Simplifying your game (i.e. variety is overrated)

TeamOB

Professional
I think I stumbled on a valuable insight recently. Many coaches and players praise variety as a valuable asset, but IMO it can sometimes also be a disadvantage. Variety has never been a struggle for me. I don't have big weapons, but do have a wide arsenal of shots. I am pretty athletic and have good feel and racquet control, so angles, flicks, drop-shots, running passes etc. are all within my range of ability. However, I notice that all these options sometimes hurt my game. Since I know that I am a good shotmaker, I tend to go for these lower-percentage shots at ill-advised moments. The amount of options I have also clutters my mind and makes decision making and shot selection more difficult. When all of them are working, my game is very good. But that rarely happens. Most of the time it just makes the process of winning a point unnecessarily complicated and error prone. Recently I realized that I can have better results by sticking to basics. Meat and potatoes tennis. Crosscourt patterns. Heavy baseline hitting. Exploiting one single weakness. Looking for the short ball to attack and come to net. What do you think of this? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the options on a tennis court? Have you ever felt the need to stick to the very basics? Do you feel that variety is sometimes an overrrated concept?
 
I normally seek out a weakness of my opponent that is within my abilities to exploit and then pick on it as much as possible. If he changes tactics successfully, then it's my turn to adjust.
 

Silent

Professional
I think that variety is a nice thing to have.

It's like a high sitter in the middle of the court: what do you do with it ? You think about all your options too much and it ends up in the net.

I think it's all about making the right decisions, and sure, since you have so many shots to choose from, it might be harder for you to put it all together, but it's also a weapon in itself. If I'm the opponent: what's coming next ?

It's also great when you need to mix things up, when you need to turn the tides or if a particular aspect of your game isn't working well that day. It gives you options to fall back on.

If you can do all these different things, coupled with a good serve, flair at the net, stamina. That sounds like an all-court game to me.

That doesn't keep you from developing a devastating forehand or backhand, or applying classic patterns, but having no weakness is a strength in itself, I think.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I dunno, I"m kinda in the same boat as TeamOB.
Only I play for fun, not to get better.
More options can certainly lead to more fun, but, losing isn't always fun.
However, sticking to ONE forehand, to ONE backhand, and to TWO serves would be like bland rice day after day, we need to season it and add ingrediants to make it palatable.
More weapons always need more practice of each and every weapon. That takes much more practice time and practice is WORK to me.
 

TeamOB

Professional
I dunno, I"m kinda in the same boat as TeamOB.
Only I play for fun, not to get better.
More options can certainly lead to more fun, but, losing isn't always fun.
However, sticking to ONE forehand, to ONE backhand, and to TWO serves would be like bland rice day after day, we need to season it and add ingrediants to make it palatable.
More weapons always need more practice of each and every weapon. That takes much more practice time and practice is WORK to me.
Good points LeeD. Playing simple tennis is not always fun, but it is generally more effective. My new goal in tennis is to keep everything as simple as possible. I try to find the most straightforward way to win the point. The logic is that the simple way is also the easiest to execute, especially under pressure. Yes it is less fun, but it's better then losing. Losing is no fun at all.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Hope it works well for you, it probably won't for me.
Like, low backhand volley, I can volley deep to both corners and middle, drop angle sharp short CC, and lob volley very accurately DTL. I use all those almost every two days I play tennis. Nothing like the look of opponent's faces when they expect one kind of shot, and get totally wrong footed and left holding an empty bag.
 

Silent

Professional
The thing is, OP already has these options. Seems to me the problem is he's making bad tactical decisions, and by throwing away all of that, he's bailing out and calling it more effective.

You can still play percentage tennis while having different options.

Isn't it on these boards that women's tennis is completely ridiculed ? Because virtually every player plays the same, mindless, bashing game from the baseline ? Nobody seems to dominate either. One year it's someone, the next it's someone else. Meanwhile, players like Hingis and Henin had variety and were nightmares for the Williams sisters. Just a thought.

Sure, more weapons means more work, but that's an altogether different issue.

Anyway, what do I know really: I'm not a college player and I'm not an experienced player either. I will say this though. I love playing a 4.0 with only a slice backhand. Makes my life so much easier.
 

SoBad

G.O.A.T.
OB makes a good point, I have an imaginary ink note on my hand to just set up and drive deep every ball. Instead of getting pulled into all the nonsense of endless crosscourt slice/slice or stupid little cat-mouse around the net. I generate enough variety with shanks as it stands.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Well, I"m one who can certainly sympathize with TeamOB's problem.
Like, just on first serve duece court out wide, I"ve got too many options, and when it works, it's an ace, but when it doesn't, it never goes IN during a set.
Like, flat heater wide, duece court.
High bouncing twist heading away from the rightie forehand.
Low skidding slice, heading into the rightie forehand. This one goes the widest and lands the shortest.
Normal top/slice spin serve.
Me lefty.
Worse, I can hit all 3 locations, with all those serves, except I choose not to twist up the T duece court.
Just possibly TOO many options, and, I never practice my serves.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
OPs post sounds like a humble brag. Like another poster said having 'variety' is not an excuse to play ****** low percentage tennis.

