Stop Me Before I Sign Up For 8.0!

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Aw, geez. My old 8.0 mixed captain invited me to her 8.0 team. Which made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

See, I played 8.0 one or two seasons as a 3.5, then a few seasons as a 4.0. When I went back into the workforce, the first thing I dropped was 8.0 mixed. I'm bad at 8.0 mixed, and it is far and away the type of tennis for which I am least suited.

I don't do well with pace. I don't do well against topspin. I do not like playing from the baseline, and I am not good at it. My serve does not bother most men. I can poach and transition and get away with short slice in ladies; none of these things work at all for me in 8.0 mixed. In 8.0 mixed, I have to force myself to hug the net and alley, and what's the fun in that? And I'll be **59** next year, so what am I doing on the court against 4.5 men?

But I also feel like I need a challenge, maybe. I'm playing 7.0 mixed and doing OK, I guess. I've always viewed mixed as bitter medicine that makes me stronger in women's tennis, and 8.0 is the most bitter of all.

I feel weird about saying yes, and I feel weird about saying no.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Aw, geez. My old 8.0 mixed captain invited me to her 8.0 team. Which made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

See, I played 8.0 one or two seasons as a 3.5, then a few seasons as a 4.0. When I went back into the workforce, the first thing I dropped was 8.0 mixed. I'm bad at 8.0 mixed, and it is far and away the type of tennis for which I am least suited.

I don't do well with pace. I don't do well against topspin. I do not like playing from the baseline, and I am not good at it. My serve does not bother most men. I can poach and transition and get away with short slice in ladies; none of these things work at all for me in 8.0 mixed. In 8.0 mixed, I have to force myself to hug the net and alley, and what's the fun in that? And I'll be **59** next year, so what am I doing on the court against 4.5 men?

But I also feel like I need a challenge, maybe. I'm playing 7.0 mixed and doing OK, I guess. I've always viewed mixed as bitter medicine that makes me stronger in women's tennis, and 8.0 is the most bitter of all.

I feel weird about saying yes, and I feel weird about saying no.
You just haven’t found the right partner yet.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
You just haven’t found the right partner yet.
If you can have a partner that is a decent to strong 4.5 then 8.0 is a great deal of fun. If however your captain thinks you are "strong" enough to be able to go out there with a 4.0 partner ... then no, a whole lot of not fun.

@Cindysphinx if it isn't fun ... Do Not Do It. Enjoy the flattery and do something you enjoy instead. That is okay.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
Sounds like you would enjoy 7.0 more. That is, if you can manage to not get hit in the face by all the misguided errant overheads by the 3.5 men.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
OK, I told my prospective captain that I am already on three teams and captaining one. And I am entering the lottery for a ten mile race that runs in the spring. If I get in, I will need to train a lot to be ready. So I said I'd circle back and would play if she is desperate and I don't get into the race.

I wish I had time to work on my tennis and get better and improve my handling of pace, but I just don't.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
OK, I told my prospective captain that I am already on three teams and captaining one. And I am entering the lottery for a ten mile race that runs in the spring. If I get in, I will need to train a lot to be ready. So I said I'd circle back and would play if she is desperate and I don't get into the race.

I wish I had time to work on my tennis and get better and improve my handling of pace, but I just don't.
Chicken! Just kidding. It sounds like you made the right choice. There is limited time to go around for leisure activities, so it’s best to use it up on activities that give us the most enjoyment, whatever those may be.
 

tennytive

Professional
Objective self awareness is appreciated and rarely displayed with too many players I meet who could certainly use some. You made a wise decision.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
A number of years ago, I think there was a motivational speaker (can't remember the name) who popularized the phrase:

If it's not a "hell yes!", then it's a no.

It's like getting married - if you really wanted to, you wouldn't hesitate. If you are asking yourself if this is the right time, etc, then it's a no.
 
Personally, I find 8.0 to be an exhilarating challenge, but I generally prefer more pace to less. Nothing motivates you to get better like being the worst player on the court. But it sounds like you made the right call given your preferences and priorities.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
But I also feel like I need a challenge, maybe. I'm playing 7.0 mixed and doing OK, I guess. I've always viewed mixed as bitter medicine that makes me stronger in women's tennis, and 8.0 is the most bitter of all.

