Hitting the ball vs Playing the game...

Ash_Smith

Legend
A though occurred yesterday whilst i was watching Radwanska vs Jankovic at Wimbledon.

Jankovic looked like a player who has been taught to strike a ball...

Radwanska looked like a player who has learned to play tennis...

It occurred to me that the vast majority of what takes place on this sub-forum is geared towards hitting a ball rather than learning to actually play tennis..?

Thoughts?
 
Well, IMO there are basically four areas of the game:

1) Hitting the ball
2) Handling the opponent's ball
3) Movement, footwork, anticipation
4) Shot selection and patterns of play

In my opinion, from the most important to the least important: 2) > 3) > 4) > 1)

So there you got it, I think that hitting the ball is (by far) the least important.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Interesting topic, Ash

Every week I play with this friend who just loves to strike the ball hard (but I'm sure he also has intelligence on the placement though it's secondary). I play placement with higher priority but it's still dangerous for me. I have to be smooth and get in gear with a lot of things to stand a chance while he just needs to get hot with his FH and BH!!!
 

donquijote

G.O.A.T.
Matchup might make things look different. Both of those players are defensive but Radwanska is an intelligent player. She is a master of placement and changing the speed of the game. There is no single style that applies to all but it's more enjoyable to watch and play when there is a lot of mind games and strategy battle going on between players.

Most learning/recreational players only care about making a good strike and/or getting the ball to the other side as they are not yet skilled to control the point and the ball.
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
A though occurred yesterday whilst i was watching Radwanska vs Jankovic at Wimbledon.

Jankovic looked like a player who has been taught to strike a ball...

Radwanska looked like a player who has learned to play tennis...

It occurred to me that the vast majority of what takes place on this sub-forum is geared towards hitting a ball rather than learning to actually play tennis..?

Thoughts?
I assume that when you say "play tennis" that you mean the strategic aspects of playing a game. Yes?

Assuming yes, I agree with you about this forum, at least with respect to what is written here. However most of what I see on the courts is the opposite. I see players with fairly defective strokes making the best with what they have.
 

LakeSnake

Professional
Nothing else matters if the ball isn't struck cleanly over the net; so one must attend to it. If I don't concentrate on hitting the ball, I top it or yank my head up or sometimes just miss it. But it doesn't leave me much RAM to devote to strategy.

I have noticed a similar dichotomy in guitarists. Many people become obsessed with who can play faster, even though such a thing is way down the list on what's musically important . The result is that no one could derive any pleasure from listening to them. But it is an easy trap to fall into .
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
I think it comes down to variety at the pro level. Aga has shots no one else does, which can almost be a handicap if you aren't decisive. Someone like Jankovic who is pretty much only good at crushing the ball is probably thinking either "crosscourt" or "down-the-line" and that's about it. She is playing tennis, she just has fewer tools to do the job with.

Now, if you are talking about recreational players, most of us? Definitely agree - we are focused way too much on ball striking and not enough on playing the game.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Sure, if you're one of the weakest players on the WTA, you need variety, flow, imagination, quickness, and disquise.
If you're Sharapova, Williams, or Azarenka, you only need to pound the ball to one corner or the other.
Just like DelPo and Berkyk basically bound the ATP corners, while Fognini and Bagdatis play a subtle teasing, spin and pace altering game.
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
A though occurred yesterday whilst i was watching Radwanska vs Jankovic at Wimbledon.

Jankovic looked like a player who has been taught to strike a ball...

Radwanska looked like a player who has learned to play tennis...

It occurred to me that the vast majority of what takes place on this sub-forum is geared towards hitting a ball rather than learning to actually play tennis..?

Thoughts?
On here? For sure. Heck a lot of the more active people here "just hit" and don't really play matches from what I have read.

The mental part, IMO is a lot tougher than any stroke technique really. I find that the more advanced your technique gets , the harder it can be to win at first because executing that technique during a match over and over is very difficult. This is why so many pushers win at rec levels. Their strokes are easier to execute.
 

mikeler

Moderator
Learning how to play all the various styles takes time and only match play can teach you what is the best play in certain scenarios against each type of style.
 
Nothing else matters if the ball isn't struck cleanly over the net; so one must attend to it. If I don't concentrate on hitting the ball, I top it or yank my head up or sometimes just miss it. But it doesn't leave me much RAM to devote to strategy.

