How to beat someone who's not less consistent than you?

HunterST

Hall of Fame
Right now, I can only beat players who are less consistent than I am. No, this is not a "how do I beat a pusher?" thread. I'm talking about good, solid players who can't depend on to just make unforced errors.

I think my power can match almost anyone at 4.0, but it's not so much that I can just overwhelm these better opponents.

I try to play by the directionals, and I know they're important to know and use. However, I think using the directionals makes my strategy 1) Hope they make an error or 2) I beat them for pace. Against players around my skill level, I don't think those are winning strategies.

So, what are some tactics and strategies to beat an opponent that don't rely on him making an error?
 

tennisplayer1993

Professional
Mix up your game. Start serve and volleying. Come in on your opponents serve. Throw in a few drop shots. Slice a lot when you're out of position in order to save yourself some time to get back into position.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Place your shots better, either very close to the sidelines or right into the body of the opponent, and keep it deep rather than go for big topspin.
I played a bunch of Open tourneys in my day. Seldom remembering anyone who could hit harder than me, but most guys who beat me had better placement, forcing me to run out of my comfort zone to return a ball, then run the other direction even farther until it was hopeless to waste all the energy retreiving for him just so he could run me again.
Most normal sized and athletic 4.0's can hit their best shots hard enough to play well into 5.5 levels, but they lack consistency.
 

Lukhas

Legend
Well, it's kind of the step between 1.5, 2.0 and the likes and 4.0 and over. At lower levels, you could depend on your opponents' mistakes since they are not able to rally consistently for more than few shots, so you just move them left and right. At higher level, it tends to disappear.

I think it's time you take a sheet of paper with questions such as:
-What are my strengths?
-What are my weaknesses?
-How can I take advantage of my strengths while covering my weaknesses?
And start building plays around those strengths. For example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGo8oQfp4y0

Of course, you shouldn't be oblivious of what's happening on the other side of the net either.

Even pros have bread and butter plans that take advantage of their strengths and cover their weaknesses. It's not that simple to blast winners from nowhere. Look at that "How to set up a forehand winner" series:
http://www.youtube.com/user/FifthSetIntl/search?query=forehand+winner

On the other hand, if your opponent is running plays against you, the most important thing is to recognize that play, analyse it, and find means of cancelling it before it's too late.
 

RetroSpin

Hall of Fame
This is an impossible question without seeing you play, but I will throw out three time-honored ideas:

1. Force your opponent to hit uncomfortable shots under pressure. For example, say you get a short ball and hit a forehand deep to your opponent's backhand corner. Don't let him float a high ball back and stay in the point. Either come in on your shot or cheat into the court a couple of steps with the idea of taking a floater in the air.

2. Be aware of when you are in an offensive position and when you are not. When you get a short ball or weak reply, punish it, go for an angle, put your opponent on the defensive. Don't be afraid of making a few errors.

3. Don't panic if your opponent hits a few good shots or aces you a couple of times. If he was really that good, he wouldn't be playing at your level.
 

GoudX

Professional
Right now, I can only beat players who are less consistent than I am. No, this is not a "how do I beat a pusher?" thread. I'm talking about good, solid players who can't depend on to just make unforced errors.

I think my power can match almost anyone at 4.0, but it's not so much that I can just overwhelm these better opponents.

I try to play by the directionals, and I know they're important to know and use. However, I think using the directionals makes my strategy 1) Hope they make an error or 2) I beat them for pace. Against players around my skill level, I don't think those are winning strategies.

So, what are some tactics and strategies to beat an opponent that don't rely on him making an error?

Obviously the best way is to train until you are more consistent than them, however it sounds like you want a tactical breakdown. As you are talking about Directionals, lets have a slightly more in depth think about percentage tennis in the three approaches to winning a point.

Ultimately all approaches to tennis come down to one of three ways to win a point. You have to: 1. hit a winner, 2. force an error, or 3. wait for an error.

1. Hitting a Winner

This requires you to hit a shot that your opponent cannot touch. In reality this is very hard to accomplish and this approach requires one of the other approaches to generate a sitter. This is often not understood by recreational players who just try to blast unreturnable shots. Approaching the net is the most successful winner based strategy at lower levels, while hitting a clean winner from the baseline is rarely a winning strategy even at higher levels, however 'hitting a winner' is a sensible play when you have a mid court 'sitter'.

This approach is usually the least reliable way of winning the point, especially at recreational levels, as it places the outcome of the entire point on one shot. This is a bad idea, as not only do recreational players not have the technique to reliably hit the winners, but they also also do not have the tactics or forcing shots to set up a point which will give them the 'sitter' which gives them a higher chance to execute their shot.

When trying this approach consider:
-The probability your shot will go in.
-The probability that your opponent can get to the ball and get the ball back in play.

This is a case of hitting the safest shot which is likely to win the point
Odds of 51/100 to go in and 1/10 that the opponent returns it, will actually favour your opponent!

2. Force an Error

This is the best approach for a pro-active recreational player. With this mindset you want to hit a shot which has the best trade off between giving you an easy shot, whilst giving your opponent a difficult shot. This can be a high bouncing heavy topspin shot, a low skidding slice, a wide angle forehand, a drop shot or anything else which works.

When trying a shot with this approach consider:
-The probability your shot goes in
-The probability that your opponent misses
(-The probability that your opponent gets a sitter, for instance a bad drop shot)

You want to choose the shot which has the biggest gap between the likelihood that the opponent misses and the probability that you miss over the next few shots. The large gap is particularly important as under pressure you will often over estimate your ability and under estimate your opponents ability.

3. Wait for an Unforced Error

This is the classic 'pusher' mentality. While some people look down upon this approach, advanced players use this mindset all the time. When an opponent has the upper hand in a point, or is missing most of their shots, this is the perfect play.

All you are trying to do with every shot is extend the rally for as long as possible. If you are successfully using this approach and your opponent is playing a lower percentage approach then all you you have to do is wait for your opponent to inevitably miss. This approach is not just a case of getting the ball back into the court, instead it is a case of ensuring that the point always continues another three or four shots. This means never giving your opponent a sitter, unless it is the only reasonable shot.

When using this approach consider:
-The probability your shot goes in
-The probability your shot gives your opponent a sitter

The aim is to find the safest shot that the opponent is unlikely to win the point from.
 

HunterST

Hall of Fame
Well, it's kind of the step between 1.5, 2.0 and the likes and 4.0 and over. At lower levels, you could depend on your opponents' mistakes since they are not able to rally consistently for more than few shots, so you just move them left and right. At higher level, it tends to disappear.

I think it's time you take a sheet of paper with questions such as:
-What are my strengths?
-What are my weaknesses?
-How can I take advantage of my strengths while covering my weaknesses?
And start building plays around those strengths. For example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGo8oQfp4y0

Of course, you shouldn't be oblivious of what's happening on the other side of the net either.

Even pros have bread and butter plans that take advantage of their strengths and cover their weaknesses. It's not that simple to blast winners from nowhere. Look at that "How to set up a forehand winner" series:
http://www.youtube.com/user/FifthSetIntl/search?query=forehand+winner

On the other hand, if your opponent is running plays against you, the most important thing is to recognize that play, analyse it, and find means of cancelling it before it's too late.

A lot of great responses, but I love those forehand videos from Yann!
 
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