I feel weird about saying yes, and I feel weird about saying no.
What's your ultimate goal for your tennis?

After a decade dabbling in this hobby, I 've realized that getting good is pretty pointless. At best I'd only be the biggest fish in a small pond.

It's just better to be better than most people in your own circle. You don't wanna be the best either because that will inspire haters and excusers and you'll get assigned to the worst partners whenever possible.

It's better to be convincingly better than average in general. Enough that no one can look down on you. Enough that you can put anyone in his/her place if necessary.

In the end you only need to convince yourself that you still can move, play like you did years ago.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
And then I have nights like tonight when the stars align and I play like a 4.0, and I start to wonder if maybe I could play higher level mixed like I did ten years ago . . .

And then my prospective captain points out that I am actually a better player than when I was a 3.5 years ago, which is true because I can do much more than hit topspin lobs. . . .

And then I start doubting my decision to doubt myself.

I have a lesson tomorrow. Maybe I will tell my pro to work with me on returning spinny serves and volleying against topspin and pace and see what happens.
 
And then I have nights like tonight when the stars align and I play like a 4.0, and I start to wonder if maybe I could play higher level mixed like I did ten years ago . . .

And then my prospective captain points out that I am actually a better player than when I was a 3.5 years ago, which is true because I can do much more than hit topspin lobs. . . .

And then I start doubting my decision to doubt myself.

I have a lesson tomorrow. Maybe I will tell my pro to work with me on returning spinny serves and volleying against topspin and pace and see what happens.
Sounds like you’re having something akin to Buyer’s Remorse.

Just do what makes you happy: in this case it IS all about you.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
And then I have nights like tonight when the stars align and I play like a 4.0, and I start to wonder if maybe I could play higher level mixed like I did ten years ago . . .

And then my prospective captain points out that I am actually a better player than when I was a 3.5 years ago, which is true because I can do much more than hit topspin lobs. . . .

And then I start doubting my decision to doubt myself.

I have a lesson tomorrow. Maybe I will tell my pro to work with me on returning spinny serves and volleying against topspin and pace and see what happens.
Looking forward to reading about your match reports as you figure out 8.0. Keep in mind: schmke’s data showed that statistically, a 4.5m/3.5w combo wins 62% of the time when matched up against a 4.0/4.0, so you if you can figure out how to strategize to utilize this built-in advantage, it can make mixed more enjoyable...

There is a lot more to it than alley hugging. There is more strategic thinking required to do it well than with other types of doubles, which I think might your strength.
 
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Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I went to my lesson today and asked my pro what he thought about this whole 8.0 idea. Given that he is disgusted with the lack of ambition that keeps me happy to be a 3.5, he thinks I should do it and will do fine with a 4.5 partner.

Anyway, I told him that I would consider it if we could figure out why I struggle to volley against pace, against balls hit right at me, and against topspin dippers to my feet. So we worked on this for one hour.

I have a whole backpack full of problems and bad habits, but we managed to at least identify them:

1. I don't watch the ball coming off of my opponent's racket, so I am late with my split step and ball recognition.

2. I don't recover my racket to ready position after a volley, often leaving it dangling to my BH side.

3. I cheat toward my BH volley and sometimes take balls as BHs that really should be FHs.

4. I don't watch the ball to my own racket.

5. I get intimidated by big backswings and shriek like a small child.

Of these, I made real progress on ball watching and recovering a ready position. Maybe there's hope.
 
Anyway, I told him that I would consider it if we could figure out why I struggle to volley against pace, against balls hit right at me, and against topspin dippers to my feet. So we worked on this for one hour.
Everybody struggles with these to a greater or lesser extent relative to "easy" volleys [those with not excessive pace, those that allow you to move a bit laterally, and not too low].

I have a whole backpack full of problems and bad habits, but we managed to at least identify them:

1. I don't watch the ball coming off of my opponent's racket, so I am late with my split step and ball recognition.
What are you watching?

2. I don't recover my racket to ready position after a volley, often leaving it dangling to my BH side.

3. I cheat toward my BH volley and sometimes take balls as BHs that really should be FHs.
Lots of people cheat towards the BH side; I know I do. The BH is anatomically easier to hit for shots close to the body, especially the dreaded dominant hip shot. When I reflex volley, more often than not it's a BH.

