Baseline ‘Game to 11’ Feed Rules

How should a baseline game be initiated?

  • Gotta cross the net twice - I just wanna work on my pretty strokes.

    Votes: 30 76.9%
  • Every ball counts! Mulligans are BS

    Votes: 8 20.5%
  • Hybrid approach. My missed feed doesn’t count, but I like to crush winners off your weak feed.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I play real tennis. No pushing. I hate keeping score in baseline games.

    Votes: 1 2.6%

  • Total voters
    39

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
The baseline ‘Game to 11’ has become a ubiquitous part of tennis.

I have traveled around the country and around the world, and somehow, in the majority of places, 11 points seems to be the default consensus standard for how many points there should be in a game where the points are started by a feed from the baseline.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a similar default consensus standard for how the points should start.

My pet peeve is when players insist on having a rule where the ball must cross the net 2 times before the point actually starts. There are multiple problems with this.

First, some players prefer to hit aggressively during these first two balls, then count it as a mulligan if they miss - this is annoying, because inevitably it means that you must do the same to avoid a competitive disadvantage, and thus a large fraction of the points do not end up counting toward the score.

Second, if you take the approach of ‘playing nicely’ by hitting low medium pace balls to the middle for the first two balls, some players take advantage of the second ball as an easy setup, and crush the third ball for a winner. So whoever is the more courteous feeder ends up getting penalized for playing more nicely.

Third, if the point does not actually start counting until the third ball, some players (to avoid the first two issues above) will moonball the first two balls deep down the middle, which eliminates uncounted mulligans while still keeping third-ball crushers honest. This just ends up frustrating the other player.

Fourth, it’s annoying to have to count balls while starting a point. I prefer to play tennis with every ball having a purpose.

My preferred way to start a baseline game is a rule that every ball counts, but the feed has to be roughly down the middle. The feed can be as hard, as deep, or as short as you want, but it can’t be to the sideline. If you miss the feed, you lose the point. If the feed is too weak and the next ball is crushed for a winner, it counts. If your feed is hard and hits the baseline and your opponent makes an error hitting the reply on the rise, it counts. I find this approach keeps the odds of winning roughly 50/50 for the feeder/returner, and also ensures that the feed itself must be hit with some purpose while still mostly eliminating truly dirty feeds.

The ‘every ball counts’ approach is also great for cardio, because there is very little time for resting between points compared to serve-initiated points, and there is no resting during rally balls that don’t count. You are always competing.

I have found that this ‘every ball counts’ approach is gradually becoming more popular and spreading and catching on around the globe. But there are still holdouts here and there who insist on the antiquated ‘gotta cross the net twice’ rule.

If you are one of these holdouts, please defend your position.
 
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MasterZeb

Hall of Fame
I always play it to 10. This isn’t table tennis. And I rarely play it tbh. If there’s two of us, we play a set or two. If there’s three, we play king of the court. And if there’s 4 or more, we play lavash, which is a game in which you can feed anywhere and however difficult you want, and have to win points again all players in the other team to get one point. The team that lost the previous rally feeds. So it’s basically kotc but a lot faster paced and tougher feeds.

but yeah I agree that the min number of shots to be played is stupid. Feed down the middle and start out the point. If you hit a winner off the feed, great shot. Good work.
 

chic

Professional
I've always played cross the net twice but any bad set up balls are stopped and reset (too agressive, high lob, dropshots). The general idea being to get a feed and a deep neutral return to start the point.

Ime most people can't feed super reliably at 4.0 and below (idk if it gets better above this point) but can return a feed past the service line in the relative middle (you're allowed some angle but if you're hitting winners it gets reset as long as opponent doesn't take a swing). So it just gets a cleaner start.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I used to use the 2-ball rule until about 20 years ago, my regular hitting partner and I switched.

We both agreed at the time that it was ridiculous for us to not get penalized for missing a feed. We quickly spread it around to our circle of 5.0 tennis friends, most of whom were ex-college players. The change to the every ball counts rule was a unanimous hit. Everyone loved it, especially how it made the game go faster and give a better workout as a result.

Some of these guys now prefer just playing baseline games this way over sets, because it gives a much better cardio workout.
 

chic

Professional
I used to use the 2-ball rule until about 20 years ago, my regular hitting partner and I switched.

We both agreed at the time that it was ridiculous for us to not get penalized for missing a feed. We quickly spread it around to our circle of 5.0 tennis friends, most of whom were ex-college players. The change to the every ball counts rule was a unanimous hit. Everyone loved it, especially how it made the game go faster and give a better workout as a result.

