For max improvement, should I ditch 4.0 and play Opens?

HunterST

Hall of Fame
I've been playing about 5-6 years and have worked my way up to being a strong 4.0.

To give you an idea of my style, I'm the type of 4.0 who is bad at being good rather than good at being bad. That is, I have solid technique on all my strokes and can hit pretty big, but lack the consistency, match experience, etc. to beat higher level players.

Lately, I've found that competing at 4.0 has lost some of its appeal for me. I have a good chance at getting to finals or winning most tournaments, but it feels a bit hollow knowing that there are two divisions ahead of me with better players.
Plus, I just enjoy playing good players.

Ultimately, though, I want to do what's best for my game. Do you think competing against guys a few levels above me would lead to more rapid improvement, or is it better to play at this level and "learn to win?"
 

Maximagq

Banned
I think hitting with better guys is the easiest way to improve. I didn't get to my current level until I started hitting with 4 or 5 stars in the San Marino area because most of the players in my city weren't tournament players.
 

HunterST

Hall of Fame
I think hitting with better guys is the easiest way to improve. I didn't get to my current level until I started hitting with 4 or 5 stars in the San Marino area because most of the players in my city weren't tournament players.
I tend to agree. When I was a 3.5, I just skipped to playing 4.0. I think I surpassed the 3.5s faster than if I had hung around playing at that level.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Gotta play UP at least 40% of the time.
That means playing at your level sometimes too.
And create winning in your mind vs good 3.5's or bad 4.0's.
 

Fuji

Legend
I remember reading during one of my coaching certification books that your play time should be divided into:

30% with people better than you
40% with people who are competitive with you
30% with people you can beat easily

It's roughly those numbers that will help you improve the most efficiently. (if I remember correctly.) I really wouldn't recommend just hopping into open tournaments off the bat here, you'll get crushed pretty easily most likely. However, playing up a bit in tournaments is good experience as long as you can gain something from it. If you make finals of 4.0's easy, why not try a 4.5 or 5.0? At worst you'll lose first round to a seeded player, but hopefully be half way competitive and gain something from it.

-Fuji
 

HunterST

Hall of Fame
I remember reading during one of my coaching certification books that your play time should be divided into:

30% with people better than you
40% with people who are competitive with you
30% with people you can beat easily

It's roughly those numbers that will help you improve the most efficiently. (if I remember correctly.) I really wouldn't recommend just hopping into open tournaments off the bat here, you'll get crushed pretty easily most likely. However, playing up a bit in tournaments is good experience as long as you can gain something from it. If you make finals of 4.0's easy, why not try a 4.5 or 5.0? At worst you'll lose first round to a seeded player, but hopefully be half way competitive and gain something from it.

-Fuji
Cool to see an actual rough break down! I've heard a coach say something to the effect of "you learn from playing all levels" before, so this makes sense.
 

Doubles

Legend
No. What about the people you are playing against? Do you think they want to play against a 4.0?
I think they would take the easy win, and advance to the next round. OP, I would suggest you play open, as often as you play practice matches against 3.5's. It might seem asinine, but it definitely helps to practice against guys that you should beat to help with confidence. Mix that evenly with playing 4.0/4.5 and you should have maximum improvement.
 

Spin Doctor

Professional
A 4.0 has no business in Open level. You will get smoked, lose the first round and be out of the tourney in an hour with few rallies. How is that a good use of your time and money? Yes, you should play better players but you will get a lot more out of hitting with a 4.5 in a casual setting than you will an Open player in a competitive situation. There is a huge jump from 4.0 to Open. A deep yawning chasm. Even a 4.5 playing Open can be a massive blowout.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
I think they would take the easy win, and advance to the next round. OP, I would suggest you play open, as often as you play practice matches against 3.5's. It might seem asinine, but it definitely helps to practice against guys that you should beat to help with confidence. Mix that evenly with playing 4.0/4.5 and you should have maximum improvement.
Maybe. I think with that gap that big they might get kinda ticked. They do want a decent warmup - I don't think a 4.0 could provide that..
 

atac

Rookie
I sort of question the whole "playing against better players makes you better" thing. I think it certainly does, but only if by playing these matches you are seeing
what you need to work on and then you are going out and working on it with coaching, practice-time, etc. Simply getting beat by better players isn't gonna help that much imo.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Set process and performance goals - play anybody, at any level and measure yourself objectively against those goals.
 

pkil

Banned
Set process and performance goals - play anybody, at any level and measure yourself objectively against those goals.
Please elaborate on this?

