Do certain playing styles have an advantage at same level in USTA singles?

socallefty

G.O.A.T.
I’ve played and watched many USTA league singles matches at the 4.0 and 4.5 level between computer-rated players. In general, players with more than a half-level (0.25 dynamic rating point difference on TennisRecord or TLS since the official USTA dynamic computer level is unknown) always seem to win or at least win >95% of the time if they play a lot of USTA singles for their league team - assuming there is no injury and no obvious tanking. So, a 4.35 singles specialist always seems to beat a 4.1 rated player and a 3.9 rated player always beats a 3.65 player and so on. In general, the ratings seem to be pretty accurate for those whose ratings are made up of mostly league singles matches.

My experience is only with hard courts and this may not be true on grass or clay. However on hard courts, when singles players are approximately at the same level (let’s say 0.25 computer rating variance in TLS/TR or 1 UTR level), it seems like certain playing styles have an advantage over other styles as follows:

- Aggressive Baseliner beats a Net Rusher
- Net Rusher beats a Consistent Baseliner
- Consistent Baseliner beats an Aggressive Baseliner

So, my impression is that it seems like a circle where one style has an advantage over another, but can be beaten by a 3rd style. Since we are comparing same levels, no one has overwhelming weapons to just out-power the other playing style without making more errors. If someone has more weapons and is more consistent, they would be at a higher computer rating that is more than 0.25 points higher.

I am an all-court player and if I play against a consistent baseliner (includes pushers, hackers, junk ballers and counterpunchers who wait for errors), I tend to try to approach the net as quickly as I can and finish many points at the net - I also try to bring them to the net away from their comfort zone on the baseline. If I play against a net-rusher (serve-and-volley, chip-and-charge), I tend to play closer to the baseline and ramp up the power of my shots (might make a few more errors than usual) to make them hit difficult volleys or pass them. If I play against an aggressive baseliner with harder shots than me, I stand further back from the baseline for serve returns and during rallies and try to out-last them in long rallies - the idea is that if they cannot hit enough winners to win many short points, I’ll make less unforced errors and force more errors playing conservative tennis including the dreaded moonballs, lobs etc if needed. At the 4.5 level, most aggressive baseliners can still finish well at the net as they generally have good technique and bringing them to the net with short slices or drops doesn’t always work unlike against junk ballers/pushers, but I will try that too.

So, are there stylistic advantages as described if the players are of similar levels? Do other players change their tactics and strategy in league and tournament singles in a similar fashion if you are an all-court player? This is in addition to figuring out the best location for serves, best way to return etc, based on the opponent‘s strengths and weaknesses and other preferred point patterns you might like to play. I would be interested in getting the opinions of computer-rated singles players who play USTA league or tournaments in particular. This is because self-ratings are highly inaccurate and the player who is better by half-NTRP level (high-4.0 against low-4.0, mid-4.5 vs high 4.0) is in general going to win irrespective of playing style and you can compare pros and cons of playing styles only of similar-level players with a computer rating. Maybe you can compare singles players with UTR ratings of +/- 1 level and their playing styles also.
 

socallefty

G.O.A.T.
I see that there are a lot of posts about how to play the 4.5 junkballer from Atlanta ("Green Shirt" guy). I commented on that post that I would try to be net player against him and also try to get him off the court with wide serves to open up space for good approaches. Also, I would slice short on returns and bring him to the net first and then pass him or lob him as he seems more comfortable at the baseline. This is all in line with the "net player" approach needed to hit a consistent baseliner described above.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
In my experience, well-honed serve and volley play is an advantageous style at most recreational levels. Most of the disadvantages that have caused it to die out at the professional level don’t exist in rec play.

That said, really well developed serve and volley play is very rare amongst rec players. Most players who like to approach the net style themselves as ‘all court’, and invariably do not have highly proficient net skills.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
In my experience, well-honed serve and volley play is an advantageous style at most recreational levels. Most of the disadvantages that have caused it to die out at the professional level don’t exist in rec play.

That said, really well developed serve and volley play is very rare amongst rec players. Most players who like to approach the net style themselves as ‘all court’, and invariably do not have highly proficient net skills.