Some of these guys now prefer just playing baseline games this way over sets, because it gives a much better cardio workout.
Having been on the very bottom of a college team. This would make sense to me with players at that level. But they (we?) In general have much better control off the feed 1 because they do college practice and 2 because most of them have taught or been an assistant pro at some point. Both factors meaning they have needed to develop a consistent feed.

An adult 3.0-4.5 who has never had those experiences, even if they're a good player, probably only has a so-so feed at best.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Having been on the very bottom of a college team. This would make sense to me with players at that level. But they (we?) In general have much better control off the feed 1 because they do college practice and 2 because most of them have taught or been an assistant pro at some point. Both factors meaning they have needed to develop a consistent feed.

An adult 3.0-4.5 who has never had those experiences, even if they're a good player, probably only has a so-so feed at best.
Wouldn’t that mean that a competitive game (where quality feeds with controlled depth matter) would be exactly the type of practice those 3.5-4.0 players need?
 

chic

Professional
Wouldn’t that mean that a competitive game (where quality feeds with controlled depth matter) would be exactly the type of practice those 3.5-4.0 players need?
No, because the feed isn't a match shot and most of the players I've met at this level almost exclusively do matches. Some add in clinics, but those usually have the pros feed in.

It's an opportunity cost thing. Every point lost on a bad feed is a potential rally missed where they could be working strokes.

Now, strictly imo: everyone at these levels should do far less match play and far more hitting around. Would be better for their strokes, their feeds, and better exercise. But no one seems to bite when I suggest that.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
No, because the feed isn't a match shot and most of the players I've met at this level almost exclusively do matches. Some add in clinics, but those usually have the pros feed in.

It's an opportunity cost thing. Every point lost on a bad feed is a potential rally missed where they could be working strokes.

Now, strictly imo: everyone at these levels should do far less match play and far more hitting around. Would be better for their strokes, their feeds, and better exercise. But no one seems to bite when I suggest that.
Not sure I agree. If you can’t hit a decent drop feed, then you probably can’t hit a decent shot off a weak sitter either. Most rec players could use improvement on dealing with weak sitters.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I always think baseline games are dumb if you’re trying to win points off the serve or the return.
Baseline games actually make more sense when you get older, if you’re like me, when winning the majority of points off the serve or the return reminds of a past life. Actually, most of my matches these days might as well be baseline games, as neither me nor my most frequent hitting partner are trying to get free points off serve. With the new Covid-19 schedule, we play 2h battles with long baseline rallies that finally end when one of us dares to attack the net.
 

ptuanminh

Hall of Fame
People are comfortable with different things. I prefer baseline games. But adding the net game is only beneficial to my game.
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
Everyone seems happy with cross twice that I play with. I don't care too much as long as the feed is reasonable.

Shout out to the guys that feed aggressively to the back hand corner and/or go for winner off the feed. :eek: They are also great to warm up with.
 
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ezekiel114

Semi-Pro
the group of guys/girls i hit with fall in line with 'cross the net' twice rule. its usually a feed and don't hit a winner off of the feed mentality. doesn't mean we can't hit a hard groundie to a corner just not a flat out winner attempt. if i'm not the feeder, i generally try to hit hard down the middle and move on from there.
 
My pet peeve is when players insist on having a rule where the ball must cross the net 2 times before the point actually starts. There are multiple problems with this.
The *guideline* [not a rule] centers around the aggressiveness of the shot, not how many times it crosses the net. I don't hit an aggressive feed and I don't hit an aggressive shot when receiving a feed. Generally, we "ease" into the point; there's no hard and fast rule about when someone decides to go for it.

Second, if you take the approach of ‘playing nicely’ by hitting low medium pace balls to the middle for the first two balls, some players take advantage of the second ball as an easy setup, and crush the third ball for a winner. So whoever is the more courteous feeder ends up getting penalized for playing more nicely.
There is a simple game theory strategy that, at least in the study I saw, does quite well against much more complicated strategies; it's called "Tit for Tat". You start off assuming the other guy will play nice and as soon as he deviates, you're free to deviate also.

So yes, you as the courteous feeder will get penalized once; after that, it's on you.

Third, if the point does not actually start counting until the third ball, some players (to avoid the first two issues above) will moonball the first two balls deep down the middle, which eliminates uncounted mulligans while still keeping third-ball crushers honest. This just ends up frustrating the other player.
I've never run into this before.

