New theory: doing drills is pointless above 3.5

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
Not pointless in that you get no benefit, pointless in that you could be playing matches instead and will benefit more from that (in terms of becoming a 'better' player => defined as winning more matches).

Why does match play have to be different from drilling? Matches are the drills. Drills can never come close to match play.

Okay in a match I was out played by someone who hit skidding slices, and I couldn't get under them for topspin. So I went to a wall and hit heaps of slices to develop the shots, so I could slice back on my fh and bh.

Aside from having a decent shot (and I'm talking a decent slice here, one that can work under pressure. I'm not talking a technique-fetishized every angle of every moment must be the exact same as Roger Federers slice), there is not much more benefit from doing drills compared to other things.

But outside of that scenario, of literally having no shot / technique, isnt match play the ideal drill? Match play against a decently similar opponent. It gives you a completely balanced rounded tennis improvement.

Unless you know you have one particular glaring weakness holding you back, just play matches.

Actually I really like rallying, which i guess is a drill. But i rallied a lot when i first started and my serve, return and volleys suffered comparatively for it. I still like to rally, but I don't think it will make me a better player the fastest way.

Doubles works serve / return more.
Singles works tactics / groundstrokes/ fitness more.

I guess it depends on how you approach matches. If you go in there choking up and only hitting junk to win vs going in there and trying to play your best tennis. It takes awhile before your best tennis consistently beats junk ballers perhaps which enables you to make the jump. Why I named this over 3.5.

You might say "what about the serve - the most technically difficult shot in tennis". Maybe the serve is worth drilling, but can't you just hit a bunch of serves in a match? If your coach tells you to try something else, is it really going to benefit your overall game, 10 years down the track, if you spent 50% of your time serving buckets of balls and 50% playing matches over 100% of your time playing matches? (Aside from the serve lesson of course)

I'm sure everyone is different, but a lot of people lately here it seems have this combo of perfected technique but losing matches. Just look at Medvedev, world number 2, but world number 1 ugliest technique.
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
For me, I'm much more likely to not experiment too much during a match but stick to what works well for me. In practice, I will experiment. I shouldn't care about results so much but it's obvious that I care more during a match than practice; I'd be lying if I said otherwise.
So an experiment like you described which could cause a match to lose, I would put in the bucket of a "huge major overhaul" change. I.e. like me not being able to hit slices, but then going to the wall a few times to develop it solidly enough to start using in matches.

This is different from a small change, I.e. tinkering with leaning into the serve more. You could just do this in matches from the get go. And an overhaul change - I'd just practice it a few timetimes till it was solid, then practice in matches.

Rather than 10yrs of 50% drills 50% matches. That's too much overhauling IMO, for the avg rec player who doesnt have as much time as a pro, just play more matches
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
Playing matches is a true sign of anyone’s tennis. There is pressure, there’s something win/lose, ups and downs, mental challenges that you DO NOT face when doing drills. In practice generally you're more at ease and there’s not a lot at stake. HOWEVER and this is a big HOWEVER, participating in a high level well coached tennis clinics can do wonders for your game as well. Playing well in clinics gives you the muscle memory and confidence to play better in matches. If a player constantly does clinics they will never know how good they are in a match. If a player only plays matches, they may not improve because of the lack of reps. They both go hand in hand, very Yin-Yang-like.

BTW I’m a strong 4.0 and I still attend clinics.
 
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StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
Playing matches is a true sign of anyone’s tennis. There is pressure, there’s something win/lose, ups and downs, mental challenges that you DO NOT face when doing drills. In practice generally you're more at ease and there’s not a lot at stake. HOWEVER and this is a big HOWEVER, participating in a high level well coached tennis clinics can do wonders for your game as well. Playing well in clinics gives you the muscle memory and confidence to play better in matches. If a player constantly does clinics they will never know how good they are in a match. If a player only plays matches, they may not improve because of the lack of reps. They both go hand in hand, very Yin-Yang-like.

BTW I’m a strong 4.0 and I still attend clinics.
Yes and also in matches the balls are new and the opponent is trying to demolish you.

