Playing against someone better than you

Nellie

Hall of Fame
Last weekend, I had a county league singles match against someone who was simply better than me (bigger serves and returns, bigger and more consistent strokes, quicker movement, etc.). I am sure we all have this experience from time to time.

In this match, as in the past, I took this as an oppertunity to swing away and go for winners, thinking that if I connect on several, I would have a fighting chance. When I see top pros get upset, this is usually who they lose.

So I lose 6-2, 6-4 (the last set being closer because the opponent was taking it easy, feeling the match is in hand) in a very fast match (about 50 minutes) since the points take about 5-10 seconds maximum.

Aftewards I was thinking about my strategy, and I decided that I have never won a match by going for winners.

So my question is - have you ever won a match against a better opponent by trying to keep the ball in play and grind out points?
 

blakesq

Hall of Fame
Yes I have, on occasion. But simply keeping the ball in play was not enough, I had to hit the ball deep and in the corners. I wasn't hitting the ball hard necessarily, but deep and in the corners makes my opponent try to force winners in order to win a point quickly.

snip

So my question is - have you ever won a match against a better opponent by trying to keep the ball in play and grind out points?
 

LuckyR

Legend
Absolutely. If you have the retriever skills, this can be your Plan B. However, even if you are not a retriever-type, playing longer points with folks who are better than yourself in certain aspects of the game, is a better strategy IMO, than going for winners. Most folks try your go-for-broke strategy and experience what you did: a valiant, quick, pain-free loss. Think about it: if the guy is better than you they are probably more consistant than you, if your strategy is to go for lower percentage shots than you normally do, you are playing into their hands. I have had better luck making them earn the victory than handing them the loss.
 

goober

Legend
The go for winners strategy may work if you are playing on a magical level like you might play once or twice a year. The other 99% of the time it will fail miserably and the match will be over in 40 minutes. I guess this is the mindset since you are likely going to lose anyways.

Make him earn it is a better strategy because it is more satisfying- you went down playing your game and did not hand him an easy victory.
 

tbini87

Hall of Fame
Last weekend, I had a county league singles match against someone who was simply better than me (bigger serves and returns, bigger and more consistent strokes, quicker movement, etc.). I am sure we all have this experience from time to time.

In this match, as in the past, I took this as an oppertunity to swing away and go for winners, thinking that if I connect on several, I would have a fighting chance. When I see top pros get upset, this is usually who they lose.

So I lose 6-2, 6-4 (the last set being closer because the opponent was taking it easy, feeling the match is in hand) in a very fast match (about 50 minutes) since the points take about 5-10 seconds maximum.

Aftewards I was thinking about my strategy, and I decided that I have never won a match by going for winners.

So my question is - have you ever won a match against a better opponent by trying to keep the ball in play and grind out points?
keeping the ball in and grinding out points has helped me plenty of times, and is my best strategy against better players. i am not good enough to try to hit winners and compete with someone that is better than me. i can only hope to outlast him, keep the ball and and frustrate him into making mistakes. this strategy can work well against over agressive players or mentally weak players. when you are up against someone who is better than you and simply solid then you are going down either way. if you need the energy for later you might want to go for winners. if this is your last match for a while then you might as well grind and make him work for it, imo.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Hmmmmm, most of my experience might not be helpful because I play doubles.

I had one singles match last season where I was clearly the weaker player. My opponent got off to a shaky start, so I won the first four games. Then she proceeded to dismantle me with surgical precision, reeling off six games to take the first set, going on to win the match. I tried everything once she found her mojo. I even served and volleyed. No cigar.

Me, I think if someone is clearly better, then you simply have to play out of your skin to beat them. The only way to do that is to swing away. I don't see how you're likely to get a happy result playing 4.5 tennis against a 5.0 opponent. They only way to know if you are capable of having a 5.0 day is to come out trying to play like a 5.0. Either you will, or you won't.

In doubles, I do the same thing when I can see we are overmatched. I play as aggressively as I possibly can and encourage my partner to do the same. I try to keep the points short. All volleys are attempted put-aways. All groundstrokes are designed to generate a floater. All first serves have as much action on them as I can get. And we crash the net, of course. Strategically, we still play high-percentage doubles (no going at the net man or going down the line for no reason), but we try to carpet bomb them with big shots.

So far, I have two wins employing this strategy, so I rather think it works.
 