Fourth, it’s annoying to have to count balls while starting a point. I prefer to play tennis with every ball having a purpose.

My preferred way to start a baseline game is a rule that every ball counts, but the feed has to be roughly down the middle. The feed can be as hard, as deep, or as short as you want, but it can’t be to the sideline. If you miss the feed, you lose the point. If the feed is too weak and the next ball is crushed for a winner, it counts. If your feed is hard and hits the baseline and your opponent makes an error hitting the reply on the rise, it counts. I find this approach keeps the odds of winning roughly 50/50 for the feeder/returner, and also ensures that the feed itself must be hit with some purpose while still mostly eliminating truly dirty feeds.
Then the focus will switch to the feed. What if one person insists on feeding more than 50% and consistently hits feeds that land near the BL with heavy spin?

The ‘every ball counts’ approach is also great for cardio, because there is very little time for resting between points compared to serve-initiated points, and there is no resting during rally balls that don’t count. You are always competing.
If you want max cardio, eliminate the points. Then you can keep playing even if the ball goes out.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
The *guideline* [not a rule] centers around the aggressiveness of the shot, not how many times it crosses the net. I don't hit an aggressive feed and I don't hit an aggressive shot when receiving a feed. Generally, we "ease" into the point; there's no hard and fast rule about when someone decides to go for it.



There is a simple game theory strategy that, at least in the study I saw, does quite well against much more complicated strategies; it's called "Tit for Tat". You start off assuming the other guy will play nice and as soon as he deviates, you're free to deviate also.

So yes, you as the courteous feeder will get penalized once; after that, it's on you.



I've never run into this before.



Then the focus will switch to the feed. What if one person insists on feeding more than 50% and consistently hits feeds that land near the BL with heavy spin?



If you want max cardio, eliminate the points. Then you can keep playing even if the ball goes out.
Looks like we have identified one of the stubborn holdouts. To answer your question, anyone good enough to feed heavy spin landing near the baseline every time without making feed errors would probably crush me in a baseline game no matter what the rules, so I would not hold it against him or her, just as would not hold it against Karlovic if I played him and he aced balls over my head every serve. Too good mate.
 
Looks like we have identified one of the stubborn holdouts. To answer your question, anyone good enough to feed heavy spin landing near the baseline every time without making feed errors would probably crush me in a baseline game no matter what the rules, so I would not hold it against him or her, just as would not hold it against Karlovic if I played him and he aced balls over my head every serve. Too good mate.
"stubborn", definitely. "holdout"? That implies actively resisting some inevitable trend. I wasn't even aware this particular battle was raging until you brought it up. The groups I've played 11 with generally play the way I described; it's not like we signed some sort of consent form dictating our behavior. It's a tennis social convention, which means it varies.

I can hit an easy feed all day long. I will make more errors if I try to hit aggressive feeds, yes. But I believe I have plenty of margin to up the aggressiveness before my error rate starts climbing dramatically.

I think you're setting up a false comparison: I can increase the difficulty of my feed and make life tougher for you as the receiver without being better than you, let alone being Karlovic. I don't do that and everyone else avoids doing that also [in my groups].

Like many other things, it's not a matter of which method is superior so much as everyone mostly agreeing on a common framework. Like I pointed out in the "Tit for Tat" strategy, if my opponent/erstwhile hitting partner wanted to play your way, I'd have no problem adapting. It's not my default, though.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
"stubborn", definitely. "holdout"? That implies actively resisting some inevitable trend. I wasn't even aware this particular battle was raging until you brought it up. The groups I've played 11 with generally play the way I described; it's not like we signed some sort of consent form dictating our behavior. It's a tennis social convention, which means it varies.

I can hit an easy feed all day long. I will make more errors if I try to hit aggressive feeds, yes. But I believe I have plenty of margin to up the aggressiveness before my error rate starts climbing dramatically.

I think you're setting up a false comparison: I can increase the difficulty of my feed and make life tougher for you as the receiver without being better than you, let alone being Karlovic. I don't do that and everyone else avoids doing that also [in my groups].

Like many other things, it's not a matter of which method is superior so much as everyone mostly agreeing on a common framework. Like I pointed out in the "Tit for Tat" strategy, if my opponent/erstwhile hitting partner wanted to play your way, I'd have no problem adapting. It's not my default, though.
Sounds like the highly contagious ‘every ball counts’ virus hasn’t reached you yet.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
How I do it: Feed it semi deep down the middle and play it off the first ball. If the feed is bad play a let. Works fine.