I have noticed a similar dichotomy in guitarists. Many people become obsessed with who can play faster, even though such a thing is way down the list on what's musically important . The result is that no one could derive any pleasure from listening to them. But it is an easy trap to fall into .
You have two examples between tennis and music, but poor analogy between them. The player who focuses on hitting the ball is analogous to the musician who focuses on fast (technical) playing without passion in it. Fact is, it doesn't matter how much you've practiced your forehand swing and how well you can execute it in idealized conditions if you cannot have proper footwork on the balls within matches, if you cannot handle opponent's pace and spin, if you cannot stay mentally focused in match situations or if you always just hit the ball back into opponent's hands.

Fact is, you can get the ball over the net with very mediocre technique and strange swings if you just put the string plane in correct place, at the correct time. Pushers do just this, move their feet exceptionally well and have great gameplan and strategy. In comparison, ball strikers typically get frustrated into their poor playing very soon and then come here to rant about losing to a "worse player". :p
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
While ball striking is good exercise, playing tennis means getting the ball THERE, no matter how, playing against the opponent, and maximising your strengths while avoiding your opponent's strengths enough to win the outcome.
Clean hits make you feel good about yourself and your tennis, but clean hitting seldom accounts for winning any match, if you're playing against peers.
 

tennis_balla

Hall of Fame
Ash, I thought about this as well a while ago. I call it "Hitting the ball vs playing the ball." but it doesn't matter what you name it, same thing.

Definitely not something that many people think about, or taught. Lots work on their stroke, technique wise but have no idea how to use them in a match. Lots of players out there who look great warming up or to practice with, but once they get into a match have no clue what to do, lose and then blame and believe its their technique thats failing them. Hardly the case.
 

r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
On the flip side, lot's of people concentrate too much on "playing tennis' instead of "hitting the ball" when they are starting out, doing whatever it takes to beat their opponent. We call these people "pushers" or worse yet "dinkers/hackers".

Pusher really know how to "play tennis", but will eventually be stalled from further progress because they never learned how to "hit the ball". Whereas "brainless ball bashers" will eventually learn how to "play tennis" and will also know how the "hit the ball" and will progress much further than the pusher in the long run.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Somewhere in your accension in tennis, you might want to win as often as possible, but you also need to look at the style of the top players, and try to play in that direction.
SETTLING. That's what you do when you realize you can't play tennis similar to the pros, so you start to push to win.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Any way YOU want it to?
Some play to win.
Some play to have fun, exercise their skills.
Some play to frustrate their opponents.
Some play for the art and execution of tennis......as they see it.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Do Serena and Azeranka belong to the group that strikes the ball or plays tennis (per Ash's description)?

Both of them own Radwanska though. LOL
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
Obviously they are not mutually exclusive but yes people are over-concerned with hitting/striking a perfect ball with an ideal stroke.

A though occurred yesterday whilst i was watching Radwanska vs Jankovic at Wimbledon.

Jankovic looked like a player who has been taught to strike a ball...

Radwanska looked like a player who has learned to play tennis...

It occurred to me that the vast majority of what takes place on this sub-forum is geared towards hitting a ball rather than learning to actually play tennis..?

Thoughts?
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Serena (5'9" and 172 lbs.), and Victoria (6' and 160lbs.) are among the biggest girls in WTA. While Maria, Petr, Ana, and a few other's top 6', the first two are the Alpha females in WTA, not needing strategy, only bashing the corners until they get a weak reply, they bashing the winner.
Of course they own Azarenka. She is a little skinny girl.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Like Serena and Azarenka, Jelena Jankovic is also taller, heavier than Radwanksa but ranked lower and get owned by the little skinny girl (Rad). Why?
 
Like Serena and Azarenka, Jelena Jankovic is also taller, heavier than Radwanksa but ranked lower and get owned by the little skinny girl (Rad). Why?
Jankovic has FAR worse footwork and movement than Serena/Azarenka. Radwanska can highlight that weakness quite easily. Honestly, Serena's movement is so underrated.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
JJ isn't nearly big and strong enough to dominate by power alone. And, she's not of the heavy hitting caliber of Serena, Viki, Petr, Sugarpova, or some of the other behemoths who dominate WTA play.
Just being a little bigger doesn't give you an edge. Being a LOT bigger seems to, if you have the mobility.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Can you believe in the remote possibility that some players are just better than others, and that matchups DO count, and the higher ranked players don't always beat the lower ranked players?
I like Julia Gorgeous, but she doesn't beat Rada either.
Heck, I love Kirilenko, but she can't beat any of the top 10,000 WTA right now, if there are that many ex and current WTA players alive right now.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Can you believe in the remote possibility that some players are just better than others, and that matchups DO count, and the higher ranked players don't always beat the lower ranked players?
I like Julia Gorgeous, but she doesn't beat Rada either.
Heck, I love Kirilenko, but she can't beat any of the top 10,000 WTA right now, if there are that many ex and current WTA players alive right now.
Don't tell me, tell that to Ash and the guys here.

