Can you change your style of play after years of playing a particular way?

Coolio

Professional
I think it is very hard. It is ingrained in the DNA of a player.
When the chips are on the line, you will play the way you have always played.

Thoughts?
 

Traffic

Hall of Fame
I think it is very hard. It is ingrained in the DNA of a player.
When the chips are on the line, you will play the way you have always played.

Thoughts?
I've been working on re-developing my strokes. And yes, for now, that is what it seems or I am caught in a state of confusion where it's not the old technique and its not necessarily the new. But something in between.
 

SinjinCooper

Hall of Fame
Yeah. Its still tough. I think that i am in the middle where nothing works in terms of winning :)
Makes it all the easier to concentrate on the stroke without being results oriented, then! There is none so free as he who has nothing to lose. M*A*S*H* taught me that.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Can you change your style of play after years of playing a particular way?
I have been fighting this for years now. I come from a racquetball background, which was an excellent transition for my backhand, but my high takeback on my forehand has been something I have NOT been able to readily change. It is better and I am able to control the technique, but after playing almost 15 years of racquetball, it is pretty ingrained.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
I think @Coolio is talking about changing your gamestyle as opposed to changing motor patterns/technique?

Yes is the answer, you absolutely can. It's kind of like asking can you stop smoking after years of doing so - yes, you can (and in that example you have a physical addiction to overcome as well as the habitual).

The key is to buy into the change, ideally in an emotional way and then to change the way you identify yourself. In the smoking example, everybody knows smoking is bad for you and will in all likelihood find some way of killing you, but that doesn't stop people doing it. However, if your kid says to you "please stop smoking daddy as I want you to be able to give me away at my wedding" you create an emotional attachment with the change. Your final change could be to not refer to yourself as an "ex-smoker" (which gives credence to the fact that you used to smoke and therefore could again), but to refer to yourself as a "non-smoker".

Obviously this is an extreme example, but it illustrates the mechanism for change in humans pretty well. Yes under pressure you may resort to old habits (smokers often relapse in social situations - peer pressure), but if you are invested enough in the change it is very possible.
 
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TnsGuru

Professional
Sampras did it years ago. Had a two-handed back and a baseline game and was one of the top juniors but completely changed to a one-handed backhand all court game, beefed up his serve and the rest is history! He had a winning formula in the juniors but his coach said we are going to win Wimbledon in the future forget about the juniors, were working long term!!

Federer even played to the mold of Sampras and S/V early in his career but played predominately baseline in his prime years. He is now a hybrid baseline player that can volley when necessary.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Of course you can, but you need to be motivated to change, like your previous game is getting ineffective.
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
I think the tough part is that in crunch time, like a tie break, you might revert to your old ways but yes you can change your style.

Djokovic changed his style from his days when sponsored by Wilson. He took more risks then.
 

ByakuFubuki

Semi-Pro
Changes of Technique are possible but hard at least for me: even while just drilling you need to stay well focused all the time.

Regarding Playing Style I can't tell: I'd like to come across as an All-Rounder, but the truth is I'm so messed up almost nothing works two days in a row; so I don't really know what it means to have played the same way for years.
 

EddieBrock

Professional
Definitely. I think you'll have your instincts, but can change (for better or worse) the mechanics of your shots and your shot selection. When I get nervous I still sometimes go back to the way I played as a kid, but for the most part my game has changed significantly for the better in the past 5 years.

I wish I could go back to my younger self and give a few tips that have really fixed technical problems with my shots.
 

GN-001

Semi-Pro
Yes you can. Here's my experience of how I could make the change:

I've always been an attacking player and no matter what sport I played, I always play attack. It's my instincts and ingrained in my DNA.

Then I met a counter puncher with a topspin game, great defence, passing shots and great anticipation. He can put balls back that no one else I play against can.

Initially I use to lose 60% of the time due to unforced errors as he makes me hit extra shots time and time again. However, since playing him literally 100times, I have learnt and adopted his style into my game and can do the exact same thing and probably win 55% of the points. Nowadays, if I make too many errors and when the chips are on the line, I play his style and know that even though we might hit 20 shots, I might just win the point.

I still play attack, first strike tennis against almost everyone else as that's naturally what I like doing but I can now happily play a topspin counter punching game if I wanted to.