That said I hate playing baseline games. I like a short warmup and as much matchplay as possible.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
How I do it: Feed it semi deep down the middle and play it off the first ball. If the feed is bad play a let. Works fine.

That said I hate playing baseline games. I like a short warmup and as much matchplay as possible.
This is a man who gets what I’m talking about.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
There is one baseline game I think is great.

Player A can hit forehands and backhands both but has to hit to player B's backhand side only. Player B has to hit nothing but backhands but can hit anywhere in player A's court. Play points to 11, 21, 518, whatever.

Best drill for an actual matchplay situation that I've ever done. If I was playing a lot of tournaments I would do this drill all the time.

Other than that I have no love for baseline games. Let's just play sets.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
There is one baseline game I think is great.

Player A can hit forehands and backhands both but has to hit to player B's backhand side only. Player B has to hit nothing but backhands but can hit anywhere in player A's court. Play points to 11, 21, 518, whatever.

Best drill for an actual matchplay situation that I've ever done. If I was playing a lot of tournaments I would do this drill all the time.

Other than that I have no love for baseline games. Let's just play sets.
I find that drill works best as a way to handicap a stronger player when the weaker player is really old and can’t move well enough to play singles anymore.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
In your system travlr do you disallow droppers off the feed?
I've never expressly ruled against it. When I play with my friends, we don't feed deliberate drop shots - if I was going to do that, I'd mention it up front. But a low feed that barely clears the net and would bounce twice before reaching the baseline is certainly fair game. I usually feed high over the net and deep, and no one objects.
 
If you are one of these holdouts, please defend your position.
I guess I'm a holdout, but I don't play exactly as you describe.

I started playing this baseline game to improve shot consistency, and I use some of these variations depending on opponent to maximize the # of shots I get:
- pt. is live only after 3rd shot goes in (net cords reset the count). (This does create a slightly unfair "smack a winner on the 3rd ball" strategy, but keep reading.)
- variation A: cross-court shots only; shots that don't cross the "T" line are out and you lose the point. Feeders choice whether the pt. is ad or deuce. This narrow court makes 3rd ball winners much harder to get.
- variation B: first 3 shots are cross-court, and then the court is open.
- 'tug-of-war' scoring...
  • starts at 0.
  • opponent and I share the same score counter.
  • If I win a pt. it goes +1.
  • If opponent wins a pt. it goes -1.
  • At +5 I win. At -5 I lose.
  • as a courtesy I let opponent feed if am at +4. That way I can't take advantage of the '3rd ball winner' to close the game.

Playing the above has helped me improve a number of things...
- shot-consistency and depth (if that 2nd ball isn't deep enough the 3rd ball gets punished)
- patience
- point construction
 

dman72

Hall of Fame
I play a 3 cross rule normally. I think with some guys I hit with the no mulligans option might work, but others I feel it could lead to a lot of attempted clever feeds that will kill the main point of these kinds of exercises, which is grooving strokes and building tennis specific endurance.
 

red rook

Semi-Pro
There is one baseline game I think is great.

Player A can hit forehands and backhands both but has to hit to player B's backhand side only. Player B has to hit nothing but backhands but can hit anywhere in player A's court. Play points to 11, 21, 518, whatever.

Best drill for an actual matchplay situation that I've ever done. If I was playing a lot of tournaments I would do this drill all the time.

Other than that I have no love for baseline games. Let's just play sets.
Shaolin I tried your game today. Fun. Although a buddy and I played eight games to 11 of it (chance for both of us to see every corner) and we couldn’t take a game if we weren’t the stationary man.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
Shaolin I tried your game today. Fun. Although a buddy and I played eight games to 11 of it (chance for both of us to see every corner) and we couldn’t take a game if we weren’t the stationary man.
Glad you liked the game! For me it's great either way...you work a ton on being aggressive with the backhand or hitting aggressive shots to the backhand...win/win either side you're on.
 
D

Deleted member 769694

Guest
The baseline ‘Game to 11’ has become a ubiquitous part of tennis.

I have traveled around the country and around the world, and somehow, in the majority of places, 11 points seems to be the default consensus standard for how many points there should be in a game where the points are started by a feed from the baseline.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a similar default consensus standard for how the points should start.