CAM178

Hall of Fame
The only way you could have beaten someone like this, IMO, was to have started to play longer points to better determine their weakness(es). Plus, the longer the points go, the better the chance of him/her becoming unnerved and missing. When the points go longer, you should be able to determine and exploit their weakness(es). This is when the match gets fun.

Keep in mind, too, that even though they are the better player, there is nothing wrong with playing against them like they are a worse player. Toy with the better player. Not much more will get under my skin than someone treating me like I am a scrub. Some better players will literally unravel (can you say 'juniors'?) when you do this to them. Eventually it will get down to ego.

Better players rely on the lesser player to do exactly what you did: go for more to try and keep up, and miss. This sounds like how your match played out, thusly why the points were only 5-10 seconds long. Make the points MUCH longer. Fatigue your opponent and them feel like they are really having to work to win, and that you are not just going to hand them the match.
 

raiden031

Legend
I've only beaten one person who I truly thought was a better player than me. Knowing what I was up against, my game plan was going to be to hit every single shot cross-court and not hit any low percentage shots. I did just that and had a phenomenal day with my groundstrokes and hit very few unforced errors. My opponent was going for winners against me and hit alot of errors. I ended up winning a close match. I ended up playing him in a rematch a few weeks later and this time my groundstrokes weren't so good and playing the same strategy led to me being beaten pretty badly. But also my opponent played more conservatively the second time around as well.

The only time I go for winners is if I'm responding to a weak shot. I don't try to force winners to happen because it always leads to me losing the match.
 

itsstephenyo

Semi-Pro
I had this happen to me last week. Played against a former 5.0+ player. Now he's probably a middle 4.5. Needless to say, he still outclassed me by a LOT.

What did I do? I went for winners. Second serve, I'd step in and try to smack it. Any chance I had, I tried to hit it hard and flat down the line and approach. I got passed probably 9/10 times I came to net. Hahaha I put up a good fight, though. Only lost 6-1, 6-4.

In all honesty, I probably could've done better, though. My serve being as terrible as it is, I double-faulted three straight games to him. That was the first set.
 

WBF

Hall of Fame
I prefer to work on my game and not go for cheap crap when I'm far outclassed by my opponent. Of course, the opponents wouldn't be beaten by me grinding any more than they would by me hitting normally.
 

10sjunkie

New User
I absolutely think this strategy works. I played in a 4.0 league last year (as a 3.0!). I was playing the #2 singles court against a very good 4.0 player. She tried to blow me off of the court and all I did was get everything back. Each time she had to hit another ball, she tried to hit it harder until it either hit the net or sailed long. I won the match 6-4, 6-2. She was not happy. Of course, I hate playing against people who do the same thing to me!
 

eagle

Hall of Fame
I believe there are no absolutes in playing players better than you. Each player is different. One strategy that works with one will likely not be effective with the next one. I think one just has to adjust one's tactic during the match.

I think one's ability to analyze, troubleshoot, and adjust to the opponent's style and game at THAT time is key. One has to realize also that the opponent is probably doing the same. So, it is not only a physical game but also a cerebral one.

I notice that there are streaks during the match also. Most of the time, the better player will have a mental lapse and cause their game to dip a little which allows me to get a few points to lift my game ... at least enough to make me feel good that I can get some meaningful points against him. Always good for the ego. :)

I always treat each match as a game improvement match anyway. There's always something to tweak and definitely improve. That's what makes it fun.

Thanks,
eagle
 

spot

Hall of Fame
You make him beat you with whatever they do the worst. If they are beating you with their forehand then you just hit only to his backhand- don't worry about being predictable until he cheats to the point you can't get to it anymore. If his backhand is still beating you then you make him come to the net. Having points end quickly is just stealing time from you for figuring out where the weakpoints are.
 

maleyoyo

Professional
From my experiences, if you play with someone who is clearly better than you, I don't know how you can hit winners against him since his shots are superior to yours in every way: depth, spins, and pace, not to mention that he probably has better footwork than you. In another words he makes you hit defensive shots most of the time, so for me hitting winners means I have to hit very low percentage shots on the run.
Also, what a lesser skill player considers winners are most likely routine shots for a better player.
To attack his weakness if (big if) I can find them or keep him from playing his game is the focus for me in this situation. I slice and dice chip and charge against power hitters, lob against S&V...
I've never won playing against players a level above me, but they have to beat me because they know I'll play them tough. Keep in mind that I'm only a 4.0.
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
Good post Maleyoyo - too true.

