Seeking responses from 4.0s, please? 3.0 having better success playing 3.5 Leagues. Why?

FiguringItOut

New User
I'm asking for higher-rated players because I'm ultimately wanting to understand strategy for increasing rating when promotion seems to be based on win/loss algorithms rather than technique...

I'm a 3.0. I've been playing up a few seasons in 3.5 Leagues. Good matches, close matches, few wins. I want my 3.5 rating, so I figure I'll play 3.0 League - and the score lines aren't even close. I'm losing by larger margins.

Thinking is that the balls at 3.0 level are coming with less depth and pace; I admit I've always struggled with my "put away" shots - you know, the ball just begging to be hit for a winner. I'm committed to getting better, so I work and work on my put-away strokes and I'm getting more winners - but I end up losing these matches because, while I'm focusing on improving, I'm not playing the points to win, but to improve a dimension of my game that - once it locks in - will lead to a majority of wins.

So - if we go with the focus of increasing my rating rather than improving my game - what is your opinion: will my "work now, win later" approach ultimately work? or should I just be playing percentage tennis to win the matches so that my rating goes up? But then my fear is that I will not have improved while playing mid-paced tennis and have a longer journey to my dream of getting to 4.0 (so that I can ultimately enjoy tennis at that level. Because I enjoy the matches at 3.5, but not at 3.0).

Thanks for all help and opinions. If you decide to roast, please consider a dark, mocha blend ;-)
 
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time_fly

Hall of Fame
So if I'm reading this right, you are a 3.0 who is playing some 3.5 league tennis and some 3.0 league tennis. Your matches are closer at the 3.5 level. You have worse losses at the 3.0 level, and you speculate it's because you can handle pace better than you can generate it so the slower 3.0 balls are bothering you more.

Two questions: are you male or female, and are you playing singles or doubles?

In any event, to move up you need to win matches. Some close wins and close losses at 3.5 might get you bumped up eventually. In theory you can lose all your 3.5 matches and still get bumped if they are very close and against strong players, but I've never seen that happen. To get bumped by playing 3.0 you need to win almost every time and have many of those wins be by a large margin (like 6-2 or better in both sets).
 

Wesley J

Rookie
The best question to ask yourself is "why/how am I losing?" The words Depth/Pace/Put Away/Winners and the 3.0 rating don't really mix. Consistency is king at the lower ratings, if you are able to get 3-4+ balls over the net you will be winning the majority of your matches. I'd venture a guess you are either over-hitting or dumping balls into the net.
 

FiguringItOut

New User
So if I'm reading this right, you are a 3.0 who is playing some 3.5 league tennis and some 3.0 league tennis. Your matches are closer at the 3.5 level. You have worse losses at the 3.0 level, and you speculate it's because you can handle pace better than you can generate it so the slower 3.0 balls are bothering you more.

Two questions: are you male or female, and are you playing singles or doubles?

In any event, to move up you need to win matches. Some close wins and close losses at 3.5 might get you bumped up eventually. In theory you can lose all your 3.5 matches and still get bumped if they are very close and against strong players, but I've never seen that happen. To get bumped by playing 3.0 you need to win almost every time and have many of those wins be by a large margin (like 6-2 or better in both sets).
Male, Singles

Your input about the need to simply win the matches (playing percentage tennis) in order to get the ratings bump is what I needed to hear. I feel like I'm doing a disservice to my own development to simply get the ball back, but I KNOW I can do that and the other guy will eventually miss. But I'd rather hit winners than outlast the other guy. I need to work on developing patience. *Sigh*. Ok - thanks!
 

FiguringItOut

New User
The best question to ask yourself is "why/how am I losing?" The words Depth/Pace/Put Away/Winners and the 3.0 rating don't really mix. Consistency is king at the lower ratings, if you are able to get 3-4+ balls over the net you will be winning the majority of your matches. I'd venture a guess you are either over-hitting or dumping balls into the net.
Over-hitting - because I'm trying to play with pace and power in anticipation of matches in my future where I'll need that. Balls with pace I handle really well; "soft" balls (which seem to be the majority of 3.0 tennis) require more spin and timing skill for pace-generation and control than I presently have, apparently. Perhaps I should work on that during practice and not during matches - and just focus on winning my matches, no matter how boring I find them ;-(
 

jered

Rookie
Similar boat here. I’m aggressive and I tend to play to the level of my opponent. Close matches a level above and some abysmal losses at my level.

It’s not just consistency it’s mental. For lack of a better explanation I have to fight being lazy at my own level where playing up I play both more focused and free since I feel like I have less to lose as the underdog.
 

FiguringItOut

New User
Similar boat here. I’m aggressive and I tend to play to the level of my opponent. Close matches a level above and some abysmal losses at my level.

It’s not just consistency it’s mental. For lack of a better explanation I have to fight being lazy at my own level where playing up I play both more focused and free since I feel like I have less to lose as the underdog.
Hmmmm. Helpful. Thank you!
 

socallefty

Legend
If you are a baseliner, learn how to hit spin, how to hit winners off short balls, how to hit low balls well in practice. Then, you can slowly start integrating them into your game in matches. If you can take lessons, do so to learn how to hit with topspin as it is tough to figure out on your own how to hit with heavy spin. Hitting with good spin while also having the swing speed to generate good pace is the best way to get consistent and win matches. You’ll also need a coach to develop a good serve with variety in spin and location.

In matches, have no other objective but to win as you cannot improve your technique by playing matches - that has to be done in practice. Learning to problem solve on the court and play well in tight moments late in sets and when facing game/break points is a big part of becoming a better tennis player. Once your technique improves in the future, those mental skills you are developing now will come in handy at higher levels also.
 