This alone isn't why you struggle with some volleys unless you are turning simple FH volleys into a very difficult BHs.

4. I don't watch the ball to my own racket.
Yeah, this one's huge; perhaps the most important in your list.

5. I get intimidated by big backswings and shriek like a small child.
So have your feeder feed progressively faster shots.

Also, your reaction time might be hampered by tension: the more tense you are and the tighter you grip your racquet, the slower you'll be able to react and move. Try deliberately easing the grip tension before the feed, to the point where you're only cradling the racquet with your dominant hand and doing most of the support with your non-dominant hand [don't transfer the tension to the non-dom hand!].
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
When I cheat to the BH, I can’t possibly get to the FH side. I cheat way too much.

What am I watching? Sometimes my shot. Sometimes the hitter’s partner. But watching is more than watching. I do much better if I see the ball as it enters my field of vision right to the hitters racket, including the racket face and swing path.
 
When I cheat to the BH, I can’t possibly get to the FH side. I cheat way too much.
Look at how far Andy Gerst "cheats"; this is not atypical.

The more advanced volleyers I know tend to shade towards their BH; the beginners are the ones with their racquet in a dead 50/50 position with the edge pointed at their opponent and their arms outstretched, even locked at the elbow. When I see my opponent in a ready position like this, I'm betting they will have problems volleying.


What am I watching? Sometimes my shot. Sometimes the hitter’s partner. But watching is more than watching. I do much better if I see the ball as it enters my field of vision right to the hitters racket, including the racket face and swing path.
I read someplace that direct vision is only about 5% of your total field so if you're not zooming in on the contact point, you're relying more on peripheral vision which is a lot less accurate.

Next time out, make it a point to keep your head [the one attached to your shoulders] still and your eyes on the contact point: the fact that your eyes can't actually see the 4ms contact is irrelevant. Keeping your head still will solve a lot of problems and cut down on the shanks as well as producing more volleys in the sweet spot.
 

Chalkdust

Rookie
I have a whole backpack full of problems and bad habits, but we managed to at least identify them:

1. I don't watch the ball coming off of my opponent's racket, so I am late with my split step and ball recognition.

2. I don't recover my racket to ready position after a volley, often leaving it dangling to my BH side.

3. I cheat toward my BH volley and sometimes take balls as BHs that really should be FHs.

4. I don't watch the ball to my own racket.

5. I get intimidated by big backswings and shriek like a small child.
Sounds like 99% of rec players. Other than the shrieking thing which is probably only 50%.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Look at how far Andy Gerst "cheats"; this is not atypical.

The more advanced volleyers I know tend to shade towards their BH; the beginners are the ones with their racquet in a dead 50/50 position with the edge pointed at their opponent and their arms outstretched, even locked at the elbow. When I see my opponent in a ready position like this, I'm betting they will have problems volleying.




I read someplace that direct vision is only about 5% of your total field so if you're not zooming in on the contact point, you're relying more on peripheral vision which is a lot less accurate.

Next time out, make it a point to keep your head [the one attached to your shoulders] still and your eyes on the contact point: the fact that your eyes can't actually see the 4ms contact is irrelevant. Keeping your head still will solve a lot of problems and cut down on the shanks as well as producing more volleys in the sweet spot.
Right. I cheat like the guy in the video. Look how much work he has to do to make a FH. I don’t have that kind of quickness. I will be late to the ball.
 
Right. I cheat like the guy in the video. Look how much work he has to do to make a FH. I don’t have that kind of quickness. I will be late to the ball.
Then you have to find a different balance point between how much you cheat to the BH [if at all] vs how many more in-close volleys you can handle. It's a tradeoff.
 
Right. I cheat like the guy in the video. Look how much work he has to do to make a FH. I don’t have that kind of quickness. I will be late to the ball.
What position does your coach recommend? Neutral [edge pointed towards opponent]? That's the most widely taught and easily understood.

My ready position is 30-45 degrees offset from center towards the BH.

Also, what about the vertical dimension? Do you have more problems with high volleys or low ones? Which ones are more frequent?

If you're having trouble with the low volleys and they occur significantly more often than the high ones, I have an unconventional suggestion: start with the racquet below the waist.

Yes, this contradicts standard theory but I have 2 good reasons:

- What volleys am I going to have the most difficult with? Reflex. Where are my opponents targeting when they get a sitter? My feet/shins is the most common. Therefore, by pure probability, without taking any tennis into account, the most logical place for the racquet is low.