I agree some practice like clinics etc can be good. I'm trying to stress the point that lots of match play is ideal and if you can have the mental shift to view matches as the practice, then you've got perfect match practice.

It's not how well you can lollipop the ball back over the net 100 times with a cooperative partner that makes you a good player. It's how deep and heavy you can get the ball consistently while your opponent is trying to wrestle you off the court. Or it's how well you can serve big when it matters, and stay in control of the point without making errors when the ball is flying at blistering speeds and your heart is beating out of your chest
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
Yes and also in matches the balls are new and the opponent is trying to demolish you.

I agree some practice like clinics etc can be good. I'm trying to stress the point that lots of match play is ideal and if you can have the mental shift to view matches as the practice, then you've got perfect match practice.

It's not how well you can lollipop the ball back over the net 100 times with a cooperative partner that makes you a good player. It's how deep and heavy you can get the ball consistently while your opponent is trying to wrestle you off the court. Or it's how well you can serve big when it matters, and stay in control of the point without making errors when the ball is flying at blistering speeds and your heart is beating out of your chest
Completely agree with everything you said. (y)
 

PKorda

Semi-Pro
Both are needed. If you’re only playing matches your sole focus is on winning and you don’t get an opportunity to work on improving your strokes. If you only drill you have no way to see if you are improving. A shot in practice and a match when there are more variables can be very different.
 

WildVolley

Legend
If you've spent any time on the recreational courts, you'll learn that your theory has already been falsified. Where I live, the rec courts are filled with 3.0-3.5s and a few 4.0s(this is an approximation, because these players generally don't play league) adult players who ONLY play matches. Most stay at the same level until they age out of 3.5.
 
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ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
There is only one place to learn winning matches (points, games, sets) ... matches.

I agree with your point ... once you are past major flaws (something keeping you from winning at your level or any advancement goals) play a lot more than drill.

So ... obviously if you are in the process of learning/changing strokes, by definition you have a flaw 8-B that will keep you from winning. This is the place of coaching, instruction, drills, ball machine sessions. Also ... although the best reps you will ever get are match reps, there are some I see good benefit to compliment with drills. For example ... overheads. You will get all the serve reps you need from matches, but maybe not overheads depending on your style of play and opponents. Drill sessions of overheads can make sense ... at least it did before Djokovic proved you can be #1 without one.

A related question is “should one keep tweaking (working on) strokes” forever? Tiger did ... look how that turned out. Bad joke. If a coach ever watched our doubles leagues or our weekly drill ... it would be a “flawed ugly stroke” target rich environment. But they made it work ... happy ... why set them back with prettier strokes.:p

I can think of two major points in my tennis where coaching and drills would have been very valuable. First was at age 15 when I picked up a racquet with the goal of making the high school tennis team. Our coach was my English teacher, just told us to go practice. Great guy ... knew nothing about tennis ... tennis was dumped on him. It would have been priceless to have technical tennis instruction then.

Second place ... years later when I started playing singles tournaments. Someone watching my early matches, giving advice on tactics and style of play. My guess is I would have skipped the 4.0 baseline grinding era.
 

chic

Professional
I'm a good 3.5 or low 4.0 and I'm pretty confident in disagreeing with this for someone looking to jump levels rather than win within them.

Playing a lot of matches will help me shore up my consistency issues and close the gap on 4.0, I've seen that when I was getting toward my peak play time last Summer and beating 4.0s, but it leaves some of my weak points unattended.

I'm a big server who forces a lot of short balls, but I don't hit enough of them in match, often I elect to put the ball back deep and spinny because I don't trust my attack shot when I'm moving forward leading me back to a neutral rally.

Imo the only way to fix an underdeveloped aspect like this is to drill it out, because in matches I'm too concerned with beating *this opponent* not improvement writ large.

Most 4.0s still have a lot of meh technique they could improve upon and lack highly consistent weapons, those are really hard to get during match play.

Keeping up and improving defensive game on the other hand is definitely something better done under the pressure of needing to win.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Most rec players pre-retirement have time just to show up, do five minutes of warm up, and then start playing a match (social or otherwise) against whoever is available. Where are the time and people to do drills with?
 