I play nearly all of my tennis against guys of a lower level than me, so these type of goals might help me out a bit.
 

goran_ace

Hall of Fame
It really depends on what 'Open' means where you live. In some areas or where prize money is involved then open is really just for the 5.0+ players and the draws may be limited. In other areas open just means any and all comers and a 4.0 wouldn't be out of place, especially if its a non-USTA sanctioned event like a city or county open. You may play a another 4.0 (or even a 3.5) in the first round and then get blown out by a 5.0 in the next round.

I wouldn't ditch 4.0 entirely; just dabble in playing up here and there or sign up for two divisions knowing you might go far in 4.0 and be one and done in the other. I'd suggest baby steps too, try out 4.5 first. If you go all in for a season playing too far up you won't learn much getting blown out every week.
 

maggmaster

Hall of Fame
I also am a 4.0. My regular practice partners include a top ranked player in the 55s, several strong 4.5 players, several ex college players and many juniors. I gauge what tournaments I should play based on how I am doing against my best practice partners. When I started being able to hold serve against the 4.5 guys I started playing 4.5 tournaments. If and when I ever start beating the truly open level guys I will move to open level. That being said, I will still extend myself sometimes just for the match play. I played a couple money tournaments over the last few years and as long as they have a backdraw I consider it a good value.
 

TennisCJC

Legend
Gotta play UP at least 40% of the time.
That means playing at your level sometimes too.
And create winning in your mind vs good 3.5's or bad 4.0's.
Yes, a mix of playing up and playing at your level or below your level is best. You need to push yourself sometimes but you also need to know how to win a tight competitive match and how to win when you are clearly the better player. Different emotions in all 3 situation and you need exposure to all 3 types of competition.

If you are making finals of 4.0 tourneys and/or winning 75% of 4.0 matches, you should probably mix in some 4.5 tournaments or league.

Another option but more expensive is to take a hitting lesson from a pro. I like to do this as pros tend to push you a bit with pace and spin and a good pro will put enough pressure to make it interesting without knocking you off the court.
 

anubis

Hall of Fame
I've been playing about 5-6 years and have worked my way up to being a strong 4.0.

To give you an idea of my style, I'm the type of 4.0 who is bad at being good rather than good at being bad. That is, I have solid technique on all my strokes and can hit pretty big, but lack the consistency, match experience, etc. to beat higher level players.

Lately, I've found that competing at 4.0 has lost some of its appeal for me. I have a good chance at getting to finals or winning most tournaments, but it feels a bit hollow knowing that there are two divisions ahead of me with better players.
Plus, I just enjoy playing good players.

Ultimately, though, I want to do what's best for my game. Do you think competing against guys a few levels above me would lead to more rapid improvement, or is it better to play at this level and "learn to win?"
If I were you, I'd play 4.0 and open at the same time, in the same tournament.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Please elaborate on this?

I play nearly all of my tennis against guys of a lower level than me, so these type of goals might help me out a bit.
Three types of goal:

Outcome: Win/Lose - result based
Performance: Objectively measurable - e.g. serve %
Process: Subjective - self rated

Performance goals are "what I want to do"
Process goals are "how I will do it"

I tend to talk a lot with players about Intentions and Behaviours. They have to commit to certain intentions and behaviours before a match and then we debrief based on those, rather than the result. For example, one intention could be to stick to an attacking game plan and the corresponding behaviour/s to take balls at the top of the bounce and play close to the baseline. We then evaluate based on the intention and associated behaviours rather than the result.
 

