What to do during friendly matches against inferior players to improve my own game?

Pitti

Rookie
Hi. I signed up for an amateur league at one of the local clubs. Rules state that everybody starts on the lower of the 6 or 7 tiers and promotes up to twice a year. Only exception is the winner of the club tournament, which is immediately promoted to the 1st tier league. From what I've played in the club, both friendly and competition matches, I've lost adjusted matches against 2nd tier players (6/4 6/4) and won all matches against 3rd tier ones. 1st tier players have easily crushed me, so over time I think I'll end up somewhere between 3rd and 2nd tier.

I'm currently playing on the 5th tier, and most players there are under my level. I never refuse playing a match if I can, so I play friendly matches with everyone. Obviously, most of the matches I play are against those 6th or 5th tier players I've been knowing through the last year. Some of them are not that bad and have good technique and strong serves, but they make tons of unforced errors. With those I must play a normal match, focusing on my habitual game.

But with other players, the difference of level is really obvious. They're the kind of players who will hit a very soft flat 2nd serve that I can attack almost from the service line. On friendly matches, instead of finishing them on each short ball, I try to play longer points and let them commit a mistake so that we both can have some fun.

How could I use those matches to improve my own game? Some days I start drop-shotting them for a while. Some other days I play a random full serve&volley game during a set. But I need some ideas that will help me improve some aspect of my game while maintaining some general fun instead of bagelling them.
 
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What is your preferred play style? I'm barely a 4.5 player but I run into a lot of 3.0/3.5s in the 1st/2nd rounds of casual tournaments in my area. I enjoy mixing up my game against similar level players with slice/drop shot/serve and volley but I struggle in ABC baseline to baseline rallies against 4.5-5.0 players so I focus on primarily playing high % baseline tennis against much weaker players.
 

Pitti

Rookie
What is your preferred play style? I'm barely a 4.5 player but I run into a lot of 3.0/3.5s in the 1st/2nd rounds of casual tournaments in my area. I enjoy mixing up my game against similar level players with slice/drop shot/serve and volley but I struggle in ABC baseline to baseline rallies against 4.5-5.0 players so I focus on primarily playing high % baseline tennis against much weaker players.
I like to play attacking tennis, dominating with my drive, usually slicing my backhand and waiting for a short ball to come to the net. I tend to lose patience when the short ball doesn’t arrive!

I have no idea what level I am. We don’t use that rating in my country. In fact I’ve only read about it here!
 
I like to play attacking tennis, dominating with my drive, usually slicing my backhand and waiting for a short ball to come to the net. I tend to lose patience when the short ball doesn’t arrive!

I have no idea what level I am. We don’t use that rating in my country. In fact I’ve only read about it here!
My suggestion would be that if your backhand is a weakness against stronger players you might want to consider hitting more topspin backhands against weaker players to get more reps. This might also give you another attacking weapon to complement your topspin forehand and slice backhand
 

Pitti

Rookie
My suggestion would be that if your backhand is a weakness against stronger players you might want to consider hitting more topspin backhands against weaker players to get more reps. This might also give you another attacking weapon to complement your topspin forehand and slice backhand
Great idea! Tomorrow I’ll play one of those matches. I will “forbid” myself hitting slice backhands. Thank you!
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Hi. I signed up for an amateur league at one of the local clubs. Rules state that everybody starts on the lower of the 6 or 7 tiers and promotes up to twice a year. Only exception is the winner of the club tournament, which is immediately promoted to the 1st tier league. From what I've played in the club, both friendly and competition matches, I've lost adjusted matches against 2nd tier players (6/4 6/4) and won all matches against 3rd tier ones. 1st tier players have easily crushed me, so over time I think I'll end up somewhere between 3rd and 2nd tier.

I'm currently playing on the 5th tier, and most players there are under my level. I never refuse playing a match if I can, so I play friendly matches with everyone. Obviously, most of the matches I play are against those 6th or 5th tier players I've been knowing through the last year. Some of them are not that bad and have good technique and strong serves, but they make tons of unforced errors. With those I must play a normal match, focusing on my habitual game.

But with other players, the difference of level is really obvious. They're the kind of players who will hit a very soft flat 2nd serve that I can attack almost from the service line. On friendly matches, instead of finishing them on each short ball, I try to play longer points and let them commit a mistake so that we both can have some fun.