If you believe in that then all the talk about striking the ball vs playing the ball is just moot!
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Matchups......
Just because both of us might be 4.0, it doesn't automatically mean we are the same skill level, on any given day.
One day, one of us can be slightly unjured, can be distracted by MENTAL things, can be distracted by financial problems, car problems, etc. and won't be playing our best.
Most times, when I play a 4.0 player for at least 3 sets, the scores can be wildly varying, including love games, and swing the other direction two weeks later, same two guys.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I can only relate to my own experiences.
Only ONE guy ever I played a lot against consistently owned me, and I'm 2 out of 3 in tournament play against him.....but he was about 75-3 in sets won in practice.
I've never "owned" another 4.0 level player. I can let up at any time, and I"m famous for dragging the opponent along for quite a while, before finally ending the travesty.
Oh, I'm for sure 0-5 against some Open level players, playing A/Open, but I"m really a B player, or newbie 4.5 at best. Back 35 years ago. Now, no 4.5 would take me seriously.
 
E

eaglesburg

Guest
On the flip side, lot's of people concentrate too much on "playing tennis' instead of "hitting the ball" when they are starting out, doing whatever it takes to beat their opponent. We call these people "pushers" or worse yet "dinkers/hackers".

Pusher really know how to "play tennis", but will eventually be stalled from further progress because they never learned how to "hit the ball". Whereas "brainless ball bashers" will eventually learn how to "play tennis" and will also know how the "hit the ball" and will progress much further than the pusher in the long run.
Well said
 

Gazelle

Legend
The mental part, IMO is a lot tougher than any stroke technique really. I find that the more advanced your technique gets , the harder it can be to win at first because executing that technique during a match over and over is very difficult. This is why so many pushers win at rec levels. Their strokes are easier to execute.
Except when having advanced technique means having a big booming serve.

Mental strength + 300% and pusher going home to quickly for his liking.

Also what's a pusher really? Just a guy with more brains than skill that shows you still have some holes in your game. Fix the issues in your game and a pusher quickly becomes a noob.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I seem to see, since advanced players play opponent's who are also advanced, a one two combination much more effective than just a big serve. Accuracy seems just as, or more important, backed up by a reliable kill shot.
 

Gazelle

Legend
I seem to see, since advanced players play opponent's who are also advanced, a one two combination much more effective than just a big serve. Accuracy seems just as, or more important, backed up by a reliable kill shot.
True against advanced players. But a pusher is not an advanced player. Probably doesn't even have the technique to handle a speedy serve. A fast serve can easily be returned long when not having a proper follow through.
 

LakeSnake

Professional
Torpantennis--conceded, my analogy was flawed.

Another try:
A musician must have technique--the ability to play the notes cleanly and reliably, but these are merely the tools used to bring the imagined sounds into the world. Those sounds are the point of the whole thing, at least for the listener.

A tennis player must also have technique, but it must eventually be at the service of competition and not be an end to itself.

A technique-oriented musician will not convey emotion to the listener. The technique-oriented tennis player will lose to players who attend to the game.

Still clumsy, but perhaps better.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
I won an A tournament by "playing tennis". My opponent was powerful but slow. I hit all kind of dink shots and drop volleys. No pace just short shots that made him move. Rec level version of Ashe destroying Connors.

It was my best win in terms of level.

Its probably the one I feel the worst about....

These days I like to hit the ball but if I have to I can play tennis but its not as fun...
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Gazelle.....
Maybe I"m an old fart, or maybe where I live, most players play a different kind of game at the advanced level. But, I do see a continental slice for return of first serves, and that controls depth on ROS, needing no grip change, and easily the most consistent way to return a fast serve. This goes for most of the UCBerkeley D-1 team, sometimes used against topspin serves that seem to crawl in at 110 mph.
Kinda like Stan choosing to backhand push a ROS, instead of whipping his usual one hander.
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
Ash, I thought about this as well a while ago. I call it "Hitting the ball vs playing the ball." but it doesn't matter what you name it, same thing.