Audiophile

Rookie
As at least one person stated above, as a 4.0 player, stay away from the Open division. That is going to do you very little, if any, good.

I would play 1 division up, in this case, 4.5, and see how that goes.

I am a firm believer in practicing and playing with players better than you is a great way to improve, to a certain extent. If you go to far, it's probably not going to help.

That being said, going out and practicing or playing with players that are no where near your level will actually do more harm than good.

I usually gauge my own playing like this. If I feel I'm playing well, and falling just short, I'm probably in the right division. (That leaves room for something to shoot for and find a way to break through) If I play mediocre or poorly and win easily, I need to move on.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
Go do it...

...what'll happen is you'll probably lose. So what? They're not going to take you out and shoot you. Meanwhile, it'll be a challenging experience, and you'll know what aspects of your game to work on next. As they say in the Air Force, Aim High...
 
Ppl don't realize a little confidence can make or break a match/career, etc. My recommendation, practice matches with open okay, tourney no. Your confidence and ego will be crushed. I know a guy who elected to moving on to open from 4.5 without actually have proven at 4.5 or 5.0. He is on the brink of quitting tennis. No confidence.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
Speak for yourself...

Ppl don't realize a little confidence can make or break a match/career, etc. My recommendation, practice matches with open okay, tourney no. Your confidence and ego will be crushed. I know a guy who elected to moving on to open from 4.5 without actually have proven at 4.5 or 5.0. He is on the brink of quitting tennis. No confidence.
...there's a whole bunch of other folks (including, I suspect the OP) who relish the challenge of playing up, want to win, but are willing to keep working and improving even if they do lose a few matches. It's just a game, and if you lose, nobody's going to take you out and shoot you...
 

pkil

Banned
Three types of goal:

Outcome: Win/Lose - result based
Performance: Objectively measurable - e.g. serve %
Process: Subjective - self rated

Performance goals are "what I want to do"
Process goals are "how I will do it"

I tend to talk a lot with players about Intentions and Behaviours. They have to commit to certain intentions and behaviours before a match and then we debrief based on those, rather than the result. For example, one intention could be to stick to an attacking game plan and the corresponding behaviour/s to take balls at the top of the bounce and play close to the baseline. We then evaluate based on the intention and associated behaviours rather than the result.
Thanks, I get everything except the last bit?
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
^^^At the level I work too many players are overly concerned with results, results mean ranking points, ranking points retain funding. The difficulty is that focus on result is very often detrimental to performance and progress - especially for developing athletes.

Therefore, a process whereby we encourage the athletes to evaluate themselves (and we evaluate performance) based on the intentions they set out before the match helps them move towards a growth mindset. It also helps them gauge improvement, even if they have lost a match/matches.
 

ohplease

Professional
Thanks, I get everything except the last bit?
You can win a match and have no idea what you're doing.

You can lose a match, and played better than you ever had before.

The difference is how well you're doing what YOU want to do. Are you honoring your plan? Do you even have a plan? Are you able to execute against that plan?

Your plan and your ability to execute should never vary. Your results in terms of win/loss might vary - that ultimately depends on your competition.
 

pkil

Banned
^^^ Thanks you two. I think I get it now, so rather than looking at results, I judge myself on for example whether I was aggressive, playing on top of the baseline and whether I was comfortable exerting pressure on opponent when I got a short ball.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
How can playing UP 1.5 levels hurt your mental game?
You KNOW you're gonna lose bagels. What do you expect?
And if you're bad enough to lose every single point, then go back to 4.5.
If you have any winners at all, you should be able to get a couple games off almost any open level player, because after warmup, they're not fully trying to win every single point.
 

Fuji

Legend
Cool to see an actual rough break down! I've heard a coach say something to the effect of "you learn from playing all levels" before, so this makes sense.
Definitely!

As someone who is a "cusp" player, (realistically I'm stuck between levels) I find that evenly dividing my time up between different levels really helpful in development. Play guys who are a level up from me shows me what I need to work on, while I play guys a level below me that allow me to work on what I learned from playing the better guys.

