Singles Player Needs Advice

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
One of my 3.5 singles players lost a match and is getting frustrated. It's the same old story: She has the better strokes, but she misses enough that she loses to a defensive player anyway. She has asked for my input. I don't know what I can add, really, as I don't play singles.

I have not seen her play a lot, but I saw a couple of things the other night:

She came into net some and I think she did OK up there, but the net is not her strength -- maybe she is missing opportunities to clean up at net due to lack of confidence and experience?

She DFs a lot.

She doesn't have variety, in that she didn't mix in any slices or hit moonballs.

So what exactly should I say to support her? She has resumed taking lessons with the pro I use, so what should she be working on?

I'll definitely offer to go hit with her (e.g. if she wants to work on approaches and volleys and overheads I can help give her some reps), so I guess that's something.
 

CHtennis

Rookie
What I would want to tell her is to lose the mindset of having better strokes means you should win. Players get frustrated with losing to worse strokes and just think about how bad they are playing instead of what patterns they should be looking to enact more often. What I would probably say is "yeah that is tough, sorry you didnt play well, just keep working and you will get there"
 

milk of amnesia

Professional
She needs to be more patient with herself and her game. Defense wins at women's 3.5 level. All a player has to do is keep the ball in play and let the opponent hit it out. Since she is getting frustrated, my guess is she is the one who is losing patience during the point and the one who hits the UE's. She needs to be mentally prepared to deal with points that go on longer than she thinks they should. She also definitely needs to practice her serve as DF's aren't helping her. All she has to do with her serve is get the point started, not win the point outright. It's good that she's taking lessons to improve her game - she should be talking over her losses with her instructor and asking for strategy and working on point construction so she can learn to take control of the point and end it. It's nice of you to offer to practice with her. Tell her to ask her instructor for specific things that you two can work on and set up your practice sessions with that in mind.
 

Doan

Rookie
She needs to be more patient with herself and her game. Defense wins at women's 3.5 level. All a player has to do is keep the ball in play and let the opponent hit it out.
Its same with 3.5M. No one at 3.5 can consistently hit enough hard/forcing winning shots so you have to cut down on UEs. Anyone who can hit more winners than unforced errors will get bumped up at end of the year. Just need to assess what shots caused her to hit an error. Was it the moonballs, short balls, OHs, volleys etc.
 
80% of tennis points are won on errors--leaving only 20% won on winners if my math is correct. The year Babe Ruth set the home run record, he also had the record for most strikeouts--keep on bunting and hitting up the middle for singles.
 

Rattler

Hall of Fame
DF’s a lot. Does she do that in practice as well? If not, that’s a sure sign of nerves. Suggest that she hold her trophy pose on serve for a fraction of a second longer. She may be rushing through and that causes faults.
 

J D

Rookie
Yes, unless someone is just at the wrong level, aggressive tennis is losing tennis at lower levels. Modern equipment with modern strings allows weaker players with undeveloped strokes to consistently get the ball back deep, even off of harder shots. In fact, most lower level players will be more consistent with higher pace coming at them than when they have to generate their own pace.

To succeed right away, she has to change her game plan and play smarter. Even though the goal is to reduce UE’s, she should be thinking “NO UE’s.” This includes eliminating DF’s. Go with high percentage shots. Aim at large targets. Move her feet and follow the ball with her eyes all the way to her racquet to be consistent. Wait for the perfect set up before going for a winner. Be patient and work the point for that opportunity.

I know this sounds like a bunch of cliches, but they are for a reason; they work.

Anyone that does these things and has a bit of athletic ability with semi-decent strokes should win most of his or her matches at 3.5.
 
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OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
3.5 can be a very frustrating level. In general we typically have a level of command on nearly every shot ... but lack consistency and our shot selection choices can be a bit dicey. When we start losing points instead of keeping to our game plan we lose confidence and make even worse decisions.