So yes you can definitely change your style of play, even after 10 years of playing the same way. Playing someone, with the style you want to change to, over and over again helps as you understand that playing styles tendencies and patterns.
 

kiteboard

Banned
Video, tons of practice, will power, match play, practice play, shadow swinging: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time table. I am learning the atp type III fh, and how to use the uni grip on serve/volley with conti. grip as well.
 

Curious

Legend
A very simple thing: keep that bloody head and gaze at contact point and don't look at the outgoing ball. I keep reminding myself a hundred times yet do it only a few times in a match. I'm concerned about early dementia!
 
2

2HBH-DTL

Guest
sure you can. all it takes is some practice and hard work. you can change anything about your tennis game.
 
D

Deleted member 23235

Guest
of course you can... just gotta put the time in.
major transitions i've made:
* switching fh grip from hawaiian/western to SW/eastern
* s&v
both took a while (1yr+)...
my "old" game was heavy topspin grinder.. problem was i didn't have the personality type to do that :p
 

TnsGuru

Professional
of course you can... just gotta put the time in.
major transitions i've made:
* switching fh grip from hawaiian/western to SW/eastern
* s&v
both took a while (1yr+)...
my "old" game was heavy topspin grinder.. problem was i didn't have the personality type to do that :p
10 years ago I was a grinder because I loved to run around and defend driving my opponents crazy. I wish I would have incorporated more approach and volleys back then as much as I do now because points are shorter and saves energy.
 

Lance L

Semi-Pro
It helps to have a long horizon.
I plan on playing tennis for another 30-40 years, so taking 2 years to develop a more baseline style is worth the time.
If you expect fast results you are going to be frustrated. Embrace the challenge and give yourself a long time.

The great thing I'm noticing is that my baseline game has improved a lot, and it is quite useful even if I continue using my familiar aggressive net attack style. I've become a much more all around player, I have more ways to win.
 

ReopeningWed

Professional
I've always been an inconsistent ball striker through the first 9.5 years of myself playing tennis. Lately I've been playing a more grinding, patient play style, while I develop my net game.

However you like to play may not necessarily be optimal, or smart. In my case, I have pretty good movement and hit defensive balls well, I have an average forehand and mediocre backhand (terrible on topspin, not bad on slice), and a big serve.

Playing aggressive baseline tennis isn't cutting it for me, but I have opportunities to pick off floaters from my serve that I don't take advantage of.

The easiest way for me to win points with my particular skill set would be to come into the net and look for overheads as much as I can.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
I've always been an inconsistent ball striker through the first 9.5 years of myself playing tennis. Lately I've been playing a more grinding, patient play style, while I develop my net game.

However you like to play may not necessarily be optimal, or smart. In my case, I have pretty good movement and hit defensive balls well, I have an average forehand and mediocre backhand (terrible on topspin, not bad on slice), and a big serve.

Playing aggressive baseline tennis isn't cutting it for me, but I have opportunities to pick off floaters from my serve that I don't take advantage of.

The easiest way for me to win points with my particular skill set would be to come into the net and look for overheads as much as I can.
Really. Maybe its a level thing but sign me ip for that mediocre bh and average fh! When we played it was tougher to face you than matt so dont be so tough on yourself!!

That said i think its smart to shorten points and take care of floaters. Especially against grinders. You know better than i but i think grinders rely in not being attacked or being attacked all the time. 1st option they just double down on grinding getting into a rhythm and outlasting

2nd option they double down on grinding but throw in a bunch of smiles.

Must rattle their cages to see a guy attack smartly especially one as fast as you! Regardless you can double down on attacking smartly and throw in bunches of smiles
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Really. Maybe its a level thing but sign me ip for that mediocre bh and average fh! When we played it was tougher to face you than matt so dont be so tough on yourself!!

That said i think its smart to shorten points and take care of floaters. Especially against grinders. You know better than i but i think grinders rely in not being attacked or being attacked all the time. 1st option they just double down on grinding getting into a rhythm and outlasting

2nd option they double down on grinding but throw in a bunch of smiles.

Must rattle their cages to see a guy attack smartly especially one as fast as you! Regardless you can double down on attacking smartly and throw in bunches of smiles
I suspect Dan is trying to retool his game so he can WIN at any 4.0 level of play.
Some guys try to increase the use of weapons.
Some guys try to get more fit to hit more shots.
Some guys try to moderate their shots, keeping the good, tossing the best, and raising the level of the bad.
I'm more like the first, perhaps Dan is thinking of the last.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I started playing tennis as a serve and volleyer. My main opponents eventually learned to lob well enough so that strategy quit working. So I learned to play more from the baseline and develop groundstrokes. Now people are trying to beat me with drop shots and bringing me to the net. So I'm reestablishing my volley game and trying to develop better shots from the miscourt to avoid lobs and easy passing shots.

