like Federer
This is a nice psychological boost. It's not often I feel like Federer so deliberately putting myself in such a position where that is more likely to happen [for example, because I can anticipate my opponent's shot before he hits it or I can run everything down because he's not hitting with much power] is a positive. If someone did studies, they'd probably find it released endorphins or noradrenaline that "picked me up".
 

matterer

New User
Maybe if you're working on technique stuff like wrist lag or your takeback it could be an advantage since you'll have more time. But if you're just playing your normal game, you'll probably make yourself worse by playing down to their level.
 

toth

Professional
I like to play against a bit weaker player.
When i have possibility to play more my weaker bh slice or more volley, i try to practise them.
However if the match is not easy to win, i rather play my usual topspin grundie A game.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
Maybe if you're working on technique stuff like wrist lag or your takeback it could be an advantage since you'll have more time. But if you're just playing your normal game, you'll probably make yourself worse by playing down to their level.
You should not play matches at all when focusing on stroke correction. Most people get this wrong.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
I want to focus on reading the opponent's weakness and exploiting it.
You can't do this if you're always on defense.

I also want to develop my pusher and junker game.
You can't do this if you're always on defense.

It may also be a good way to put less stress on your body.
Don't need to go balls our on every ball.

Good point about some people mentally imploding against worse players.
They often go into bunt mode and do not trust their strokes since they can't face the pain of a lost point.
Most people get this wrong.
 

matterer

New User
You should not play matches at all when focusing on stroke correction. Most people get this wrong.
I mean stuff you've already learned/corrected and can already do, not learning during a match. Like with wrist lag, I got that down by hitting against a ball machine, but it's much harder to do consistently in a match. You can get good practice with lower level opponents on stuff like that.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Sure there are lessons to learn playing almost any opponent, but my .02 is, I think for players up through a mid 4.0 you should always seek to play better players. I think any benefit of learning to apply your game and not let your level drop down isn't nearly as much as playing consistently better players to improve. When you get up do a decent 4.0 you have more efficacy in strokes and play and can take better advantage of the situation.
 

socallefty

Legend
I've always thought that there is benefit to playing a wider range than just up.

- Playing peers forces you to learn how to win against a theoretical equal
- Playing down puts the pressure on you because you're "supposed" to win. There are many who play quite poorly when playing down. Learning how to win when you're the [heavy] favorite is also a valuable skill

Maybe the mix would be something like
25% up
50% peer
25% down

The %s can be debated but the main point is to counter those who believe they can only improve by playing up.
I tend to agree with this post, but maybe I would suggest %s of 25% up, 60% peer, 15% down. You get confidence from winning matches easily and so, sometimes beating up on weaker players makes you feel better about your game which can help you play better against peers. Also, I agree with the part above about learning to win when you are expected to win is a different kind of pressure you need a bit of experience to learn to deal with.

Weaker players come in all styles just like peers and stronger players do. I wouldn’t assume a player is weaker just because they play a particular style.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
One thing I overlooked is the weaker player's satisfaction with the experience.
I assumed everyone is thrilled to play a stronger player, but some may feel inadequate.

Overall a positive experience so far.
Lots of approach shot practice.
Only 2nd serves for less wear and tear.
Practice the high safe deep rally ball that would otherwise get punished.

You also need to get used to the larger number of unforced errors by opponent on routine shots.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
It is true about the self-created pressure on the stronger player. You get into a mode where you don't want to give up even a single point.
This never happens in an even match, and is unrealistic. It must quickly be stricken from your thoughts after winning a few luv games.
 

Bambooman

Professional
Obviously you need to play weaker players in order to trot out the standard " I am the better player but lost because he was a pusher" excuse.
 

DCNJ

New User
Practice the high safe deep rally ball that would otherwise get punished.
I do generally agree with you and with what others have said about practicing with people better, worse, and peers to get better. And I think you're absolutely correct in that you'll have a lot of shorter balls hit to you so that you can practice attacking/approach shots.

But as to the quoted above, why would you want to practice something that wouldn't work against peers or players who are better? I'd say you could practice deep rally balls with penetration more (with the benefit of not being punished as much if you miss), but not those that would 'otherwise be punished'.