My pet peeve is when players insist on having a rule where the ball must cross the net 2 times before the point actually starts. There are multiple problems with this.

First, some players prefer to hit aggressively during these first two balls, then count it as a mulligan if they miss - this is annoying, because inevitably it means that you must do the same to avoid a competitive disadvantage, and thus a large fraction of the points do not end up counting toward the score.

Second, if you take the approach of ‘playing nicely’ by hitting low medium pace balls to the middle for the first two balls, some players take advantage of the second ball as an easy setup, and crush the third ball for a winner. So whoever is the more courteous feeder ends up getting penalized for playing more nicely.

Third, if the point does not actually start counting until the third ball, some players (to avoid the first two issues above) will moonball the first two balls deep down the middle, which eliminates uncounted mulligans while still keeping third-ball crushers honest. This just ends up frustrating the other player.

Fourth, it’s annoying to have to count balls while starting a point. I prefer to play tennis with every ball having a purpose.

My preferred way to start a baseline game is a rule that every ball counts, but the feed has to be roughly down the middle. The feed can be as hard, as deep, or as short as you want, but it can’t be to the sideline. If you miss the feed, you lose the point. If the feed is too weak and the next ball is crushed for a winner, it counts. If your feed is hard and hits the baseline and your opponent makes an error hitting the reply on the rise, it counts. I find this approach keeps the odds of winning roughly 50/50 for the feeder/returner, and also ensures that the feed itself must be hit with some purpose while still mostly eliminating truly dirty feeds.

The ‘every ball counts’ approach is also great for cardio, because there is very little time for resting between points compared to serve-initiated points, and there is no resting during rally balls that don’t count. You are always competing.

I have found that this ‘every ball counts’ approach is gradually becoming more popular and spreading and catching on around the globe. But there are still holdouts here and there who insist on the antiquated ‘gotta cross the net twice’ rule.

If you are one of these holdouts, please defend your position.
I like the 2 cross.

They can tee off on your feed or you can bad feed them and tee off on theirs.

I do 2 balls but my first real shot (3rd) has to be to them. Its much harder than the feed and starts us somewhat neutral.

If im doing baseline feeding games i still like 3,2,1. 3pts if you hit a winner off something that doesnt bounce, two for a bounced winner and 1 for error. Can mess around and keep going for 3 pointers. All you need is 7 to win
 
I appreciate the spirit of the thread in that like many I’m sure, I’ve had some frustrating moments with 11’s, 21’s, whatever the deal may be.

To begin with, like someone said, playing sets is real tennis and drills are just that: drills. A tennis match begins with a serve, not a feed. So whether or not your the king of 11’s matter NOT. I know folks who are 5.0 stroke wise but 4.0 match wise... that happens.

When folks prefer to drill, though (and trust me with a 3-year old, full time job, wife, yatayatayata, I get it that sometimes you wanna groove your strokes and maximize the execise/cardio aspect), might as well set the ground rules right.

I see the main factor as to whether folks adopt “no mulligans” or “third ball live” being level of play.
The OP is 5.0ish apparently and IME, I’d say 4.5 and up players should adopt no mulligans and make every shot count.

As someone mentioned, 3.5 and under players may not be able to feed well, and it indeed is not a tennis shot. They may not care and I would not blame them for not being uber motivated to develop a nasty feed lol. Also at that level and below players won’t be able to hit winners and hugely devastating shots off a short feed, for ex.

At high levels, though, makes sense for there to be more “structure,” if you will. The idea of making sure the numbers of feeds for each player is also a good point like ie. you do 5, and I do 5.

High level players would also feed better or at least be more willing and able to learn to feed better. I sometimes have “ feeditis”and end up feeding horribly but I’m a 4.5+... That’s on me.

Overall, I like the intensity in the no mulligans approach instead of the tendency to have multiple points of relaxation when someone feeds poorly or it’s not central enough, etc. and you have to start over, and more time is wasted without stroke practice and cardio benefits.
 

barnstorm

New User
We play twice over the net. At our level one could take advantage with a difficult starting feed if we were to play "every ball counts." Even with twice over the net, a difficult starting feed can result in a weak return and a short sitter for an easy winner for the one who served up the difficult feed. So, we allow the feed or even the second shot to be passed on, and start over. So, that leads to a medium starting feed and then a little harder second shot, (but not a killer shot or it can be passed on), and then game on. It works fine. There can be a few shots that are passed on, depending on the players' mentality and confidence level. Serving is great and is the real thing of course, but then there is all the standing around and faults.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
Recently did a baseline drill to 10 with a 5.0 ex college player friend of mine...simple rules, deep feed down the middle, going for a winner on the first shot is perfectly fine.