AnyPUG

Professional
Drills serve two main purposes -
1 It's lot more fun to do drills than hit against a wall to ingrain new shots/tweaks
2 It lets you have more repetitions than any other form in a match type of scenario. (it's very difficult to recreate the same pattern in a match play repeatedly)
 

chic

Professional
Most rec players pre-retirement have time just to show up, do five minutes of warm up, and then start playing a match (social or otherwise) against whoever is available. Where are the time and people to do drills with?
Finding the time is easy, just play less matches.
Finding the people with a similar mentality who want to practice is hard :cry:
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
If you've spent any time on the recreational courts, you'll learn that your theory has already been falsified. Where I live, the rec courts are filled with 3.0-3.5s and a few 4.0s(this is an approximation, because these players generally don't play league) adult players who ONLY play matches. Most stay at the same level until they age out of 3.5.
You have to factor age into this ... and if they play tournaments and/or USTA. 20 year old adults starting at 3.5 or 4.0 singles tournaments moving up a level was very common. One of my friends went from 3.5 to 5.0 just playing matches (before our club years and drills). In these cases ... drills were required was not true. The better question would have been could they have advanced faster allocating some of their match hours (including practice matches) to drilling.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
There is only one place to learn winning matches (points, games, sets) ... matches.

I agree with your point ... once you are past major flaws (something keeping you from winning at your level or any advancement goals) play a lot more than drill.

So ... obviously if you are in the process of learning/changing strokes, by definition you have a flaw 8-B that will keep you from winning. This is the place of coaching, instruction, drills, ball machine sessions. Also ... although the best reps you will ever get are match reps, there are some I see good benefit to compliment with drills. For example ... overheads. You will get all the serve reps you need from matches, but maybe not overheads depending on your style of play and opponents. Drill sessions of overheads can make sense ... at least it did before Djokovic proved you can be #1 without one.

A related question is “should one keep tweaking (working on) strokes” forever? Tiger did ... look how that turned out. Bad joke. If a coach ever watched our doubles leagues or our weekly drill ... it would be a “flawed ugly stroke” target rich environment. But they made it work ... happy ... why set them back with prettier strokes.:p

I can think of two major points in my tennis where coaching and drills would have been very valuable. First was at age 15 when I picked up a racquet with the goal of making the high school tennis team. Our coach was my English teacher, just told us to go practice. Great guy ... knew nothing about tennis ... tennis was dumped on him. It would have been priceless to have technical tennis instruction then.

Second place ... years later when I started playing singles tournaments. Someone watching my early matches, giving advice on tactics and style of play. My guess is I would have skipped the 4.0 baseline grinding era.
Your high school tennis coach sounds like my high school tennis coach.

Whenever my doubles partner and I would spilt sets, our coach would always dole out the same advice during the coaching break before the third set (this was many years before the advent of the 10-point super tiebreak).

Coach: ‘ok. Now.. the most important thing here ... is that you have to win the 7th game.’
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
There needs to be a balance. There are 2 guys at the club who only play with each other. They don't even talk to anyone else. Nothing wrong with that. They also look reasonably good against each other.
I am not sure how it was possible, but perhaps they were USTA members - but somehow a USTA captain signed them up for a league match (I am surprised because they never seemed to be playing leagues). It seems that they both collapsed (individually) pretty shockingly in their matches. Having never played for years with anyone else, they could not handle the simplest balls from their opponents.
So I think variety is the most important thing. Unlike pros who have the technique mastered for life, and get their variety through playing matches for a living, rec players can stay in their bubble and develop neither technique nor street smarts.
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
Your high school tennis coach sounds like my high school tennis coach.

Whenever my doubles partner and I would spilt sets, our coach would always dole out the same advice during the coaching break before the third set (this was many years before the advent of the 10-point super tiebreak).

Coach: ‘ok. Now.. the most important thing here ... is that you have to win the 7th game.’
My English teacher was great. About 30 of us had tested out of a required grammar class, and were put in his creative writing class. Can't you tell from my posts?

