tips for an old guy starting up again

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by danno123, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. danno123

    danno123 Rookie

    Sep 20, 2010
    Hi guys. I used to play tennis on my high school tennis team 30 years ago. I was recently teaching the game to my kids and remembered how much fun it was. Over the past month, I've hit 10 hours on a ball machine and taken two lessons. Then I joined my local 4.0 league. (Before you all jump on me for playing in too high a league, one of the two lessons I took was a league evaluation and that's the league the pro recommended I play in).

    I tend to hit hard and flat with both my forehand and one-handed backhand. I can hit moderate topspin when I really try but I don't have a modern "windshield wiper" stroke in my arsenal. I'm 6'1", 180 lbs and in fairly good shape but during my lessons, I noticed that my footwork and strokes break down when I get winded - something I'm going to have to work on. I hit with a 1983 Wilson Sting midsize. I tried to demo a newer racket but wound up hitting too many balls long and decided to keep using the Sting.

    I'm supposed to play my first match this weekend and need some quick tips and some constructive criticism of my strategy.

    My strategy for the first match:
    (1) spin serves only. My flat first serve isn't reliable enough yet, so I plan on hitting slice and kick serves. Primarily slice to the deuce court and kick to the ad court but I'll mix it up a little.
    (2) hit 3/4 pace shots deep. Now that I'm older, I realize that one of my primary faults when I used to play tennis competitively was that I'd rather hit the ball hard than win.
    (3) wardlaw directionals (found them on this site. Why didn't anyone tell me about this stuff 30 years ago?)
    (4) if my opponent is more consistent than I am (which is likely given the fact I haven't played much), chip the short ball down the line, rush the net, split step, and see what happens.
    (5) have fun (after all, that's what it's all about).

    Do you guys have any tips for a guy coming back after a long break?
  2. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

    Aug 23, 2006
    reads like you're on the right track. might add make sure to have comfy shoes and maybe insoles if your feet/knees start to ache. have fun and know you're in good company (older guy too who started back after a lengthy layoff).
  3. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

    Jul 13, 2004
    Well, if you haven't played much in 30 years, I'd get some help from a qualified pro. The racquets and strings have changed quite a bit and the approach to hitting/playing certain shots has changed considerably during that time.
  4. HugoBossDB

    HugoBossDB Guest

    You'd be my absolute hero if you stepped out on the court like this


    It sounds like you've got a good game plan really. Sensible. Besides getting your stroke back I would really emphasis fitness and proper warmup, cooldown.

    At your age (without playing in so long) it's critical because your risk of injury is so much higher. Now, I'm kinda assuming, you could be one of those "I'm 50 and in the best shape of my life Tony Horton" kinda guys. But none the less, injury prevention is key after 30. Invest time in the gym and keep it loose.

    Also, I think footwork is generally the first thing you lose so make sure you're getting in position. One of the worst things you can do if you haven't played is hit constantly out of position, it's a recipe for tennis elbow.
  5. jswinf

    jswinf Professional

    Sep 30, 2009
    I like your plan. Be careful of overdoing it and getting hurt and/or burned out as per your #5, have fun. Probably time for new strings in your old racket, don't let anybody talk you into poly, maybe a nice synthetic gut for now.
  6. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

    Sep 2, 2009
    True things have changed a lot in the last 30 years, but the way you won points 30 years ago will still win you points today. Though the mindset of how the game is played has changed due to equipment, it does not mean you can not still be effective with an old style type of tennis game.

    The OP post is going into it with the right mindset... but I would not limit myself to only slice and kick serves. Whether your flat serve is fully reliable or not you need to throw in the odd one to make your opponent respect the fact that you might hit one. The same would hold true for your ground strokes, it is great to show that you can be consistent, but you need to give your opponent a fear of god with your game as well. Just be selective about when you hit those big shots.

    But the OP's last strategy point is the most important of all; none of us put food on the table or a roof over our head from winning tennis matches, so just have fun!
  7. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

    Jul 13, 2004
    Yes, I agree. My major concern was not so much in winning points but the injury factor along with the different stroke mechanics. I encounter a lot of these folks who "want to get back into the game" which is absolutely terrific. However, although I agree with you on the construction of a point, the ball is moving a lot faster and you have less reaction time. Unless a player recognizes/realizes these changes and the fact that their own body "probably" doesn't react the same way it did 30 years ago, they too often end up injured.
  8. athiker

    athiker Hall of Fame

    Dec 2, 2009
    When I started playing again after years of not playing it seemed like for a while there I had nagging injuries every other time out. I would be playing along fine and then boom...groin strain, calf strain, etc...fortunately nothing really serious...and rest was all I needed to recover. I did have a bout of pretty serious tennis elbow though that required more effort to cure.