I found that it was useful and enjoyable, you could play aggressive off the first ball or just roll it back deep and look for a better ball to attack...felt like match conditions.

I recommend it over the 2-3 shots in a row to start the point stuff.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Recently did a baseline drill to 10 with a 5.0 ex college player friend of mine...simple rules, deep feed down the middle, going for a winner on the first shot is perfectly fine.

I found that it was useful and enjoyable, you could play aggressive off the first ball or just roll it back deep and look for a better ball to attack...felt like match conditions.

I recommend it over the 2-3 shots in a row to start the point stuff.
Yes! Speeds up the time between running too, for good cardio.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I guess I'd ask what the purpose of this game is? It's not real tennis. So is the purpose to win or to work on rally point play? If it's the former then all shots should count. If its the latter then you should ignore the feed and the return of feed since they don't adequately simulate rally play. In fact it should be convention that both shots should be hit down the middle and point play starts on the third ball. If you are trying to work on rally point play that makes the most sense.

Again since it's not tennis, you can approach it anyway you want but since it's essentially a drill, I'd try to make it as educational as possible. Hitting drop feeds and winners off weak feeds gets lame pretty quickly if I'm there to work on baseline rally game. I'd rather just play a real match.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I guess I'd ask what the purpose of this game is? It's not real tennis. So is the purpose to win or to work on rally point play? If it's the former then all shots should count. If its the latter then you should ignore the feed and the return of feed since they don't adequately simulate rally play. In fact it should be convention that both shots should be hit down the middle and point play starts on the third ball. If you are trying to work on rally point play that makes the most sense.

Again since it's not tennis, you can approach it anyway you want but since it's essentially a drill, I'd try to make it as educational as possible. Hitting drop feeds and winners off weak feeds gets lame pretty quickly if I'm there to work on baseline rally game. I'd rather just play a real match.
If your opponent hits a winner off your weak feed, just feed deeper next time. There is cooperative rallying, and there is competing. Mixing the two is just not as fun.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
Yes! Speeds up the time between running too, for good cardio.
Yes, great for gets/recovery work. Also when you know your partner can go for a winner if they want on ball #1 you are very ready to move so it actually takes a really good ball for a winner.

Anyway I had fun and it was a really good workout (left the court soaked). Had tons of good rallies even though winners were allowed on the first shot.

Definitely recommend trying it. The key is the feed like said above. Have to make it deep enough it's not just an easy putaway (but also not a 30' moonball pushing your opponent into the fence which is kind of a dick move).
 

sovertennis

Professional
I've never expressly ruled against it. When I play with my friends, we don't feed deliberate drop shots - if I was going to do that, I'd mention it up front. But a low feed that barely clears the net and would bounce twice before reaching the baseline is certainly fair game. I usually feed high over the net and deep, and no one objects.
Why so many rules to this simple practice exercise? I play games to 11 all the time among my 4.5 and 5.0 partners. It goes like this: One player feeds a medium-deep ball. The other player hits a medium paced, deep ball back. The point then starts. Anything goes.

Travler, I don't understand a few of your protocols, among them:
--Why would anyone want to win (or try to win) the point from the feed? Seems entirely counterproductive to the spirit of the game, ie the feed should be used to get the point started in a neutral manner. After all, it's a rally game isn't it? If I could win points with the feed, I'd beat guys who are much better players than me.
-- Why would anyone try to hit a winner off of the feed? Same reason as above; as well, if the feed is deep and medium paced, then hitting a winner from it would be really chancy and would probably lead to as many errors as winners, again nullifying the purpose of the game, IMO.

When I'm giving a lesson to a lower (ie than me) level player, I'll add some handicaps, eg they get two points for a winner at any time, they get two challenges (which are tantamount to do-overs), etc. I do all the feeding in these games so that they have an easy ball to play on their first swing.
 

nyta2

Professional
The baseline ‘Game to 11’ has become a ubiquitous part of tennis.

I have traveled around the country and around the world, and somehow, in the majority of places, 11 points seems to be the default consensus standard for how many points there should be in a game where the points are started by a feed from the baseline.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a similar default consensus standard for how the points should start.