My couple thoughts having played some singles ... sometimes successfully at this level:
Mental: she needs to trust herself and her shots. If she can keep that faith in herself even after losing a point or a game it will pay huge dividends.

Have a game plan .... does she have one? It can be relatively simple like: hit everything to opponent's backhand. But she needs to have a game plan, trust it and not abandon it. If there was one thing that the pro could help with is to give her a game plan A and B.

I disagree that aggressive tennis doesn't win at lower levels. Playing aggressive tennis with poor positioning and shot selection will lose ... but playing aggressive shots (not just rainbow moonballs) with a plan and good positioning will win at 3.5, often decisively. (e.g. many women at 3.5 have difficulty with a heavy TS ball, but can return a flat ball or moonball all day long)

DFs .... couple thoughts:
She is too worried about the return that she is not focused on the 2nd serve (can see this with many shots dumped in net .... she is dropping her eyes to the court anticipating the return rather than on the ball)
She is looking to win too many points off a serve as she has lost confidence in the rest of her game so she is pressing
She needs to develop a decent 2nd serve that again she can have faith in

I guess the underlying theme of my entire response is having trust and faith in herself
 

kevrol

Hall of Fame
She came into net some and I think she did OK up there, but the net is not her strength -- maybe she is missing opportunities to clean up at net due to lack of confidence and experience?

She DFs a lot.
Is she just coming to the net to come to the net? Closing in on the net is important in doubles. In singles, especially if she isn't that comfortable, she should only come to the net when she can force the opponent to hit a defensive shot. If the opponent is not defensive your friend is going to lose w whole lot of points by being passed or getting lobbed.

An occassional DF is ok. DFing a lot is not.

If she working with the pro then the pro should be able to see what she's doing. That's what the pro is there for. Suggest she play out some points with the pro. It'll become pretty obvious very quickly to the pro.
 

J D

Rookie
Sorry, OTL, you’re right. I should have been more clear. There are different types and levels of aggressive tennis.

I was talking about players who try to hit every shot hard, are constantly going for winners, are looking to end every point early, and who play low percentage tennis. If you can consistently do those things, you’re not a 3.5. It sounded like Cindy’s friend might have those tendencies.

Hopefully the pro will be able to give her specific things to do, change, and focus on since he will actually get to work with her.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
@J D Oh, got it ... yeah, nothing but redlining is not a winning game plan ... and yeah, there are plenty who try it, and that is indeed not how I define "aggressive" tennis. That is foolish tennis!
 
To add on to what others have said re: defensive vs. offensive tennis:

An analogy I've been told by a few different coaches I think it applicable at all levels: think about a stoplight. Assess each ball you're going to hit as green light (opportunity to be aggressive), yellow light (neutral), or red light (defensive).

In other words, only play an aggressive shot when it's the correct opportunity to do so (for example, a short ball that sits up). It's important to be able to play both offense and defense. When you're pulled off court, be able to hit a moonball to allow yourself to get back into position - there's nothing shameful about hitting a moonball in the right situation.

Even at the net, you will sometimes have to hit a more defensive volley (for example, when it's a low ball you have to hit up on it to get over the net). Other times you will have a high ball that you have more freedom to hit more aggressively.

Don't forget about placement, too. Where you hit the ball is just as important as how aggressively you hit it (sometimes more so).

For DFs, try practicing only second serves, until you get it to a point where you feel very solid. At a clinic I go to they often only allow us 1 serve - it's brutal but good practice for 2nd serves.
 

heftylefty

Hall of Fame
I got some good advice from a former WTA pro years ago that might help. Ask you teammate to just focus on winning two points in a row. She wins the first point, her next goal is to win the next. She loses the first point, hit the reset and try to win the next two in a row. If she wins the first and loses the second; reset and win two point in a row.

This help breakdown the match in the small, manageable pieces. I use this when I get tight and get down in a match.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Boy, so much good advice! These problems are so typical in singles. It is easy to get into the mindset that you should be hitting winners, but that is hard to do.

