Match play problems.

Tjg

Rookie
I can’t manage to keep my play consistent from just hitting to match play. My play always goes downhill....fast...when I start playing a match. People I should easily beat will usually beat me. Most of the time it’s because I lose the points from miss-hits, long shots or net balls. It’s so frustrating! It especially happens with pushers. All they do is lob the ball back with zero pace or depth. When I do get it back with pace and spin, they just stick their racquet out and pop it up back over the net. Any advice on how to beat that? I end up getting angry and make more mistakes.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
Retrievers are the benchmark for when you have developed your game enough to be able to beat them with skill and discipline.

On the skills side, you have to be able to take low paced balls and be able to hit them back consistently and effectively to various parts of the court on both your forehand and backhand. You need to be able to volley with good directional accuracy, and you'll need a consistent and reliable overhead.

Two common tactics that work well against retrievers are to consistently hit deep shots to move them around their baseline, and when you see that you've hit a shot which really puts them on the defensive, to move in and take that shot in the air with a well placed volley. If they get to that, you'll often have to hit an overhead, which you need to be able to execute with consistency and direction.

The other tactic that often works is to hit short shots to bring them in towards the net, where they can be uncomfortable. You can then force them to volley and hopefully win points that way. If they run up to hit a short shot and then retreat, your next shot should be a deep one that makes them hit while moving backwards, and you should be able to take that next ball out of the air.

Most of these skills define the line roughly between 4.0 and 4.5. By the time a player is at the higher end of 4.5, it will take a pretty skilled counterpuncher/retriever to cause a lot of problems. Until then, realize that they are better than you are at competition tennis and work on what will tilt the playing field in your favor.
 

E46luver

Professional
"just hitting" has nothing to do with real tennis.
when just hitting, does your partner hit slices and dropshots and away from you?
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
As @J011yroger is certain to let you know ... there is such a thing as being "match hardened" you even see it on the tour with pros who have taken time off. They come out a little jittery and tight.

Being just a rec player myself it took me over 6 months of playing 2 league matches a week to start feeling comfortable in a "it counts" match.

Playing a match is not the same as hitting/clinics/drills/practice. Different mindset altogether ... although perhaps we should have the same mindset in each situation.

If you do not have complete confidence in your shots or in your game plan you will see your shots start quickly going awry.

My recommendation is to look at matches in the most basic manner possible. Have a game plan. Then play one ball at a time ... each and every ball. Takes a lot of mental intensity. Don't worry about the set score or the game score or even the entire point. One.Ball.At.A.Time
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
I agree with a lot with what’s already been said. Get it out of your head that you’re better than anyone on the courts. There is no pressure in hitting and drills they are completely different than match play.

If you get the opportunity, try to film yourself playing a match. I guarantee you that you don’t play like you think you do. Matches start long before you step on the court btw. Get your head right and learn how to be mentally strong as well.
 

Max G.

Legend
Heh, I just played my first practice singles match today after not playing any matches since last December. Definitely felt some weak knees and nerves at the beginning, even though it was just practice.
 

Max G.

Legend
Anyway, advice to the OP - this is normal. In a real match, having to actually move to the ball, and dealing with another person's rally ball instead of a coach's feed makes hitting shots so much harder. Especially at lower levels, pretty strokes don't win matches that well - you've got to get the ball back over one more time. Learning to beat "pushers" is basically a rite of passage.

The things to do are:
1) Don't assume you're better than someone until you've played them in an actual match and beaten them, several times. How somebody looks like in a rally, or drill, or practice hit, definitely can't tell you anything. Don't arrogantly think that just because you have better-looking strokes than someone that you're a better tennis player.

2) Play more practice matches. Make it a habit of once a week playing an actual practice match (or at least practice set) with someone and doing your best to win it. That will help you determine your *actual* level. Who you can beat and who you can't - that's your real level.

3) If you want to improve, take some lessons, spend some quality time on the practice court.
 

bfroxen

Rookie
Timely, as I just got my first solid win (6-3, 6-2) in a 4.0 flex league, against a player who had beat me handily twice before. On the advise of a hitting partner, I started playing in the 4.0 league. He thought I'd win and build confidence, but in two seasons, I had only one win against another guy with little match experience. The biggest issue for me has been dealing with floaty slice and ending points when given the opportunity. Most of my hitting partners are much better than me, so I don't see those types of balls very often. It's taken time to be able to read the ball off the racquet and know where it's going to go and how it's going to bounce. I attribute many of my errors to being just slightly out of position when trying to hit the ball.
 