- "What if they hit high instead?" It's easier to bring the racquet up to defend against a high ball than to drop the racquet to try and get under a low one: in the former case, the racquet angle naturally opens up as you raise the racquet. In the latter case, you have to actively open the racquet face or else you'll net/ground the volley.

I learned this from being a back row defensive specialist in VB: when a digger lines up to defend against a spike, his arms and hands are NOT up high; they are down low for precisely the reason I mentioned: much easier to raise one's arms than lower them. Pull up any high-level VB clips that focus on the digger.

Yes, this means you are vulnerable to the "facial disgracial" but that's life: you play the odds.
 

sovertennis

Professional
I went to my lesson today and asked my pro what he thought about this whole 8.0 idea. Given that he is disgusted with the lack of ambition that keeps me happy to be a 3.5, he thinks I should do it and will do fine with a 4.5 partner.

Anyway, I told him that I would consider it if we could figure out why I struggle to volley against pace, against balls hit right at me, and against topspin dippers to my feet. So we worked on this for one hour.

I have a whole backpack full of problems and bad habits, but we managed to at least identify them:

1. I don't watch the ball coming off of my opponent's racket, so I am late with my split step and ball recognition.

2. I don't recover my racket to ready position after a volley, often leaving it dangling to my BH side.

3. I cheat toward my BH volley and sometimes take balls as BHs that really should be FHs.

4. I don't watch the ball to my own racket.

5. I get intimidated by big backswings and shriek like a small child.

Of these, I made real progress on ball watching and recovering a ready position. Maybe there's hope.
This is the laundry list I bring to virtually every 3.5/4.0 clinic I coach, In identifying the issues, you've taken the first big step toward rectifying them.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
My pro recommends slightly bladed toward the BH side, which also happens to be the most comfortable for me. Also, I have one hand on the throat, so having the edge pointed forward would feel weird.

As for whether balls tend to come to me higher or lower, it depends on the gender and level. In mixed, they are more likely to be dipping and lower. In ladies 3.5, they are often at a more comfortable height, and they are often flat and

I'm trying to break the habit of letting my racket drift down as a point progresses. Then when the ball comes to me, I have extra work to do to get my racket in the right place.

The interesting thing about volleys is that you can get away with a lot at lower levels. The ball is not moving as quickly, has less spin, is often higher over the net. But the technique errors that slide by at that level become horrific at higher levels.

Anyway, the update is that the offer to join the 8.0 team has been withdrawn due to my dithering. That's OK. My partner would have been my partner from a few years ago. He's great, but let's just say that he found my play to be wanting (for good reason). Pairing up again would have been really stressful, and probably ineffective.
 
Anyway, the update is that the offer to join the 8.0 team has been withdrawn due to my dithering. That's OK. My partner would have been my partner from a few years ago. He's great, but let's just say that he found my play to be wanting (for good reason). Pairing up again would have been really stressful, and probably ineffective.
See? The problem resolved itself! Now go work on those volleys!
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
@Cindysphinx

Do you work on fitness?

You know, at some point you'll be maxed out with the techniques -- a good hint is you haven't progressed in years. Smart players would start to look into fitness and strategic plays like gamesmanship, pushing, exploiting opponent weaknesses outside of tennis.
 
I dunno.

If you think gamesmanship is illegal, don't do THAT one.

Do the one that's legal, morally ok, that benefits you. ;)

Think Nadal's constant slow prep btw points. Kyrgios' up and down, distracting outbursts. Hehe
It's not illegal. My point was, based on her many posts, she doesn't strike me as someone who would turn to gamesmanship as Plan B after technique improvements were limited.

I found it odd that it would be one of your primary suggestions.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
It's not illegal. My point was, based on her many posts, she doesn't strike me as someone who would turn to gamesmanship as Plan B after technique improvements were limited.

I found it odd that it would be one of your primary suggestions.
I was running out of ideas to suggest. ;)

At some pt, ple gonna max out their hitting abilities. Most impactful aspect i find is...player's mannerisms or style. hehe
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
@Cindysphinx

Do you work on fitness?