How could I use those matches to improve my own game? Some days I start drop-shotting them for a while. Some other days I play a random full serve&volley game during a set. But I need some ideas that will help me improve some aspect of my game while maintaining some general fun instead of bagelling them.
Work on things that you can't/won't work on against a peer:
- hit super deep
- hit super wide
- hit moonballs
- don't hit winners [unless absolutely necessary]
- hit short and let them attack so you have to defend
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Unless it is a league match or something that counts, no matter the opponent level (for the most part) I am always working on something during matches to either improve, or see how it affects that overall play. Last match I just posted I worked on my chip ROS, trying different placement and depths, including doing that Santoro dropshot ROS challenge. I also was trying to work on the wide Ad side serve and kick. Now if I am playing a higher level player I do try to be more consistent and get into points to give them something to work with too, but I often do that with "lower level" players to help them improve too.

A perfect example was when I used to play a lot of the drop-in doubles, where you would have a huge range of players in skill and ages, so 3.0 to maybe high 4.0, and 30 somethings to 65+ players. I always worked on being consistent with accuracy in every ball I got, which at times was more focus and a mental challenge as the ball lobbed and pushed slowly around.
 
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WhiteOut

Semi-Pro
Hi. I signed up for an amateur league at one of the local clubs. Rules state that everybody starts on the lower of the 6 or 7 tiers and promotes up to twice a year. Only exception is the winner of the club tournament, which is immediately promoted to the 1st tier league. From what I've played in the club, both friendly and competition matches, I've lost adjusted matches against 2nd tier players (6/4 6/4) and won all matches against 3rd tier ones. 1st tier players have easily crushed me, so over time I think I'll end up somewhere between 3rd and 2nd tier.

I'm currently playing on the 5th tier, and most players there are under my level. I never refuse playing a match if I can, so I play friendly matches with everyone. Obviously, most of the matches I play are against those 6th or 5th tier players I've been knowing through the last year. Some of them are not that bad and have good technique and strong serves, but they make tons of unforced errors. With those I must play a normal match, focusing on my habitual game.

But with other players, the difference of level is really obvious. They're the kind of players who will hit a very soft flat 2nd serve that I can attack almost from the service line. On friendly matches, instead of finishing them on each short ball, I try to play longer points and let them commit a mistake so that we both can have some fun.

How could I use those matches to improve my own game? Some days I start drop-shotting them for a while. Some other days I play a random full serve&volley game during a set. But I need some ideas that will help me improve some aspect of my game while maintaining some general fun instead of bagelling them.
wish i had this problem...HA!
you can always place restrictions on yourself. for example you must hit a certain shot x number times before hitting the winner. i used to coach soccer. quite often our team completely outclassed the other team, and it would get ugly quick -- not fun for anyone. so once it was clear the match was in-hand, i would impose restrictions. for example, you must complete x number passes before taking a shot, you must only shoot on goal from outside the penalty box, or work on a certain play -- once executed only then may you shoot on goal...stuff like that.

it not only kept us from running up the score, but it also worked as a practice tool to focus on possession, ball control, spacing, etc.

perhaps try to come up with similar concepts that translate to tennis...so you dont drive across town to be finished in 25 mins...no fun for you or your opponent.
 

Pitti

Rookie
@ChaelAZ Thank you for sharing your tips!

@WhiteOut When I was a kid, before I tried tennis I was in my elementary school soccer team. We were the worst among the worst, and we received somewhere between 7 and 25 goals on each match. We only won a match in two seasons because the other team didn't come to play against us. Our poor coach didn't know how to teach us basic stuff. It was so boring that I ended up hating it for a couple of years (which made me try tennis and never look back again!). That being said, I once scored a goal, which was my proudest achievement on that sport. It can only be considered a miracle! :)

Same happens with tennis. It's not fun to play tennis when there's a huge difference in level and the better player finishes each point in a couple of shots. I've been playing one of those guys I said, and he's improved quite a bit since the first time he played me, because I try to make him run while playing a longer point, to vary the kind of shots I play, to vary my strategy each day, etc. I'll try to think of some restrictions like the ones you mentioned for soccer.
 

Pitti

Rookie
I had no idea “Cutthroat” was a thing, but it’s worth exploring! I played some matches just getting one serve, while the worse player still kept both serves, which made things more interesting.
 

mmk

Hall of Fame
I had no idea “Cutthroat” was a thing, but it’s worth exploring! I played some matches just getting one serve, while the worse player still kept both serves, which made things more interesting.
You could also offer to start each game down 0-30.
 

Ronaldo

Bionic Poster
I had no idea “Cutthroat” was a thing, but it’s worth exploring! I played some matches just getting one serve, while the worse player still kept both serves, which made things more interesting.
Cutthroat is an old racquetball term for playing with three players.. At least that's what we called it.
 

Slicerman

Semi-Pro
Sometimes if I play a lower level player and I already have a comfortable lead, then I might use the opportunity to practice serve & volley.
 