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Tjg

Rookie
you have a lot to learn about tennis.
sit down and listen to this.
don't just look at the thumbnail
stop tying and sit and listen to all 9 minutes.

I know I have a lot to learn about tennis. Where did I say I know it all? My post is proof I know I have a lot to learn.
 

Tjg

Rookie
Timely, as I just got my first solid win (6-3, 6-2) in a 4.0 flex league, against a player who had beat me handily twice before. On the advise of a hitting partner, I started playing in the 4.0 league. He thought I'd win and build confidence, but in two seasons, I had only one win against another guy with little match experience. The biggest issue for me has been dealing with floaty slice and ending points when given the opportunity. Most of my hitting partners are much better than me, so I don't see those types of balls very often. It's taken time to be able to read the ball off the racquet and know where it's going to go and how it's going to bounce. I attribute many of my errors to being just slightly out of position when trying to hit the ball.
I can relate to that. What happens often is I go for a shot and right after I realize I should of done something different. Why go do power when placement would of been better. I am starting my first league next month and joined a lower ranking than I should of. I am doing that to gain a little more experience in real match play, but I have a feeling I will encounter a lot of pushers who will win by me making bad shots or getting frustrated by their pace less lobs. The mental side is something I need to work on.
I like to play with people who hit the ball hard with topspin, when I play with people who do the opposite, I make tons of mistakes.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
I can relate to that. What happens often is I go for a shot and right after I realize I should of done something different. Why go do power when placement would of been better. I am starting my first league next month and joined a lower ranking than I should of. I am doing that to gain a little more experience in real match play, but I have a feeling I will encounter a lot of pushers who will win by me making bad shots or getting frustrated by their pace less lobs. The mental side is something I need to work on.
I like to play with people who hit the ball hard with topspin, when I play with people who do the opposite, I make tons of mistakes.

I love playing people who hit the ball slow.

J
 
I can’t manage to keep my play consistent from just hitting to match play. My play always goes downhill....fast...when I start playing a match. People I should easily beat will usually beat me. Most of the time it’s because I lose the points from miss-hits, long shots or net balls. It’s so frustrating! It especially happens with pushers. All they do is lob the ball back with zero pace or depth. When I do get it back with pace and spin, they just stick their racquet out and pop it up back over the net. Any advice on how to beat that? I end up getting angry and make more mistakes.
Play the open court.
 
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Bagel Boy

Rookie
I can relate to that. What happens often is I go for a shot and right after I realize I should of done something different. Why go do power when placement would of been better. I am starting my first league next month and joined a lower ranking than I should of. I am doing that to gain a little more experience in real match play, but I have a feeling I will encounter a lot of pushers who will win by me making bad shots or getting frustrated by their pace less lobs. The mental side is something I need to work on.
I like to play with people who hit the ball hard with topspin, when I play with people who do the opposite, I make tons of mistakes.


Make a decision about where you will hit your shot, when your opponent ball is incoming. Stick to that shot, TRUST the decision you made and swing.

You don't have the time to analyze or change your mind during midswing or run...you're overtaxing your brain. Use the opportunity of playing slow ball opponents to practice this "sticking to your decision"...it will pay dividends with faster ball opponents.
 

Tjg

Rookie
Make a decision about where you will hit your shot, when your opponent ball is incoming. Stick to that shot, TRUST the decision you made and swing.

You don't have the time to analyze or change your mind during midswing or run...you're overtaxing your brain. Use the opportunity of playing slow ball opponents to practice this "sticking to your decision"...it will pay dividends with faster ball opponents.
Good advice. Will give that a try next time.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Why? Do you like hitting it slow back to them? Having to force pace tends to make me over hit the court, especially on the shallow balls.

Because you can't beat me if you hit slow, I can only lose and I don't lose very often.

I don't hit it slow back to them, I open the court. My rule is the slower they hit the more they run.

If someone hits the ball strong they can trouble me and win points.