We did talk a bit between her lesson and mine. I asked how it was going and what she and the pro had decided to work on. She said she was going to develop a slice serve (so she doesn't have to hit her first serve as a second), and they worked on her net play. **AND THEY DECIDED THAT SHE SHOULD TAKE A BREAK FROM LEAGUE TENNIS UNTIL THE SPRING OR MAYBE THE FALL AND JUST WORK ON HER FUNDAMENTALS.**

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

I mean, that is probably right. If my pro is suggesting it, it has to be right. That would be in line with what OnTheLine said about trusting yourself -- she needs time trust her shots and shot tolerance. So we agreed I wouldn't play her unless I was stuck (we have plenty of singles players).

And we agreed that she and I would become hitting partners so both of us can practice what we are paying so much lesson money to learn.

Stay tuned. I'll keep you posted on her journey . . .
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
@Cindysphinx based on the Pro's advice it sounds like the professional believes that confidence level is so low that more matches could do nothing but injure it more.... or that her fundamentals need so much work that any match play makes no sense.

Interesting. What had her record looked like prior to this season? Just curious as if this was a recent melt down of some sort.

I have certainly had a crisis of confidence more than one ... likely to have one in the future again.
 
**AND THEY DECIDED THAT SHE SHOULD TAKE A BREAK FROM LEAGUE TENNIS UNTIL THE SPRING OR MAYBE THE FALL AND JUST WORK ON HER FUNDAMENTALS.**

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
It's not necessarily the wrong decision. It depends greatly on her personality: if she's the type who can compartmentalize and stick with the new strokes/strategies no matter what the match outcome is, then continuing to play is better. But if she reverts back to the old style during matches, she's just hindering her progress.

What I'd be wary of is her becoming great at practice but then falling apart during a match because the opponent is not cooperating and instead putting the ball all over the place.

I would have wanted her to video a few matches so she could do a stat breakdown and see what really happened. Self-awareness can drop dramatically during a match so maybe she's doing things without even realizing it. Also, it would show shot selection, her movement, her opponent's movement, patterns of play, etc.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Consistency wins in singles. Tennis is 90% a battle of eliminating errors.

My golf pro once told me that golf was a game of minimizing your mistakes. That fits for tennis. There is a way to play high percentage forcing tennis. It requires hitting deep, mostly cross court, sometimes down the middle, and if the person has a weaker wing, target that side. Do that over and over again. You will come out on top.

People get too anxious to hit that DTL winner or big serve. Those are low percentage shots. Why do them when you'll win more points with an 80% slice serve or a moonball to the BH?
 
Consistency wins in singles. Tennis is 90% a battle of eliminating errors.

My golf pro once told me that golf was a game of minimizing your mistakes. That fits for tennis. There is a way to play high percentage forcing tennis. It requires hitting deep, mostly cross court, sometimes down the middle, and if the person has a weaker wing, target that side. Do that over and over again. You will come out on top.

People get too anxious to hit that DTL winner or big serve. Those are low percentage shots. Why do them when you'll win more points with an 80% slice serve or a moonball to the BH?
Maybe she doesn't have the shot tolerance? It's something I know I struggle with. Fortunately, S&V lends itself to short rallies.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
Maybe she doesn't have the shot tolerance? It's something I know I struggle with. Fortunately, S&V lends itself to short rallies.
I'm with you there. My preference is to S&V in singles, and my last year at 4.0 I was very successful. At 4.5, the service returns are more consistently in and better placed and I have to pick my spots to S&V to keep the opponent off balance.
 

time_fly

Hall of Fame
Consistency wins in singles. ... People get too anxious to hit that DTL winner or big serve. Those are low percentage shots. Why do them when you'll win more points with an 80% slice serve or a moonball to the BH?
I agree to an extent. However, you have to pressure your opponent to some extent. How difficult that is increases with level. You can beat almost any 3.0 and a lot of 3.5s just by bunting balls with no pace or spin to the middle of the court. By 4.0 you need to do at least a little more than that. So you need to develop some sort of offensive game besides just getting the ball back -- but many people overestimate how offensive they need to be.