CindySphinx said:
Me, I think if someone is clearly better, then you simply have to play out of your skin to beat them. The only way to do that is to swing away.
Not picking on you Cindy - but I do want to point out, that this is not the only way, and is by far the least probable way, simply because they ARE superior, and you go into your lowest percentage game to try to beat them.

I have beaten players recently, that on the whole, I considered to have stronger strokes, and better footwork than myself. I just started playing up myself, so here is what has worked for me, and some have already mentioned.

Find a way to neutralize their strengths, and ability to put the hammer on you so easily.

This means, hitting deep penetrating shots, sometimes at them, sometimes into corners. These can be slice, or topspin, and maybe not giving them too much pace to work with. This has worked great for me, and is way more probable to pull off than trying to hit winners. The way to go on the offensive, is to 1) Neutralize them and then 2) Hit a shot that gets them moving, now you are dictating play and the percentages just went in your favor briefly.

I guess if I boil it down, I am saying to use good defense and counter attack, than trying to just GO FOR WINNERS. The first way gives you at least a chance, and the last way almost gurantees your opponent an easy victory.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Isn't this in some way circular?

I mean, if they are clearly better, then you can't neutralize their strengths, can you? If you can neutralize their strengths, then how can they be clearly better?

The other thing that is strange here is the yardstick by which we are measuring who is "better." If I am playing my best (not making a bunch of errors) and I look up to find I'm down 0-4 playing my usual game, then perhaps the other person is "better."

I dunno. I've never turned things around by playing defense and outlasting someone who was "better" than me. I've turned things around by going for my shots, by trying to dictate rather than letting myself be punished, by hitting the ball harder and not being so conservative.

Interesting discussion, though. If I do wind up playing some singles this spring, I will undoubtedly be facing women who are better than me.
 

spot

Hall of Fame
I think that people are completely different players doing what they are best at vs what they are worst at. Literally I see this all the time on my team. A guy on my team tries to play his own game and gets destroyed by someone. I play that same guy and he just looks worse because I am playing to his weaknesses regardless of what I think my own personal best shots are. I think that I beat players all the time that are overall much better than me- just that I exploit their weaknesses more than they exploit mine. And going for low percentage shots is a ridiculous strategy if you want to win.
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
Cindy - believe me, I hear exactly what you are saying and asking here.

I mean, if they are clearly better, then you can't neutralize their strengths, can you? If you can neutralize their strengths, then how can they be clearly better?
That's a fair question. Given that number one, the opponent is not overwhelmingly better than you in almost every area, and you have SOME chance, you really can make it competitive if you play smart.

You CAN neutralize their strengths. That doesn't mean their strengths are not stronger than yours still right? You just find a way to keep them from hitting their 'A shots' as much as possible.

One example. In the last match I played up one full ntrp level, and this kid had a forehand to die for. Much more pace and spin then I can currently generate. I sliced DEEP LOW driving slice to his backhand, backing him up, and then I would hit a high percentage harder forehand to his crosscourt forehand. Now this kid had to hit on the run, instead of from a strong position. That turned his ace forehand, into just a decent forehand, and I would keep him pinned back there. If I let him set up well, BAM, he put me on the defensive quickly. My goal became, to put him on defense first, and then go on my own offense, and it worked.

Another point. If you can step up and hit out with winners somehow for the whole match, playing 'out of your skin', and beat them, then they aren't better than you are they? Just making a point here. So maybe we shouldn't say better, but how about, consitently more skilled or stronger?

I've never turned things around by playing defense and outlasting someone who was "better" than me.
Another good point Cindy. Let me say, I am not just talking pure defense, but rather, neutralize and counter attack, so you ARE dictating. Going 100% offense with shots you don't yet own is almost a guaranteed way to lose a lot to anybody, regardless of their skill level. Put the percentages in your favor with smart play, and your offense is just as real, and not as high risk.

I've turned things around by going for my shots, by trying to dictate rather than letting myself be punished, by hitting the ball harder and not being so conservative.
Then maybe you had the stronger strokes here. Maybe you were playing your C game, and stepped it up to your A game. You A game is NOT the best you can potentially play, it is the best game you can 'consistently' play. I am really talking about someone who owns stonger strokes or more pace and spin.

Hey, if they are way better in all areas, maybe it's just not a fair match sometimes, that happens.