Ronaldo

Bionic Poster
Sometimes we would play doubles racquetball: we spent more time laughing and trying to avoid getting hit than actually playing.
Recall getting clipped in the ear with a wooden paddle. Used to play with a needled-out ball. Did not realize the ear was partially detached.
 

vandre

Hall of Fame
just a couple of suggestions...
1. hit only second serves/hone your second serve into a ruthlessly reliable component of your game
2. play a different style; if you're a baseliner, come to net and work on your volleys and vice versa
3. work on your transition game
4. practice changing the direction/ spin of the ball
 

nyta2

Professional
Hi. I signed up for an amateur league at one of the local clubs. Rules state that everybody starts on the lower of the 6 or 7 tiers and promotes up to twice a year. Only exception is the winner of the club tournament, which is immediately promoted to the 1st tier league. From what I've played in the club, both friendly and competition matches, I've lost adjusted matches against 2nd tier players (6/4 6/4) and won all matches against 3rd tier ones. 1st tier players have easily crushed me, so over time I think I'll end up somewhere between 3rd and 2nd tier.

I'm currently playing on the 5th tier, and most players there are under my level. I never refuse playing a match if I can, so I play friendly matches with everyone. Obviously, most of the matches I play are against those 6th or 5th tier players I've been knowing through the last year. Some of them are not that bad and have good technique and strong serves, but they make tons of unforced errors. With those I must play a normal match, focusing on my habitual game.

But with other players, the difference of level is really obvious. They're the kind of players who will hit a very soft flat 2nd serve that I can attack almost from the service line. On friendly matches, instead of finishing them on each short ball, I try to play longer points and let them commit a mistake so that we both can have some fun.

How could I use those matches to improve my own game? Some days I start drop-shotting them for a while. Some other days I play a random full serve&volley game during a set. But I need some ideas that will help me improve some aspect of my game while maintaining some general fun instead of bagelling them.
i've been in your situation... what i did..
just beat them quick. if i'm a 4.5 playnig a 3.5, i'd finish them pretty quick in say 30-40min after warmup
then i'd offer to play a 3rd or even 4th set and try differnet tactics:
* alwasy hit to their strength (eg. fh?), or just down the middle
* run around my strength and hit my weaker shot (eg. bh, bh slice, fh slice, lob, etc...)
* s&v, c&c
* dink, lob
etc...
 

Ronaldo

Bionic Poster
i've been in your situation... what i did..
just beat them quick. if i'm a 4.5 playnig a 3.5, i'd finish them pretty quick in say 30-40min after warmup
then i'd offer to play a 3rd or even 4th set and try differnet tactics:
* alwasy hit to their strength (eg. fh?), or just down the middle
* run around my strength and hit my weaker shot (eg. bh, bh slice, fh slice, lob, etc...)
* s&v, c&c
* dink, lob
etc...
Opposite of combo league dubs. Quick crucifixion
 

WYK

Hall of Fame
I play social tennis often in summer since the club owners are friends and invite me to mixed doubles often. I just practice getting as much jump as possible on my second serves with as little velocity as possible just to find my limits, drop shots from the baseline, try to get slices and chips as close to the net as possible, backhand lobs, trick shots that might actually come in handy like tweeners and scooping, and try to see how much topspin I can get on my 1HBH before I frame too many, etc. Take it easy and get the blood flowing a bit without being an a-hole - which is easy because this sort of behaviour gets me plenty of unforced errors.
 

ichaseballs

Semi-Pro
got the idea from watching agassi's udemy class... a drill for improving 2nd serves

play the match with only one serve. (if you miss it, you lose that point)
 

socallefty

Legend
I just try to play my best irrespective of whoever I play. I don‘t want to get out of the habit of playing hard and trying my best on every single point. It takes a lot of practice to keep my mental focus throughout a match at high intensity all the time and I don‘t ever want to stop practicing it just because I ran into a weaker opponent.

I handed out 35 double bagels in the last decade, but this is only 3% of my total singles matches and most of them happen because my opponents start tanking after being bagelled in the first set. It is hard to feel sorry for a guy who is tanking.
 

Pitti

Rookie
Lots of good suggestions here! Thank you! I played two matches this weekend. One against a guy who is slightly better than me, who has good technique and a well placed, strong serve. I lost 6/2 6/3 in a fun match in which I made a few inconvenient double faults that ended up costing me the match. On next day I played against one of those worse players, and I did it focusing on my footwork, hitting most of my shots to the center, and serving only 2nd serves, specially kick serves, so that I can get it to work better during matches like the first one.
 
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