He didn't bluff on tennis advice ... he said his job was to schedule matches. :love:
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
There needs to be a balance. There are 2 guys at the club who only play with each other. They don't even talk to anyone else. Nothing wrong with that. They also look reasonably good against each other.
I am not sure how it was possible, but perhaps they were USTA members - but somehow a USTA captain signed them up for a league match (I am surprised because they never seemed to be playing leagues). It seems that they both collapsed (individually) pretty shockingly in their matches. Having never played for years with anyone else, they could not handle the simplest balls from their opponents.
So I think variety is the most important thing. Unlike pros who have the technique mastered for life, and get their variety through playing matches for a living, rec players can stay in their bubble and develop neither technique nor street smarts.
Should have left them alone. 8-B
 

PKorda

Semi-Pro
Most rec players pre-retirement have time just to show up, do five minutes of warm up, and then start playing a match (social or otherwise) against whoever is available. Where are the time and people to do drills with?
I have a mix of partners. Some only want to play sets, some only want to play games from the baseline with no serves because they like to get more of a workout, some like to just rally and work on their shots. Sometimes will mix things up but generally that allows me to have a variety. Personally I'm happy to do all of those things because benefit differently from each one.
 

MyFearHand

Rookie
I disagree completely. The issue with only playing matches is twofold. One, once competition starts we care a lot more about winning than we do about improving our games. For example, sometimes the next step in your development is to become more aggressive. If you miss a few and you're too worried about winning, you're going to dial back to play a more consistent style. This may well be the key to winning that particular match but will not help you progress. Two, you don't control what your opponent is going to do in a match so you can't ensure you're going to get repetition of something you want to practice. Let's say I want to practice my volleys, then I'm going to go to the net a lot. If my opponent decides they're only going to hit lobs when I come to net there's really nothing I can do to practice my volleys.

Matches are, however, absolutely crucial to playing at a high level. As people have said there's a big difference between being able to keep a 50 ball rally going in practice and making that many balls when your opponent is trying to beat you. You have to be able to keep a lot of balls in play under match conditions. Also, the only way to deal with the pressure from matches is to play a lot of matches. Matches are also the best place to practice finding a way to win when things aren't going your way.

Drills outside of matches are also crucial if you really want to get better. They give you an opportunity to repeat a stroke over and over so that you can repeat it without even thinking. This doesn't just mean practicing technique, it also means practicing timing and keeping your footwork crisp and efficient. It's important to do a lot of live ball drives that are situational. For example, if I want to work on coming to net then maybe we'll do a drill where we cooperatively go crosscourt until the 3rd ball when I approach down the line and then we play the game from there. This gives me repeated opportunities to come to the net, working on my approach and volleys. It also gives my opponent repeated opportunities to work on their passing shots. It's also not just about getting opportunities to repeat a STROKE necessarily, it's also about getting patterns ingrained. If I approach off of a short ball 50 times in a row and then come to net it's going to feel a lot more natural in a match when I get a short ball to then follow it to net.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I would say the opposite.
Drilling is key to improvement beyond 4.0.
Repetition, structure, and more repetition.
For instance, to learn a low backhand short angle volley, you need to hit that shot hundreds of times, maybe thousands, before you can say you own it.
And that repetitive drill needs more practice, so you don't lose it, as you play more tennis.
You lose any skill you don't practice.
 

curly_2350

New User
I too would say basically the opposite is true. At 3.5 if you're having long rallies you're both pushers and are playing such safe granny shots that you'll never learn to hit proper ones. If you're both trying to hit Nadal forehands then someone will hit it out every 2 balls meaning most of your court time is spent picking up balls. Either way it won't improve your game. Match tactics and strategy are vastly over-thought in rec tennis. Up to 5.5 the entirety of strategy you need is hit the ball with good margin, pace and depth. If you can hit a good ball it actually doesn't matter at all where it goes. You will completely crush 3.5/4.0 tennis just by having decent strokes without spending 1 calorie of energy thinking about tactics or strategy.