If I do wind up playing some singles this spring, I will undoubtedly be facing women who are better than me.
Careful what you consider 'better than you'. Maybe they hit better, but are less consistent. Maybe they are more consistent, but you hit stronger. Better really only means...they are better at doing what they do best, while making you do what you do worst. It happens all the time. If you truly compete within one half level of ntrp, I think you have to find the way to do what you do best, and maybe, help them do what they do worst.

Brad Gilbert says, a good player never gives their opponent the shot they love the most.

In this case, Spot, in his previous post, is 'Spot-on' in his comments. Good stuff. And, good luck in the Spring!!!
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
I think that people are completely different players doing what they are best at vs what they are worst at. Literally I see this all the time on my team. A guy on my team tries to play his own game and gets destroyed by someone. I play that same guy and he just looks worse because I am playing to his weaknesses regardless of what I think my own personal best shots are. I think that I beat players all the time that are overall much better than me- just that I exploit their weaknesses more than they exploit mine. And going for low percentage shots is a ridiculous strategy if you want to win.
Great post Spot, you make valid points.

I think something that happens a lot, is player A's strongest shot is his premium forehand, and player B's strongest shot is his premium forehand. So player A, wants to hit his weapon over and over, but finds, player B's forehand is even better than his. Now what is he going to do?

If he is smart, he goes to player B's backhand, and sets up his own forehand. Or he changes pace and spin, then switches back to his weapon at the right time.

The typical thing that happens however, is that player A will try to hit his forehand harder and harder, and closer and closer to the lines....which if you have been involved in team play, you know what happens 99% of the time. Even pro players rarely can get away with this approach.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I think many of you have more tools in the tool box than I have.

:glances into tool box:

Let's see. I'm seeing a topspin forehand, a topspin backhand, a topspin approach shot, some volleys . . .

:shakes box:

Mmmm, there's FH drop shot and FH slice, but nothing at all on the BH side . . .

Lordie, not even a topspin FH lob, just BH?

Where did I get this piece of crap tool box? :)
 

Nellie

Hall of Fame
Thanks for the ideas - I guess the conclusion is that your chances are low when playing a better player so should you go out swinging or should you try to keep the points going to draw out errors. The decision really depends on the facts.
 
This thread addresses so closely an issue I was going to start a thread about tonight. What is "better"? Today I lost a singles match in 3 sets to a player I thought was "better" than me but beatable because she would make an error here and there. After the match she said I was the "best" player she had played in the league so far. When I got home I looked her up and saw that she got beat in two sets by someone I had won against so easily. She got beat by someone with "junky", "crappy" shots. How does that happen I thought? I decided the "better" player wins the match. Maybe not the better hitter, or the better volleyer or the one with the best form, but the better "player" of that particular match.

Like today, my opponenent took away my strength (typical forehand ) and played to my backhand. I saw that soft shots gave her problems but I don't really know how to hit soft shots. She was the better "player". I have no "tools" I only have "hit the ball hard" ... so people see me play and they think I am the "better" player, but I think I'm really just the better 'Hitter', if hitting the ball hard is "better".

There are matches that are clearly "out matched" and there are matches that people are "out played", the better "player" figured out how to win the match.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
DH,

Yeah, exactly. That's the problem when someone else is better. I have just a few things I can do, and the middle of a match against someone who is eating my lunch is not the time to try out some new moves.

Lots of players are bothered by soft balls. Or moon balls. Or slice. Or very short balls. These are all good things to try. Except I can't execute any of them without coughing up points.

Yep, hit the ball hard, harder and harder still. That's my range. That's Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.
 

TENNIS_99

Semi-Pro
Thanks for the ideas - I guess the conclusion is that your chances are low when playing a better player so should you go out swinging or should you try to keep the points going to draw out errors. The decision really depends on the facts.
In my book if someone is better than me- he would make less errors if put both of us in the same situation - and it is just the first criterion. While grinding and keeping the balls in play are always the most important/basic part of match playing, to win the match, it's also equally important your ability to grind against your opponent. i.e your retrieval skills, your opponent's ability to take advantage of less-pressured strokes. In my opinion, I will have less chance to grind against the opponent I grant "better". If someone has good foot work, plays flashy, hit 90 mile stokes sometime but landed a few on the fence, I will let the match result to define who is better.