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socallefty

Legend
At all levels, the players who are most consistent win the most if they are baseliners. As they get better, their power level keeps going up and they still stay consistent - so, they get bumped up to higher levels. At some point, they can’t hit harder and keep their consistency and that level is their ceiling. For some players, it may be at the top ATP top 50 and for others, it might be at the 4.5 level. Guys like Djokovic, Nadal and Federer hit hard and don’t miss much and that’s why they are at the top of the ATP food chain.

When coaches coach juniors, they teach them proper technique and teach them to be consistent even if it just means only moonballing. The kids who hate to lose will happily moonball all day long to win tournaments for their age group and as they get older, they develop the technique to hit 120mph serves and 70mph ground strokes to make it onto the ATP tour. The reason they make it is because they still hate to lose and they have been the most consistent players at every level they played. The guys who don’t mind losing by over-hitting never make it to the top levels of the sport.

The only exception might be S/Vrs which is an inherently risky style of play and it takes a while for players to get good at it especially as they need to develop good serves to become effective. So, the juniors who S/V might develop slower than their peers, but might become better eventually once they become old enough to have big serves. Sampras was a classic example of this.

Pushers who keep getting coached to add pace to their shots eventually become good while the ones who only ballbash while they are developing their fundamentals don’t. On the other hand, if the pushers don’t work on developing their game and become happy with winning at low levels, they don’t get anywhere either and might get stuck at 3.5 or 4.0. Winners hate to lose in competition and if you keep hitting too hard and making too many errors at whatever level you play, you lose the hatred of losing and once that happens, you are probably not going to become a champion of the sport.
 

Creighton

Semi-Pro
I'm asking for higher-rated players because I'm ultimately wanting to understand strategy for increasing rating when promotion seems to be based on win/loss algorithms rather than technique...

I'm a 3.0. I've been playing up a few seasons in 3.5 Leagues. Good matches, close matches, few wins. I want my 3.5 rating, so I figure I'll play 3.0 League - and the score lines aren't even close. I'm losing by larger margins.

Thinking is that the balls at 3.0 level are coming with less depth and pace; I admit I've always struggled with my "put away" shots - you know, the ball just begging to be hit for a winner. I'm committed to getting better, so I work and work on my put-away strokes and I'm getting more winners - but I end of losing these matches because, while I'm focusing on improving, I'm not playing the points to win, but to improve a dimension of my game that - once it locks in - will lead to a majority of wins.

So - if we go with the focus of increasing my rating rather than improving my game - what is your opinion: will my "work now, win later" approach ultimately work? or should I just be playing percentage tennis to win the matches so that my rating goes up? But then my fear is that I will not have improved while playing mid-paced tennis and have a longer journey to my dream of getting to 4.0 (so that I can ultimately enjoy tennis at that level. Because I enjoy the matches at 3.5, but not at 3.0).

Thanks for all help and opinions. If you decide to roast, please consider a dark, mocha blend ;-)
This is going to come off rude, but if you can't punish weaker 3.0 players you have no business getting bumped to 3.5.

I'm genuinely curious what the appeal is for doing so? We have a couple guys at my country club who got bumped up by playing up needlessly and now they're stuck in a terrible position. They're not good enough for us to actually play in matches so they never get enough matches to lose to get bumped back down to 3.0 where they belong.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
If you are a baseline, learn how to hit spin, how to hit winners off short balls, how to hit low balls well in practice. Then, you can slowly start integrating them into your game in matches. If you can take lessons, do so to learn how to hit with topspin as it is tough to figure out on your own how to hit with heavy spin. Hitting with good spin while also having the swing speed to generate good pace is the best way to get consistent and win matches. You’ll also need a coach to develop a good serve with variety in spin and location.

In matches, have no other objective but to win as you cannot improve your technique by playing matches - that has to be done in practice. Learning to problem solve on the court and play well in tight moments late in sets and when facing game/break points is a big part of becoming a better tennis player. Once your technique improves in the future, those mental skills you are developing now will come in handy at higher levels also.
@FiguringItOut The above post is excellent advice. To reiterate, you cannot learn new techniques well and quickly with just match play. It is best done in practice situations, and very typically the better players are the ones who practice more rather than playing sets or matches.

The skills you will need to beat these 3.0 players are also those that define a rough line between 4.0 and 4.5 in your future improvement, where you will find players who are fast and have good anticipation, and will just get ball after ball back to you with minimal pace but good depth. The skills you need to learn now to win at 3.0 will need to be refined and improved to beat these defensively oriented players at the 4.0 level. It's a worthwhile investment to learn those skills now so you can gradually improve them as you play more, rather than to get to that level and be frustrated that you have hit a ceiling which will force you to step back and learn these skills anyway. Good luck.
 

blai212

Hall of Fame
the 3.0 junkballers must be rough if you cant beat them but somehow play competitively against 3.5s...Another interesting thing to note, @jered you’re not the only one that plays down to your opponents’ level, there are plenty of other people out there that play down which is why you could be getting competitive matches at 3.5 level when you are only 3.0
 

onehandbh

Legend
The short, sitter "put-away" shot is something you cannot avoid. At the higher levels it may take more to get your opponent to finally hit a shorter, weak shot that you can hit for a winner or force an error or even weaker reply.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I'm asking for higher-rated players because I'm ultimately wanting to understand strategy for increasing rating when promotion seems to be based on win/loss algorithms rather than technique...

I'm a 3.0. I've been playing up a few seasons in 3.5 Leagues. Good matches, close matches, few wins. I want my 3.5 rating, so I figure I'll play 3.0 League - and the score lines aren't even close. I'm losing by larger margins.

Thinking is that the balls at 3.0 level are coming with less depth and pace; I admit I've always struggled with my "put away" shots - you know, the ball just begging to be hit for a winner. I'm committed to getting better, so I work and work on my put-away strokes and I'm getting more winners - but I end of losing these matches because, while I'm focusing on improving, I'm not playing the points to win, but to improve a dimension of my game that - once it locks in - will lead to a majority of wins.