I played a tall guy who basically did the same technique where he'd moon ball to the BH and attack the net or serve a topspin serve to the BH and come in. Really good range and hard to pass off a high deep ball to my BH. The only strategy the worked was lobbing him back to the BH but given his height it was not easy to get over him and keep the ball in the court. But his range and hands were to good to pass easily.
 

socallefty

G.O.A.T.
Athletic, high level serve and volleyers (they usually Chip-and-charge on returns too) can be tough to deal with especially if they have a high-bouncing kick serve. But, if an aggressive baseliner can hit good passing shots and topspin lobs from both FH and BH wings, I would bet on them in an even match. Playing S-V requires explosive movement on every shot and most rec players over the age of 35-40 start getting slower at the net over a long match. If the match is on clay or in colder or humid weather when conditions are slow, even more advantage to the aggressive baseliner.

Along with poly strings which allow more spin and angles on passing shots, I think the prevalence of 2HBHs has also led to the slow demise of the Serve-and-Volley style amongst younger players. I find that good 2HBH players tend to hit BH passes very well compared to 1HBH players even at the advanced rec level and they can hold their passing shot a trifle later to see which way the net player is leaning before they hit it.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
In my experience, well-honed serve and volley play is an advantageous style at most recreational levels. Most of the disadvantages that have caused it to die out at the professional level don’t exist in rec play.

That said, really well developed serve and volley play is very rare amongst rec players. Most players who like to approach the net style themselves as ‘all court’, and invariably do not have highly proficient net skills.

Shade?

J
 

Conrads

Rookie
Athletic, high level serve and volleyers (they usually Chip-and-charge on returns too) can be tough to deal with especially if they have a high-bouncing kick serve. But, if an aggressive baseliner can hit good passing shots and topspin lobs from both FH and BH wings, I would bet on them in an even match. Playing S-V requires explosive movement on every shot and most rec players over the age of 35-40 start getting slower at the net over a long match. If the match is on clay or in colder or humid weather when conditions are slow, even more advantage to the aggressive baseliner.

Along with poly strings which allow more spin and angles on passing shots, I think the prevalence of 2HBHs has also led to the slow demise of the Serve-and-Volley style amongst younger players. I find that good 2HBH players tend to hit BH passes very well compared to 1HBH players even at the advanced rec level and they can hold their passing shot a trifle later to see which way the net player is leaning before they hit it.

very good points. Hitting good passing shots and lobs over 3 sets is very difficult though especially at 4.5 and lower. If the player is at the top of the their ntrp level skillwise i would bet on the S/V player
to win every time unless fitness is an issue (which is possible). I agree on the clay courts though, that favors the baseline game for sure. High level serve and volley (strong 4.5 and up is high level imo)
is very exhausting though (especially in the heat). Leg and core strenght are critical to maintain high level play for 3+ hours. Thats difficult especially for over 40 crowd.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
Athletic, high level serve and volleyers (they usually Chip-and-charge on returns too) can be tough to deal with especially if they have a high-bouncing kick serve. But, if an aggressive baseliner can hit good passing shots and topspin lobs from both FH and BH wings, I would bet on them in an even match. Playing S-V requires explosive movement on every shot and most rec players over the age of 35-40 start getting slower at the net over a long match. If the match is on clay or in colder or humid weather when conditions are slow, even more advantage to the aggressive baseliner.

Along with poly strings which allow more spin and angles on passing shots, I think the prevalence of 2HBHs has also led to the slow demise of the Serve-and-Volley style amongst younger players. I find that good 2HBH players tend to hit BH passes very well compared to 1HBH players even at the advanced rec level and they can hold their passing shot a trifle later to see which way the net player is leaning before they hit it.
I think most of these factors are overplayed. Poly strings in particular are one of the most overrated things in recreational tennis. The vast majority of players don’t swing hard enough to create the huge slide and snapback that make them such a game changer at pro level.

I think clay provides its own advantages to the serve and volley player, and I would also say that two handed backhands are in some ways easier to read. In terms of fitness I would say that short S&V points are much more stamina-preserving than baseline play (as long as you have trained for it).
Perish the thought. I just meant that developing true all court play is very difficult and time consuming, and amongst rec players it’s generally the net play that suffers.
 

Rosstour

G.O.A.T.
High level serve and volley (strong 4.5 and up is high level imo)
is very exhausting though (especially in the heat). Leg and core strenght are critical to maintain high level play for 3+ hours. Thats difficult especially for over 40 crowd.

Is it more exhausting than high-level baseline grinding, though?

S&V keeps the points short, win or lose.

I'm just spitballing here, I don't really S & V so high-level baseline grinding is pretty much my ceiling.
 

Conrads

Rookie
Is it more exhausting than high-level baseline grinding, though?

S&V keeps the points short, win or lose.