Definitely not something that many people think about, or taught. Lots work on their stroke, technique wise but have no idea how to use them in a match. Lots of players out there who look great warming up or to practice with, but once they get into a match have no clue what to do, lose and then blame and believe its their technique thats failing them. Hardly the case.
Great post. This is the stuff that should be discussed more in this forum. I got real sick of reading about ISR and wind shield wiper forehands all the time.

On the flip side, lot's of people concentrate too much on "playing tennis' instead of "hitting the ball" when they are starting out, doing whatever it takes to beat their opponent. We call these people "pushers" or worse yet "dinkers/hackers".

Pusher really know how to "play tennis", but will eventually be stalled from further progress because they never learned how to "hit the ball". Whereas "brainless ball bashers" will eventually learn how to "play tennis" and will also know how the "hit the ball" and will progress much further than the pusher in the long run.
Agree.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
On the flip side, lot's of people concentrate too much on "playing tennis' instead of "hitting the ball" when they are starting out, doing whatever it takes to beat their opponent. We call these people "pushers" or worse yet "dinkers/hackers".

Pusher really know how to "play tennis", but will eventually be stalled from further progress because they never learned how to "hit the ball". Whereas "brainless ball bashers" will eventually learn how to "play tennis" and will also know how the "hit the ball" and will progress much further than the pusher in the long run.
This. Knowing how to play without proper technique is a dead end - and IMHO its the dead end that most tennis players find themselves in. The problem of ball-striking without knowing how to play is really non-existent.

Find a so called 'ball-striker' like Andy Roddick and actually go hit with them - and you will find they have more finesse then you could ever imagine. Andy Roddick beat a 3.5 with a frying pan..

Haters are gonna hate - but all the pros have excellent levels of finesse and knowledge of the game. Just because they don't use finesse based strategies doesn't mean they can't do it. Nadal is pretty good volleyer when he wants to be.. and has done well in doubles.

Going back to rec players - most under 4.5 have HUGE gigantic technical flaws - that are plainly and instantly obvious. These can be improved a great deal and should be the focus for most rec players. Rec players are generally GOOD at playing the game when you consider their crappy technique. What percentage of 3.5s are 'pushers' - I'd say a pretty large percentage.
 

villis

New User
This. Knowing how to play without proper technique is a dead end - and IMHO its the dead end that most tennis players find themselves in. The problem of ball-striking without knowing how to play is really non-existent.

Find a so called 'ball-striker' like Andy Roddick and actually go hit with them - and you will find they have more finesse then you could ever imagine. Andy Roddick beat a 3.5 with a frying pan..
Yes you are right, however - there is another "dead end", and it is exactly the problem of ball-striking without knowing how to play tennis, and even some pro's fall in that trap.

"Playing tennis" if very simplified, is hitting the ball back and forth as opposed to hitting it once. Now, many player's strokes are actually too good to continue the rally IF the ball is actually coming back. Simply, if your stroke is too fast or aimed too well, ball comes back before you have any chance to recover for the next shot.

It is very difficult to realise this, and most never do. Instead of understanding that their shot was too good for their game, they look to improve their shots even more without admitting that there will always be somebody who can return them, and that is a dead end. You see this happen regularly, at any level. Of course, "pushing" may be even worse for a dead end.
 

0d1n

Hall of Fame
Well, if one has received instruction from this guy (
) both hitting the ball and playing the game/ball/nintendo/whatever might be necessary :).
The last forehand lesson you'll ever need indeed :))
 

Flatballs

Banned
A though occurred yesterday whilst i was watching Radwanska vs Jankovic at Wimbledon.

Jankovic looked like a player who has been taught to strike a ball...

Radwanska looked like a player who has learned to play tennis...

It occurred to me that the vast majority of what takes place on this sub-forum is geared towards hitting a ball rather than learning to actually play tennis..?

Thoughts?
Proof is in the pudding - just look at how many threads there are from people getting beaten by 'pushers'.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Proof is in the pudding - just look at how many threads there are from people getting beaten by 'pushers'.
Pro-Tip: Most people who lose to pushers - are pushers themselves - and just imagine they hit proper strokes...
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
Well, if one has received instruction from this guy (
) both hitting the ball and playing the game/ball/nintendo/whatever might be necessary :).
The last forehand lesson you'll ever need indeed :))
I pretty sure that guy could hit a forehand a quarter mile back in 82.
 