There's thousands of examples of people playing 3.5 matches for DECADES and doing the exact same thing over and over and never getting anywhere. I would say at 3.0 you should be drilling for 95% of your time, matches for 5% (if your primary focus is becoming a better tennis player). The better you get and the higher quality matches you have the less you need to be concerned with exact stroke mechanics and you do get decent practice from matches, and also match tactics and strategy do become important, but even still I'd expect a 5.5 player to be doing a lot of drills and practice (but for your avg rec player a 5.5 is generally not obsessed with getting better - more often than not they were a competitive young player that now just plays for fun).
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
While I never played collegiate tennis myself, I participated in quite a bit of college team practices. We did a fair amount of drills during these practice sessions.

Even at 4.5 & 5.0 levels, I was learning and working on new stuff. Some stuff came right away, especially the more creative stuff I did. Other skills took practice and we're not likely to happen in matches without practice / drilling.
 
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Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Drills are pointless for bad learners. Many adults are terrible learners. They use drills to repeat bad mechanics and make them permanently bad.
Few adults at 3.5 have the patience and fortitude to go through the process of breaking down a bad stroke and rebuilding it back up from the ground into a good stroke.

These people are best given some general tips on positioning, holding the racket the right way and then told to go play tennis.

Very few 3.5's want to become 2.5's in order to become 4.5's.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Bad learners could never progress to 4.0, and 4.5 just impossible.
Gotta learn from mistakes made in order to progress.
 

FloridaAG

Professional
Drills are excellent and necessary if they are purposeful, specific things are worked on and particularly if someone is there giving proper advice.

For example, you will not do proper footwork practice in the context of a match.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I never see high level players, college athletes, and pros practicing, so seems legit.
Correct. JMac never liked to practice. Rod Laver has said that people in his day used doubles and mixed doubles matches as practice for singles matches and make some more money too. Plus in his days, he had to take public transport to tournaments and barely arrived in time for a match, and any time after matches was consumed in walking to restaurants and stores before crashing for the night.
 

Purestriker

Semi-Pro
Correct. JMac never liked to practice. Rod Laver has said that people in his day used doubles and mixed doubles matches as practice for singles matches and make some more money too. Plus in his days, he had to take public transport to tournaments and barely arrived in time for a match, and any time after matches was consumed in walking to restaurants and stores before crashing for the night.
Game might be a little different now. But all high level players practice, practice, work out and then a little more practice. They just call those practices hitting sessions with their coach and hitting partner.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
I'd argue the opposite - people don't drill and practice enough - and thus they get stuck earlier then they would have otherwise. (Let's be honest - even if you do drills and practice you might end up being a 4.0 instead of a 3.5).

Here is why drilling and practice are so important..

Specificity - when you play a match sometimes you get a mix of certain balls - you get some medium placed backhands, forehands etc. A few lobs - maybe some volleys etc. But more then likely you have trouble with some particular specific shots. In drills you can dial in and focus on whatever weaknesses you have.

Have a hard time with forehands where the ball is moving to your backhand - you can drill on that. Have a hard time hitting overheads that are drifting towards your backhand side - you can drill on that. Have a hard time hitting the kick serve to the deuce side with interest. You can drill on that.. Hard time with big servers you can get your opponent to serve from the service line..

You can work on specific scenarios to fix weaknesses in your game.. This is not different from any other sport - in basketball you might work on specific shots in practice for hours at a time.. You want to own that corner 3 - you better practice it so when its open in a game it is ready to go.

Honestly this is just common sense - and normal in any sport. If you are an MMA fighter you practice take downs - if that is what you need to work on. Or a golfer who is practicing hitting out of sand traps.

The mental side of it is part of tennis - and sure you need match play to make sure you have some match play moxie - but for most amateurs they don't advance as far because they do not practice and drill. Not that I hold it against them - the match play is the fun part - and not everyone needs to approach their ceiling..

It would probably improve my pool game to get out and practice - maybe watch some video on billiards and such. But I don't care enough. For many tennis is the same way. They like playing - not practicing so they give up a little bit of progression. But if you want to progress you want to drill and practice a lot, IMHO.