So - if we go with the focus of increasing my rating rather than improving my game - what is your opinion: will my "work now, win later" approach ultimately work? or should I just be playing percentage tennis to win the matches so that my rating goes up? But then my fear is that I will not have improved while playing mid-paced tennis and have a longer journey to my dream of getting to 4.0 (so that I can ultimately enjoy tennis at that level. Because I enjoy the matches at 3.5, but not at 3.0).

Thanks for all help and opinions. If you decide to roast, please consider a dark, mocha blend ;-)
Fixating on your rating is probably the worst thing to do because you'll sacrifice things that would have benefitted you in the long-run for a short-term goal. Sort of like trying to do X pushups and completely losing your form when you get close instead of using great form and doing however many you can.

Much better would be to focus on the process of improvement: what do I need to do in order to improve? What weaknesses should I shore up? What weapons should I develop? Am I giving matches away with errors? How are my 3Fs [footwork, fitness, focus <mental toughness>, and spacing]? Am I mostly following Wardlaw? etc.

Concentrate on these things and your rating will take care of itself.
 

BlueB

Legend
Just get out to a free court with a bucket of balls and hit serves to nauseum. It's the easiest shot to practice on your own. Soon you'll start winning all your service games. Then you'll just have to break occasionally to win sets.

Next, work on your return. That's a bit harder. You'll need a buddy who wants to practice his serves, or a ball machine. Once good at returning, you'll break a lot.

"Serve and return" game can get you pretty far...
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Dang. I would have bet money that OP was female. Have never heard a guy try to manage a rating to move up.

Anyway, the answer is simple. Learn the best technique you can. And if you struggle against no pace, your technique needs work.
You and I were both going to bet the house on it!

Having been the poster most recently bumped from 3.0 to 3.5 and now knocking on 4.0 here are my thoughts.

Don't play up until you are winning at least 50% of your 3.0 matches by wide margins, 25% of your matches won by smaller margins With Any Partner (if doubles) on Any Line against Anyone in the league. If you can't do that you have no business playing up.

The comment about wanting/needing depth and pace indicates that you do not have tuned strokes and lack footwork. The stroke you don't fully trust becomes wonky when you have "too much time" to execute and therefore either overhit or you decelerate on your shot.

Your wanting to go for winners also indicates a fundamental lack of strategy understanding. At the pro level they are not winning matches by prematurely going for a winner.
Can you go a 10 shot rally before trying to pull the trigger?
Do you recognize the difference between a neutral ball, a pressure ball and an opportunity ball?

What is actually your goal?
Is it to figure out the bump formula and get yourself a 3.5C rating?
Or
Is it to become more proficient, a better player?
 

leech

Semi-Pro
I'm asking for higher-rated players because I'm ultimately wanting to understand strategy for increasing rating when promotion seems to be based on win/loss algorithms rather than technique...
Yes, the criteria for increasing rating is directly tied to games won vs. games lost vs. expectation. The quickest and easiest way to get bumped up, IMO, is to forego playing 3.0 and play exclusively 3.5 matches. Even though you'll likely lose more than you win, players have a tendency to not take matches as seriously when facing a lower-rated player. If I face a 3.5 player (or even a weak 4.0 player), I can afford to stay up all night before the match, or be coming from another match, or take this as an opportunity to try out new strokes.

But the optimal way to get bumped is to do so organically -- by learning to beat up on fellow 3.0 players. Work out strategies to beat various types of opponents, and implement them. Figure out how to win the pressure-filled points. Develop muscle memory of coming through in clutch situations. Learn to be a winner. Winning will get you bumped, and will give you confidence to take on new challenges as you keep getting bumped.
 

blai212

Hall of Fame
it’s funny that lower level (3.0-3.5) players desperately want to get bumped up while I know MANY (4.5-5.0) players that want to get bumped down to 4.0/4.5; LOTS of 4.5 guys at 4.0 and a lot of 5.0 guys at 4.5...possibly mainly because 5.0 guys sandbagging at 4.5 so the 4.5 guys want to do it at 4.0
 

Flootoo

Semi-Pro
Thinking is that the balls at 3.0 level are coming with less depth and pace; I admit I've always struggled with my "put away" shots - you know, the ball just begging to be hit for a winner. I'm committed to getting better, so I work and work on my put-away strokes and I'm getting more winners - but I end of losing these matches because, while I'm focusing on improving, I'm not playing the points to win, but to improve a dimension of my game that - once it locks in - will lead to a majority of wins.
You can't work on anything during matches- you just have to dedicate that time to the mental game and concentration, plus your strategy. Those are things you can't improve with a ball machine and a basket of balls.
You can't improve anything during a match.
For your put away shots, follow-through, and the mechanics of strokes, you need a ball machine and/or a sympathetic friend or coach.
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
I must say I'm at a loss here, I've never seen someone that self-admittedly not be proficient at 3.0 want to bumped up to 3.5. I think most of us here have gone through the NTRP rating system. There are no shortcuts, you win at the level you're in you automatically get bumped up. You lose, you get bumped down or remain at the same level. I know some people have issues with the NTRP rating system, but it works for the most part and it's in place for a reason. Re-read the requirements for NTRP level and then seriously/honestly ask yourself are you ready to move up. As most have already said, a 3.0 in a 3.5 league will most likely not succeed. It may not seem like much but that .5 degree of separation is huge. I'm a very strong 4.0 on the cusp of moving to 4.5, but even I see the differences between these two levels. PUT THE WORK IN and improve your game, the bump will come naturally.
 