If you play the same people all the time, you will be forced to reinvent yourself alot as they will always seek out your weakness.
 

TennisCJC

Legend
I find this topic interesting. I think there are 2 kinds of players. Basically those willing to try to change and those who cling to what they have no matter what. I've also seen coaches that will not even try to change technique say in an adult past 30 years old. The coaches might offer tactical advice or maybe the odd mini-tip like "finish the follow thru", but I see a lot of players that have horrible strokes and I don't hear much "you stroke pattern and grip will never allow you to progress unless you are willing to change it" or similar. Maybe coaches after seeing thousands of adults know who is going to change and who isn't.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
I've made several changes over the years that were major:

- Moving from a Continental forehand to an Eastern forehand
- Moving from an Eastern forehand to a Semi-Western forehand
- Moving from a Continental backhand to hitting with a Continental, usually on slice shots, and an Eastern Backhand on drives and topspin shots
- Changing the one-handed topspin backhand to use a loose wrist when I went to a larger headsize
- Changing to the modern forehand
- Migrating from more of an all-court game to a mostly baseline game

My approach, in making major changes, is to carve out six months of time where I will not mind losing matches and screwing up in practice to make the changes and then go through the process. Sometimes I can't make the commitment at the time because of family or work issues. I have wanted to change to a more modern backhand as well and gave it a shot but I never made it to where it was natural. Maybe in a year or two or three.
 

TennisCJC

Legend
I've made several changes over the years that were major:

- Moving from a Continental forehand to an Eastern forehand
- Moving from an Eastern forehand to a Semi-Western forehand
- Moving from a Continental backhand to hitting with a Continental, usually on slice shots, and an Eastern Backhand on drives and topspin shots
- Changing the one-handed topspin backhand to use a loose wrist when I went to a larger headsize
- Changing to the modern forehand
- Migrating from more of an all-court game to a mostly baseline game

My approach, in making major changes, is to carve out six months of time where I will not mind losing matches and screwing up in practice to make the changes and then go through the process. Sometimes I can't make the commitment at the time because of family or work issues. I have wanted to change to a more modern backhand as well and gave it a shot but I never made it to where it was natural. Maybe in a year or two or three.
Lot's of good changes highlighted above. Curious why you are switching from all-court to baseline. I think having the ability to attack the net is extremely valuable skill. But, the other stuff is all good. I especially like that you were willing to change to grips more conducive to topspin.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
Lot's of good changes highlighted above. Curious why you are switching from all-court to baseline. I think having the ability to attack the net is extremely valuable skill. But, the other stuff is all good. I especially like that you were willing to change to grips more conducive to topspin.
I can play all-court - that is I will attack short balls but I don't use it as a default. I used to S&V regularly in the 1980s and 1990s and then defense got a lot better - whether due to racquets, strings, fitness or technique. And then I found that coming in on most balls wasn't as effective so I worked on the modern game and improved my groundstrokes to where I felt comfortable making that the base of my game.
 

sarag

Rookie
I played straight-arm forehands for 8 years or more, and finally switched to bent-arm. I feel like i gained power but lost touch and topspin. It took me a year to implement unconsciously in matches and i feel proud of going through it. I felt i was going down the pusher route and now i'm back on ball-bashing. I still haven't reached my old high 3.5 level but i like my style now and i'm winning low to mid 3.5 matches in less time. Now working on getting touch and topspin with the bent arm.
 

Coolio

Professional
Like @Ash_Smith said. It's not about technique. That can and should always be adjusted. I'm talking about your mental attitude/ playstyle.

I am a grinder, I make ridiculous gets and don't make many mistakes. I will always be this type of player, and I think you have to stay true to this. It would be stupid for me to play against my nature. Trying to force all the plays and rush my opponents is not my style, and that's ok, Andy Murray likes to play consistent and not force too much.

I don't think it is good to force yourself to be another style. What do you guys think?
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Depends.
A 5'10" player cannot play the same way as a 6'10" player. And of course, 6'10" doesn't play like a 5'10" player.
We all have limitations. Physically, if we cannot hit outright winners with any consistency, we need to moderate our strokes and play more shots, hoping the other guy goes for too much and misses.
If we CAN hit the winners all the time, then that's the game we'd choose to play by year 4.
Play to your strengths, try to mask your weaknesses.
 

chikoo

Hall of Fame
I think it is very hard. It is ingrained in the DNA of a player.
When the chips are on the line, you will play the way you have always played.