So if you want to just play matches - go for it. But don't lie to yourself and pretend its the best way to advance. It clearly is not..
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
Good job Snap ... woke up the ttw tribe. 8-B

I will narrow the context to make your point:

Let's say you are a middle of the pack 4.0 singles tournament player with no glaring flaws in your game that would prevent you from becoming a top 4.0 player.

You are given two gift options ... you only get to pick one of them:

Gift 1 -> 100 hours of drills with #1 4.0 player
Gift 2 -> 100 hours of matches with #1 4.0 player (assume normal strokes/game)

We might differ on "what percentage" to allocate to non-match practice, but don't look a gift horse in the mouth ... take the match hours. He has what you want ... 1st place wins. In tournaments, you only get to play the top seeds on occasion. Priceless gift of multiple matches.

8-B
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Another consideration. Everyone does not play for the same reason. Not every player has a goal of winning more plastic trophies. Even those who play at a level higher than a 3.5 level. Competition might not be their primary purpose for playing tennis at a higher level. Some may thrive on developing new or improved skills thru drills. Learning and improving might be their motivators rather than winning matches.

Might be in it for the exercise. Might be in it for their own enjoyment. Perhaps playing at a higher level, win or lose, is how they derived their enjoyment. I've come across many players who love to rally or love to drill but rarely play matches. They love the rhythm of drills / rallying. They may derive more of a runner's high from the greater aerobic nature of drills or rallying.
 

norcal

Hall of Fame
One only needs to look at @TennisProdigy 's latest video. He is 4.5+ looking to improve to 5.0, 5.5, 6.0.
In the video he is playing guys close/a bit worse in rating. He wants to WIN (because it's competition) so what does he do? He loops his FH off the back foot and slices most backhands and runs everything down...and wins!

Will that style of play get him to where he wants to go?

There's your answer.
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
If you've spent any time on the recreational courts, you'll learn that your theory has already been falsified. Where I live, the rec courts are filled with 3.0-3.5s and a few 4.0s(this is an approximation, because these players generally don't play league) adult players who ONLY play matches. Most stay at the same level until they age out of 3.5.
These people on the rec courts have only been playing a few years I would have thought, or have not adapted an improvement-focused mindset.
If you have an improvement-focused mindset best to play more matches, doing 50% drills 50% match play for years is throwing the baby out with the bathwater IMO
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
Another consideration. Not every player has a goal of winning more plastic trophies. Even those who play at a level higher than a 3.5 level. Competition might not be their primary purpose for playing tennis at a higher level.

Might it for the exercise. Might be in it for their own enjoyment. Perhaps playing at a higher level, win or lose, is how they derived their enjoyment. I've come across many players who love to rally or love to drill but rarely play matches. They love the rhythm of drills / rallying. They may derive more of a runner's high from the greater aerobic nature of drills or rallying.
Yep ... but Snap was talking about "winning matches".

True short story 8-B related to your point. I ran into our high school tennis #1 player years later at the driving range. I was fairly new to golf and was focused on whatever my current lowest round was. He was by far the only one with talent on our tennis team ... so I was curious how he had progressed in golf. His answer surprised me ... he was more focused on being a pure striker of the ball than score. That said, judging by his swing on the driving range ... don't think he had any problem with low scores.
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
One only needs to look at @TennisProdigy 's latest video. He is 4.5+ looking to improve to 5.0, 5.5, 6.0.
In the video he is playing guys close/a bit worse in rating. He wants to WIN (because it's competition) so what does he do? He loops his FH off the back foot and slices most backhands and runs everything down...and wins!

Will that style of play get him to where he wants to go?

There's your answer.
What was the answer? :unsure:
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
I'm a big server who forces a lot of short balls, but I don't hit enough of them in match, often I elect to put the ball back deep and spinny because I don't trust my attack shot when I'm moving forward leading me back to a neutral rally.

Imo the only way to fix an underdeveloped aspect like this is to drill it out, because in matches I'm too concerned with beating *this opponent* not improvement writ large.

Most 4.0s still have a lot of meh technique they could improve upon and lack highly consistent weapons, those are really hard to get during match play.