Creighton

Semi-Pro
it’s funny that lower level (3.0-3.5) players desperately want to get bumped up while I know MANY (4.5-5.0) players that want to get bumped down to 4.0/4.5; LOTS of 4.5 guys at 4.0 and a lot of 5.0 guys at 4.5...possibly mainly because 5.0 guys sandbagging at 4.5 so the 4.5 guys want to do it at 4.0
The percentage of players that want to be bumped up is extremely low for men even at the 3.0 level. Most guys just want to win.
 

FiguringItOut

New User
If you are a baseliner, learn how to hit spin, how to hit winners off short balls, how to hit low balls well in practice. Then, you can slowly start integrating them into your game in matches. If you can take lessons, do so to learn how to hit with topspin as it is tough to figure out on your own how to hit with heavy spin. Hitting with good spin while also having the swing speed to generate good pace is the best way to get consistent and win matches. You’ll also need a coach to develop a good serve with variety in spin and location.

In matches, have no other objective but to win as you cannot improve your technique by playing matches - that has to be done in practice. Learning to problem solve on the court and play well in tight moments late in sets and when facing game/break points is a big part of becoming a better tennis player. Once your technique improves in the future, those mental skills you are developing now will come in handy at higher levels also.
Great perspective and admonition to keep practice practice and matches about WINNING. Hear you loud and clear - thanks!
 

FiguringItOut

New User
1. The guys who don’t mind losing by over-hitting never make it to the top levels of the sport.

2. On the other hand, if the pushers don’t work on developing their game and become happy with winning at low levels, they don’t get anywhere either and might get stuck at 3.5 or 4.0.

3. You lose the hatred of losing and once that happens, you are probably not going to become a champion of the sport.

++++++++

1. Uh, that's me.
2. That's other people
3. And that's already happened. Guess I need to take my mind and attitude to bootcamp. THANK YOU!!
 

FiguringItOut

New User
This is going to come off rude, but if you can't punish weaker 3.0 players you have no business getting bumped to 3.5.

I'm genuinely curious what the appeal is for doing so? We have a couple guys at my country club who got bumped up by playing up needlessly and now they're stuck in a terrible position. They're not good enough for us to actually play in matches so they never get enough matches to lose to get bumped back down to 3.0 where they belong.
Hey, I completely agree with you - which is why I'm trying to put away what my alter-ego Tennis Competitor Self deems as "crap" balls that deserve to be bashed into winner-oblivion.

My motive is: I WANT TO BE GOOD!!!! Which is why I haven't cared about winning, but improving. But I'm stuck as a 3.0 playing 3.0 tennis which is boring and aggravating - I want to live in 3.5 land, but it's hard to be attractive to 3.5 Teams as a 3.0 So that's my motive. If I ever get consistent enough, I'll be able to hold my own. At least 3-4x a season, someone will say to me, 'I can't believe you're a 3.0; you'll be a 3.5 soon' - and after many years, that hasn't happened yet...
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Practice to practice, play to win.

The objective of practice (and practice matches) is to get better, or stay sharp.

The objective of real matches is to win by any means within the rules and good sportsmanship.

If you only care about getting your game better and don't put emphasis on winning, you are not learning how to win or how to utilize your tools. Then you become that guy who looks like he is going to win in the warm-up and loses.

J
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
Everybody is focusing on mindset, etc. and that's good, but, I want to reemphasize a point that a few posters mentioned but did not elaborate on.

The lack of pace and trying to generate pace off a shortish slow ball is what is killing you technique wise.
I am gambling here, but I will bet money that what you need to work on most is your approach shot or put-away of the slow ball that is
bouncing right about 1 foot inside the service line. Any shorter and a 2.5 can dink it short for a winner, much deeper and you hit a regular groundstroke and have enough court that your slight overhitting trying to produce pace still stays in most of the time.

slice would work, but is a difficult shot to master.
Until you can get enough experience and perhaps lessons to master a good approach shot, I would suggest the following quick fix.

understand that it is not a groundstroke, it is a different shot altogether

1. You've GOT to get to the ball while it is still above net level. This is critical. trying to hit up on a ball from short in the court will almost always result in hitting long or popping up a lollipop for your opponent. Be looking for the short ball all the time so you can get a jump on it. Hey, it's 3.0 tennis.

2. If you can hit flat, believe it or not, this would be a pretty good time to do so, the steep swingpath of radical topspin can produce an error/mishit as you try to radically brush up the back of the ball in a effort to get more topspin to keep it in.

3. The best technique I have found for hitting a good flat or topspin approach is to SHORTEN YOUR BACKSWING, BUT FOLLOW THROUGH COMPLETELY.
This helps keep the ball inside the court very well. thank you Louis Capp and Dennis Van Der Meer, God rest his soul.

4. Finally, aim for the fattest part of the court almost every time regardless of where your opponent is. At 3.0 level, even if he is sitting there waiting on it, he is quite likely to cave under the pressure, has less time to prepare, and will make an error anyway or serve up a duck.
 
I'm asking for higher-rated players because I'm ultimately wanting to understand strategy for increasing rating when promotion seems to be based on win/loss algorithms rather than technique...

I'm a 3.0. I've been playing up a few seasons in 3.5 Leagues. Good matches, close matches, few wins. I want my 3.5 rating, so I figure I'll play 3.0 League - and the score lines aren't even close. I'm losing by larger margins.

Thinking is that the balls at 3.0 level are coming with less depth and pace; I admit I've always struggled with my "put away" shots - you know, the ball just begging to be hit for a winner. I'm committed to getting better, so I work and work on my put-away strokes and I'm getting more winners - but I end of losing these matches because, while I'm focusing on improving, I'm not playing the points to win, but to improve a dimension of my game that - once it locks in - will lead to a majority of wins.

So - if we go with the focus of increasing my rating rather than improving my game - what is your opinion: will my "work now, win later" approach ultimately work? or should I just be playing percentage tennis to win the matches so that my rating goes up? But then my fear is that I will not have improved while playing mid-paced tennis and have a longer journey to my dream of getting to 4.0 (so that I can ultimately enjoy tennis at that level. Because I enjoy the matches at 3.5, but not at 3.0).