Thoughts?
Yes. Earlier for years I had only 2 shots

1. Fruit Slice to drop at the net
2. Lob to the baseline

Very effective, I must say.

Then I learned FH and BH to indulge myself.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
Like @Ash_Smith
I don't think it is good to force yourself to be another style. What do you guys think?
If it's clear that your current approach isn't working in a match, then you try other things. Ideally, you'd be fairly good at doing all of these different things or at least had practiced them.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
The only thing that the majority of rec players are good at changing are rackets, strings and shoes.
I've been using the same racquets since 2011 except for an RF97 playtest last year. I believe in keeping things constant while making technique changes. I have been experimenting with strings lately but that's to improve durability. I suspect that that is a lost cause and will likely go back to my old ALU Power 16L, the thing that's worked for me for so long - it just doesn't last long.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
I suspect Dan is trying to retool his game so he can WIN at any 4.0 level of play.
Some guys try to increase the use of weapons.
Some guys try to get more fit to hit more shots.
Some guys try to moderate their shots, keeping the good, tossing the best, and raising the level of the bad.
I'm more like the first, perhaps Dan is thinking of the last.
How is he not a 4.5???
 

GuyClinch

Legend
I've been using the same racquets since 2011 except for an RF97 playtest last year. I believe in keeping things constant while making technique changes. I have been experimenting with strings lately but that's to improve durability. I suspect that that is a lost cause and will likely go back to my old ALU Power 16L, the thing that's worked for me for so long - it just doesn't last long.
Racquet and technique are tied together. Your racquet can affect your technique - and your technique should influence your racquet choice. When Roddick beat that dude with a frying pan - had a totally different technique - because he had a totally different racquet.

I have noticed alot of what I like to call 'to cool for school' attitude on this sub form when it comes to racquets. After modding my racquets some I feel this is a huge mistake. Customizing your racquet can really help get you back on track..
 
I think it is very hard. It is ingrained in the DNA of a player.
When the chips are on the line, you will play the way you have always played.

Thoughts?
You can make any necessary changes if you put your mind to it and work hard enough to pull it off.
 

snvplayer

Hall of Fame
I think it is very hard. It is ingrained in the DNA of a player.
When the chips are on the line, you will play the way you have always played.

Thoughts?
Are you talking about technique / swing motions or the level of aggression and the level of risk taking?

Anyway, I think it depends, but it's very very difficult especially if the pattern has been rewarding for a long period of time. And, it's probably associated with player's temperament as a person. Players can add extra shots, variety, and dimensions as a complement to their primary playing style, but to really change the playing style, the players themselves have to acknowledge the change is necessary and willing to accept short term loss as a consequence. We see all of these cases at professional level all the time. Nadal has added that slice backhand, tinkered with his forehand to play closer to the baseline. Good example is Murray who's been trying to play more aggressive and offensive tennis. Their change has been successful, but also incremental. They are not going to play like Federer or Agassi (stand right on the baseline).

On the other hand, Nicholas Kiefer was a aggressive baseliner when he debuted, but became serve-volleyer because he realized he couldn't compete from the baseline. Fabrice Santoro turned into a "junk baller" because he saw that as his only way to win. Then, you have James Blake who didn't know how to adapt or modify his game at all to play percentages, and stuck to all out offense tennis.

This is what's interesting with Federer's time off and changes in his game. He has said in the interview that he used to slice his backhand at first, then look to drive subsequent backhand in the past, but he now feels confident enough to drive his backhand from the very first shot. Surely, his backhand must have improved and the new racket helps, but with the extended time off and not having to face the result, he was able to change his belief (which is more psychological) that he could be offensive with his backhand from the first shot rather than waiting for the 2nd or 3rd shot.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
Are you talking about technique / swing motions or the level of aggression and the level of risk taking?

Anyway, I think it depends, but it's very very difficult especially if the pattern has been rewarding for a long period of time. And, it's probably associated with player's temperament as a person. Players can add extra shots, variety, and dimensions as a complement to their primary playing style, but to really change the playing style, the players themselves have to acknowledge the change is necessary and willing to accept short term loss as a consequence. We see all of these cases at professional level all the time. Nadal has added that slice backhand, tinkered with his forehand to play closer to the baseline. Good example is Murray who's been trying to play more aggressive and offensive tennis. Their change has been successful, but also incremental. They are not going to play like Federer or Agassi (stand right on the baseline).