To anwser the original question, this is what I do - to play a better player - I have to play aggressive and smart on my SERVICE games. The service is the only place I have the control to initiate pressure on my opponent. A better player will not give you this opportunity during rally. And even if it takes 7 deues to win your games but 2 minutes for the better player to knock down an easy game, it's still 1-1. Usually I like to serve out wide slice on the deuce court and out wide kicker on the ad court and hopefully later in the match I can open up flat bomb in the middle.

Well, but then it's always easier say than done. Looks like I will be playing a 5.0 player in a tourny coming up, it might end up I will ask you to foreget all I have said. :twisted:
 
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saram

Legend
Canas def. Federer

next week

Canas def. Federer

It can be done by grinding, pushing, getting everything back and pressuring the better player to go for more. In my mind, the only way you can beat a better player is to be in great shape and be willing to put in the mileage side to side forcing your opponent to go for more.

Most players that are out-classed are not going to be able to come up with the goods and take a better player out of their element with strokes alone.

Canas beat the Fed with heart, lungs and legs back to back.
 

Xisbum

Semi-Pro
Hanging in

Isn't this in some way circular?

I dunno. I've never turned things around by playing defense and outlasting someone who was "better" than me. I've turned things around by going for my shots, by trying to dictate rather than letting myself be punished, by hitting the ball harder and not being so conservative.

.
I played a singles match in Reston Team Tennis last summer (first singles match in a long time) against a guy I had regularly beaten in mens and mixed doubles. On that night, he hit fabulous heavy topspin forehands and backhands all night and kept me on my heels the whole match - something that doesn't happen to me very often because I'm pretty quick to the ball and very accurate with my groundstrokes.

I won in the tiebreaker when he doubled faulted on set point in the tiebreaker.

All I did - all I could do - was get his heavy shots back however I could. I only remember about 3 times when I hit an actual winner; the rest of the points I won were his mistakes. He was clearly the better player that night, but I was probably just a shot or two more stubborn.

Goes to show, you never know what's going to happen until it happens. You play the best game you can against all the variables, and sometimes it works. Keep hitting the ball; something will happen one way or the other.

Peace and strong backhands.
 

Alexio92

Professional
Lta Rating 8.2(Me) just beat a 6.2.
Get the ball in deep and go for winners when the ball sits up is my suggestion.
 

mdjenders

Professional
My "A" game is camping behind the baseline and pounding forehands corner to corner, running around my backhand to the extreme. Problem for me is when I run into a strong 4.0/4.5 player who can hang with my forehand and use their cross court backhand or inside out fh to exploit my one-hander with heavy, high balls. In these cases, I abandon my "A" game and go into retriever mode, looping everything back deep, running around my bh less, and playing percentage tennis. It doesnt work often, but it has given me some wins over more skilled, harder hitting opponents.
 

burosky

Professional
It all depends on how much better the opponent is as well. The ones I have played who are much better than me are also able to adjust to what I'm doing. When I tried to play conservatively, they just played more patiently and waited until they get an opening. When I tried to be more aggressive, they simply neutralized my "go-to" shots by minimizing the opportunities to hit it which made me force some shots that eventually led to errors.

The key learning I got from this is, if I truly am the better player, I should be able to "outlast" my opponent which means I don't have to do anything special to win, just stay within my game. Otherwise, I'm probably not that much of a better player than my opponent.
 
Fatigue makes cowards of us all

Nellie said:
So my question is - have you ever won a match against a better opponent by trying to keep the ball in play and grind out points?
Heck yes. Grind out every point, and make the match last as long as possible. You want your opponent sweating and working hard. It's amazing how an opponent's previously well-tuned stroke can start dissolving once fatigue sets in. The palms get sweaty, muscles get loosey-goosey, and suddenly anything can happen (hopefully a few UE's in your favor).
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
Heck yes. Grind out every point, and make the match last as long as possible. You want your opponent sweating and working hard. It's amazing how an opponent's previously well-tuned stroke can start dissolving once fatigue sets in. The palms get sweaty, muscles get loosey-goosey, and suddenly anything can happen (hopefully a few UE's in your favor).
Ok, so I played up to 4.5 this weekend, and my first opponent was a young fast and flexible guy. I noticed, it didn't seem to matter how well or aggressive I hit my first three or four shots, he wouldn't make an error. And I hit some crosscourt rippers that I thought for sure I had the winner or forced error on.