I'm just spitballing here, I don't really S & V so high-level baseline grinding is pretty much my ceiling.

possibly its hard to say, for someone in their 20s it may be easier. Also it depends on how you play S@V, if you use the serve for more placement and
variety and have to hit a lot of volleys (lunging,low volleys,high,overheads) over the course of the match it wears on you. If the S@V player has a bigger serve (by being taller etc..) winning
games when serving may be easier physically.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
Is it more exhausting than high-level baseline grinding, though?

S&V keeps the points short, win or lose.

I'm just spitballing here, I don't really S & V so high-level baseline grinding is pretty much my ceiling.
In terms of net energy out I think S&V is pretty clearly more efficient. You play shorter points and cover less court.

I think the reason some tennis players find it more exhausting is because they train for the steady anaerobic grind, not the stop-start aerobic bursts that S&V requires.

It’s a different type of conditioning and switching between the two can be a bit of a reality check for your fitness.
 

Rosstour

G.O.A.T.
In terms of net energy out I think S&V is pretty clearly more efficient. You play shorter points and cover less court.

I think the reason some tennis players find it more exhausting is because they train for the steady anaerobic grind, not the stop-start aerobic bursts that S&V requires.

It’s a different type of conditioning and switching between the two can be a bit of a reality check for your fitness.

You have typed it backwards--aerobic is steady, anaerobic is the bursts.

And in any case, all of tennis movement is anaerobic. It's just a matter of which way you're running, up/back or side/side. But it's all short, explosive bursts.

Aerobic exercise is jogging, swimming, cycling, etc.

But we agree on the first point. It's been drilled into my head that smart players start coming to the net more as they age, to shorten the points (i.e. Connors).

I've held off aging thus far but I know at some point I will need to make this transition when I can no longer go side-to-side hitting big topspin balls.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
You have typed it backwards--aerobic is steady, anaerobic is the bursts.
Yes, of course - brain fade.

Realistically I don’t think most recreational baseline players tap into their anaerobic system very much during a typical match.

For sure, there will be some scrambling points that leave them sucking air - but that’s very different to the kind of sustained net rushing on every serve that you see a serve volleyer engage in.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
In my experience, well-honed serve and volley play is an advantageous style at most recreational levels. Most of the disadvantages that have caused it to die out at the professional level don’t exist in rec play.

That said, really well developed serve and volley play is very rare amongst rec players. Most players who like to approach the net style themselves as ‘all court’, and invariably do not have highly proficient net skills.

A certain type of player is my nemesis when I S&V: the kind that doesn't necessarily return hard but can place their shots well. Not enough to pass me usually but enough to make me have to lunge or really stretch to avoid putting up a sitter volley. And for me to keep this up for 2, maybe 3, sets is exhausting. I see that I'm redlining and they are still in 2nd gear. Against those types, I have to crank up my 1st serve, which I'm not comfortable doing, because coming in behind my 2nd is usually a losing proposition.

I completely agree with your first paragraph, though: people mindlessly tell me that S&V is dead because of string and racquet technology and because it's so easy to hit massive TS at the S&Ver's feet and my response is always "Yeah, but can my opponent do that?" Usually the answer is "no", no matter what strings or racquet they have. Then it becomes a matter of whether they can consistently pass me or make me hit tough volleys enough to win the match. That's a very different question, one which I can sometimes answer.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Playing S-V requires explosive movement on every shot

But there are a fair # of returns that never come back due to returner error or are relatively easy volleys where one doesn't have to move much. Those at least allow me to save some energy.

I'd argue that overall, S&V might require less energy than long rallies but it requires a higher peak output for any given point. So if you lack the fast twitch muscle, S&V might not be a good choice.

Then again, who decides on S&V as a strategy by how much fast twitch muscle they have? No one I know.
 

Rosstour

G.O.A.T.
Yes, of course - brain fade.

Realistically I don’t think most recreational baseline players tap into their anaerobic system very much during a typical match.

For sure, there will be some scrambling points that leave them sucking air - but that’s very different to the kind of sustained net rushing on every serve that you see a serve volleyer engage in.

Of course they tap into their anaerobic system, we all do, to the best of our abilities. We scramble as hard as we can for the ball, some of us can just explode better than others.

S/V demands one initial explosion to the net, and the point ends pretty quickly either way. But in a decent baseline rally you may have to turn on the jets five or six times if not more.

But there are a fair # of returns that never come back due to returner error or are relatively easy volleys where one doesn't have to move much. Those at least allow me to save some energy.

I'd argue that overall, S&V might require less energy than long rallies but it requires a higher peak output for any given point. So if you lack the fast twitch muscle, S&V might not be a good choice.

Then again, who decides on S&V as a strategy by how much fast twitch muscle they have? No one I know.