Thanks for all help and opinions. If you decide to roast, please consider a dark, mocha blend ;-)
Hello - 4.0 singles male here. The way I see it, the time to improve your strokes and strategies is not during matches; that is during practice. A couple guys in this thread said the exact same thing. Once you get your strokes down during practice, then you take it to the match. It's very difficult to hone your skills during competition. I would just focus on winning points during matches with high percentage shots, even if you have to "win ugly" (ala Brad Gilbert) with ugly strokes. Whatever it takes to win. During practice, you can see what works for you, and once you have those skills grooved, you can then take them into match play. I would personally go with percentage tennis to build your confidence and your rating, and as you practice, it will naturally translate into better match play.

Case in point: last season I used to try a full loopy backhand during matches (like Djoker's famous two hander) and it never really worked because I had not first fully owned the stroke first. During the match the shot lacked topspin and kept sailing long. I had to adjust midway and ended up going with a short backswing (like Nadal) or even slicing most of the match because I had to accept the fact that I had to keep the ball in play or I would lose. It was as simple as that. At our lower levels, often just getting the ball back one more time is enough to win. I had to accept that. This season, since my two hander was so bad, I am looking into switching to a one hander and seeing if that will come more naturally to me.

The other option of course is to completely disregard the score during matches and try to "go for it" without first having honed your skills, but that will probably cost you too many matches and be adverse to building your match confidence in the long run. There is fine line here to be sure. I always love it when a heavy hitter starts to blast winners, because in the end, I know that due to the nature of tennis, it will most likely cost him the match in the end (that would change at the 4.5 level of course, as the guy would actually have the skills to pull it off). The trick is to be able to hit aggressively and still keep the ball in play, which is what we all want.
 
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FiguringItOut

New User
@FiguringItOut The above post is excellent advice. To reiterate, you cannot learn new techniques well and quickly with just match play. It is best done in practice situations, and very typically the better players are the ones who practice more rather than playing sets or matches.

The skills you will need to beat these 3.0 players are also those that define a rough line between 4.0 and 4.5 in your future improvement, where you will find players who are fast and have good anticipation, and will just get ball after ball back to you with minimal pace but good depth. The skills you need to learn now to win at 3.0 will need to be refined and improved to beat these defensively oriented players at the 4.0 level. It's a worthwhile investment to learn those skills now so you can gradually improve them as you play more, rather than to get to that level and be frustrated that you have hit a ceiling which will force you to step back and learn these skills anyway. Good luck.
WOW! Fantastic information I just wouldn't have known apart from your generosity. Thank you!
 

nyta2

Professional
I'm asking for higher-rated players because I'm ultimately wanting to understand strategy for increasing rating when promotion seems to be based on win/loss algorithms rather than technique...

I'm a 3.0. I've been playing up a few seasons in 3.5 Leagues. Good matches, close matches, few wins. I want my 3.5 rating, so I figure I'll play 3.0 League - and the score lines aren't even close. I'm losing by larger margins.

Thinking is that the balls at 3.0 level are coming with less depth and pace; I admit I've always struggled with my "put away" shots - you know, the ball just begging to be hit for a winner. I'm committed to getting better, so I work and work on my put-away strokes and I'm getting more winners - but I end of losing these matches because, while I'm focusing on improving, I'm not playing the points to win, but to improve a dimension of my game that - once it locks in - will lead to a majority of wins.

So - if we go with the focus of increasing my rating rather than improving my game - what is your opinion: will my "work now, win later" approach ultimately work? or should I just be playing percentage tennis to win the matches so that my rating goes up? But then my fear is that I will not have improved while playing mid-paced tennis and have a longer journey to my dream of getting to 4.0 (so that I can ultimately enjoy tennis at that level. Because I enjoy the matches at 3.5, but not at 3.0).

Thanks for all help and opinions. If you decide to roast, please consider a dark, mocha blend ;-)
in general, up to a certain spin/pace, it's much easier to hit against harder hit balls that are generally being hit to you...

3.5's probably have ok strokes, hitting harder, etc... the harder you hit, generally the safer the targets need to be, ie. through middle of the court (or middle of the cc if you're playing dubs). so that all translates to the ball typically coming to you, you don't need to move much, generally going through your strike zone... more "readable" because they have a repeatable "proper" strokes... so even if you have a bunty stroke, you have the pace to work with, without needing to generate your own... you don't need to move much because the ball is coming to you, etc... harder hit balls also tend to stay waist height, so that further lessens your need to move/adjust. but at the same time, 3.5's aren't yet good enough to consistently hit hard and away from you, and they make more mistakes, especially when yoiu shank their hard hit ball back to them.

now when you drop down to playing 3.0's.. they are shanking shots with home made technique... impossible to read, highly unpredictable (not by design), no pace, often very high, etc... so you're moving to get everything, but you don't yet have the technique to put away that sitter they will often give you... and when you try to, it exposes your deficiency.

i remember hitting in the public park with a guy with bunty strokes... in the "coop" rally as i started increasing the pace, he was getting everything back, moving me around, etc... i was thinking "wow this guy is hitting great with bunty strokes" (i was still trying to hit eveyrthing to his strike zone, but stroking it with decent pace)... at some point, i changed my practice focus, and when he hit me out wide, i just threw up lobs (practice defense), to the center of the court, and he missed everything, even though i was giving him nothing but softballs (that most folks at 4.5 would crush), because he was good at blocking/redicrecting pace, but didn't have the technique to generate his own...