J
 

zaskar1

Professional
I can’t manage to keep my play consistent from just hitting to match play. My play always goes downhill....fast...when I start playing a match. People I should easily beat will usually beat me. Most of the time it’s because I lose the points from miss-hits, long shots or net balls. It’s so frustrating! It especially happens with pushers. All they do is lob the ball back with zero pace or depth. When I do get it back with pace and spin, they just stick their racquet out and pop it up back over the net. Any advice on how to beat that? I end up getting angry and make more mistakes.
TJG
its difficult when you like pace and they give you junk, but you need to adapt or you will have to get use to losing.
try practice matches against people who have no pace and lob a lot, us old guys or mixed might be the advisable.
z
 

dsp9753

Semi-Pro
I can’t manage to keep my play consistent from just hitting to match play. My play always goes downhill....fast...when I start playing a match. People I should easily beat will usually beat me. Most of the time it’s because I lose the points from miss-hits, long shots or net balls. It’s so frustrating! It especially happens with pushers. All they do is lob the ball back with zero pace or depth. When I do get it back with pace and spin, they just stick their racquet out and pop it up back over the net. Any advice on how to beat that? I end up getting angry and make more mistakes.

I feel like this is describing me perfectly when I first started playing USTA matches. I learned to play a bit in Middle School to High School doing the kids clinics. Getting into USTA as an adult, I assumed it be really easy and that even at a 3.5 level, I would not be challenged. I self rated as a 3.5 and had a team practice. My teammates were impressed with my abilities (just hitting around) and I was relatively unimpressed with them as they were all much older and hit the ball softer.

My first 3 matches, I lost like 6-1 6-1 or 6-0 6-1 etc. People were not hitting super hard but they were consistent. They didn't make a lot of errors where as I tried to "win" the points. I did not know what to do in a match anymore and I think this made me anxious. I would try to go for it even more to try to win points. I don't think I could even conceive of winning points any other way at this time. This lose streak continued until i was like 0-11 or something like that. At this point I had regretted even joining as a 3.5 and wished instead I self rated as a 3.0. I finally won a match because my doubles partner told me, you would win more if you just got more balls in play.

I took this advice to heart and finally realized, I just frankly sucked. I wasn't losing to worse players, I was the worse player. I spent the next year training on just focusing on hitting the ball well cross court. I got pretty good at being consistent and hitting the ball back cross court. They were not super hard but just loopy lots of topspin cross court shots. Nothing else on my ground stroke games. The next year, I went from losing all the matches to winning most of my matches and even getting bumped to 4.0. As I got better, my shot pace and percentage kept going up. Tennis games started to feel "slow" for me. Like I had plenty of time on every ball because I was only trying to do one thing, hit it with topspin cross court. Because it felt slow, I felt I had more time to go for a slightly better shot. This only worked because I spent so much time just going cross court, I felt like my strokes were grooved. Anytime I felt unsure or didn't know what to do, just went cross court loopy. Any time I felt the point slow down, I would go for a slightly better shot, maybe like 10% more effort.

Going down this path, I continued to get better, hit better and harder shots, and now I relish the slow balls. Over time I have gained enough confidence that I now know what "playing the point" means to me. Slow ball deep, I am ripping cross court hard. Rinse and repeat until I get a short "slow" ball. Then I am ripping that into the open court. Anytime on the run or not sure what to do, go back cross court. This has more or less worked for me and I am now a 4.5.

2 years as a 3.5
3 years as a 4.0
first year as a 4.5

Long story short - I just learned to mindlessly hit balls cross court and not try to do anything else. In the process, I got really consistent and could beat people in the consistency game. Spent years playing this way and I slowly got better learning how to hit other shots too on occasion.
 

EP1998

Semi-Pro
The only way to get better at match play is to play matches. That is assuming that's what you want to do. So every time you are on the court, it is a match play scoring situation versus hitting. Doesnt have to be playing sets, but has to be something with a score.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
I feel like this is describing me perfectly when I first started playing USTA matches. I learned to play a bit in Middle School to High School doing the kids clinics. Getting into USTA as an adult, I assumed it be really easy and that even at a 3.5 level, I would not be challenged. I self rated as a 3.5 and had a team practice. My teammates were impressed with my abilities (just hitting around) and I was relatively unimpressed with them as they were all much older and hit the ball softer.

My first 3 matches, I lost like 6-1 6-1 or 6-0 6-1 etc. People were not hitting super hard but they were consistent. They didn't make a lot of errors where as I tried to "win" the points. I did not know what to do in a match anymore and I think this made me anxious. I would try to go for it even more to try to win points. I don't think I could even conceive of winning points any other way at this time. This lose streak continued until i was like 0-11 or something like that. At this point I had regretted even joining as a 3.5 and wished instead I self rated as a 3.0. I finally won a match because my doubles partner told me, you would win more if you just got more balls in play.