I remembered this thread. Well, I didn't try to hit harder and better, because, LOL, I already was hitting hard and placing well. I found with this kid, I had to keep an extended rally going for like 6-8 balls, and THEN, power and placement worked to force the error. Once I realized this, I was able to compete with this kid. But it's weird. It wasn't that I was scrapping to stay in the point, I just had to rally long enough each point before anything seemed to shake him.

Naturally, if I said to myself, "Awww, this kid is too good!" went for some crazy Federer shots, I would have handed him an easy victory. So there is something to be said once again, about fighting for a while with safe sure shots, before throwing in the towel, and swinging for the fences.

I went from 0-5, to 3-6, and then 5-5 in the second and losing by a break, so I found out how to equalize the playing levels and have a chance to win.

The guy that beat him in the next round...had less powerful strokes by far, and beat this guy by grinding balls back with extended rallies.
 

Foraserve

New User
This thread addresses so closely an issue I was going to start a thread about tonight. What is "better"? Today I lost a singles match in 3 sets to a player I thought was "better" than me but beatable because she would make an error here and there. After the match she said I was the "best" player she had played in the league so far. When I got home I looked her up and saw that she got beat in two sets by someone I had won against so easily. She got beat by someone with "junky", "crappy" shots. How does that happen I thought? I decided the "better" player wins the match. Maybe not the better hitter, or the better volleyer or the one with the best form, but the better "player" of that particular match.

Like today, my opponenent took away my strength (typical forehand ) and played to my backhand. I saw that soft shots gave her problems but I don't really know how to hit soft shots. She was the better "player". I have no "tools" I only have "hit the ball hard" ... so people see me play and they think I am the "better" player, but I think I'm really just the better 'Hitter', if hitting the ball hard is "better".

There are matches that are clearly "out matched" and there are matches that people are "out played", the better "player" figured out how to win the match.
I played my very first 3.0 USTA League match last night and am struggling with this same issue. I played #2 singles against an opponent with more experience and skill and was beaten 6-0 6-4. The first set was spent with me mainly trying to get to and hit my opponent's soft shots that dropped 12 inches from the net before they bounced twice. I never yelled "ball up" so much in my life. Nerves were also a big issue.

Anyway, at the start of the second set I mentally slapped myself and broke her in the first game at 0-40. At one point, I was up 4-3. She was a pretty crafty player and the match was a great learning experience.

I'm self-rated at 2.5, but want to play up. My natural, instinctive game is a hard hitting driving ball from the baseline. The team captain and my teammates have all commented on my powerful groundstrokes and serve. In practice, they are hot...well, as hot as they can be for someone returning to tennis after twenty years.

Prior to the match, my teammate, who is a great singles player, said "don't go for so much power, just get the ball back over the net; eventually she'll wear out; it drives them crazy." The funny thing is when I did just that (softer serve, softer returns), I tended to win more points, but that style of play felt forced, awkward and not my game. It felt as if I was playing my opponent's game. My opponent was giving me very little pace and getting most of my balls back. So, yes, the age old dilemnma: do I play my game and work to find and exploit my opponent's weaknesses or just do whatever seems to be working, even if it's not my game? I did eventually realize she hated and could rarely return my deep corner shots.
 
smooth -

I'm playing in a singles league at a level above my actual skill, and am having decent success just grinding out points. I'm 1-2, but could easily be 2-1 if a tight match had gone a little different. If you can just hang around the court and survive, kind of like a cockroach, sometimes a better player will just implode.

Of course, I'm not trying to claim it always works. The guy I played last week ran me around the court for almost 2 hours and I could swear I heard him snickering when he shook my hand after he won the match 6-2, 6-2. But you know what? I'm just going to stick my fingers in my ears (LALA-LALA-LALA) and pretend it never happened. There. I don't remember anything.
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
Foraserve - you know, you bring up a good point, which in many ways, is a delima.

When players are new to the game, or 2.5-3.0, the one's that are trying hard to improve, are really concerned with getting their strokes grooved. The problem is, the skill level in match play at that level doesn't support that goal very well. You naturally want to find your A stoke, and hit it over and over right? Sure.

But the lower levels of ntrp are going to give you just about everything - dead paceless balls, short balls with no spin, with spin, high balls, sit up slices all over the entire court - you never know what is coming back over that darn net.

This is where I think practice, focused purposeful practice with a like minded partner is invaluable.