-Fuji
 

HunterST

Hall of Fame
Maybe. I think with that gap that big they might get kinda ticked. They do want a decent warmup - I don't think a 4.0 could provide that..
Sorry, but I'm not going to base my decision on what type of first round my opponents would prefer to play.
 

HunterST

Hall of Fame
Definitely!

As someone who is a "cusp" player, (realistically I'm stuck between levels) I find that evenly dividing my time up between different levels really helpful in development. Play guys who are a level up from me shows me what I need to work on, while I play guys a level below me that allow me to work on what I learned from playing the better guys.

-Fuji
Yeah, good points. The only problem is there aren't a TON of tournaments in my area. I maybe get to play 6 or 7 per year. All the hitting partners I have are pretty close to my level. That's why I thought maybe when I actually compete I should step it up.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Just step it up, expect to lose, and to lose more badly the better your opposition get's.
Since your practice partners are your level, you would need to enter tournaments to play against better players, plain and simple.
Knowing you're playing against better players, YOU must try your hardest, keep under control, never slack off, and expect very little in return.
If you have strong 4.0 shots, you will win against 5.5 players sometimes, not every, because you are facing both a better ball and more footspeed.
Knowing that, don't push it up the middle. Go for your best shots. You know if they are good enough, or not.
 

Fuji

Legend
Yeah, good points. The only problem is there aren't a TON of tournaments in my area. I maybe get to play 6 or 7 per year. All the hitting partners I have are pretty close to my level. That's why I thought maybe when I actually compete I should step it up.
For sure. I'm in a very similar tennis climate to you... I get about 8-10 tournaments a year if I bust my hump and want to do some travelling. Best thing to do is try and make friends who are a bit better! :razz:

-Fuji
 

tlm

G.O.A.T.
A 4.0 has no business in Open level. You will get smoked, lose the first round and be out of the tourney in an hour with few rallies. How is that a good use of your time and money? Yes, you should play better players but you will get a lot more out of hitting with a 4.5 in a casual setting than you will an Open player in a competitive situation. There is a huge jump from 4.0 to Open. A deep yawning chasm. Even a 4.5 playing Open can be a massive blowout.
I cannot believe there are not more responces like this, like you say a 4.0 will get smoked off the court and it will not teach you anything except that you have no bussiness playing at that level.

I am all for playing up the majority of my opponents are better than me, but they are 1 or 2 levels above me not 2-3. I am a 4.0 player also and have played against 5.0-5.5 players on occasion. Nothing wrong with going for a big challenge once in a while to let you see how much you need to improve and how good the better players are.

But to go into a open level tournament as a 4.0 is a complete waste of time, for you and your opponent. Just going into a 4.5 level tournament is going to be tough enough like 1 and 1 and done or 2 and 2 and through, but at least there you will be able to at least be in the points and get a few games, in the open division you are completely dreaming.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Kinda depends on your 4.0 level game.
Some 4.0's hit big serves, have forehands like 5.0's (not Open level), can run pretty fast, know how to volley, and can WIN points off any level short of in shape D-1.
Other 4.0's rely on hitting one more ball, have weak serves, don't volley much, and haven't hit with Open level players very much.
4.0's are not the same.
 

HunterST

Hall of Fame
I cannot believe there are not more responces like this, like you say a 4.0 will get smoked off the court and it will not teach you anything except that you have no bussiness playing at that level.

I am all for playing up the majority of my opponents are better than me, but they are 1 or 2 levels above me not 2-3. I am a 4.0 player also and have played against 5.0-5.5 players on occasion. Nothing wrong with going for a big challenge once in a while to let you see how much you need to improve and how good the better players are.

But to go into a open level tournament as a 4.0 is a complete waste of time, for you and your opponent. Just going into a 4.5 level tournament is going to be tough enough like 1 and 1 and done or 2 and 2 and through, but at least there you will be able to at least be in the points and get a few games, in the open division you are completely dreaming.
Guys, just for the record, this is isn't Opens in So Cal or at a prize money event.