PS. There also has to be some recognition of your own strengths and weaknesses. If you are a track star, maybe you can even make it to 4.5 bunting balls back with no pace or spin. But if you're a sumo wrestler, you need to apply more pressure and win points earlier.
 
Yes, unless someone is just at the wrong level, aggressive tennis is losing tennis at lower levels. Modern equipment with modern strings allows weaker players with undeveloped strokes to consistently get the ball back deep, even off of harder shots. In fact, most lower level players will be more consistent with higher pace coming at them than when they have to generate their own pace.
Yup! Ain't it the truth--you execute a great serve or shot with a lot of heat and they use your power against you and frame it back for a sleazy winner--shank you very much. :cry:
 

JBH

Rookie
This is the standard lower level question - How do you defeat a pusher? It’s far easier to hit three defensive shots in a row than to hit three winners. That’s not new information.
For a coach to say ‘well why don’t you stop playing for awhile’ is a dismissive cop out on the highest level.
A typical approach to defeating pushers is to repeatedly hit to their backhand. The reason most people are pushers is that they lack ground stroke skills. Back hands are normally weaker, and quality defensive strokes are more difficult than forehand for most players. A weak backhand defensive shot by the pusher followed by a volley to the backhand side is a solid approach in most cases.
 
A weak backhand defensive shot by the pusher followed by a volley to the backhand side is a solid approach in most cases.
This could work if the person was comfortable approaching the net, volleying, and OHing.

The problem is that many are not: they look at the net as an Event Horizon where there is a lot of risk, like on old maps that said "Here there be dragons" off in the distance. So they stay on the BL and the pusher wins. They fail to realize that the pusher doesn't like it either when the opponent comes to the net because now they have to hit something other than what they're comfortable with.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Oh, hey. I’m not planning on “teaching” her anything. I’d just like to support her.

She missed 18 months with an injury, and she used to do well in singles. If she and her pro are making some changes and need a break to help those changes stick, I’ll do what I can.

Sounds like my job is not to play her and be a silent hitting partner.

If I were her pro, I would have her work on a second serve and net play. I think when singles players are not confident at net, they try to do too much with the approach. And they come in on the wrong ball and miss opportunities to come in. Getting better at net will allow her to come to net against pushers.

Then again, I have a solid foundation in net play, and I found it necessary to focus my lessons with this pro on volleys for the last six months. If someone doesn’t have that foundation, maybe it wouldn’t be a good short term project.

But I’m not her pro. I’ll be interested to hear what he thinks she needs.
 

HelenCH

New User
By "misses enough" do you mean that she concedes too many winners, or that she makes more errors (apart from DFs)? In any case that's what she needs to work on.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
Have a game plan .... does she have one? It can be relatively simple like: hit everything to opponent's backhand. But she needs to have a game plan, trust it and not abandon it. If there was one thing that the pro could help with is to give her a game plan A and B.
This... and more of this (y)
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
I’m chiming in after the fact, but someone mentioned double faulting earlier. When a player double faults, EVERYTHING else starts to break down. They put pressure on themselves to get the serve in, which makes them play tight and make more mistakes. I’m glad she’s consulting a coach and developing second serve. This will give her confidence and something to build on.
 
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silentkman

Semi-Pro
To be brief, she ought to continue working on the serve and it's consistency. When you struggle on serve more often than not it's going to trickle down to the rest of your game.
It's all about the serve. That has to be fixed, first and foremost. What kind of serve is it,, spin or pancake?
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Maybe she doesn't have the shot tolerance? It's something I know I struggle with. Fortunately, S&V lends itself to short rallies.
Then you have to increase the risk a bit with deeper shots and closer to the corners. But shot tolerance is one of the biggest determinants of level. If you don't have it, no matter how pretty your strokes, you'll lose most of your matches to people with better shot tolerance.