The funny irony, is that at the higher levels, it is much easier to groove because most players also want to groove, and hit more predictable shots. Closing that gap only happens on the practice court.
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
smooth -

I'm playing in a singles league at a level above my actual skill, and am having decent success just grinding out points. I'm 1-2, but could easily be 2-1 if a tight match had gone a little different. If you can just hang around the court and survive, kind of like a cockroach, sometimes a better player will just implode.

Of course, I'm not trying to claim it always works. The guy I played last week ran me around the court for almost 2 hours and I could swear I heard him snickering when he shook my hand after he won the match 6-2, 6-2. But you know what? I'm just going to stick my fingers in my ears (LALA-LALA-LALA) and pretend it never happened. There. I don't remember anything.
Right on. Hey, nothing ALWAYS works, hehe.

Playing up and scrapping are fine. However, before you step up too far for too long, just make sure you are not giving up technique and form for the sake of competing with scrappy dogged play. I have seen these talented scraper guys, compete very early with great success at 3.5 and 4.0, without the form to go with it. Great fun, but then I noticed they get hooked on the competition, and never pick up form. This leaves them kinda stuck at 3.5-4.0forever. And there is nothing in the world wrong with that as long as you are ok with it, and aware of it. There is just a balance to reconcile depending on each persons long term goals.

The guy who won our 4.5 tourney this weekend...he scrapped his way all the way to the victory. But let me say, I play this guy every few months, and he has skills. He can hit every shot. But when his opponent has bigger guns, he has no problem scrapping and not feeding them pace. Fun stuff.
 

Foraserve

New User
Foraserve - you know, you bring up a good point, which in many ways, is a delima.

When players are new to the game, or 2.5-3.0, the one's that are trying hard to improve, are really concerned with getting their strokes grooved. The problem is, the skill level in match play at that level doesn't support that goal very well. You naturally want to find your A stoke, and hit it over and over right? Sure.

But the lower levels of ntrp are going to give you just about everything - dead paceless balls, short balls with no spin, with spin, high balls, sit up slices all over the entire court - you never know what is coming back over that darn net.

This is where I think practice, focused purposeful practice with a like minded partner is invaluable.

The funny irony, is that at the higher levels, it is much easier to groove because most players also want to groove, and hit more predictable shots. Closing that gap only happens on the practice court.
This is exactly what has me perplexed after last night's match!! Do I stick with my game and the solid techniques I'm learning from my tennis teacher or just scramble to get the ball back over the net. When I was playing my game, focused on technique, my opponent was winning points because many of the ball were hit out. Without doubt, I am not yet consistent with my "power, good technique" strokes, but when I was just getting the ball in, I knew my form and technique were awful. Awful, but still winning points. Heck, my serve could become a weapon (yes, the operative phrase is "could become"), but it's not yet consistent. In the second set, I was reduced to sending over "whiff" balls on my serve just to make sure the ball went in.

The dichotomy is I know my team wants me to get better, but I suspect they're also thinking, "Don't use league matches to practice what you've learned from your tennis teacher." I believe I need to practice with more purpose, get more comforatable with good technique and strokes and focus on my game, even in match play. It's a fine line between playing it safe and playing your game, even if it's now quite where it needs/will be.

I'm planning to hit with our #1 singles player this weekend and practice my serve. Thanks for the feedback.
 

smoothtennis

Hall of Fame
Foraserve - I'll bet it goes something like this for you...

With the teacher, they tell you how they want you to strike the ball, how to set up, and all. You are probably just behind the baseline - and they are feeding you balls in your strike zone, and you are hitting them back just fine.

What you have to realize, is that in a match, a lot of balls you see, are not in your strike zone, not at the height you practiced, and the dynamics of power and spin change with every step you take closer to the net. So you are not ABLE to hit the same ball you hit with your instructor the same way. And your footwork is all over the place as their balls don't go right to you...am I close?

As a developing player, you have to realize, that RECOGNITION is a skill. Recognition of the height, spin, pace, and angle of a ball - how you set up to it, and what options you have once there given all variables. These are skills that you probably have not had a chance to develop fully yet, and is why matches seem so disjointed. And they are, LOL.

I think...a book such as Total Tennis by Peter Burwash would help introduce a lot of these concepts. They take time to work on, and as you increase in skill, you begin to understand more of what he is talking about.

But to your current problem of what to work on in matches. The age old attage of not working on technique in matches applies here. Go play with what you have, and don't over think technique in a match. Just realize, you can't hit your A-stroke on every ball. I would guess you hit long for three main reasons, most of the time.