    Anyway, I was in decent shape too going in, but tennis puts a lot of stopping and cutting stress on muscles and tendons that other exercise may it will take a while to "harden" your body into tennis shape. Its been a few years now and I almost never have muscle strains anymore. So just be a little careful on the sharp cuts and fast starts for a while if you can. More than that, limit yourself in the time on the court of any one session for a while. Invariability I would be out there having fun and not wanting to leave after most everyone else had gone and that's when the injuries would happen. Good luck.
  9. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

    Aug 23, 2006
    the OP's post indicates that they already have spent time on the court and with a teaching pro. not every player needs to possess the "modern" game to prevent injury.
  10. aceX

    aceX Hall of Fame

    May 14, 2010
    FTL Head Office
    I think the quote is a good approach, and it sounds like you've got the hitting lots of balls down with your ball machine practice and with respect to physical condition you say you're in good shape.

    Here are more ideas.

    Hit thousands of balls
    - ball machine
    - wall
    - games with random people
    - games with the kids
    - matches

    Best shape of your life
    - daily cardio
    - running
    - cycling
    - parenting (!)
    - any of the hitting thousands of balls things

    Hit thousands of balls and get into the best shape of your life. Oh, and have fun!
  11. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

    Jul 13, 2004
    Yes, I realize that. However, I think many of the aspects of the "modern" game are less taxing on the body especially when you factor in the technical aspects/changes of racquets and strings. The thing I find is that "older" players, who learned the game years ago, depend on the arm way too much. Tennis elbow and wrist problems are common ailments that I hear about often.

    Former accomplished players have little problems with quickly learning/adopting the newer strokes - assuming they want to.

    Playing this game today without employing topspin, as an example, can be difficult. So, again IMO, its much easier to modify the grip, stance and swing path to hit better topspin. Doesn't mean to imply that one can't hit topspin using more "classical" means.

    There are players who seem to do nicely with strokes that were popular years ago - I don't have any problem with that. I just have a problem with players using strokes/grips that are more injury prone.
  12. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

    Jun 10, 2010
    HS 30 years ago! Hell, you're just a kid!

    OK, here we go. Tennis is a percentage game. Players who play the high percentage game with discipline and determination win matches. Here are the basics:

    1. Groundstrokes cross court. Be prepared to hit CC all day. Hitting down the line from the baseline is a tactical error. If he hits 20 CC backhands in a row, you hit 21. Make him deviate first, and when he hits DTL, you keep hitting CC. He'll be doing all the running. If he can go against directionals and hit a winner, smile and know you've got him playing low percentage tennis. He'll hit many more errors than winners doing that. (Notice that directionals pretty much amount to - if your opponent hits CC with decent pace on the ball, don't try to hit it DTL. You shouldn't do that anyway, but, the reason is that the ball wants to ricochet off your racquet and continue in the direction it came from, causing a DTL attempt to go wide. Just hit it back CC).

    2. Approach shots DTL. CC approach shots are a tactical error, unless it's a high sitter and you're going for a CC winner. Then it's not really an approach shot, is it.

    3. Passing shots CC unless you're in front of the baseline, then DTL. When in doubt, lob.

    4. High arching kicker on first and second serve. You can go for a flat or slice change-up 2-3 times per set, max, to keep him guessing.

    5. Discipline in executing your high percentage game plan is everything. If you have a mental lapse, no worries. Get back to basics ASAP.

    Good luck! Have fun! And if your opponent starts hitting DTL from the backcourt, smile because you know he doesn't know what he's doing.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2010
  13. OldButGame

    OldButGame Hall of Fame

    Apr 23, 2010
    To the Court,At The Court,Going home from Court
    Something else i would suggest (yes,..another 'old Guy here'...*sigh),...would be to research and know areas of susceptibility ahead of time,...BEFORE You have problems with them, You do the 'preventative' measures,.....for things like rotator cuff issues, elbow,...and knee issues,.....and how to deal with them if they DO begin to rear their heads. Being older,...we have to be wiser, and beat these things to the punch !!!!![​IMG][​IMG]
  14. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Jun 2, 2006
    The Great NW

    Your stated strategy seems very reasonable.

    I would seriously consider getting a more modern racquet, though I would stick with gut (not poly, as many have stated) on the strings.

    If you are already a 4.0, I would definitely not switch to a modern stroke set. I would stick with what you have. It sounds like you are pretty comfortable at the net, which would make sense. If so a lot of where to go from here would depend on who you routine play against. If it is mostly others in your (our) age group, then your classic game is likely to hold up well. If you play against a lot of folks with a modern game, you could be in for a world of hurt if you stay at the baseline and try to outduel them from there with classic, not recently honed, strokes. You will need a Plan B in that case. S&V or C&C are options there. Playing doubles would be another option.