Federer has variety that doesn't stop him from slamming big forehands down peoples throats..
 

LuckyR

Legend
I think I stumbled on a valuable insight recently. Many coaches and players praise variety as a valuable asset, but IMO it can sometimes also be a disadvantage. Variety has never been a struggle for me. I don't have big weapons, but do have a wide arsenal of shots. I am pretty athletic and have good feel and racquet control, so angles, flicks, drop-shots, running passes etc. are all within my range of ability. However, I notice that all these options sometimes hurt my game. Since I know that I am a good shotmaker, I tend to go for these lower-percentage shots at ill-advised moments. The amount of options I have also clutters my mind and makes decision making and shot selection more difficult. When all of them are working, my game is very good. But that rarely happens. Most of the time it just makes the process of winning a point unnecessarily complicated and error prone. Recently I realized that I can have better results by sticking to basics. Meat and potatoes tennis. Crosscourt patterns. Heavy baseline hitting. Exploiting one single weakness. Looking for the short ball to attack and come to net. What do you think of this? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the options on a tennis court? Have you ever felt the need to stick to the very basics? Do you feel that variety is sometimes an overrrated concept?
No it isn't an overated concept when stated correctly, ie since shots can come at you an infinite variety of ways, under an infinite variey of situations, having lots of options is a good thing.

However, in the absence of weapons, it sounds like you are using esoteric strokes for routine situations and have lousy results. Not a suprise.
 

Lukhas

Legend
Variety isn't the ability to hit all shots in the books. When we talk about strategy, variety is the ability to come up with good patterns of play (=playing with a purpose) and using them effectively.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
Variety isn't the ability to hit all shots in the books. When we talk about strategy, variety is the ability to come up with good patterns of play (=playing with a purpose) and using them effectively.
I rather agree with this idea. Having some variety on hand means that we can better tailor our play to suit a certain situation. Think of how "smarter" ground strokes in a singles match have higher net clearance with some topspin. Good for that setting perhaps, but not when playing doubles where those shots fly right up in the kill zone for poaching opponents.

I like to try to encourage the high school kids I coach to play with a simple plan. Even if they have a little variety available in their tennis toolbox, thinking over a basic plan of action before most points can take a lot of the guesswork out of what to do, even when returning serve. This mental discipline can make a big difference for lots of players who want to play more focused more often.

Developing more variety in our skill sets probably means that we'll have fewer weaknesses overall, but I agree with OB that trying to use every trick in the book from point to point is trouble. Reviewing the simple plan is what lets us put better components of our variety to work, maybe for a specific match.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Agree a simple game stategy that is winning is better than utilizing all your availible shots to impress yourself or the crowd.
However, since I"m going downhill already for the past 10 years, entertaining myself is the reason to make the effort to go to the courts.
 

maggmaster

Hall of Fame
Variety doesn't mean what rec players think it means. The squash forehand that Roger hits is not a product of his creativity or an improvised idea that he has on the spot. The truth is that he has probably hit that squash forehand more times than a rec 3.5 has hit any forehand. It is only once a skill is automated sufficiently that we have a feedback loop in place that will allow us to perform it at an expert level.
 

LakeSnake

Professional
Maybe the OP's dilemma hinges on an unhelpful definition of "options." Consider that you don't actually have options, you always a have a best shot for every situation. Experience and repetition of these situations, guided by a consistent approach (trying to hit the most effective shot), will ingrain automaticity; thus, you will not have to think. Thinking means you haven't practiced enough.

A limited player who has to shoehorn two shots into a variety of situations will, perhaps, reach his potential more quickly, but you have the ceiling to push the envelope much farther.
*disclaimer: I am not a good tennis player
 

GuyClinch

Legend
Maybe the OP's dilemma hinges on an unhelpful definition of "options." Consider that you don't actually have options, you always a have a best shot for every situation. Experience and repetition of these situations, guided by a consistent approach (trying to hit the most effective shot), will ingrain automaticity; thus, you will not have to think. Thinking means you haven't practiced enough.
Is there really a best shot for various occasions? I'd argue that the execution issues only make it seem so..

So lets say there is some open court up the line and you just got a ball short cross court. Sure a sharp topsin shot down the line is a really good option. So is a hard forehand slice approach shot..

Its only if you F one up that you are like man that was a bad choice. I think what you need to do is plan ahead and pick what you are going to do ahead of time.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
Stop, you're both right...

