Drills vs. Matches

How to you prefer to allocate your time on the tennis court?

  • Solely practice/drills to improve strokes

    Votes: 2 4.1%
  • 75% practice/drills; 25% matches

    Votes: 5 10.2%
  • 50% practice/drills; 50% matches

    Votes: 18 36.7%
  • 25% practice/drills; 75% matches

    Votes: 20 40.8%
  • Solely match play to improve ability to win matches

    Votes: 4 8.2%

  • Total voters
    49

leech

Semi-Pro
For most of us, tennis is a hobby to which we can devote a finite amount of time. Whether it is 100 hours a year, 200 hours a year, or whatever, we all make decisions (maybe not premeditated) about how to allocate our court time.

Are you the type of person that enjoys conducting drills, aimed at perfecting shots? Is your perception of growth dependent on improvement in form?

Or are you like me, where you'd much prefer playing a set or match (even if the score isn't recorded and you aren't playing for anything) to practicing? I am 40 and have never received formal instruction untii I did a mini-week at the Bollettieri Academy last November. It was pretty much useless to me. The instructors worked with me to adopt new grips, to swing differently, to follow through, etc., but I'm much too old to learn new tricks. For the limited time I have playing tennis, I'd rather be playing tennis.

Now I do want to improve my game. But to tear apart my foundation, however flawed it is, just isn't time- or cost-efficient. I think I can improve more by playing matches and learning/adjusting as I go.

For my 6- and 8-year old daughters, on the other hand, I feel it is worth it to invest the time and effort to teach them good fundamentals now, while they are learning the game. For an old geezer like me, it makes more sense to make the best of the skill set I have.

What do you think?
 

jdubbs

Hall of Fame
For most of us, tennis is a hobby to which we can devote a finite amount of time. Whether it is 100 hours a year, 200 hours a year, or whatever, we all make decisions (maybe not premeditated) about how to allocate our court time.

Are you the type of person that enjoys conducting drills, aimed at perfecting shots? Is your perception of growth dependent on improvement in form?

Or are you like me, where you'd much prefer playing a set or match (even if the score isn't recorded and you aren't playing for anything) to practicing? I am 40 and have never received formal instruction untii I did a mini-week at the Bollettieri Academy last November. It was pretty much useless to me. The instructors worked with me to adopt new grips, to swing differently, to follow through, etc., but I'm much too old to learn new tricks. For the limited time I have playing tennis, I'd rather be playing tennis.

Now I do want to improve my game. But to tear apart my foundation, however flawed it is, just isn't time- or cost-efficient. I think I can improve more by playing matches and learning/adjusting as I go.

For my 6- and 8-year old daughters, on the other hand, I feel it is worth it to invest the time and effort to teach them good fundamentals now, while they are learning the game. For an old geezer like me, it makes more sense to make the best of the skill set I have.

What do you think?
You should try to improve and adopt some of these tactics. Im your age and switched to more of a semi western grip on my fh to great affect. You can always keep learning...just try to make small changes instead of your entire game all at once.
 

leech

Semi-Pro
You should try to improve and adopt some of these tactics. Im your age and switched to more of a semi western grip on my fh to great affect. You can always keep learning...just try to make small changes instead of your entire game all at once.
That's probably good advice. I'm certainly not going to pull a Sampras and do anything drastic like switch to a 1HBH in hopes of recouping my investment of time down the road.

Just keep tweaking things and making incremental improvement if it works for me. Some things don't feel right, like using a continental grip (6 months ago, I didn't know what that was) for my serves. It made my serve wildly inconsistent, and worse, brought some pain to my elbow. So reverted back to my old, broken flat serve, but am happier.
 

LuckyR

Legend
There's what you do and what you would do if you had more time/cooperative partners etc. Very few hitting partners are interested in drill work, so I like most are stuck playing practically 100% matchplay. Oh well...
 

josofo

Semi-Pro
For most of us, tennis is a hobby to which we can devote a finite amount of time. Whether it is 100 hours a year, 200 hours a year, or whatever, we all make decisions (maybe not premeditated) about how to allocate our court time.