It's a great strategy for long/tall players IMO. The last time I played a good S/Ver he was like 6'4" and he absolutely worked me. I hit with lots of spin so he was just taking my returns straight out of the air and putting them away
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
A certain type of player is my nemesis when I S&V: the kind that doesn't necessarily return hard but can place their shots well. Not enough to pass me usually but enough to make me have to lunge or really stretch to avoid putting up a sitter volley.

When I've served and volley'd it's always been the lobber that was my nemesis. When I was young with no groundstrokes and only played a few times a year I always served and volley'd but my playing opponents just learned to lob effectively and reset the point. That got exhausting. So eventually I had to learn to hit groundstrokes and be more selective in attacking the net. Now I realize if i had just learned to hit a good OH I might have been able to stay at the net more. But those days my shoulder was a mess so any overhead stroke was always a challenge.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
Athletic, high level serve and volleyers (they usually Chip-and-charge on returns too) can be tough to deal with especially if they have a high-bouncing kick serve. But, if an aggressive baseliner can hit good passing shots and topspin lobs from both FH and BH wings, I would bet on them in an even match. Playing S-V requires explosive movement on every shot and most rec players over the age of 35-40 start getting slower at the net over a long match. If the match is on clay or in colder or humid weather when conditions are slow, even more advantage to the aggressive baseliner.

Along with poly strings which allow more spin and angles on passing shots, I think the prevalence of 2HBHs has also led to the slow demise of the Serve-and-Volley style amongst younger players. I find that good 2HBH players tend to hit BH passes very well compared to 1HBH players even at the advanced rec level and they can hold their passing shot a trifle later to see which way the net player is leaning before they hit it.

That's (usually) the rub, though. Most baseliners have a weakness somewhere. Slice/flat/topspin to the backhand/forehand and/or lateral/vertical movement. A good net rusher is going to isolate that weakness and attack it. Then, when the baseliner tries to overcompensate, it really opens the court for the net rusher.

For instance, if I'm playing a tall-ish player w/a two handed backhand, I'm chipping and charging to that backhand every chance I get. When my opponent starts cheating to that side, I punish them with crosscourt topspin forehands.
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
I am a reformed serve-and-volleyer. I grew up serve-and-volleying in high school. At the time I had zero forehand, so I had to get to the net to have a chance.

But as an older player, my serve is just not reliable enough. My old S&V game was heavily reliant on an explosive heavy serve. I just can’t count on that anymore, especially because I used to use a jump serve for power that put a lot of stress on the legs.

Now I’m most comfortable as a defensive counterpuncher. I still have excellent wheels. But I like to mix in net attacks against the tight opponent.

I find I match up really well against conventional players. Guys who are right handed with big forehand and weaker backhand. My baseline game is engineered to play against these guys. I also like playing against attacking players and serve-and-volleyers, as much forehand is better designed for a use with a target with a payoff.
 
D

Deleted member 768841

Guest
...against righties with weakish BHs. I've reached the limits of my S&V game against the competition [mid- to upper-level 4.5] and won't progress unless I make some major improvements.
Good thing I always play people with weak backhands, most of the time I hit a flat around 90-100 down the t on deuce and I get a chip up and I can wait or maybe a slight floater. I’ve been making good use of it and beating people I normally lose to or have trouble at the baseline.
 
D

Deleted member 768841

Guest
Being a lefty with a good serve is almost cheating at rec level. Your opponent often needs above-standard ground strokes to beat you.
Very true. I run into one rarely but when I do it is almost an entire shift in plans. New positions, probably more BH’s, and more ad court aiming. But most of the time they have a weaker serve, it’s more a floaty serve/spin. However I am yet to run into a more advanced lefty(4.0-4.5)
 

MoxMonkey

Semi-Pro
I know I'm pulling this thread from the dead here but most of the posters in this thread are still active.

- Aggressive Baseliner beats a Net Rusher
- Net Rusher beats a Consistent Baseliner
- Consistent Baseliner beats an Aggressive Baseliner
This has a cool rock paper scissors vibe to it.

In my own experience this is quite true. Haven't played usta in a few years, but I'm probably middle 3.5 leaning towards the higher end of 3.5, based on people I play against/hit with that are in USTA.

I definitely fall into the category of aggressive baseliner.

I do well against net rushers and struggle against the grinders. Net rushers below my ability I'll almost always beat. But fast, consistent defensive players can hang in there enough and I'll miss. Guys that have a lower ability than me that play consistently will be harder for me than the chalk would indicate.
 