I took this advice to heart and finally realized, I just frankly sucked. I wasn't losing to worse players, I was the worse player. I spent the next year training on just focusing on hitting the ball well cross court. I got pretty good at being consistent and hitting the ball back cross court. They were not super hard but just loopy lots of topspin cross court shots. Nothing else on my ground stroke games. The next year, I went from losing all the matches to winning most of my matches and even getting bumped to 4.0. As I got better, my shot pace and percentage kept going up. Tennis games started to feel "slow" for me. Like I had plenty of time on every ball because I was only trying to do one thing, hit it with topspin cross court. Because it felt slow, I felt I had more time to go for a slightly better shot. This only worked because I spent so much time just going cross court, I felt like my strokes were grooved. Anytime I felt unsure or didn't know what to do, just went cross court loopy. Any time I felt the point slow down, I would go for a slightly better shot, maybe like 10% more effort.

Going down this path, I continued to get better, hit better and harder shots, and now I relish the slow balls. Over time I have gained enough confidence that I now know what "playing the point" means to me. Slow ball deep, I am ripping cross court hard. Rinse and repeat until I get a short "slow" ball. Then I am ripping that into the open court. Anytime on the run or not sure what to do, go back cross court. This has more or less worked for me and I am now a 4.5.

2 years as a 3.5
3 years as a 4.0
first year as a 4.5

Long story short - I just learned to mindlessly hit balls cross court and not try to do anything else. In the process, I got really consistent and could beat people in the consistency game. Spent years playing this way and I slowly got better learning how to hit other shots too on occasion.

It's amazing how little thinking good players do during the point and how much thinking they do between points.

J
 

jered

Rookie
I can’t manage to keep my play consistent from just hitting to match play. My play always goes downhill....fast...when I start playing a match. People I should easily beat will usually beat me. Most of the time it’s because I lose the points from miss-hits, long shots or net balls. It’s so frustrating! It especially happens with pushers. All they do is lob the ball back with zero pace or depth. When I do get it back with pace and spin, they just stick their racquet out and pop it up back over the net. Any advice on how to beat that? I end up getting angry and make more mistakes.

Same boat. It’s just match experience. I’ve had only a few USTA matches but hundreds of non USTA matches. I usually lose the USTA matches even to opponents I smoke outside of USTA. It’s stupid but it’s a real thing in every sport.

The truth is, they are better than you at competitive match play. You just need the reps to make competitive matches become “normal.” Until you start winning regularly I’d try to go in with the mindset that you are the underdog no matter how bad they look.

Tough mental thing to overcome. I’m right there with you. Good luck.
 

nicklane1

Rookie
Same boat. It’s just match experience. I’ve had only a few USTA matches but hundreds of non USTA matches. I usually lose the USTA matches even to opponents I smoke outside of USTA. It’s stupid but it’s a real thing in every sport.

The truth is, they are better than you at competitive match play. You just need the reps to make competitive matches become “normal.” Until you start winning regularly I’d try to go in with the mindset that you are the underdog no matter how bad they look.

Tough mental thing to overcome. I’m right there with you. Good luck.
Very. Good advice about the underdog mindset
 

roadto50

Rookie
I can relate to that. What happens often is I go for a shot and right after I realize I should of done something different. Why go do power when placement would of been better. I am starting my first league next month and joined a lower ranking than I should of. I am doing that to gain a little more experience in real match play, but I have a feeling I will encounter a lot of pushers who will win by me making bad shots or getting frustrated by their pace less lobs. The mental side is something I need to work on.
I like to play with people who hit the ball hard with topspin, when I play with people who do the opposite, I make tons of mistakes.

No, you made the right decision. The hallmark of a strong player is one who can punish pushers by generating his own pace and spin. They can generate spin and pace from anywhere on the court off any ball. You say you hit with spin and pace. But do you really? Do you think a 5.0+ player would struggle to put away the balls you are getting? It may be frustrating now, but it will be better for your tennis in the long term because you will develop better fundamentals. Now the bad news is you will probably lose a ton...but we all start somewhere.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
No, you made the right decision. The hallmark of a strong player is one who can punish pushers by generating his own pace and spin. They can generate spin and pace from anywhere on the court off any ball. You say you hit with spin and pace. But do you really? Do you think a 5.0+ player would struggle to put away the balls you are getting? It may be frustrating now, but it will be better for your tennis in the long term because you will develop better fundamentals. Now the bad news is you will probably lose a ton...but we all start somewhere.

So you would advise a weaker player to double fault matches away for 10 years trying to hit 115mph first serves and 85mph kick serves because that's what 5.0 players do?