You know, at some point you'll be maxed out with the techniques -- a good hint is you haven't progressed in years. Smart players would start to look into fitness and strategic plays like gamesmanship, pushing, exploiting opponent weaknesses outside of tennis.
Well . . . Let's evaluate. I'm 58. I've done an outdoor fitness bootcamp for over 20 years. I've run three 10 mile races in that time (even though I detest running long races), and I decided not to train for another 10 mile and play 8.0 instead.

So I'm thinking fitness isn't the issue.

I chalk my current status of being 3.5 to aging, work hours, work travel, and zero desire to game the system to squeeze back up to 4.0.

I would like to play better in mixed, though.
 

Chalkdust

Rookie
I was running out of ideas to suggest. ;)

At some pt, ple gonna max out their hitting abilities. Most impactful aspect i find is...player's mannerisms or style. hehe
Most impactful aspect for most of us (once we have basic technique) is losing weight / increasing fitness / improving agility and flexibility.
But most of us are too lazy to really work on those aspects (myself included).
 
Most impactful aspect for most of us (once we have basic technique) is losing weight / increasing fitness / improving agility and flexibility.
But most of us are too lazy to really work on those aspects (myself included).
There's one thing I'd rank even above those: mental toughness. One can go a long way in tennis [and in life] by simply refusing to give up. Conversely, if one is mentally weak, all the gifts and talents and skills in the world won't help.

Will it always lead to the W? Of course not. But it can be a huge factor.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Well . . . Let's evaluate. I'm 58. I've done an outdoor fitness bootcamp for over 20 years. I've run three 10 mile races in that time (even though I detest running long races), and I decided not to train for another 10 mile and play 8.0 instead.

So I'm thinking fitness isn't the issue.

I chalk my current status of being 3.5 to aging, work hours, work travel, and zero desire to game the system to squeeze back up to 4.0.

I would like to play better in mixed, though.
Most impactful aspect for most of us (once we have basic technique) is losing weight / increasing fitness / improving agility and flexibility.
But most of us are too lazy to really work on those aspects (myself included).
See, I suspected that fitness wasn't Cindysphinx's issue, at least top issue or low hanging fruit. That's why I suggested finding other ways.

I don't know. It looks to me like 3.5 level has WAY TOO MANY holes begging to be exploited and it doesn't have to be tennis hitting skill related. Let's say, you see they can't attack virtually any dinky serves, so why bother to really hard to the point that you get too tired or DF a lot. Why not try to serve the ball in low and nicely placed? And, ready to tap away a sucky return by the opponent? Think strategic balls, everyday quickness as opposed to tennis quickness.

Looking at the Chris vs John match in the Tips section, I couldn't help but thought they were trying too hard with their effort. At that level, if they can just rehearse "hit - bounce - hit" to establish a better rhythm for themselves, it'll increase their speed to the ball 3 times! (as opposed to "see the ball, react/run to it" which is what it feels like) :)

There don't seem to be a lot of winning by pace at this 3.5 level. Points are won by UEs, awkward gettings. Whatever the stroke I possess, I would just try to relax and smoothly stroke the ball in. The ball, being paceless and (relatively) ease to redirect, is gonna be in 9 out of 10 times and well placed, and I'll preserve my energy well. :) This is just being handy and thoughtful.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
The 3Fs: fitness, focus, footwork, and spacing. Big enablers for everything else.
What you suggest is the traditional way.

Those 3 Fs gonna work for ALL rec levels. Not gonna be easy.


As I have written in my previous post, I am advocating simply being more thoughtful, aware, handy with your actions.

During my first year playing, I played with a middle aged man whose techniques were not something standing out and memorable to me. But somehow he made his game look very easy. After playing he commented this which I have remembered since: after some time everyone's technique will be just that, whatever you see, the biggest difference is how clear your mind is. I understood very well what he meant and it has served me well over the years.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Well, I had my first 8.0 mixed match of the season last night. Lost the first set in a tiebreak; won the second; won the match tiebreak.

And, um. It was an adventure.

First, I have to say that my 4.5 partner was wonderful. Before the match, I told him to tell me if he wanted me to do anything differently, and as you'll see below, he did.

Anyway, I had a lot of anxiety about my return of serve, as it feels like in mixed I can go through long stretches unable to get the guy's serve in play or get my return of the woman's serve past the guy at net. So I opened up my wallet and took two *very* expensive private lessons with my pro to work on one thing: chip/slicing the return and then sprinting to the net. By golly, it worked beautifully last night. I could get it deep, run in, and let my partner handle the next ball.