1. The ball is lower than the net or even with it when you strike it.
2. You are closer to the net than your practiced stroke.
3. A combination of the above two things.

Quick Fix Tips for you (general guidlines)

1. As you get closer to the net, stay balanced and don't hit as hard, just place it deep without a lot of pace.
2. On low balls, don't hit hard, go for placement again, deep.
3. Make control your game, not power. Power comes with relaxed technique, not muscle. Power will come when it comes.
4. Maintain your form and followthrough without trying to hit hard, when you are closer or on low balls.

That should help some in matches without trying to blast your way out of trouble, yet still allow you to keep form and stay balanced. Give it a try and best of luck.
 
I think many of you have more tools in the tool box than I have.

:glances into tool box:

Let's see. I'm seeing a topspin forehand, a topspin backhand, a topspin approach shot, some volleys . . .

:shakes box:

Mmmm, there's FH drop shot and FH slice, but nothing at all on the BH side . . .

Lordie, not even a topspin FH lob, just BH?

Where did I get this piece of crap tool box? :)
Be happy. I don't even have a tool box. :-?
 

Foraserve

New User
Foraserve - I'll bet it goes something like this for you...

With the teacher, they tell you how they want you to strike the ball, how to set up, and all. You are probably just behind the baseline - and they are feeding you balls in your strike zone, and you are hitting them back just fine.

What you have to realize, is that in a match, a lot of balls you see, are not in your strike zone, not at the height you practiced, and the dynamics of power and spin change with every step you take closer to the net. So you are not ABLE to hit the same ball you hit with your instructor the same way. And your footwork is all over the place as their balls don't go right to you...am I close?

As a developing player, you have to realize, that RECOGNITION is a skill. Recognition of the height, spin, pace, and angle of a ball - how you set up to it, and what options you have once there given all variables. These are skills that you probably have not had a chance to develop fully yet, and is why matches seem so disjointed. And they are, LOL.

I think...a book such as Total Tennis by Peter Burwash would help introduce a lot of these concepts. They take time to work on, and as you increase in skill, you begin to understand more of what he is talking about.

But to your current problem of what to work on in matches. The age old attage of not working on technique in matches applies here. Go play with what you have, and don't over think technique in a match. Just realize, you can't hit your A-stroke on every ball. I would guess you hit long for three main reasons, most of the time.

1. The ball is lower than the net or even with it when you strike it.
2. You are closer to the net than your practiced stroke.
3. A combination of the above two things.

Quick Fix Tips for you (general guidlines)

1. As you get closer to the net, stay balanced and don't hit as hard, just place it deep without a lot of pace.
2. On low balls, don't hit hard, go for placement again, deep.
3. Make control your game, not power. Power comes with relaxed technique, not muscle. Power will come when it comes.
4. Maintain your form and followthrough without trying to hit hard, when you are closer or on low balls.

That should help some in matches without trying to blast your way out of trouble, yet still allow you to keep form and stay balanced. Give it a try and best of luck.
Thanks; this really hits the nail on the head (just sticking with the tool theme). Seriously, yes, this is what's happening when I'm in match play. Thanks for the insightful and helpful advice. I'm going to check out the Burwash book asap.
 

Lendl

Semi-Pro
I think it depends on your level. The higher the level the more you'll need to go for shots to win the matches. If you are playing 4.0 or below I'd always go with the consistent game plan and make the other guy beat you because a 4.0 or below player will make mistakes.

If you are at the college level for instance and playing real quality players then they will not only have a big game but they'll be consistent. You'll need to take risks:)

Last weekend, I had a county league singles match against someone who was simply better than me (bigger serves and returns, bigger and more consistent strokes, quicker movement, etc.). I am sure we all have this experience from time to time.

In this match, as in the past, I took this as an oppertunity to swing away and go for winners, thinking that if I connect on several, I would have a fighting chance. When I see top pros get upset, this is usually who they lose.

So I lose 6-2, 6-4 (the last set being closer because the opponent was taking it easy, feeling the match is in hand) in a very fast match (about 50 minutes) since the points take about 5-10 seconds maximum.

Aftewards I was thinking about my strategy, and I decided that I have never won a match by going for winners.

So my question is - have you ever won a match against a better opponent by trying to keep the ball in play and grind out points?
 
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