J
 

roadto50

Rookie
So you would advise a weaker player to double fault matches away for 10 years trying to hit 115mph first serves and 85mph kick serves because that's what 5.0 players do?

J

I actually did for about a year. No one wanted to be my doubles partner. Now I have a 5.0 serve :). My mindset was I can practice outside of matches all I want but if I am too scared to try it in matches because I don't want to lose, I would never get better. I see it all the time. People practicing various stuff only to revert back to their old technique during matches because they don't want to lose. Then they get frustrated they can't hit in matches like they do in drills and wonder why. Those people are basically hard stuck at whatever rating they are at, losing to the same player. At the end of the day, it's an amateur tennis match. No one here is playing for serious money, even at 5.0 (well maybe you are). If you want to get better, you have to lose a ton of matches.
 
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J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
I actually did for about a year. No one wanted to be my doubles partner. Now I have a 5.0 serve :). My mindset was I can practice outside of matches all I want but if I am too scared to try it in matches because I don't want to lose, I would never get better. I see it all the time. People practicing various stuff only to revert back to their old technique because they don't want to lose. And they are basically hard stuck at whatever rating they are at, losing to the same player. It's a USTA match. No one here is playing for money (well maybe you are). If you want to get better, you have to lose a ton of matches.

Ok, I respect your thought process but disagree. If you lose a lot of matches you get better at losing.

Of course to add things to our repertoire we have to test them in match play and naturally our results will take a dip, but those adjustments must be small and moderated.

To put things in a different light, if we were advising someone who just took up running and had a goal of a sub 20 minute 5k I would tell them to run one see their time and push a little faster each week. You would advise them to run at a 20 minute pace as long as they could until they could do the whole race at that speed.

Your way makes someone not finish races for two years and watch the crowd of people pass them by every time, my way shows steady improvement.

From experience your thought process creates a player who loses to everyone for years then ends up with powerful shots and still can't win.


J
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
Lots of players struggle with the transition to match play. There are a lot of real tennis skills that are required to succeed in match play that are not really needed in "hitting."

The best way to acquire those skills is to play more matches. Getting coaching on your own after match reports has some value, but getting coached by knowledgeable people who witness your match play first hand is much more valuable, since they will see things you fail to notice and report.

Some things to focus on are likely: 1) Footwork. Match play challenges footwork much more than most hitting. 2) Forget about hitting good shots. Your focus is on winning one point at a time. 3) Winning each point first requires not losing the point with an unforced error. You need to keep the ball in play long enough to have your opponent make the first error or for you to hit a winner. 4) Points won on opponent errors count the same as points won on your winners. 5) Points lost on your errors count the same as points lost on opposing winners.
 

roadto50

Rookie
Ok, I respect your thought process but disagree. If you lose a lot of matches you get better at losing.

Of course to add things to our repertoire we have to test them in match play and naturally our results will take a dip, but those adjustments must be small and moderated.

To put things in a different light, if we were advising someone who just took up running and had a goal of a sub 20 minute 5k I would tell them to run one see their time and push a little faster each week. You would advise them to run at a 20 minute pace as long as they could until they could do the whole race at that speed.

Your way makes someone not finish races for two years and watch the crowd of people pass them by every time, my way shows steady improvement.

From experience your thought process creates a player who loses to everyone for years then ends up with powerful shots and still can't win.


J

In the serve analogy, I said to serve like a 5.0 because that's the goal even if it results in double faults. So if a sub 20 minute 5k is the goal, why would I advise them to run at a 20 minute pace, which is not the goal? I would tell them to run as fast as they can for as long as they can. Eventually how long they can run as fast as they can will increase.

In any case, the point is, OP shouldn't obsess over the score in matches. He should focus on improving shots and executing them in match conditions even if he end up losing every match for the next 6 months. Eventually, it will click if he's making an honest effort and has the physical tools to execute the shot. I am assuming he's the typical player who probably has the better strokes and mechanics (based on his comment about people I should beat easily), but can't do it in matches.

And if a player really has powerful shots, like a true 5.0 ground game, why couldn't he win against pushers? He could have a 3.5 serve and no net game and still beat every pusher in a singles match. Sure, he will eventually hit a wall where he will need to improve other aspects of the game, but that's a different story.
 
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J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
In the serve analogy, I said to serve like a 5.0 because that's the goal even if it results in double faults. So if a sub 20 minute 5k is the goal, why would I advise them to run at a 20 minute pace, which is not the goal? I would tell them to run as fast as they can for as long as they can. Eventually how long they can run as fast as they can will increase.