Now the bad news: I felt unsettled all night. I positioned close to the net near the alley, and the opponents floated the ball to me often. I don't know why, but I couldn't put those balls away and missed way too many. Eventually, my partner told me to let him get those pop-ups and lobs that probably would have landed on the service line. So embarrassing. Here I am, squatting down near my alley while my partner runs all the way across the court to smoke the ball. Ugh.

The real problem, however, was that I came nowhere close to holding my serve. I would serve, the opponents would blast the ball back to me at the baseline and follow it in. The guy would poach my next shot or I would miss it outright. Over and over and over. Even my attempts at S&V didn't work. We held my serve for two tiebreak points, but otherwise it was a hot mess.

Overall, I found it really hard to resist my ladies 3.5 instincts. For instance, I try to play the net aggressively in ladies play, and I often move around in the service box depending on what I think will happen. In mixed, I found myself falling off the net before catching myself and getting myself back up there. In fact, the thing that turned the match around is that my partner told me to let him have every ball he could reach and stay closer to the net. That led to a lot of second-guessing whether I should take a ball, which is not conducive to good play. And I need to find my courage to S&V against the opposing woman, at least.

Hopefully my nerves will be more settled next time. Assuming this partner will have me again.
 

kevrol

Hall of Fame
Nice to see that 6.0, 7.0 and 8.0 mixed are all the exact same when the female is the lower rated partner. Have her camp at the net near the alley and let the male partner do everything else. Male partner must hold serve everytime and you must break opposing females serve everytime.
 
Well, I had my first 8.0 mixed match of the season last night. Lost the first set in a tiebreak; won the second; won the match tiebreak.

And, um. It was an adventure.

First, I have to say that my 4.5 partner was wonderful. Before the match, I told him to tell me if he wanted me to do anything differently, and as you'll see below, he did.

Anyway, I had a lot of anxiety about my return of serve, as it feels like in mixed I can go through long stretches unable to get the guy's serve in play or get my return of the woman's serve past the guy at net. So I opened up my wallet and took two *very* expensive private lessons with my pro to work on one thing: chip/slicing the return and then sprinting to the net. By golly, it worked beautifully last night. I could get it deep, run in, and let my partner handle the next ball.
Was the opposing opponent Sing&Ving? If not, then blocking/lobbing deep is a pretty high % way of neutralizing the serve.

Also, it's interesting that, given you were having problems with returns, you chose to work on two things simultaneously [the return + coming in] rather than just one [the return]. I would think just doing one would be complicated enough. But good on 'ya for executing.

Now the bad news: I felt unsettled all night. I positioned close to the net near the alley, and the opponents floated the ball to me often. I don't know why, but I couldn't put those balls away and missed way too many. Eventually, my partner told me to let him get those pop-ups and lobs that probably would have landed on the service line. So embarrassing. Here I am, squatting down near my alley while my partner runs all the way across the court to smoke the ball. Ugh.
Were you trying to thread the needle between the BL and net person?

Did you try different strategies depending on which opponent was at net?

Did you try going straight at the net person [especially the weaker partner]?

The real problem, however, was that I came nowhere close to holding my serve. I would serve, the opponents would blast the ball back to me at the baseline and follow it in. The guy would poach my next shot or I would miss it outright. Over and over and over. Even my attempts at S&V didn't work. We held my serve for two tiebreak points, but otherwise it was a hot mess.
If they are blasting the return, they are either very good or your serve didn't have enough on it to trouble them. Probably not something you can fix in real-time.

What you can do is change formations: use Aussie and I to at least disrupt their rhythm [and hopefully not disrupt yours]. Maybe even try 2 back.

Overall, I found it really hard to resist my ladies 3.5 instincts. For instance, I try to play the net aggressively in ladies play, and I often move around in the service box depending on what I think will happen. In mixed, I found myself falling off the net before catching myself and getting myself back up there. In fact, the thing that turned the match around is that my partner told me to let him have every ball he could reach and stay closer to the net. That led to a lot of second-guessing whether I should take a ball, which is not conducive to good play. And I need to find my courage to S&V against the opposing woman, at least.