Are you the type of person that enjoys conducting drills, aimed at perfecting shots? Is your perception of growth dependent on improvement in form?

Or are you like me, where you'd much prefer playing a set or match (even if the score isn't recorded and you aren't playing for anything) to practicing? I am 40 and have never received formal instruction untii I did a mini-week at the Bollettieri Academy last November. It was pretty much useless to me. The instructors worked with me to adopt new grips, to swing differently, to follow through, etc., but I'm much too old to learn new tricks. For the limited time I have playing tennis, I'd rather be playing tennis.

Now I do want to improve my game. But to tear apart my foundation, however flawed it is, just isn't time- or cost-efficient. I think I can improve more by playing matches and learning/adjusting as I go.

For my 6- and 8-year old daughters, on the other hand, I feel it is worth it to invest the time and effort to teach them good fundamentals now, while they are learning the game. For an old geezer like me, it makes more sense to make the best of the skill set I have.

What do you think?


a little of both. a lot of the kids at the college in my town that have good solid strokes (probably 4.0 to 4.5 level games) just go and rally for an hour (they do mini tennis for a good 5 minutes). maybe if they feel up to it they will play the groundstroke game with no serves. i do not get this at all, i like to play sets.

but 1 of my current hitting partners only like sets and he wants to play 1 almost immediately when we start and he usually sucks for the first 4-5 games. so sometimes i have to try to convince him to get his 15 minutes of warm up in before we start playing. sometimes i just start and pick up his forehand from the fence.


also i a lot of times i play with some 3.0 and under players and when you play with them you almost have to do what they excel at more. if they like rallying than you should rally with them. if there competitive instinct come out and they play better in games you should play games with them.



for a a couple years i played almost everyday, and i used to like playing sets so i would convince people to play sets. it helped my game for sure, the only thing is the serving wore my arm out.
 

g4driver

Hall of Fame
I spent 18 months doing drills twice a
week and playing USTA matches three to four times a month.

The drills changed my game. I learned the technical skills of volleys and overheads which I was sorely lacking. My forehand became a weapon, and my ROS a neutralizer to big serving opponents.

I was able to hit three days a week. If you can do both, I suggest that. Drills then use what you learn in the match. Just my .02
 

leech

Semi-Pro
I spent 18 months doing drills twice a
week and playing USTA matches three to four times a month.

The drills changed my game. I learned the technical skills of volleys and overheads which I was sorely lacking. My forehand became a weapon, and my ROS a neutralizer to big serving opponents.

I was able to hit three days a week. If you can do both, I suggest that. Drills then use what you learn in the match. Just my .02
Wow, that is some dedication. Glad you saw steady results from your effort. I just don't think I can devote more than 3-4 hours a week on tennis, save for an occasional tournament.
 

g4driver

Hall of Fame
When I am home, I hit just about every day, and often twice a day, two hours in the am, then another two in the afternoon or evening.

I play tournaments and USTA leagues. On Sunday I played two single's matches in a tournament and two doubles matches. 87 games this past Sunday but that isn't my record.

Playing more has elevated my game, but I had to change parts of my game in order to grow.
 

corbind

Professional
When I am home, I hit just about every day, and often twice a day, two hours in the am, then another two in the afternoon or evening...87 games this past Sunday but that isn't my record...
That's an "A" effort. I fear playing guys like you because you practice ten time more than me and that really sharpens your game. How do you find the time?
 

g4driver

Hall of Fame
Corbind,

I work as a professional pilot, and normally leave home Tuesday evening and get back Friday afternoon/evening, which allows me to play quite a bit on Sat/Sun/Mon and Tue mornings. Sometimes I carry a frame on the road when I have long layovers in tennis friendly cities.

My normal routine is to play matches against my teammates on Sat/Sun (mostly doubles) or I will play in a tournament. If I am not playing in a tournament, I will squeeze in a single's ladder match on Sunday afternoon before or after my team practices, or either Monday or Tuesday mornings if the guy is flexible with his work.

This spring I played USTA league matches (6-0 record at 3.5 singles), lost one doubles match this year. I had fallen a nine days earlier in a tournament and couldn't run, but hey it was worth a shot. ;) We lost to my old teammates/friends at #1 Doubles. He was a little pissed that I played like that, but hey it was me or forfeit a court.