In any case, the point is, OP shouldn't obsess over the score in matches. He should focus on improving shots and executing them in match conditions even if he end up losing every match for the next 6 months. Eventually, it will click if he's making an honest effort and has the physical tools to execute the shot. I am assuming he's the typical player who probably has the better strokes and mechanics (based on his comment about people I should beat easily), but can't do it in matches.

And if a player really has powerful shots, like a true 5.0 ground game, why couldn't he win against pushers? He could have a 3.5 serve and no net game and still beat every pusher in a singles match. Sure, he will eventually hit a wall where he will need to improve other aspects of the game, but that's a different story.

Yea, unfortunately it doesn't work like that in real life.

Plus hitting hard is unnecessary if you are playing a pusher.

J
 

Chalkdust

Professional
Lots of players struggle with the transition to match play. There are a lot of real tennis skills that are required to succeed in match play that are not really needed in "hitting."

The best way to acquire those skills is to play more matches. Getting coaching on your own after match reports has some value, but getting coached by knowledgeable people who witness your match play first hand is much more valuable, since they will see things you fail to notice and report.

Some things to focus on are likely: 1) Footwork. Match play challenges footwork much more than most hitting. 2) Forget about hitting good shots. Your focus is on winning one point at a time. 3) Winning each point first requires not losing the point with an unforced error. You need to keep the ball in play long enough to have your opponent make the first error or for you to hit a winner. 4) Points won on opponent errors count the same as points won on your winners. 5) Points lost on your errors count the same as points lost on opposing winners.
Agree with all you are saying, but would point out that there is lots of middle ground between "hitting" (which I assume means cooperative hitting) and competitive match play.

For example, as part of hitting sessions one could include point-play drills, first to 10 playing out full points but without serve (start with feed), play full 10 point TBs with serve, practice sets, etc.

Above all make you hit balls that you might not get in cooperative hitting, and add some scoreboard pressure albeit not to the extent present in a competitive match.
 

CHtennis

Rookie
Ok, I respect your thought process but disagree. If you lose a lot of matches you get better at losing.

Of course to add things to our repertoire we have to test them in match play and naturally our results will take a dip, but those adjustments must be small and moderated.

To put things in a different light, if we were advising someone who just took up running and had a goal of a sub 20 minute 5k I would tell them to run one see their time and push a little faster each week. You would advise them to run at a 20 minute pace as long as they could until they could do the whole race at that speed.

Your way makes someone not finish races for two years and watch the crowd of people pass them by every time, my way shows steady improvement.

From experience your thought process creates a player who loses to everyone for years then ends up with powerful shots and still can't win.

I agree with in the way I would teach someone your way because in general most people I have found could not mentally handle the long term plan (getting a 5.0 serve would take years from scratch at least 2 depending on how much you played, probably much, much longer). If they were interested in that then maybe they could handle the constant losing and development and hopefully you could learn to win later (getting good at losing is a skill - important for rec players, less important for professionals). I could never do this personally but maybe it is possible. This is somewhat of the Richard Williams model where focus is on training and then when the building blocks are there go out and win tournaments when ready.

As a teaching pro I would never have recommended or done this unless specifically asked to. The process seems like it would be way to long term for most new players, and I would focus on incremental improvement.

So in general I definitely agree with @J011yroger but theoretically I feel like the @roadto50 could work for rare individuals.
 
Tennis philosophy. I might tell someone to use match play to figure out a way to win, that skill is developed in match play, see opponent, observe, adapt, adjust, try to win. Work on the serve during training. At some point you will reach a level in match play where you need the better shots and serves to win, but you have built a tool set to try and figure out a way to win. If you just blast away using whatever is considered 5.0 strokes and lose for a year, you still really didn't learn as much as you could have from the match play.
 

Max G.

Legend
The most important thing when learning something new is good repetitions of the thing you're trying to do. Not just reps, good reps.

So first you have to get whatever it is you're trying to learn in a relaxed, no-pressure, practice situation, like off of a feed right to you. Then once you get it, advance to doing it off a rally ball; then off of a practice point; and then off of a real match.

IMO, if you jump immediately from "I have no idea how to hit a 5.0 forehand" to "I'm going to crush forehands in a 3.5 doubles match until I start hitting them like a 5.0" then you'll just never make any progress. You'll be flailing wildly in matches (because you're doing it wrong) and you won't get any better (because you're not even practicing good technique, you're just doing something useless). You'll be practicing bad habits instead of good ones.