Hopefully my nerves will be more settled next time. Assuming this partner will have me again.
Probably the most important thing is to play loose: no matter how skilled you are and how well you know the game, if you're nervous you won't be able to execute very well.

Why were you unsettled? Was it your partner? The opponents? The situation? Issues outside of tennis?
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Learning to slice and come in isn't a big stretch for me. I come in off of most every return in ladies doubles, and I'll S&V when I have no choice (if there is to be a race to the net, I will S&V). Now, learning not to take a massive backswing and try to knock the cover off the ball was a challenge.

Yeah, the guy was S&V some, but my returns gave him enough trouble that he stopped. The real problem was his coming in against my serve.

I think I was unsettled because I haven't played 8.0 mixed as a 3.5 for nine years. And nine years ago I was younger, fitter, and stronger.

Well, it can only get better. And we did win . . .
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Well, I had my first 8.0 mixed match of the season last night. Lost the first set in a tiebreak; won the second; won the match tiebreak.

And, um. It was an adventure.

First, I have to say that my 4.5 partner was wonderful. Before the match, I told him to tell me if he wanted me to do anything differently, and as you'll see below, he did.

Anyway, I had a lot of anxiety about my return of serve, as it feels like in mixed I can go through long stretches unable to get the guy's serve in play or get my return of the woman's serve past the guy at net. So I opened up my wallet and took two *very* expensive private lessons with my pro to work on one thing: chip/slicing the return and then sprinting to the net. By golly, it worked beautifully last night. I could get it deep, run in, and let my partner handle the next ball.

Now the bad news: I felt unsettled all night. I positioned close to the net near the alley, and the opponents floated the ball to me often. I don't know why, but I couldn't put those balls away and missed way too many. Eventually, my partner told me to let him get those pop-ups and lobs that probably would have landed on the service line. So embarrassing. Here I am, squatting down near my alley while my partner runs all the way across the court to smoke the ball. Ugh.

The real problem, however, was that I came nowhere close to holding my serve. I would serve, the opponents would blast the ball back to me at the baseline and follow it in. The guy would poach my next shot or I would miss it outright. Over and over and over. Even my attempts at S&V didn't work. We held my serve for two tiebreak points, but otherwise it was a hot mess.

Overall, I found it really hard to resist my ladies 3.5 instincts. For instance, I try to play the net aggressively in ladies play, and I often move around in the service box depending on what I think will happen. In mixed, I found myself falling off the net before catching myself and getting myself back up there. In fact, the thing that turned the match around is that my partner told me to let him have every ball he could reach and stay closer to the net. That led to a lot of second-guessing whether I should take a ball, which is not conducive to good play. And I need to find my courage to S&V against the opposing woman, at least.

Hopefully my nerves will be more settled next time. Assuming this partner will have me again.
It sounds like you accomplished Step 1 for 8.0: you found a suitable partner.

When your opponents try to float balls over your head (lobs that will land near service line), those are definitely your partner’s balls.
But instead of squatting near the alley while your partner plays the overhead behind you, you should be dashing across to the center strap to be ready to clean up the potential weak reply. Of course you should tell your partner you are going to do that ahead of time. Also, I’d suggest that you don’t need to alley-hug. Hugging the net is important, but you can make yourself more useful by taking a step toward the middle, where you have a chance to poach soft balls over the middle when opponents try to finesse balls to your partner’s feet rather than the alternative of going over your head or trying to blast at you.

For holding your serve, my most successful base formation in 8.0 is to have me (strong 4.5 net person) start in squat a yard from centerline on same side of center as returner. You (server) start near center hash, with responsibility to cross and cover down-the-line alley return. With your partner nearly in the middle of the available return angles, it would take either a perfect sharp-angle crosscourt return to pass him (which doesn’t ever happen in rec tennis), or a perfect thread-the-needle return down-the-line into the alley, which your opponents are likely to miss wide or miss where your partner can reach, and you still have a chance to win the point even if the down-the-line pass is executed.
This formation will get your partner more involved in your service games, and put more return pressure on your opponents. Especially when the opposing female is returning your serve, you should not have to play many balls after you serve it up, even if your serve is soft.
 
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Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I'll try that formation. He said he wasn't happy with how he played the net.

I had no idea about the overheads. I had no idea that anyone could be that fast.
 
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