Variety isn't the ability to hit all shots in the books. When we talk about strategy, variety is the ability to come up with good patterns of play (=playing with a purpose) and using them effectively.
it's a floor wax and a dessert topping, too! Here's my take on it: variety in stroke production helps provide variety in patterns of play. John Isner has a great, simple game...big serve, big forehand, and it's taken him a long way, but never past the quarters of a major.

On the other hand, Roger Federer has incredible variety of strokes, which means he can change his game to suit the opponent or occasion (notice how Edberg had Fed playing a lot more serve and volley on the way to this year's Wimbledon finals?). And Roger's won a ton of majors, and I don't think he's done yet.

You can still have a simple, straightforward strategy with that many arrows in the quiver. As in S&V at 30 love to get the game over quickly and save energy, hit through more returns so you can get to net quicker than with a chip return...and if it doesn't work, go to a plan B (get the first serve percentage up, try to create openings and exploit them, get lots of returns back by whatever method)...or a Plan C, D, or E...
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
I can have huge variety in my choice of shots but my brain freezes up, and I resort to hammerhead, which doesn't work at my size.
 

AtomicForehand

Hall of Fame
I have the same problem as the OP, and need to simplify. I always feel that I need to bring the kitchen sink for some reason. I do have more shots and more spins than the other players at my level, but if I played more meat-and-potatoes tennis, I am sure I would win more and go up a level or two.

A related problem is getting to a ball in plenty of time and overthinking, or changing my mind, and then muffing the shot. It would be easier not to have more than one option in a lot of situations!
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Exactly, AtomicForehand.
But you have more options, meaning a higher potential, to play higher levels of tennis, once you learn when to hit what, and when to play it straight up.
Everyone wants more weapons, but they have to be reliable day in and day out, regardless of how we're playing.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
All true...

I have the same problem as the OP, and need to simplify. I always feel that I need to bring the kitchen sink for some reason. I do have more shots and more spins than the other players at my level, but if I played more meat-and-potatoes tennis, I am sure I would win more and go up a level or two.

A related problem is getting to a ball in plenty of time and overthinking, or changing my mind, and then muffing the shot. It would be easier not to have more than one option in a lot of situations!
...which is why my screen name reads "Watch the ball, hit it hard, and don't think." However...see what I said in post #22. At a micro level, this also works. The strategy/plan thinking takes place before the point. As in "It's 40-5, I've been thumping them down the middle, I'm going to serve wide, come in, and look for an easy backhand volley cross court." Nice, if it works out that way, but if all those stars don't line up, I'll just react to whatever is in front of me and make it happen, anyway...
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
Simple doesn't mean a small tool set.

Simple means making conscious choices about which subset of tools to focus on in a given match, set, game, and point.

Before each point, I decide which subset of tools I have in mind for that point which is a more limited set than a game, which is more limited than a set. The set of tools I pick for each game depends on whether I'm serving, which way the wind is blowing, how my opponent is playing, and what I've been executing well. I am more likely to lob if the sun will be in the eyes of an opponent who is sensitive.

Shots that produce unforced errors get shelved for a game or two, maybe longer if I find others that work.
 

Mr.Lob

Legend
I think I stumbled on a valuable insight recently. Many coaches and players praise variety as a valuable asset, but IMO it can sometimes also be a disadvantage. Variety has never been a struggle for me. I don't have big weapons, but do have a wide arsenal of shots. I am pretty athletic and have good feel and racquet control, so angles, flicks, drop-shots, running passes etc. are all within my range of ability. However, I notice that all these options sometimes hurt my game. Since I know that I am a good shotmaker, I tend to go for these lower-percentage shots at ill-advised moments. The amount of options I have also clutters my mind and makes decision making and shot selection more difficult. When all of them are working, my game is very good. But that rarely happens. Most of the time it just makes the process of winning a point unnecessarily complicated and error prone. Recently I realized that I can have better results by sticking to basics. Meat and potatoes tennis. Crosscourt patterns. Heavy baseline hitting. Exploiting one single weakness. Looking for the short ball to attack and come to net. What do you think of this? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the options on a tennis court? Have you ever felt the need to stick to the very basics? Do you feel that variety is sometimes an overrrated concept?
Depends on your level. As a 3.5 I'm thinking just keep it deep with decent pace... stay at their backhand. Angles and spin are secondary. I'll force a few errors, opponent will have many U.Es.
 

moonballs

Hall of Fame
I follow the directionals to hit deep and cross court most of the time. But when the opponent is pushing, I find the drop shot from both wings can cause a lot of damage.
 

Tight Lines

Professional
I normally seek out a weakness of my opponent that is within my abilities to exploit and then pick on it as much as possible. If he changes tactics successfully, then it's my turn to adjust.
This +1.