I agree to an extent. However, you have to pressure your opponent to some extent. How difficult that is increases with level. You can beat almost any 3.0 and a lot of 3.5s just by bunting balls with no pace or spin to the middle of the court. By 4.0 you need to do at least a little more than that. So you need to develop some sort of offensive game besides just getting the ball back -- but many people overestimate how offensive they need to be.

PS. There also has to be some recognition of your own strengths and weaknesses. If you are a track star, maybe you can even make it to 4.5 bunting balls back with no pace or spin. But if you're a sumo wrestler, you need to apply more pressure and win points earlier.
Which was why I specifically said "forcing" high percentage tennis. Non-forcing high percentage tennis can work too but eventually you have to challenge the corners and depth of the court to win against good players. You can't merely "get the ball back" to the mid court. But if you can direct your shots into that window 6 feet in from the sideline and baseline, you'll force the opponent to make some challenging shots that will give you an error or a short ball.

Tennis is all about managing risk. Too little risk and you may never get off the court. Too much and you can go down in a flame of UE's.
The amount of risk you bring depends on your opponents shot tolerance, fitness, speed balanced against your shot tolerance, fitness and speed.

I'm getting old and slow so I hit higher risk shots than I would if I was young and fast.
 

caesar66

Professional
I used to coach high school tennis and with the DFs, I’d tell my kids to start hitting their second serve as their first. Can’t win a point that you don’t start. We used to preach being “three ball tough” (which I know can sound funny). Most high schoolers (esp boys) couldn’t successfully hit three balls back to their opponents in a rally. As a 3.5 myself, I’d say this is true at that level in general. This became our goal. Obviously, once the player can do this you can refine stroke issues/etc but it gives them an immediate goal to work on. Sometimes they need to see some progress, even if it just means you meet a simple goal, to regain some confidence.
 

glenWs

Rookie
One of my 3.5 singles players lost a match and is getting frustrated. It's the same old story: She has the better strokes, but she misses enough that she loses to a defensive player anyway. She has asked for my input. I don't know what I can add, really, as I don't play singles.

I have not seen her play a lot, but I saw a couple of things the other night:

She came into net some and I think she did OK up there, but the net is not her strength -- maybe she is missing opportunities to clean up at net due to lack of confidence and experience?

She DFs a lot.

She doesn't have variety, in that she didn't mix in any slices or hit moonballs.

So what exactly should I say to support her? She has resumed taking lessons with the pro I use, so what should she be working on?

I'll definitely offer to go hit with her (e.g. if she wants to work on approaches and volleys and overheads I can help give her some reps), so I guess that's something.

Low and down the middle. Don't give the opponent angles and balls in the strike zone. Change pace, spin and keep the player moving. Don't let them settle into a comfortable hitting position on the court. To do this she needs to build consistency. Consistent serves and strokes. The longer the points go, the more the better player will be revealed.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
80% of tennis points are won on errors--leaving only 20% won on winners if my math is correct. The year Babe Ruth set the home run record, he also had the record for most strikeouts--keep on bunting and hitting up the middle for singles.
Errors can be forced or unforced

Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
 

chic

Professional
Sounds like, in addition to much else of what has been mentioned, she needs to learn to respect her opponents more.

I feel like the mental transition from
atypical mechanics = worse
To
atypical mechanics = different

Gave me a much better mentality and was part of my shift 3.5>4.0

We're not pros and many people have been playing for 10, 20, 30+ years and are able to obtain consistency with odd shots then build a gameplan around it.

I hit some of the most technically sound tennis at the park I play at, still only middle of the pack there because some of these guys who learned with no formal training have been bunting the same way for the last 25 years and can out consistent me despite being 2x my age, "worse" mechanics, and equal or worse fitness
 

zaskar1

Semi-Pro
One of my 3.5 singles players lost a match and is getting frustrated. It's the same old story: She has the better strokes, but she misses enough that she loses to a defensive player anyway. She has asked for my input. I don't know what I can add, really, as I don't play singles.