Also, while not on the point of the thread, I'd say in your reply above, I'd add *at the present time* to who is the weaker player. I'd say there's more of a potential path for improvement for the person show spews unforced errors over the pusher (though neither extreme is good).
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
But as to the quoted above, why would you want to practice something that wouldn't work against peers or players who are better?
Great point. I view it as a way to revisit basics. Even with peers, you do not need to "go for it" on every ball.
In my example, not every rally ball would be punished, just the crappy ones. But, I still got rally ball practice reps in!
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
Played a league match today against what appeared to be a much weaker player.
He was spraying balls during warm up. Erratic FH and weak BH.

I felt bad for him that he was going to lose badly.
My plan was to extend points, safe balls, and let him make errors.

His level improved during the match.
He got a lot of balls back and started hitting bigger.
I never did find the right balance between pusher and aggressive

Really enjoyable match that had some mental challenges
It ended up being much closer match than I anticipated.
6-4 6-3
 

cortado

Professional
I find it can be difficult (in a different way) to play against weaker players.
I find it difficult to hit the ball really hard against comparatively weak, soft incoming balls.
 

socallefty

Legend
I find it can be difficult (in a different way) to play against weaker players.
I find it difficult to hit the ball really hard against comparatively weak, soft incoming balls.
It is a basic tennis skill to generate your own pace without making errors and you should work on that with a coach instead of playing matches. Your ceiling will be low unless you learn this skill or every pusher who is fit will be a problem.
 

cortado

Professional
It is a basic tennis skill to generate your own pace without making errors and you should work on that with a coach instead of playing matches. Your ceiling will be low unless you learn this skill or every pusher who is fit will be a problem.
I'm capable, and I'm not actually making errors, far more it's just that I don't produce the type of shots that I do against more challenging players sometimes. More hitting up the middle than hitting to the corners. I seem to prefer having less time to think.
 
The aggressive parts of your game will get out of practice if you only play up. I've been playing matches against someone better than me for the last two months, and my backhand has gotten so much better, because this player is good enough to consistently put me over there.

Contrast that to my forehand... which has gotten super rusty. My short forehand and approach game has gotten so rusty because I'm not taking nearly enough reps on it. You use different parts of your game against stronger/weaker opponents. The shots I use against weak opponents, like approach shot forehands, have gotten so rusty only playing up that I'm missing them in the few opportunities I get against stronger players.

So yeah, play both, down and up. That way none of your game gets out of practice.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
You should not play matches at all when focusing on stroke correction. Most people get this wrong.
You would never play matches then since every intermediate-advanced player has strokes to correct. I agree that you shouldn't try to fix a stroke during a match but you should bring your corrections to a match to "proof" them. At some point you have to do that right?

I know a couple players that refuse to play matches until they are comfortable with their strokes. It's been going on 5 years and they still haven't played a match. Still out there with the ball machine and hitting sessions with coaches. Never actually kept score.
 

Rosstour

Legend
I'm about a 4.0 and I am lucky to have two good friends to play with: one 5.0-5.5 guy and one 3.5 guy. We all meet to play little informal round robins.

It has made all of us better, especially me. I'm either on offense all the time or on defense all the time.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
Did a practice session with a weaker player
Did overheads, volleys, cross court rally, serve practice, and point play

You can feel like Federer when playing a weaker player.
Dominance and your weak shots aren’t even punished.
Confidence booster but also a mirage of delusion.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Sometimes playing players who are a full 0.5 ntrp worse than you is a relaxing experience. You know you will win, so you can mix up your strategy.

Playing someone 0.25 ntrp worse than you is great too. You might lose 10% of the time, so you need to compete full strength to win, and you feel the pressure to win. And when you lose, you learn to accept that the ‘worse’ player was better than you on that day. So it helps you manage how to deal mentally with failure better.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Did a practice session with a weaker player
Did overheads, volleys, cross court rally, serve practice, and point play

You can feel like Federer when playing a weaker player.
Dominance and your weak shots aren’t even punished.
Confidence booster but also a mirage of delusion.
It's only a confidence boost or mirage of delusion if you don't recognize the other person as weaker. Otherwise you walk away just knowing you had a practice session against a weaker player.

I routinely practice with my wife and I never walk away feeling my confidence is boosted. I am either happy that I fixed some things or upset that fixes weren't helping the way I was hoping. Score is irrelevant.
 

FiddlerDog

Professional
Played a guy who would run back the the baseline after a short ball.
Or he would stay in NML after hitting an approach shot.
He was robbing himself of many opportunities.
I haven't seen this since my first year of playing tennis.
 
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