My pet peeve is when players insist on having a rule where the ball must cross the net 2 times before the point actually starts. There are multiple problems with this.

First, some players prefer to hit aggressively during these first two balls, then count it as a mulligan if they miss - this is annoying, because inevitably it means that you must do the same to avoid a competitive disadvantage, and thus a large fraction of the points do not end up counting toward the score.

Second, if you take the approach of ‘playing nicely’ by hitting low medium pace balls to the middle for the first two balls, some players take advantage of the second ball as an easy setup, and crush the third ball for a winner. So whoever is the more courteous feeder ends up getting penalized for playing more nicely.

Third, if the point does not actually start counting until the third ball, some players (to avoid the first two issues above) will moonball the first two balls deep down the middle, which eliminates uncounted mulligans while still keeping third-ball crushers honest. This just ends up frustrating the other player.

Fourth, it’s annoying to have to count balls while starting a point. I prefer to play tennis with every ball having a purpose.

My preferred way to start a baseline game is a rule that every ball counts, but the feed has to be roughly down the middle. The feed can be as hard, as deep, or as short as you want, but it can’t be to the sideline. If you miss the feed, you lose the point. If the feed is too weak and the next ball is crushed for a winner, it counts. If your feed is hard and hits the baseline and your opponent makes an error hitting the reply on the rise, it counts. I find this approach keeps the odds of winning roughly 50/50 for the feeder/returner, and also ensures that the feed itself must be hit with some purpose while still mostly eliminating truly dirty feeds.

The ‘every ball counts’ approach is also great for cardio, because there is very little time for resting between points compared to serve-initiated points, and there is no resting during rally balls that don’t count. You are always competing.

I have found that this ‘every ball counts’ approach is gradually becoming more popular and spreading and catching on around the globe. But there are still holdouts here and there who insist on the antiquated ‘gotta cross the net twice’ rule.

If you are one of these holdouts, please defend your position.
hehe, i've had quite a few debates with folks about the "right" rules.
how i play:
* feed doesn't count (if i miss the feed, i just refeed)
* first ball off the feed counts, BUT if it's bad feed to me, i have the option to stop the feed,... but if i try to return the feed, it counts
* my return off the feed typically goes back to the feeder (no change of direction "allowed" until third ball - eg. feeder typically has first chance to change direction)... my goal when returning the feed is neutralize (eg. via depth or pace or both)...
* no winners off the third ball

i hate the "live after 2nd ball" rule as it trains me to not pay attention for the first couple shots,... especially given the first 4 balls are the most important shots (per O'Shannessy)
i've never counted the feed... (honestly many folks can't feed!)
i "added" the rule that you can redo any bad feed, because there's always someone that tries to game the rules, like intentionally feeding short (or with some side spin etc...)... in the end i just want to get into the rally (while also punishing mental lapses)
not allowing winners on the 3rd ball... goal is to work the point... it's unrealistic to anticipate getting a ball right down the middle... without the rule, typically someone gaming the rules will: (a) always feed, to be the person to always change direction first (b) always run around the bh (cuz it's coming down the middle), to hit a fh inside out to the bh

my favorite variation is always doing cc feeds (start deuce and alternate sides)... in this variation, i'm ok with winners off the 3rd ball (ie. because you're already in a common cc pattern)... and because changing direction to go dtl for example comes with risk (major change of angle, higher net, shorter distance to baseline, exposes cc return, etc...). IMO this is the most fair/realistic way to do groundstroke games...

that said, when playing with other 4.5+ players, everyone already knows the purpose of the rally, and just wants to maximize practice with point presssure... so they get into the rally, work the point... so they are not trying to blast winners off the 2nd or 3rd ball. i find the "rules" are mainly helpful when someone comes along and tries to win the gs game at all costs.
 
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travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Why so many rules to this simple practice exercise? I play games to 11 all the time among my 4.5 and 5.0 partners. It goes like this: One player feeds a medium-deep ball. The other player hits a medium paced, deep ball back. The point then starts. Anything goes.

Travler, I don't understand a few of your protocols, among them:
--Why would anyone want to win (or try to win) the point from the feed? Seems entirely counterproductive to the spirit of the game, ie the feed should be used to get the point started in a neutral manner. After all, it's a rally game isn't it? If I could win points with the feed, I'd beat guys who are much better players than me.
-- Why would anyone try to hit a winner off of the feed? Same reason as above; as well, if the feed is deep and medium paced, then hitting a winner from it would be really chancy and would probably lead to as many errors as winners, again nullifying the purpose of the game, IMO.