I am looking forward to Southern Combo and this fall when I have a lot of vacation, so I can play 3.5 and 4.0. It was noted to me last fall, that I was home 23 days and played tennis 19 of those 23 days. ;) I'm a junkie. What else can I say?
 

OrangePower

Legend
^^^^

I'm just impressed that your body can stand that much tennis!

I can play at most 15 hrs a week... any more and I can feel my body objecting.

Being a 40+ year old singles player on hard courts is the limiting factor for me.
 

g4driver

Hall of Fame
OP, I am 45 with two titanium screws at L4/L5. Alleve and a heating pad work magic. I play about 70% clay these days. Massive difference between clay and hardcourts when you hit 3+ hours.

Last Sunday was hard courts... 5.5 hours for four matches. This Weekend is hardcourts also.
 

floridatennisdude

Hall of Fame
^^^^

I'm just impressed that your body can stand that much tennis!

I can play at most 15 hrs a week... any more and I can feel my body objecting.

Being a 40+ year old singles player on hard courts is the limiting factor for me.
I'd love to find 15 hours per week. The silly 8-5 nonsense I put myself through every Monday thru Friday only allows me time for a league match and a couple weeknight matches per week. If I'm on the courts 9 hours per week, it's a gift.

If I didn't have bills to pay, my tennis game would be way better. But, to answer the poll question....

I like to practice about 25% and play sets 75%. I have three regular partners I play singles with. One I will do about 30 minutes of hitting and then play sets for another hour. Another will do the same 30 minutes hitting and play for about 2 hours. The third likes to warm up in about 5 minutes and just play matches. It's a good balance if I play 2 of them per week.
 

goran_ace

Hall of Fame
I drill more than I play matches because in drills I get to hit more balls in a short period of time and I can work harder than I otherwise would hitting around or playing fun/practice matches due to too many erratic hitting partners and quick 2-3 shot points ending on errors. Also, I have a lot of match/tournament experience under my belt so I'm not as much concerned about working on strategy as I am about staying physically fit.
 

goran_ace

Hall of Fame
I'd love to find 15 hours per week. The silly 8-5 nonsense I put myself through every Monday thru Friday only allows me time for a league match and a couple weeknight matches per week. If I'm on the courts 9 hours per week, it's a gift.
Same here. 15 hours a week when I was a junior was par for the course, but these days is unfathomable because of work/life and in the interest of staying injury-free. I'm happy to get 4-5 hrs a week on the court.
 

OrangePower

Legend
I'd love to find 15 hours per week. The silly 8-5 nonsense I put myself through every Monday thru Friday only allows me time for a league match and a couple weeknight matches per week. If I'm on the courts 9 hours per week, it's a gift.
15 hrs / week is the max my body can take; but usually I play slightly less than that due to time constraints. I hear you on the 8-5 thing; in my case it's usually 8-6. But luckily my wife also has a hobby that she does most evenings and we don't have kids, so I usually get to play 2.5 hours from 7-9:30 four evenings a week, and then maybe a few more hours over the weekend depending on schedule.
 

OrangePower

Legend
Back on topic...

I've actually changed my perspective on drills vs matches over the last few years...

I used to prefer more drills less matches, the better to work on fitness and groove strokes. But I've come to realize that there are important elements of my game that I usually don't work on during drills:

Serve:

Sure, you can take a bucket of balls and serve on the practice court. But most people when they do this just whack 50 or whatever serves from the deuce court, then repeat from ad court, and so on. But in a match situation, there is more going on:

1. You are serving a sequence of deuce court 1st serve, deuce court 2nd serve, ad court 1st serve, ad court 2nd serve... each of these serves is a little different, and people rarely practice hitting them in that sequence.

2. In service practice you don't have to recover quickly after serving. In reality, you do need to recover quickly so that you can be balanced for the next shot. Recovering after a serve and being in position to hit the next shot is critical.

3. Related to the above, drills rarely focus on hitting forceful shots / winners - the kind of shot that you often get to hit after making a 1st serve for example. How often do you see someone making a good 1st serve and then waste the opportunity by messing up on the next easy shot that should have been a put away?