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McLovin

Legend
I know I'm pulling this thread from the dead here but most of the posters in this thread are still active.
I feel obligated to say “thank you for the preamble”. One of my biggest pet peeves here is people bumping a thread from years back with no acknowledgment that it’s old. Then others start chiming in like it’s a current conversation, quoting people who haven’t posted in 5+ years.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
This has a cool rock paper scissors vibe to it.

In my own experience this is quite true.
I think it's pointlessly simplistic

Rec tennis is mostly about playing your strengths against your opponent's weaknesses as much as possible. My strengths are my serving and my volleying, my weaknesses are my groundstrokes - therefore I S&V. I beat more (and more talented) aggressive baseliners as a S&Ver than I would as a consistent baseliner because I am good at the former and bad at the latter.

That's usually when people come back with "oh if you were equally good at both then you would win more with the latter", which to me is an entirely meaningless hypothetical. Like.... what does being "equally good" even mean in that context? 'Good' in tennis is really only defined by your ability to win a match, which makes the whole argument somewhat circular.

Rock-scissors-paper style arguments always come off like tennis is some kind of video game where each style is like a set of stats you can max out, but that's not how the real world works
 

NedStark

Professional
I know I'm pulling this thread from the dead here but most of the posters in this thread are still active.


This has a cool rock paper scissors vibe to it.

In my own experience this is quite true. Haven't played usta in a few years, but I'm probably middle 3.5 leaning towards the higher end of 3.5, based on people I play against/hit with that are in USTA.

I definitely fall into the category of aggressive baseliner.

I do well against net rushers and struggle against the grinders. Net rushers below my ability I'll almost always beat. But fast, consistent defensive players can hang in there enough and I'll miss. Guys that have a lower ability than me that play consistently will be harder for me than the chalk would indicate.

L
experience is only with hard courts and this may not be true on grass or clay. However on hard courts, when singles players are approximately at the same level (let’s say 0.25 computer rating variance in TLS/TR or 1 UTR level), it seems like certain playing styles have an advantage over other styles as follows:

- Aggressive Baseliner beats a Net Rusher
- Net Rusher beats a Consistent Baseliner
- Consistent Baseliner beats an Aggressive Baseliner

So, my impression is that it seems like a circle where one style has an advantage over another, but can be beaten by a 3rd style. Since we are comparing same levels, no one has overwhelming weapons to just out-power the other playing style without making more errors. If someone has more weapons and is more consistent, they would be at a higher computer rating that is more than 0.25 points higher.

I am an all-court player and if I play against a consistent baseliner (includes pushers, hackers, junk ballers and counterpunchers who wait for errors), I tend to try to approach the net as quickly as I can and finish many points at the net - I also try to bring them to the net away from their comfort zone on the baseline. If I play against a net-rusher (serve-and-volley, chip-and-charge), I tend to play closer to the baseline and ramp up the power of my shots (might make a few more errors than usual) to make them hit difficult volleys or pass them. If I play against an aggressive baseliner with harder shots than me, I stand further back from the baseline for serve returns and during rallies and try to out-last them in long rallies - the idea is that if they cannot hit enough winners to win many short points, I’ll make less unforced errors and force more errors playing conservative tennis including the dreaded moonballs, lobs etc if needed. At the 4.5 level, most aggressive baseliners can still finish well at the net as they generally have good technique and bringing them to the net with short slices or drops doesn’t always work unlike against junk ballers/pushers, but I will try that too.
However, a net rusher with a big serve will upend this “rock-paper-scissor” relation - because aggressive baseliners are not necessarily good big serve returners. I mean, hitting big strokes means nothing if you cannot even make the guy volley.
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
My personal style of play has evolved over the years.

As a young guy, I S&V’d every point, both first and second serves, because I had to. I had no choice. I charged the net every point.

The older I got, the worse my serve got. I reinvented myself as a defensive counterpuncher. Lots of moonballs and slices. Higher floor, lower ceiling.

Currently, my wheels are starting to fall off. Body getting too fragile to win all my points with running. So I’m trying to reinvent my playstyle again.
 
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MoxMonkey

Semi-Pro
Pusher/Counterpuncher is deadly for 3.5 where consistency and generating one's own pace is needed. Also effective for low 4.0, but less so and starts getting hit off the court from there.
I agree. It's a milestone to be able to blow these types off the court for sure.

I'll get there someday.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
I agree. It's a milestone to be able to blow these types off the court for sure.

I'll get there someday.

One of the guys on our team, he is THAT guy. We all tussle about among each other, but we all struggle against him. It's annoying really. lol.
 
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