I have not seen her play a lot, but I saw a couple of things the other night:

She came into net some and I think she did OK up there, but the net is not her strength -- maybe she is missing opportunities to clean up at net due to lack of confidence and experience?

She DFs a lot.

She doesn't have variety, in that she didn't mix in any slices or hit moonballs.

So what exactly should I say to support her? She has resumed taking lessons with the pro I use, so what should she be working on?

I'll definitely offer to go hit with her (e.g. if she wants to work on approaches and volleys and overheads I can help give her some reps), so I guess that's something.
CS
it takes more than good strokes to win at singles. at the 3.5/4.0 level, its really a mental thing. you have to be able to figure out what the opponent doesnt like, and just keep giving it to them until they make an error. at the rec level, its about who makes the fewest errors, not about hitting winners.
if this player seems pretty consistent, then she needs to work on a strategy to win. it can be really demoralizing to lose all the time when you thing you are playing people at your own level.
z
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Update: She's doing better, taking lessons, playing better, finding her mojo, winning league singles matches. She didn't take the break after all.

It's funny. We all go through these dips, and it takes a lot of fortitude to remember that it is almost certainly temporary.

Cindy -- who had nothing to do with it.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Update: She's doing better, taking lessons, playing better, finding her mojo, winning league singles matches. She didn't take the break after all.

It's funny. We all go through these dips, and it takes a lot of fortitude to remember that it is almost certainly temporary.

Cindy -- who had nothing to do with it.
That is great.

Unfortunately the reverse is also likely true:
We all go through these peaks in our play, and it is really depressing to remember that is is almost certainly temporary. :oops:
 

Nacho

Hall of Fame
One of my 3.5 singles players lost a match and is getting frustrated. It's the same old story: She has the better strokes, but she misses enough that she loses to a defensive player anyway. She has asked for my input. I don't know what I can add, really, as I don't play singles.

I have not seen her play a lot, but I saw a couple of things the other night:

She came into net some and I think she did OK up there, but the net is not her strength -- maybe she is missing opportunities to clean up at net due to lack of confidence and experience?

She DFs a lot.

She doesn't have variety, in that she didn't mix in any slices or hit moonballs.

So what exactly should I say to support her? She has resumed taking lessons with the pro I use, so what should she be working on?

I'll definitely offer to go hit with her (e.g. if she wants to work on approaches and volleys and overheads I can help give her some reps), so I guess that's something.
Difficult to tell by this description, I would have to see her play. Many times its a matter of experience in the match setting. I have seen some players get better as they learn to strategize in singles, or work singles points. Many times this is the biggest difference, but if that doesn't make sense let me know.

Why did you chose her to play singles? What is she good at that makes her more beneficial as a singles player than a doubles? Maybe answering those questions will help you figure out next steps

Working on serve is certainly a big part of it. You can't give away points...

Sounds like she struggles against counter-punchers, which at the 3.5 level is the toughest part. This is a strategy component, which at the 3.5 level is the best way to win for players who lack skill. I would encourage her to bring opponents into the net, and stay away from long rallies. Also, to force them to try and make low percentage shots rather than just bump balls back in the middle.
 

toby55555

Hall of Fame
Can be tricky in match situations to keep your form against fit competitive junk ballers who give you no pace to work with even at 4.5 level. Ideally find some opponents with this sort of game and work on how to beat them when you don't have the nerves of match play.
Might be tricky to find these type of players, not to be confused with weak players who have no consistency.
 
Can be tricky in match situations to keep your form against fit competitive junk ballers who give you no pace to work with even at 4.5 level. Ideally find some opponents with this sort of game and work on how to beat them when you don't have the nerves of match play.
Might be tricky to find these type of players, not to be confused with weak players who have no consistency.
Attacking the net works well vs this style. Also, bringing them in. Both work because it takes them out of their comfort zone.
 
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