Return of serve:

Similar to serve, people most often drill for this by returning multiple serves from the same side. Again, that is not realistic since in actual play the angles change after each point (talking singles here).

And more example that I'm too lazy to get into :)

Now of course there are drills for all of these, but most people when they drill focus on baseline strokes and maybe some volleying, and don't typically work on these other things. These days, I don't feel like I need as much work on my strokes, but I do find that I need to keep working on these other elements. So I tend to play much more matches than I used to.
 

floridatennisdude

Hall of Fame
OrangePower - You'd like a serve-receive game that I play with one of my hitting partners. Each player takes turns as the server and play first to 15 points. The player that loses the previous point gets to choose which side the next serve comes from. So, each player gets a minimum of 15 straight service points or a max of 29 before alternating it. You'll take around 40-45 serves per game with a return coming back.

It's simple and helps you get a ton of repetitions.
 

OrangePower

Legend
^^^^ Yeah, that does sound like fun, and I think I'll try it. Since you're playing points out and alternating service court, it's pretty much like playing a set, except that you each get more service points before switching server/receiver. So I guess another variation is to play a set, but have each service game be to 10 points instead of 4, with deuce on 9/9. Now that's a real pro set!
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Personally, I think folks spend waaaay too much time playing and not enough time drilling.

I have played a lot of USTA matches since I first picked up a racket. It was not until I found a reliable practice partner and started putting in hours of practice that I saw improvement reflected in my matches.

As you mention, there are lots of technique things that can make you a better player. Unfortunately, none of it will help until you work on muscle memory to undo the bad habits and replace them with good habits. It simply is impossible to do that in a match situation. I switched from an Eastern FH grip to SW, and it has transformed my game. Had I not put in insane amounts of practice time, it wouldn't have stuck.

That said, I can understand why people often figure they will just keep using the tools they have in their existing game and won't practice/drill. Still, there is a very definite limit to how far you will go with the wrong grips, the wrong habits, the wrong footwork.

To me, it is way more fun to learn a new thing, try to own it, and then whip it out in a match.

Cindy -- who also thinks it's fun to beat players who used to own her because she improved her game
 

floridatennisdude

Hall of Fame
^^^^ Yeah, that does sound like fun, and I think I'll try it. Since you're playing points out and alternating service court, it's pretty much like playing a set, except that you each get more service points before switching server/receiver. So I guess another variation is to play a set, but have each service game be to 10 points instead of 4, with deuce on 9/9. Now that's a real pro set!
Since we do it just as practice, we also will play multiple points on the same side. Especially on a double fault or return error. We'll either just say redo that point or play another one from here. Ultimately, winner and loser doesn't matter so we just work on what we need to work on.

Every game to 10 sounds brutal. I'd lobby for a tiebreak at 4-4 if we did that. :)
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
^^^^ How, and how often, do you drill your return of serve?
My partner and I set up crosscourt. One of us serves, the other returns.

Instead of stopping there, we practice rallying and coming in on anything short. The understanding is that to "win" the point, you have to go through the other person, so no hitting into the open court. You have to hit such a good passing shot or volley that they other person misses.

In this way, we get to practice our serve, return, approach volleys, approach groundstrokes, volleys, and overheads.
 

OrangePower

Legend
^^^^ That's a great drill for doubles - works a lot of things as you've said. Not as good for singles, where hitting into the open court is actually the preferred shot both for 2nd serve returns and for the server's 2nd shot. Hitting those kinds of attempted winner shots are what I think is difficult to work on via the drills most people do.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
^You are correct.

That could be why my singles player friends are so unhappy to do the sorts of drills I describe. They are all about hitting into the open court. They think hitting back to their practice partner is a waste of time.

I get that, but I think hitting to the open court is easy. Hitting a ball right to your opponent that is so awesome, heavy and technically correct that the opponent cannot handle it is something well worth practicing.
 

OrangePower

Legend
hitting to the open court is easy.
:shock:

I guess I don't find it that easy. For me it's hard to consistently find the right balance between putting enough on the shot and getting it close enough to a line to make it a winner, versus going for too much / too close to the line and ending up with an error.