Keeping up and improving defensive game on the other hand is definitely something better done under the pressure of needing to win.
I have your answer: back yourself, believe in yourself that if you attack those short balls, sure you'll miss a few, but eventually they will start going in. And then they're going in DURING A MATCH - when it actually matters. And then you're a player who is hitting winners of short balls during a match. And then the opponent starts freaking out and having panic attacks, and next thing you know you're winning all your service games effortlessly almost all because of your aura of "this guy will hit winners off my short balls - he's too good - i better play out of my skin or die trying".

drilling it out? i don't think so, if you can hit a short ball for a winner in a drill then you can hit it in a match. One possible reason you're not is that hitting a short ball has inherit risks and you're mentally freaking out. there could be all sorts of reasons, but lets focus on the mental reason. Are you ever going to overcome that mental hurdle in practice? No, because you don't freak out in practice. Because you don't have that same mental strain. Will you ever get it in practice? No.

just commit to hitting winners off short balls in matches, take the risk there, say "i'm going to attack all the short balls" and just commit and don't think about the match outcome. sure maybe you'll lose the match, maybe you'll lose 5 matches. Eventually you'll stop caring, get over your demons, and hit winners in a match where you need them. Its a different mindset
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
There needs to be a balance. There are 2 guys at the club who only play with each other. They don't even talk to anyone else. Nothing wrong with that. They also look reasonably good against each other.
I am not sure how it was possible, but perhaps they were USTA members - but somehow a USTA captain signed them up for a league match (I am surprised because they never seemed to be playing leagues). It seems that they both collapsed (individually) pretty shockingly in their matches. Having never played for years with anyone else, they could not handle the simplest balls from their opponents.
So I think variety is the most important thing. Unlike pros who have the technique mastered for life, and get their variety through playing matches for a living, rec players can stay in their bubble and develop neither technique nor street smarts.
I agree with this, playing matches against one player < playing matches against a lot of players i.e. in a league

This thread theory is about doing drills vs playing matches and what will improve you fastest. I'm arguing that outside of learning a new shot, in which drills will be of great benefit for a very small amount of time, that playing matches is the way to go and you should have the mindset that the match is the practice because no drill can recreate the same overall improvement and conditions as an actual match can.
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
I disagree completely. The issue with only playing matches is twofold. One, once competition starts we care a lot more about winning than we do about improving our games. For example, sometimes the next step in your development is to become more aggressive. If you miss a few and you're too worried about winning, you're going to dial back to play a more consistent style. This may well be the key to winning that particular match but will not help you progress. Two, you don't control what your opponent is going to do in a match so you can't ensure you're going to get repetition of something you want to practice. Let's say I want to practice my volleys, then I'm going to go to the net a lot. If my opponent decides they're only going to hit lobs when I come to net there's really nothing I can do to practice my volleys.

Matches are, however, absolutely crucial to playing at a high level. As people have said there's a big difference between being able to keep a 50 ball rally going in practice and making that many balls when your opponent is trying to beat you. You have to be able to keep a lot of balls in play under match conditions. Also, the only way to deal with the pressure from matches is to play a lot of matches. Matches are also the best place to practice finding a way to win when things aren't going your way.

Drills outside of matches are also crucial if you really want to get better. They give you an opportunity to repeat a stroke over and over so that you can repeat it without even thinking. This doesn't just mean practicing technique, it also means practicing timing and keeping your footwork crisp and efficient. It's important to do a lot of live ball drives that are situational. For example, if I want to work on coming to net then maybe we'll do a drill where we cooperatively go crosscourt until the 3rd ball when I approach down the line and then we play the game from there. This gives me repeated opportunities to come to the net, working on my approach and volleys. It also gives my opponent repeated opportunities to work on their passing shots. It's also not just about getting opportunities to repeat a STROKE necessarily, it's also about getting patterns ingrained. If I approach off of a short ball 50 times in a row and then come to net it's going to feel a lot more natural in a match when I get a short ball to then follow it to net.
In reply to the highlighted part: I'm saying we need to change that mindset.