Sure, ONCE you can hit some shot outside of a match with some consistency, it makes perfect sense to start hitting it in a match as well. If you never make that step you'll never improve. But if you skip the first portion of that - being able to hit the shot when there's no pressure and no match - you won't learn anything from your losses. A match isn't the time or place to learn a new shot you can't even hit in practice.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Because better players tend not to overhit; they tend to put the ball away.

And if they don't put the ball away it's no big deal, they just hit another ball just like they have for their entire life of hitting thousands upon thousands of balls.

Low level players overhit because they don't believe they can hit three balls inside the lines and it turns into a self fulfilling prophecy. High level players know they can go 10 balls if need be but end up winning most points in under 3.

J
 

tomato123

Professional
And if they don't put the ball away it's no big deal, they just hit another ball just like they have for their entire life of hitting thousands upon thousands of balls.

Low level players overhit because they don't believe they can hit three balls inside the lines and it turns into a self fulfilling prophecy. High level players know they can go 10 balls if need be but end up winning most points in under 3.

J

If only there was a helpful thread on the forums about shot tolerance being the elephant in tennis tips/instruction...
 

McGradey

Hall of Fame
I beat a buddy who is a grinder/retriever for the first time today. I think I was at about 0-5 with him despite being in the lead in several matches prior to today. Today I won 62 63.

As someone who likes to hit big serves and end points quickly with my FH, this matchup has been a nightmare for me.
The guy is also a lefty, which makes it even worse because he's the only lefty I play against regularly. He's fit, gets a lot of balls back and hits consistently with depth. He can finish a short ball too, although his net game and backhand are weak points.

Things I did today that I hadn't done previously (or had abandoned prematurely):

  • moonballs to mid court when defending on the run or returning his moonballs. I've previously thought this was the coward's play. I thought I'd rather be the hero who hits flat and hard. That'd be right before I tried to smoke one of his moonballs and send it into the net.
  • continuing to come to net despite being passed/lobbed a couple of times early on.
  • going for the same, consistent first serve to his BH every time instead of trying to hit slice serves just because I want to hit a variety of serves.
  • Thinking one ball at a time, rather than one point at a time

I found out what worked and stuck to it. I hit very few aces and very few winners yet I broke him a bunch of times and held serve consistently.

I guess I learned to do more of what actually works and less of what looks good in your head. Pragmatism ftw!

PS. Great post from @Injured Again above
 
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Tjg

Rookie
I beat a buddy who is a grinder/retriever for the first time today. I think I was at about 0-5 with him despite being in the lead in several matches prior to today. Today I won 62 63.

As someone who likes to hit big serves and end points quickly with my FH, this matchup has been a nightmare for me.
The guy is also a lefty, which makes it even worse because he's the only lefty I play against regularly. He's fit, gets a lot of balls back and hits consistently with depth. He can finish a short ball too, although his net game and backhand are weak points.

Things I did today that I hadn't done previously (or had abandoned prematurely):

  • moonballs to mid court when defending on the run or returning his moonballs. I've previously thought this was the coward's play. I thought I'd rather be the hero who hits flat and hard. That'd be right before I tried to smoke one of his moonballs and send it into the net.
  • continuing to come to net despite being passed/lobbed a couple of times early on.
  • going for the same, consistent first serve to his BH every time instead of trying to hit slice serves just because I want to hit a variety of serves.
  • Thinking one ball at a time, rather than one point at a time

I found out what worked and stuck to it. I hit very few aces and very few winners yet I broke him a bunch of times and held serve consistently.

I guess I learned to do more of what actually works and less of what looks good in your head. Pragmatism ftw!

PS. Great post from @Injured Again above
The person I played today and continue to lose to plays forehand Pluto balls almost every shot and no pace, no spin negative flat balls on the backhand.
He grunts and swings so hard on his back hand yet the ball most of the time lands in the service box.
I do the same thing almost every time on the Pluto balls...hit into the net or long. When I hit it on the rise, I can get low paced balls back, but that is few and far between. I get so annoyed when the ball goes sky high, I just stand there and let it bounce 10ft in the air. His shots are so unpredictable it’s hard to get a plan and execute it. I know his backhand is super weak, but he hits with his arms so close to his body, there is no telling where it will go. He will be facing to my left at the baseline, but his ball will go down the line. I can’t manage to figure out a game plan. I will try to implement some of your winning strategy and see how that goes!
 