And people generally don't practice this kind of shot much.
 

leech

Semi-Pro
:shock:

I guess I don't find it that easy. For me it's hard to consistently find the right balance between putting enough on the shot and getting it close enough to a line to make it a winner, versus going for too much / too close to the line and ending up with an error.

And people generally don't practice this kind of shot much.
I had a funny moment during a tournament match this week. I hit a dropper that my opponent barely got to right at the net in the deuce corner, and he popped up a sitter for me. He stopped running, conceding the point, as I had the entire court to hit into. I just tapped the ball over, and my opponent did a double take, realized he could get to it, and sprinted to the ball. He got the ball back in play, so I made sure I put the next ball away properly!
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
:shock:

I guess I don't find it that easy. For me it's hard to consistently find the right balance between putting enough on the shot and getting it close enough to a line to make it a winner, versus going for too much / too close to the line and ending up with an error.

And people generally don't practice this kind of shot much.
I have to defer to you -- you play way more singles than I do.

But I kind of thought that the mistake many 3.5/4.0 players make is they try to win points by hitting to the "open court." Meaning they are trying to hit the ball away from their opponent so often and so hard that they make a lot of mistakes.

I would think that point construction can involve hitting an awesome shot within the reach of the opponent, with goal of getting a weak-ish reply. Which you can then hit into the open court.

Also, my friends and I are still developing as players. Drilling increases consistency, and that wins matches more than going out and playing the same way you always play against the same people you always play.
 

OrangePower

Legend
But I kind of thought that the mistake many 3.5/4.0 players make is they try to win points by hitting to the "open court." Meaning they are trying to hit the ball away from their opponent so often and so hard that they make a lot of mistakes..
Yes, that's true, and not just at 3.5/4.0. You'd think higher level players would have mastered making winners into the open court, but at higher levels the court is smaller due to better coverage by the opponent, so you have to do more with the shot in order to ensure a winner.

I would think that point construction can involve hitting an awesome shot within the reach of the opponent, with goal of getting a weak-ish reply. Which you can then hit into the open court.
Absolutely. And then if you mess up on the winner you go for off the weak-ish reply, all that hard work that went into point construction goes to waste...

Believe me, I know this all too well :-(
 

corbind

Professional
My partner and I set up crosscourt. One of us serves, the other returns.

Instead of stopping there, we practice rallying and coming in on anything short. The understanding is that to "win" the point, you have to go through the other person, so no hitting into the open court. You have to hit such a good passing shot or volley that they other person misses.

In this way, we get to practice our serve, return, approach volleys, approach groundstrokes, volleys, and overheads.
I'm torn on this one. I'm a doubles player so I'm hitting at times at the net man and others to open court. Very often in practice I hit to the guys in baseline rallies and at the net (at slower speed). Good practice? Sure, but in matches I find myself having to remember NOT to hit to them or at slower speed.

That's great you do drills. If we all could just get more hours on the court practicing we could shut down these forums... :shock:
 

Wuppy

Professional
When I got into tennis about a year and a half ago all I did was no-serve rallying with a guy for the entire first year. Maybe played 1 or two matches with him in that year.

We videoed our strokes and after about 6 months we started serving and videoing our serves. We went on youtube and compared our strokes to pro strokes and watched FYB videos too.

The entire first year we did nothing but work on our form. Only about 6 months ago did we start playing matches and now we're playing matches mostly but with rallying and drills. We've also picked up new partners who are big into matches so we play matches with them and rally with each other working on our strokes and form.
 

josofo

Semi-Pro
^You are correct.

That could be why my singles player friends are so unhappy to do the sorts of drills I describe. They are all about hitting into the open court. They think hitting back to their practice partner is a waste of time.

I get that, but I think hitting to the open court is easy. Hitting a ball right to your opponent that is so awesome, heavy and technically correct that the opponent cannot handle it is something well worth practicing.
i have seen people do the serve in volley drill where the ros has to hit it cross court. maybe that is in an improvement on your drill because the server still has to work on his net coverage he just has less net to cover. (i think they have a no lob policy in this drill which is always good to have)
 
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