Two weeks ago, I played the biggest pusher ever. His forehand was the ugliest shot I have ever seen and he was flicking his elbow on every shot. But, his shot all landed just past the T with a good amount of underspin. The worst thing was I started to lose to this guy by going for too much to the corners. Then, I changed tactics and started chipping everything back to bring him in. That caused all kinds of trouble for the pusher.

Harry
 

Ballinbob

Hall of Fame
Good thread. Personally, I think variety helps my game alot. If I didn't slice 30% of my backhands and didn't hit drop shots my opponent would be able to predict my topspin shots pretty easily. IMO, Novak has become a lot better since he started going to net more and slicing his backhand some. It gives his opponents different looks and doesn't let them settle in. Again, this is all IMO
 

AtomicForehand

Hall of Fame
Exactly, AtomicForehand.
But you have more options, meaning a higher potential, to play higher levels of tennis, once you learn when to hit what, and when to play it straight up.
Everyone wants more weapons, but they have to be reliable day in and day out, regardless of how we're playing.
Thanks, LeeD. That makes me feel better. :) If I get my thinking straightened out, hopefully I can advance!
 

LakeSnake

Professional
Is there really a best shot for various occasions? I'd argue that the execution issues only make it seem so..

So lets say there is some open court up the line and you just got a ball short cross court. Sure a sharp topsin shot down the line is a really good option. So is a hard forehand slice approach shot..

Its only if you F one up that you are like man that was a bad choice. I think what you need to do is plan ahead and pick what you are going to do ahead of time.
I agree with the idea of planning ahead, as that eliminates the indecision that can make you pause and/or botch the shot. My idea of "the one best shot" is more of a guiding principle to help train and automate decision-making to avoid brain freeze. That being said, most people will have more success, because of more skill, at a certain option--and that wouldn't be a bad default setting.
 

caugas

Semi-Pro
I think I stumbled on a valuable insight recently. Many coaches and players praise variety as a valuable asset, but IMO it can sometimes also be a disadvantage. Variety has never been a struggle for me. I don't have big weapons, but do have a wide arsenal of shots. I am pretty athletic and have good feel and racquet control, so angles, flicks, drop-shots, running passes etc. are all within my range of ability. However, I notice that all these options sometimes hurt my game. Since I know that I am a good shotmaker, I tend to go for these lower-percentage shots at ill-advised moments. The amount of options I have also clutters my mind and makes decision making and shot selection more difficult. When all of them are working, my game is very good. But that rarely happens. Most of the time it just makes the process of winning a point unnecessarily complicated and error prone. Recently I realized that I can have better results by sticking to basics. Meat and potatoes tennis. Crosscourt patterns. Heavy baseline hitting. Exploiting one single weakness. Looking for the short ball to attack and come to net. What do you think of this? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the options on a tennis court? Have you ever felt the need to stick to the very basics? Do you feel that variety is sometimes an overrrated concept?
TeamOB what's your level? By the sounds of it, it's advanced. At 4.0 level, I don't think it makes sense to over complicate your game strategy. Usually hon in on your opponent weakness.

However at levels 4.5+ I can see where you want to incorporate more weapons...
 

TeamOB

Professional
TeamOB what's your level? By the sounds of it, it's advanced. At 4.0 level, I don't think it makes sense to over complicate your game strategy. Usually hon in on your opponent weakness.

However at levels 4.5+ I can see where you want to incorporate more weapons...
This is my record for the season. IMO even at 4.5 and higher levels it is important to keep the game plan simple and eliminate extraneous shots. The point of the thread is that while having a wide range of shots is important, you don't really want to use them all in a single match. You want to pick a smart game plan and use only the shots that hurt your opponent the most. Simply hitting every shot in the book is not a good way to go about winning.
 

hawk eye

Hall of Fame
Variety becomes more important when you have a weak side in terms of pure hitting. Almost all onehanders need to employ slice because their repllies to heigh balls to their BH side suck when they try to play a topspin BH. I know variety is not only about mixing in a slice, but i believe it's symptomatic.
Two handers can often go on pounding and pounding the ball in rally. Look at the girls game right now, and I do not just mean the WTA pros.
 

caugas

Semi-Pro
Variety becomes more important when you have a weak side in terms of pure hitting. Almost all onehanders need to employ slice because their repllies to heigh balls to their BH side suck when they try to play a topspin BH. I know variety is not only about mixing in a slice, but i believe it's symptomatic.
Two handers can often go on pounding and pounding the ball in rally. Look at the girls game right now, and I do not just mean the WTA pros.
Right the women's game is really boring. They don't even slice any more. I actually look forward to watching the Italian women WTA pros because they do offer more variety.

The men's game is also trending this way, hard and hard with less variety.
Personally I wish there was more serve and volley, slice, etc...
 
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