regarding how to get better... don't worry about winning/losing... just focus on hitting the proper technique (work with your coach to define what that means :p)... i mean, definitely try to win, but win with the technique you're working towarrds... so if you're normallly a slicer/dicer, but are tyring to develop a topspin shot, when you're playing a practice set, and you have a shot where you know you should/can hit with topspin, fight the urge to revert back to the "safe" shot (part of learning a technique is learning to do it under pressure). playing in usta match that "counts" is tricky, since your team is depending on you... my approach has been to not play matches that "count" until i was ready to use my new technique under pressure (eg. lots of practice matches where i successfully executed my new technique, under my belt)
 

jered

Rookie
the 3.0 junkballers must be rough if you cant beat them but somehow play competitively against 3.5s...Another interesting thing to note, @jered you’re not the only one that plays down to your opponents’ level, there are plenty of other people out there that play down which is why you could be getting competitive matches at 3.5 level when you are only 3.0
That's probably true for some cases but certainly not all. I played regular 3.5 level last night and lost terribly 6-2, 6-1 and "played up" this morning against a 4.0 I regularly play and it was close 7-6 7-6. Like I said, besides styles of play making the match, I could feel the mental pressure to win the 3.5 match because "I should" but no pressure to win the 4.0 match because I should lose and my focus and hitting against the 4.0 just felt effortless where with the 3.5 I felt tight and stressed which led to me throwing the match away with errors.

Trying to help the OP understand that the mental game is a real factor that can prevent you from moving up as well as physical skills.
 

Chalkdust

Semi-Pro
You have to figure out how to handle the slow-paced balls you are getting at the lower level, not just for the sake of your winning chances, but also for your long term game development.

Right now, you do better at 3.5 than 3.0 because you prefer the pace. Ok. Let's say you focus on improving against pace, and ignore your weakness against no-pace. You do better at 3.5, and eventually get bumped up further to 4.0. Problem is, once you get to play at higher levels, your opponents are going to be versatile enough to figure out what you *don't* like, and give you that.

You're better off rounding out your game now vs later. That doesn't mean resorting to pushing in order to win at the 3.0 level. It means developing your footwork and technique to allow you to consistently punish those 3.0 balls.
 

Vox Rationis

Semi-Pro
Male, Singles

Your input about the need to simply win the matches (playing percentage tennis) in order to get the ratings bump is what I needed to hear. I feel like I'm doing a disservice to my own development to simply get the ball back, but I KNOW I can do that and the other guy will eventually miss. But I'd rather hit winners than outlast the other guy. I need to work on developing patience. *Sigh*. Ok - thanks!
Big tip. Stop focusing on winners. Adjust your mindset just to trying to execute the shot you want to hit, be it offensive or defensive, and always expecting the ball to come back. The winners come naturally if you hit the shots you want but the focus shouldn’t be on them. Attempting to end the point in one big flashy shot won’t get you very far. Constantly trying to hit balls that people can’t return is what makes potentially good players so inconsistent.
 

FuzzyYellowBalls

Hall of Fame
One curveball that is a slight possibility, if you are new to tennis. If I play someone below my level, I'm likely to relax and coast to a win not look for a 6-0 6-0 beatdown, to the detriment of my UTR. At 3.0-3.5 level, maybe more of your 3.5 opponents are just coasting to a win, but you think it is a closer match than what it would be if they were under pressure, just a thought. That could result in close matches with no wins. It's unlikely a 3.5 player can fall back into a 6-0 -6-0 beatdown relying on serve or a dominating game, so most matches will be "close" and you might think that means you are closer to them, but you are still losing. I wouldn't say that if you said you were winning half the 3.5 matches closely.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
Tennis is not won by the player who hits more winners, but instead by the player that, for each point, is the last player to hit their ball in the court, and is able to do so more often than their opponent over the course of the match.

There are many ways to be the one that is the last to hit your shot in the court, at the extremes we have:
  • Someone that never misses, if they can get to a ball, they get it back in the court, they force opponents to construct points and eventually hit a winner, the prototypical "pusher"
  • Someone that plays aggressive and hits winners or forces errors from their opponent, but at the cost of missing a fair number of shots, the prototypical "attacker"
The former (pusher) style tends to win a lot at lower levels because opponents often don't have the consistency or patience to construct points and finish them in the end. At higher levels where consistency improves, the pusher style generally has a limited ceiling and players must adopt some aggressive tactics to continue to win.

The latter (attacker) style is what is appealing to many players as that is often what we see the best pros exhibiting to varying degrees, and so we try to emulate them. The challenge is, without consistency, too many points are given away by not being the last player to hit the ball in the court. At lower levels this often gets exposed by "pushers", but at higher levels where consistency has improved it oftentimes becomes more successful.

Obviously, there is a lot in-between these styles and players will adopt and excel at different combinations of them, and some will choose to play a style simply because it is more fun for them regardless of winning or losing, and having fun is what is important to them.

Ultimately, you need to decide if you gain enjoyment from A) attacking and going for winners win or lose, B) winning no matter how (winning ugly), or C) some blend of finding out how to maximize the skills you have that blends elements of both styles, and then work on your skills in practice so you can add them to what you have available in matches.

But if you want to win, you have to be the one that is the last player to hit the ball in the court.
 
Last edited:

zipplock

Hall of Fame
Tennis is not won by the player who hits more winners, but instead by the player that, for each point, is the last player to hit their ball in the court, and is able to do so more often than their opponent over the course of the match.

There are many ways to be the one that is the last to hit your shot in the court, at the extremes we have:
  • Someone that never misses, if they can get to a ball, they get it back in the court, they force opponents to construct points and eventually hit a winner, the prototypical "pusher"
  • Someone that plays aggressive and hits winners or forces errors from their opponent, but at the cost of missing a fair number of shots, the prototypical "attacker"
The former (pusher) style tends to win a lot at lower levels because opponents often don't have the consistency or patience to construct points and finish them in the end. At higher levels where consistency improves, the pusher style generally has a limited ceiling and players must adopt some aggressive tactics to continue to win.