On the other hand, Nicholas Kiefer was a aggressive baseliner when he debuted, but became serve-volleyer because he realized he couldn't compete from the baseline. Fabrice Santoro turned into a "junk baller" because he saw that as his only way to win. Then, you have James Blake who didn't know how to adapt or modify his game at all to play percentages, and stuck to all out offense tennis.

This is what's interesting with Federer's time off and changes in his game. He has said in the interview that he used to slice his backhand at first, then look to drive subsequent backhand in the past, but he now feels confident enough to drive his backhand from the very first shot. Surely, his backhand must have improved and the new racket helps, but with the extended time off and not having to face the result, he was able to change his belief (which is more psychological) that he could be offensive with his backhand from the first shot rather than waiting for the 2nd or 3rd shot.
Two big changes with similar players were Borg and Nadal willing to improve their serves and develop net games.

One other thing - older players may have accumulated a lot of styles of play over the years along with different kinds of techniques so that they can make changes on the fly or strategically.

I don't play serve and volley anymore in singles but I could if I had to (say, if nothing else was working or I wanted to use it for a change of pace for an important point). I can play pusher style too because I practice a lot against the pusher style and I just hit rally balls back to the guy. It's certainly something that I could do in a match as I've become far more patient as part of getting older.

If you work hard on your fitness, then you have more options for the style that you use. You might be a really aggressive player but you could also play a retriever or grinder style because your fitness allows you to. If you are forced to attack to keep points short due to fitness, then you don't have as many viable options.
 

snvplayer

Hall of Fame
Two big changes with similar players were Borg and Nadal willing to improve their serves and develop net games.

One other thing - older players may have accumulated a lot of styles of play over the years along with different kinds of techniques so that they can make changes on the fly or strategically.

I don't play serve and volley anymore in singles but I could if I had to (say, if nothing else was working or I wanted to use it for a change of pace for an important point). I can play pusher style too because I practice a lot against the pusher style and I just hit rally balls back to the guy. It's certainly something that I could do in a match as I've become far more patient as part of getting older.

If you work hard on your fitness, then you have more options for the style that you use. You might be a really aggressive player but you could also play a retriever or grinder style because your fitness allows you to. If you are forced to attack to keep points short due to fitness, then you don't have as many viable options.
Funny you mentioned Nadal's serve, you remember Nadal was bombing his first serve in 120 ~ 130 mph in 2010 US Open or something, then he stopped doing that? I read somewhere he felt that it was more beneficial to him to get into rallies rather than hitting outright service winner.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
Funny you mentioned Nadal's serve, you remember Nadal was bombing his first serve in 120 ~ 130 mph in 2010 US Open or something, then he stopped doing that? I read somewhere he felt that it was more beneficial to him to get into rallies rather than hitting outright service winner.
Murray drives me nuts - he can hit 130+ MPH serves but we often see him serving a lot slower and losing with it. I remember Nadal with a bigger serve and wondered what happened to it. Federer can hit over 130 as well but he seems to be doing really well with his serve around 120 MPH.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
Dan was in the finals of Berkeley City Open...4.0.
He was at Fremont when I was there, wasn't he? He was the partner of the tall lefty Asian dude.
Ok but he has been playing for his college iirc. In my head that should be 4.5 no?
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I started playing tennis as a serve and volleyer. My main opponents eventually learned to lob well enough so that strategy quit working.
They countered your volleys by lobbing so the next logical step would be for you to counter their lobs with OHs. It's actually a compliment to you that they lobbed because they realized the primary option of passing you wasn't working.
 

gregor.b

Professional
I think it is very hard. It is ingrained in the DNA of a player.
When the chips are on the line, you will play the way you have always played.

Thoughts?
Not necessarily. But it takes a lot of belief and acceptance of the fact that you are going to lose some matches until you come to terms with the new style of play. I recently changed my forehand from semi western to eastern, and due to age I am unable to run with the younger guys in long gut busting rallies. I am now taking the ball on the rise more, ending points quicker, hitting more winners, making more errors, getting more unforced errors given to me, and oh yes, winning more matches more easily. So if an old fart like me can do it, it can definitely be done.
 
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