The opens around here is usually kids who are playing at fairly weak college programs. The types of players who were one star or, occasionally, two star recruits. At a couple of big tournaments we get strong DII players, but not at most.
 

President

Legend
Kinda depends on your 4.0 level game.
Some 4.0's hit big serves, have forehands like 5.0's (not Open level), can run pretty fast, know how to volley, and can WIN points off any level short of in shape D-1.
Other 4.0's rely on hitting one more ball, have weak serves, don't volley much, and haven't hit with Open level players very much.
4.0's are not the same.
Hey LeeD, can you hit tomorrow? I'll be in Berkeley till about 1 PM.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Hey Josh...
You caught me in a bad week for tennis.
G/F is going to PuertoRico tomorrow night, for almost 3 weeks, but she want's my undivided attention until then.
But, she might work tomorrow morning till 1PM, so I can play Friday if she does go to work. Won't know until she get's home tonight. It's 8 already, and she's still working.
We should plan on meeting at SanPablo courts, then decide if we need to go to other courts if SP is crowded. They've been getting lots of kids on the 3 instruction courts, but usually leave one open for the public, and 3 on the other side open to the public.
I usually get to the courts by 10, due to traffic, but Friday's are usually light.
Hope we meet up.
 

President

Legend
Hey Josh...
You caught me in a bad week for tennis.
G/F is going to PuertoRico tomorrow night, for almost 3 weeks, but she want's my undivided attention until then.
But, she might work tomorrow morning till 1PM, so I can play Friday if she does go to work. Won't know until she get's home tonight. It's 8 already, and she's still working.
We should plan on meeting at SanPablo courts, then decide if we need to go to other courts if SP is crowded. They've been getting lots of kids on the 3 instruction courts, but usually leave one open for the public, and 3 on the other side open to the public.
I usually get to the courts by 10, due to traffic, but Friday's are usually light.
Hope we meet up.
Sure, I'll swing by the courts around then and check if you are there.
 

tlm

G.O.A.T.
Kinda depends on your 4.0 level game.
Some 4.0's hit big serves, have forehands like 5.0's (not Open level), can run pretty fast, know how to volley, and can WIN points off any level short of in shape D-1.
Other 4.0's rely on hitting one more ball, have weak serves, don't volley much, and haven't hit with Open level players very much.
4.0's are not the same.
I don't think so lee 4.0 players can not hang with 5.0 players.
 
Kinda depends on your 4.0 level game.
Some 4.0's hit big serves, have forehands like 5.0's (not Open level), can run pretty fast, know how to volley, and can WIN points off any level short of in shape D-1.
Other 4.0's rely on hitting one more ball, have weak serves, don't volley much, and haven't hit with Open level players very much.
4.0's are not the same.
Utter BS. No 4.0's pace will bother a 5.0. The 5.0 will just wait for Mr. Big Hitter to miss.
 

HunterST

Hall of Fame
Utter BS. No 4.0's pace will bother a 5.0. The 5.0 will just wait for Mr. Big Hitter to miss.
I have a friend who I would call a 4.0. He played one year at 4.0, got bumped to 4.5, played there and was then bumped back down to 4.0.

He played a guy that is a legit 5.0. This guy went undefeated in 4.5 singles (didn't lose a set, in fact) got bumped to 5.0, and made it to the finals of an open event this year.

My friend lost to him 6-3, 6-2. A sound victory, but, like Lee described, my friend has a huge serve, a big ground game, and good speed and was able to compete.

Not saying I could do this, but I just wanted to validate Lee's claims. I've seen a legit, computer rated 4.0 be competitive with a legit, computer rated 5.0.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I'd think TopspinShot could get games off almost any Open level player, 5.0 and up.
TLM, maybe not, not with his serve and groundies.
Me, easy, but no multiple games. I know, last Open level player I played double bagelled me, but most games went to at least 30 or 40 for me, but he won because he was just better, younger, and much quicker. I still hit my fair share of winners each and every game.
Remember, I played A/Open in over 13 USTA tournies, so while I can't match that level of play today, I know what shots are needed, and my volleys are much better than you 4.0's volleys.
And, I'm lefty with the same speed of serve.
 