The later (attacker) style is what is appealing to many players as that is often what we see the best pros exhibiting to varying degrees, and so we try to emulate them. The challenge is, without consistency, too many points are given away by not being the last player to hit the ball in the court. At lower levels this often gets exposed by "pushers", but at higher levels where consistency has improved it oftentimes becomes more successful.

Obviously, there is a lot in-between these styles and players will adopt and excel at different combinations of them, and some will choose to play a style simply because it is more fun for them regardless of winning or losing, and having fun is what is important to them.

Ultimately, you need to decide if you gain enjoyment from A) attacking and going for winners win or lose, B) winning no matter how (winning ugly), or C) some blend of finding out how to maximize the skills you have that blends elements of both styles, and then work on your skills in practice so you can add them to what you have available in matches.

But if you want to win, you have to be the one that is the last player to hit the ball in the court.
Excellent explanation!!!
 

Purestriker

Professional
Male, Singles

Your input about the need to simply win the matches (playing percentage tennis) in order to get the ratings bump is what I needed to hear. I feel like I'm doing a disservice to my own development to simply get the ball back, but I KNOW I can do that and the other guy will eventually miss. But I'd rather hit winners than outlast the other guy. I need to work on developing patience. *Sigh*. Ok - thanks!
I have seen players go 0-7 at 3.0 and get bumped to 3.5. I have also seen 3.0 players go undefeated and not get bumped. It is not all about the wins and losses. It is about the score and the opponent your playing. If you win matches at 3.0, but they are all third set tie break wins vs. a lower rated opponent then you are not going to rate up. If your opponent is a strong rated 3.5, the algorithm would predict that player to beat you 6-1, 6-1 and you lose 6-7, 6-7 then the computer changes your rating accordingly. The more matches you play the better chance the algorithm has of calculating your rating.
 

Purestriker

Professional
Tennis is not won by the player who hits more winners, but instead by the player that, for each point, is the last player to hit their ball in the court, and is able to do so more often than their opponent over the course of the match.

There are many ways to be the one that is the last to hit your shot in the court, at the extremes we have:
  • Someone that never misses, if they can get to a ball, they get it back in the court, they force opponents to construct points and eventually hit a winner, the prototypical "pusher"
  • Someone that plays aggressive and hits winners or forces errors from their opponent, but at the cost of missing a fair number of shots, the prototypical "attacker"
The former (pusher) style tends to win a lot at lower levels because opponents often don't have the consistency or patience to construct points and finish them in the end. At higher levels where consistency improves, the pusher style generally has a limited ceiling and players must adopt some aggressive tactics to continue to win.

The latter (attacker) style is what is appealing to many players as that is often what we see the best pros exhibiting to varying degrees, and so we try to emulate them. The challenge is, without consistency, too many points are given away by not being the last player to hit the ball in the court. At lower levels this often gets exposed by "pushers", but at higher levels where consistency has improved it oftentimes becomes more successful.

Obviously, there is a lot in-between these styles and players will adopt and excel at different combinations of them, and some will choose to play a style simply because it is more fun for them regardless of winning or losing, and having fun is what is important to them.

Ultimately, you need to decide if you gain enjoyment from A) attacking and going for winners win or lose, B) winning no matter how (winning ugly), or C) some blend of finding out how to maximize the skills you have that blends elements of both styles, and then work on your skills in practice so you can add them to what you have available in matches.

But if you want to win, you have to be the one that is the last player to hit the ball in the court.
Excellent explanation. Be a pusher!
 

derick232

Rookie
I'm late to the convo but you sound just like me prior to 2 year ago. I played terribly against lower level players and played well against those at or a above me. I even had the same mindset of hitting winners because it feels better. The problem is that I had my priorities wrong. Growing up I was always told to do three things in tennis and in a specific order

1. Get the ball in
2. Place the ball
3. Hit with power

If you master any of those things without the previous ones then you end up with your type of result. Basically it comes down to being patient enough to get the ball in when you need to, then attacking at the right opportunity and being smart enough to know when that is. For me, my mindset was changed in part by swapping up my gear to a very controlled frame and strings. I also tell myself constantly to just get the ball in, not pushing, but just hitting clean 70% groundstrokes to safe areas until an opportunity to attack opens up. Typically, if you get the ball in more than 3-4 times per point you'll outlast your opponent clear up to 4.0.
 

FiguringItOut

New User
Fixating on your rating is probably the worst thing to do because you'll sacrifice things that would have benefitted you in the long-run for a short-term goal. Sort of like trying to do X pushups and completely losing your form when you get close instead of using great form and doing however many you can.

Much better would be to focus on the process of improvement: what do I need to do in order to improve? What weaknesses should I shore up? What weapons should I develop? Am I giving matches away with errors? How are my 3Fs [footwork, fitness, focus <mental toughness>, and spacing]? Am I mostly following Wardlaw? etc.

Concentrate on these things and your rating will take care of itself.
"Concentrate on these things and your rating will take care of itself." I have been and it hasn't; hence my post. My issue, however, is that I've been practicing during matches, instead of playing to win - which others posters have helped me see. Thanks!
 

FiguringItOut

New User
in general, up to a certain spin/pace, it's much easier to hit against harder hit balls that are generally being hit to you...