    Good luck and have fun!
  15. danno123

    danno123 Rookie

    Sep 20, 2010
    Well, I had my first match tonight and won 8-7 in a tie-breaker. The guy I was playing was very good and played the type of game I used to play - hard, fairly flat (although he had more topspin than me) and ripping winners at every opportunity. But he made a lot of unforced errors, too. (So did I). I didn't double fault once because I only hit my flat first serve 4 times (and only got it in twice) and hit topspin second serves. I got some free points when I stretched him out wide with my slice serve but mostly I tried to hit safe serves towards his backhand side. I really need to get my serve consistent so I can serve a first serve and a second serve rather than two second serves. I broke him twice and he broke me twice. If my serve was actually working, he might have only broken me once.
    I also need to work on my backhand service return. I basically blocked every backhand return cross-court. I tried to swing out on a couple and they sailed long so I went back to blocking.
    I'm happy because the guy I was playing has been in this 4.0 league for years and it looks like I fit in at that level.
  16. kiteboard

    kiteboard Legend

    Jun 18, 2009
    tactical play: Use a lot of no pace or med. shots, something you don't do in the old days, to lull his body to sleep. Then use a jamming shot: one that changes speed radically after the bounce, such as a hard or slow slice, a no pace type of stopping drop, a hard super topspin shot that bounces very high to the bh side, a flat ball that skids low. Then once you get a weak reply, finish off to a corner or a line with a flat shot. Lull:jam:finish Make your returns and first serves. Make the volleys. Look for the lob. Follow the ball and cover the dtl pass first. I weigh 220lbs, and beat a lot of fitter guys, blazing fast guys, with this routine.

    Master the use of med. shots, no risk shots as well as the riskier jamming shots. Lull:jam:finish The sequence may take sev. shots in each bracket.

    Lull shots: your body must be totally relaxed, not trying to win the pt outright, as if you are rallying just to keep the ball med depth/speed/spin and pace, without making any errors!

    Jam shots: Totally different feel in your body. You ramp up, hit extreme topspin shots, deep loopers, short slices, back spin drop, driven flat balls: You have to pick the ball to do this on. Must be the type of ball you can hit this way without too many errors, yet still stay relaxed when hitting these, is the trick...

    Finish: On the weak reply, elicited by the lull/jammers, you ramp up your body to full attack mode, and clock the shot flat into a corner or a line area.. Don't miss this shot. It's why you have hit 15 lull shots and two jam shots!

    In the lull:jam:finish routine, the way the body feels hitting each type of shot is different. The energy you use to hit most of the shots:lull energy, is like the energy you use to rally with in the warm up, that is, it's not trying to win the point outright, just keeping the ball in play and medium paced, medium depth, in a no error mode, designed to put the opp. body clock on one speed: sleep mode speed. Some use the lull type shot on their serves as well.... Even the pros use this mode (in a pro pace vs a normal pace) for most of their shots. Two of every three pro shots on average, are lull type shots. Maybe they hit 6 in a row. Maybe they hit 3 jammer types in a row, or a couple of finishing shots to take the point, but the average is the same. Take a pen and pad, and note how many shots are lull (rallies), jam, and finish. Most shots are lull, even more so on a slow surface.... Players using lulls look as if they aren't trying to win, and they are not! They look relaxed and they are. The transistion from lull to jam is nec. to make the next level...
    When switching/transitioning to jam shot mode, the energy inside the body is entirely different. This mode requires an intense delivery of spin or pace, to either slow the ball down drastically (joker drops or fed short angled slices to two handers) or speed it up drastically (super top groundies ala Nadal to the bh side which bounce very high) after the bounce (Fed or any pro flat groundie to a corner or a line, or a drastic angle which causes a lot of running like a hard driven slice cc.) The jam shots literally feel like someone has driven a stake into our body so it is not smooth anymore, and jars us into hitting a weak reply or an error, and jams our internal body clock rhythm...... The danger is not transitioning well and missing the jam due to the diff body energy required to hit it. Far more pace, spin, and stick speed, touch required, and still done in a relaxed way!

    Some of us are vul. to a lull shot in this regard (Safin, other russian men who hit flat and kill most shots). The lull:jam transistion is a dangerous one and very difficult to learn. It's as hard to learn as the net attack transition game. We go from not trying to win the point outright, to a very diff. type of shot with extremity tied to it.

    The finish shot is just as hard to learn as the jam shots are. We have elicited the weak shot, short in the box, and now we have to move in quickly for a better angle and a higher ball, and hit flat to a corner or a line or an angle for the finish. Very different energy and some are vul. to jamming their selves when they move to finish mode, and frame the ball way too often, even on easy shots we have worked so hard to elicit.....
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2010

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