Cloister

Rookie
The person I played today and continue to lose to plays forehand Pluto balls almost every shot and no pace, no spin negative flat balls on the backhand.
He grunts and swings so hard on his back hand yet the ball most of the time lands in the service box.
I do the same thing almost every time on the Pluto balls...hit into the net or long. When I hit it on the rise, I can get low paced balls back, but that is few and far between. I get so annoyed when the ball goes sky high, I just stand there and let it bounce 10ft in the air. His shots are so unpredictable it’s hard to get a plan and execute it. I know his backhand is super weak, but he hits with his arms so close to his body, there is no telling where it will go. He will be facing to my left at the baseline, but his ball will go down the line. I can’t manage to figure out a game plan. I will try to implement some of your winning strategy and see how that goes!

On hitting the "Pluto" balls in the net or long - when I do this it's invariably because I'm swinging with my arms only and not rotating my body through. This results in either an open faced racket (ball goes long) or exaggerated low to high swing with closed face and the ball goes straight into the net. Controlled body rotation makes sure the racket goes through the ball, but on those high, low pace balls it can be easy to get sloppy and arm swing only.
 

Traffic

Hall of Fame
I can’t manage to keep my play consistent from just hitting to match play. My play always goes downhill....fast...when I start playing a match. People I should easily beat will usually beat me. Most of the time it’s because I lose the points from miss-hits, long shots or net balls. It’s so frustrating! It especially happens with pushers. All they do is lob the ball back with zero pace or depth. When I do get it back with pace and spin, they just stick their racquet out and pop it up back over the net. Any advice on how to beat that? I end up getting angry and make more mistakes.
You remind me of a club mate that recently started playing USTA matches. He has great ground strokes and serves and his volley is passable. We have a good time practicing with each other. But when he plays an actual match, he plays well the first set and then errors and DFs creep in the 2nd set. Participating in in-club doubles ladder and he can't get out of the bottom court.

His biggest struggles are no-pace 2nd serves and no-pace junk balls to somewhere mid-court.

He's played a lot with his junior daughter. She hits with pace and consistency.

So my advice to him was to practice more mini-tennis. Keep the ball under control and landing inside the service box while standing in no-man's land. When you get the no-pace balls, then that's the shot you hit. Don't try to win the point, just find a good spot to hit the ball back into play.

I struggled returning moon-balls for the longest time. I blamed it on, "I hate that kind of tennis". But it was a technique I had to learn how to hit against. It was my own inconsistency that lost me the point. If I was able to put the ball back into play 2 times, I would most likely get a nicer ball to do something with it.

To play 3.0 tennis, just put the ball into play 3x. To play 3.5 tennis, just put the ball into play 4x.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Once you realize the error in this assumption, you will be less angry on the tennis court.


Totally agree here. Mentally thining you are better than someone can really mess with you if somehow you get down in score. And then things can spiral from there. For me the only thing I try to focus on anymore is competing in each point and let results end where they may. I feel less pressure when I know I am doing the best I can, which in turn has actually helped keep my confidence up even when losing or playing bad. Doesn't change getting a bti frustrated, but through that I can still try.

As always, easy to say and tough to do/learn.
 

pencilcheck

Hall of Fame
I can’t manage to keep my play consistent from just hitting to match play. My play always goes downhill....fast...when I start playing a match. People I should easily beat will usually beat me. Most of the time it’s because I lose the points from miss-hits, long shots or net balls. It’s so frustrating! It especially happens with pushers. All they do is lob the ball back with zero pace or depth. When I do get it back with pace and spin, they just stick their racquet out and pop it up back over the net. Any advice on how to beat that? I end up getting angry and make more mistakes.
Based on my assumption after reading your piece, you are probably a 3.0/3.5 who haven't developed a good sense of court awareness, and shot selections yet. Your shots are probably inconsistent at low balls and cannot control when the ball kicks into you or bounce high.

I would suggest do multiple things at once
1. Improve your overall sense of court positioning to guard against potential shots
2. Improve your groundstrokes so it is more consistent
3. Improve and understand how to hit a shot that is reliable and will always work (you don't need to do pusher shots btw, I would suggest you look into volley type of mechanics)
4. Improve directionality of your shots

Nevertheless, it is important that you don't use patience like what other replied had mentioned, the more inpatient you are, the less likely you will be able to sustain a rally that you can turn to your favor consistently.
 

1HBHfanatic

Legend
-until you learn to beat the opponent across the net, you wont be the better player on the court..... truth!!
-hitting balls for hours is fun, but it does not sharpen your other skills for match play competition
 
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