3.5's probably have ok strokes, hitting harder, etc... the harder you hit, generally the safer the targets need to be, ie. through middle of the court (or middle of the cc if you're playing dubs). so that all translates to the ball typically coming to you, you don't need to move much, generally going through your strike zone... more "readable" because they have a repeatable "proper" strokes... so even if you have a bunty stroke, you have the pace to work with, without needing to generate your own... you don't need to move much because the ball is coming to you, etc... harder hit balls also tend to stay waist height, so that further lessens your need to move/adjust. but at the same time, 3.5's aren't yet good enough to consistently hit hard and away from you, and they make more mistakes, especially when yoiu shank their hard hit ball back to them.

now when you drop down to playing 3.0's.. they are shanking shots with home made technique... impossible to read, highly unpredictable (not by design), no pace, often very high, etc... so you're moving to get everything, but you don't yet have the technique to put away that sitter they will often give you... and when you try to, it exposes your deficiency.

i remember hitting in the public park with a guy with bunty strokes... in the "coop" rally as i started increasing the pace, he was getting everything back, moving me around, etc... i was thinking "wow this guy is hitting great with bunty strokes" (i was still trying to hit eveyrthing to his strike zone, but stroking it with decent pace)... at some point, i changed my practice focus, and when he hit me out wide, i just threw up lobs (practice defense), to the center of the court, and he missed everything, even though i was giving him nothing but softballs (that most folks at 4.5 would crush), because he was good at blocking/redicrecting pace, but didn't have the technique to generate his own...

regarding how to get better... don't worry about winning/losing... just focus on hitting the proper technique (work with your coach to define what that means :p)... i mean, definitely try to win, but win with the technique you're working towarrds... so if you're normallly a slicer/dicer, but are tyring to develop a topspin shot, when you're playing a practice set, and you have a shot where you know you should/can hit with topspin, fight the urge to revert back to the "safe" shot (part of learning a technique is learning to do it under pressure). playing in usta match that "counts" is tricky, since your team is depending on you... my approach has been to not play matches that "count" until i was ready to use my new technique under pressure (eg. lots of practice matches where i successfully executed my new technique, under my belt)
"now when you drop down to playing 3.0's.. they are shanking shots with home made technique... impossible to read, highly unpredictable (not by design), no pace, often very high, etc... so you're moving to get everything," - THANK YOU!! I've said this to myself but have been afraid to voice this for fear of seeming critical and a sore loser.

As for the rest of the post, GREAT coaching which I appreciate. Thank you!
 

FiguringItOut

New User
You have to figure out how to handle the slow-paced balls you are getting at the lower level, not just for the sake of your winning chances, but also for your long term game development.

Right now, you do better at 3.5 than 3.0 because you prefer the pace. Ok. Let's say you focus on improving against pace, and ignore your weakness against no-pace. You do better at 3.5, and eventually get bumped up further to 4.0. Problem is, once you get to play at higher levels, your opponents are going to be versatile enough to figure out what you *don't* like, and give you that.

You're better off rounding out your game now vs later. That doesn't mean resorting to pushing in order to win at the 3.0 level. It means developing your footwork and technique to allow you to consistently punish those 3.0 balls.
This has been my mindset thus far; a willingness to lose if I'm improving. But I'm getting frustrated because I'm improving, but my match wins aren't increasing and I'm getting tired of 3.0 tennis. Given the finite amount of time I have to play, I have to choose 1 league; I'd choose 3.5 because it's more fun. But I see your point - I really SHOULD master the 3.0 issues. So, ideally, I'd play both leagues and benefit from both...
 

nyta2

Professional
"now when you drop down to playing 3.0's.. they are shanking shots with home made technique... impossible to read, highly unpredictable (not by design), no pace, often very high, etc... so you're moving to get everything," - THANK YOU!! I've said this to myself but have been afraid to voice this for fear of seeming critical and a sore loser.

As for the rest of the post, GREAT coaching which I appreciate. Thank you!
it's often why you'll hear coaches telling juniorsnot to hit with crappy players (slicer/dicer/dinkers/etc...) until they've fully developed their groundstroke technique... when developing your strokes you need a stead diet of balls placed into your strike zone.
once your technique ingrained in your muscle memory, then start testing it on every player that hits a shot uncomfortable to you...
 

Tennisbg

Professional
I'm asking for higher-rated players because I'm ultimately wanting to understand strategy for increasing rating when promotion seems to be based on win/loss algorithms rather than technique...

I'm a 3.0. I've been playing up a few seasons in 3.5 Leagues. Good matches, close matches, few wins. I want my 3.5 rating, so I figure I'll play 3.0 League - and the score lines aren't even close. I'm losing by larger margins.

Thinking is that the balls at 3.0 level are coming with less depth and pace; I admit I've always struggled with my "put away" shots - you know, the ball just begging to be hit for a winner. I'm committed to getting better, so I work and work on my put-away strokes and I'm getting more winners - but I end of losing these matches because, while I'm focusing on improving, I'm not playing the points to win, but to improve a dimension of my game that - once it locks in - will lead to a majority of wins.

So - if we go with the focus of increasing my rating rather than improving my game - what is your opinion: will my "work now, win later" approach ultimately work? or should I just be playing percentage tennis to win the matches so that my rating goes up? But then my fear is that I will not have improved while playing mid-paced tennis and have a longer journey to my dream of getting to 4.0 (so that I can ultimately enjoy tennis at that level. Because I enjoy the matches at 3.5, but not at 3.0).

Thanks for all help and opinions. If you decide to roast, please consider a dark, mocha blend ;-)
If you want to win at 3.0 you will have to try to finish the short balls without too much power, may be even slice to the corner. It's usually very effective but ugly way to win a point. You also do not learn to finish short balls like this. It's a hard choice.
 

nyta2

Professional
This has been my mindset thus far; a willingness to lose if I'm improving. But I'm getting frustrated because I'm improving, but my match wins aren't increasing and I'm getting tired of 3.0 tennis. Given the finite amount of time I have to play, I have to choose 1 league; I'd choose 3.5 because it's more fun. But I see your point - I really SHOULD master the 3.0 issues. So, ideally, I'd play both leagues and benefit from both...
honestly if you're taking lessons, practicing properly, etc... take a year, then just skip to 4.0
 
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