For the second part - yes, we have no repetition and I agree if you can't handle that a match will be difficult. But ideally our strokes are solid enough to cope with this, and I am not against practicing a new stroke until it is decently solid. But I don't think it will take long to build up against a wall. And we should play a variety of players - some will give us rhythm and some will not. Those that will not help us practice our serves and returns more in my experience.

I'm assuming the player has all the shots (reasonably solidly) and is over 3.5
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
Good job Snap ... woke up the ttw tribe. 8-B

I will narrow the context to make your point:

Let's say you are a middle of the pack 4.0 singles tournament player with no glaring flaws in your game that would prevent you from becoming a top 4.0 player.

You are given two gift options ... you only get to pick one of them:

Gift 1 -> 100 hours of drills with #1 4.0 player
Gift 2 -> 100 hours of matches with #1 4.0 player (assume normal strokes/game)

We might differ on "what percentage" to allocate to non-match practice, but don't look a gift horse in the mouth ... take the match hours. He has what you want ... 1st place wins. In tournaments, you only get to play the top seeds on occasion. Priceless gift of multiple matches.

8-B
I would even add

Gift 3 -> 50 hours of drills with #1 4.0 and 50 hours matches with #1 4.0 (and say that gift 2 will improve 90% of people faster than gift 3)
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
One only needs to look at @TennisProdigy 's latest video. He is 4.5+ looking to improve to 5.0, 5.5, 6.0.
In the video he is playing guys close/a bit worse in rating. He wants to WIN (because it's competition) so what does he do? He loops his FH off the back foot and slices most backhands and runs everything down...and wins!

Will that style of play get him to where he wants to go?

There's your answer.
I don't believe it will, and I've personally commented on his videos on youtube telling him to hit through the ball more :-D

If he had the mindset change of "being a better player version of me than last time i played" instead of "being better than the guy across the net" - this is the mindset change I keep talking of, which you need, to make matches your best practice.

If a player were playing lots of matches, and came up against a player better than them, simply undeniably better, and couldn't win no matter what they did. I'm talking loopy ******** etc - it still doesn't enable them to win. What do they do then? They have a clear goal. How can they beat this player? One answer is clear - they need to be able to hurt the opponent. And they need to be able to take some more hurt and still get it back, possibly. IMO they would need to focus on the points of the match where they're losing. Do they lose as early as because their serve is punished? Is their return not good enough? Can they handle the opponents rally ball? Are they unable to finish points? But these things can be practiced in a match. Minor tweaks.

One thing is clear - they're not going to go do some drills and beat this player the following week. If this player is "just better", they've most likely gotten better from years more playing, or from hundreds or thousands of hours of practicing effective patterns of play ( most likely gained playing matches ;) ). I'm arguing playing matches with intention, without having to "beat the other player" but to "beat the you of last time" etc
 
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StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
Yep ... but Snap was talking about "winning matches".

True short story 8-B related to your point. I ran into our high school tennis #1 player years later at the driving range. I was fairly new to golf and was focused on whatever my current lowest round was. He was by far the only one with talent on our tennis team ... so I was curious how he had progressed in golf. His answer surprised me ... he was more focused on being a pure striker of the ball than score. That said, judging by his swing on the driving range ... don't think he had any problem with low scores.
this reminds me of "you cannot want contentment, because contentment is a desire-less state". paradoxically if you focus on improvement of your game in matches, over winning the match, you win more matches. the essence of this theory. A great man you are @ByeByePoly :cool:
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
I would even add

Gift 3 -> 50 hours of drills with #1 4.0 and 50 hours matches with #1 4.0 (and say that gift 2 will improve 90% of people faster than gift 3)
I agree ... and will add gift #4 which will be the best:

4) 25 match hours each from 1) top 4.0 s&v player, 2) best all court player, and 3) best aggressive baseliner, and 4) best backboard baseline grinder with 1hbh slice.

Winner ... pay the lady.
 

Rosstour

Legend
I'd say most of us don't drill enough.

I have a great HP and we always play matches. But that increases the pressure/competition which decreases the learning.

We get a lot out of the simple hitting sessions. Observe each other, get reps on difficult shots. Take risks, be loose.
 
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