Devil_dog

Hall of Fame
Very relevant post for me. I'm a recent 4.0 player that won a local flex league and will automatically get bumped up to 4.5s. This was my second season competing in 4.0 and starting realizing that with the exception of a few competitors I wasn't getting challenged so the move up was expected. Recently hit with a kid that's playing 4.5 and in just a hitting session I realized that though I can take points off him and even win games that my future matches won't be anything close to a cakewalk. But I relish the competition and hope to really see how far I can push myself in the 4.5 league. But going back to the OP, best of luck playing in open. It's going to be no doubt a tough time but if that's the way you want to go - then JUST DO IT. Keep us updated.
 

tlm

G.O.A.T.
I'd think TopspinShot could get games off almost any Open level player, 5.0 and up.
TLM, maybe not, not with his serve and groundies.
Me, easy, but no multiple games. I know, last Open level player I played double bagelled me, but most games went to at least 30 or 40 for me, but he won because he was just better, younger, and much quicker. I still hit my fair share of winners each and every game.
Remember, I played A/Open in over 13 USTA tournies, so while I can't match that level of play today, I know what shots are needed, and my volleys are much better than you 4.0's volleys.
And, I'm lefty with the same speed of serve.
Lee you are full of BS up to your ears, ya you would get some games but I would not. I would blow your old slow ***** right off the court, you can't even move. The video of your serve was nothing but an average serve that rarely was in the serve box.

I do hit with some 5.0 level players and can rally pretty decent with them. Do you know why that is? Because I can move and cover the court unlike you, plus my groundstrokes are consistent and I can keep the ball in the court. Lets see a video of you hitting with even a 4.0 level player and see these winners you would hit.LOL
 

arche3

Banned
Then obviously they are nowhere near 4.0, I believe the word sandbagging may apply.
No you got it wrong. At San Pablo courts 12 year old girls can return and practice against 125 MPh serves. Rec guys serve avg 120 and all 3.5s play like 5.0s from anywhere else. Ask leeD.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Lots of good points from you guys...:):)
All you slow serving righties without a real shot. TopspinShot has a real enough serve, it appears.
To say TLM has speed, with his build, is beyond comment.
Arche3, you are 4.5, you must know you can get points off a 5.5 if you do your thing correctly.
Me, I'm slower than you, but maybe 1.5 seconds slower in the spider drill than MattLin. Matt is faster than you, by yards. Last spider drill, tapping the intersecs with the correct tennis foot, 19.3 seconds. Try it.
Nobody said I can win against an Open player.
But, I can get a couple of points by WINNING them, then hope they miss one or two during that game.
Maybe YOU guys can't.
President aka Josh, and I played against a solid 4.5 and a weak 4.0. Since you guys say I"m a weak 4.0, Josh must be a pretty good doubles player, as we won 6-1.
 

Maximagq

Banned
Lots of good points from you guys...:):)
All you slow serving righties without a real shot. TopspinShot has a real enough serve, it appears.
To say TLM has speed, with his build, is beyond comment.
Arche3, you are 4.5, you must know you can get points off a 5.5 if you do your thing correctly.
Me, I'm slower than you, but maybe 1.5 seconds slower in the spider drill than MattLin. Matt is faster than you, by yards. Last spider drill, tapping the intersecs with the correct tennis foot, 19.3 seconds. Try it.
Nobody said I can win against an Open player.
But, I can get a couple of points by WINNING them, then hope they miss one or two during that game.
Maybe YOU guys can't.
President aka Josh, and I played against a solid 4.5 and a weak 4.0. Since you guys say I"m a weak 4.0, Josh must be a pretty good doubles player, as we won 6-1.
I know for a fact I'm at least twice as fast as that old cripple named Bobby Jr :)
 
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