10isMaestro

Semi-Pro
Pushers do just this, move their feet exceptionally well and have great gameplan and strategy. In comparison, ball strikers typically get frustrated into their poor playing very soon and then come here to rant about losing to a "worse player". :p
Hitting a good quality of ball is not sufficient to earn points, although it definitely makes a difference. What is often missing is purposeful hitting: it's not clear for many people what they're trying to accomplish, what sort of situation they want to create and, as a consequence, their game is as unclear as their thought process about the said game. Pushers tend to hit purposefully and that's the first thing a good player learns. If you can do what they do, but do it with higher shot quality, you will obviously be even more frustrating as an opponent.

If you want an example, I played a beginner recently for a few points. I wasn't hitting my serve very well, but he did pick up on my ability to produce pace or a palatable kicker. Guess what he did? He moved back, way back. I aced him with a serve that bounced twice within the court line... Another example. The guy is deported way over his forehand side. A silly play is to hit big, really big to his backhand. A much better play is to hit short on his backhand side. It's easier to hit, gives more margin for error and it forces an even longer run. If your head is at hitting solid shots, you miss on that opportunity, you increase the odds of failure and you give your opponent a better chance to retrieve the ball.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Guys,

Just give up trying to define and pigeon hole players. :) Because when you do that, lots of things tend to come out funny, like exceptional footwork pushers, purposeful hitting, proper strokes, etc... :rolleyes::D:D

Ultimately it's about people playing their best tendencies and they vary wildly just like people themselves! In most cases they can't do much differently even if they want to.

Lots of characteristics in a tendency add up and may win over others. We can't say a certain style will necessarily always beat another style.
 

Fxanimator1

Hall of Fame
A though occurred yesterday whilst i was watching Radwanska vs Jankovic at Wimbledon.

Jankovic looked like a player who has been taught to strike a ball...

Radwanska looked like a player who has learned to play tennis...

It occurred to me that the vast majority of what takes place on this sub-forum is geared towards hitting a ball rather than learning to actually play tennis..?

Thoughts?
Maybe "players" like Radwanska play the geometry of the court better and have a better understanding of that because they don't have the benefit of being a big hitter of the ball, that in turn, forces them to be more strategic in their play? Rather than going through their opponent they go around them.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Maybe "players" like Radwanska play the geometry of the court better and have a better understanding of that because they don't have the benefit of being a big hitter of the ball, that in turn, forces them to be more strategic in their play? Rather than going through their opponent they go around them.
Accurate - but over simplified. It's not really that straightforward, IMHO. And people like the OP try to pigeonhole players as 'hitters vs. players' and its just not true at all. All pro players (and amateur players mostly) are BOTH.

Let me explain..by comparing baseball and tennis.

Baseball was a sport I watched(played some too) a lot of as a kid. You can think of someone like Radwanksa as a kind of 'junk ball' or 'control' pitcher. To get people out they have to hit spots very well - mix up their location - mix up their speeds - and vary the action on the ball. But the big hitters - they don't need to do any of that stuff. They are like a power pitcher. They can just use their 'stuff' to get people out. With good stuff you don't need to do everything...you can just rely on it (and maybe just move the ball around) and get lots of people out.

Mariano Rivera only had one pitch - but it had a lot of action. That's all he needed. The best pitchers of course could do everything. Prime Pedro Martinez had good stuff - and was able to 'pitch' very well..

But here is the thing - guys CAN switch. There is an opportunity cost for trying to 'pitch' or 'finesse' the ball - especially if you have good stuff. Try to mix it up with an 'offspeed' pitch when you throw 100mph - and you run the risk of having people hit home runs off you. Most of the time if you have good 'stuff' you can just use that. You don't need to do everything - and if you try to you can run the risk of hurting your game.

Amateur players need to first develop good 'stuff' before they worry to much about getting cute, IMHO. There are junk ball pitchers - and there are guys who just don't have any kind of stuff - and they can't pitch at all. The only 'pitch' they have is the 60mph meatball..

It's a process - first develop good 'stuff' then you can work on improving how you use it. Pushers try to win without having the strokes - and it works but only to a very limited extent. Pros OTOH like pitchers might try to compensate for having only 'good' stuff instead of great strokes - and they do that with superior finesse. But its still limited. Henin could win some by out 'tennising' Serena. But she still needed good forehands and good serves.
 
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