When I'm giving a lesson to a lower (ie than me) level player, I'll add some handicaps, eg they get two points for a winner at any time, they get two challenges (which are tantamount to do-overs), etc. I do all the feeding in these games so that they have an easy ball to play on their first swing.
The point is not to hit a winner on the feed. But the feed is already live. So the feed needs to be deep if you don’t want to get it pummeled to the corner. Every ball counts. If you feed deep, your opponent has the option to go for a winner, but it’s not the smart play. In other words, it’s already tennis.
 

nyta2

Professional
Why so many rules to this simple practice exercise? I play games to 11 all the time among my 4.5 and 5.0 partners. It goes like this: One player feeds a medium-deep ball. The other player hits a medium paced, deep ball back. The point then starts. Anything goes.
cuz by 4.5+ everyone gets the point of the drill/game
Travler, I don't understand a few of your protocols, among them:
--Why would anyone want to win (or try to win) the point from the feed? Seems entirely counterproductive to the spirit of the game, ie the feed should be used to get the point started in a neutral manner. After all, it's a rally game isn't it? If I could win points with the feed, I'd beat guys who are much better players than me.
cuz some people seem to want to win at all costs
honestly, i think this happens more with folks with a low shot tolerance... (ie. "i can't hit more than 2 balls in a row...")
-- Why would anyone try to hit a winner off of the feed? Same reason as above; as well, if the feed is deep and medium paced, then hitting a winner from it would be really chancy and would probably lead to as many errors as winners, again nullifying the purpose of the game, IMO.
because some play the game such that the first ball is a "redo" if you make a mistake... so there's not penalty to take a big cut (i don't know why they think it's fair...)
but i used to run into this quite alot...
When I'm giving a lesson to a lower (ie than me) level player, I'll add some handicaps, eg they get two points for a winner at any time, they get two challenges (which are tantamount to do-overs), etc. I do all the feeding in these games so that they have an easy ball to play on their first swing.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
If your opponent hits a winner off your weak feed, just feed deeper next time. There is cooperative rallying, and there is competing. Mixing the two is just not as fun.
Then just play tennis.

Once you've changed the rules, you can adapt them any way you want. If I'm going to alter the inherent nature of the sport and make up a game then if i don't want to fuss about hitting deep feeds, I can make the rules how I want them to eliminate that aspect.

It all goes back to what is the purpose of this game? I've played Live Ball which generally has a rule that you must take your return off the feed CC and no poaching the first CC return. I accept this because I understand the game is to promote active net play and promote 2 Up formations. It's still competitive but also designed to be educational.

The value of Competition comes more from challenging yourself to be better than it does from beating an opponent. The former brings growth and the latter just strokes the ego. We are civilized people not cave men fighting over breeding rights in the harem. We can be cooperative and competitive at the same time.
 

Fintft

Legend
But a low feed that barely clears the net and would bounce twice before reaching the baseline is certainly fair game.
At times I have problems with short feeds, myself, how do you deal with them? They can't be easily attacked and my opponent would pound my return...
We usually play accross the net twice, at least at the beginning, b/c towards the end of the session we do practice attacking the first ball sometimes.
 

Fintft

Legend
- Why would anyone try to hit a winner off of the feed? Same reason as above; as well, if the feed is deep and medium paced, then hitting a winner from it would be really chancy and would probably lead to as many errors as winners, again nullifying the purpose of the game, IMO.

because some play the game such that the first ball is a "redo" if you make a mistake... so there's not penalty to take a big cut (i don't know why they think it's fair...)
but i used to run into this quite alot...
We do that (try to hit a winner off of the feed) to practice attacking tennis/winners.
 

nyta2

Professional
We do that (try to hit a winner off of the feed) to practice attacking tennis/winners.
I stand corrected :)

that’s fair, and i’ve done that, but in that case i’m specifically practicing attacking and defending... and both sides agree.

also we’re alternating feeds or having one side feed to 11, then switching roles... etc.
 

Fintft

Legend
I stand corrected :)

that’s fair, and i’ve done that, but in that case i’m specifically practicing attacking and defending... and both sides agree.

also we’re alternating feeds or having one side feed to 11, then switching roles... etc.
Good for you! As for myself, as I've posted above, we usually do this towards the end of the session (or when I have to do tit for tat lol).

Why would you switch feeding?
 
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