Why the 3.0 level is the “Island of misfit toys”.

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by TimeToPlaySets, Sep 15, 2012.

  1. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    FunkyMonkey says:
    I played doubles last night. Worthy of a short post-mortem.

    It was a textbook 3.0 level “Island of misfit toys”.

    Everyone had some sort of killer shot potential, but it was offset by huge unforced error rate and often a gaping Achilles' ...hole ...in their games. (incomplete game)
    Recall the brilliant “Major League” (1989).
    One guy crushes fastballs out of the park. But, he whiffs on a change up.
    One guy can steal bases like the wind, but can only hit pop flys.
    One guy can pitch 100mph fastballs, but has zero control.

    It’s up to you to find that glaring undeveloped aspect of their game.
    Last night, one guy could not toss the ball right. 50% of serves had a re-toss. But, then you’d frame the few serves that actually went in.
    Most guys trying to KILL the serve. (Result = only 20% go in, but when it does goes in, guaranteed service winner)
    Wild 2nd serves almost hitting the baseline. TONS of double faults. (Tennis: “You’re only as good as your 2nd serve”)
    Like in golf, this fleeting glimmer of perfection is what keeps them doing the same "Plan A" over and over.
    One guy had the wackiest serve I have ever seen. Remember the trick shot where you put so much slice on the ball that you can make it bounce back to your side of the net? One guy was serving like that.
    I think I started laughing. First serve % was like 20%. Sometimes, the ball would not even reach HIS side of the net. It was comical. Yet, when it went in, it was impossible to return.

    This all is a great metaphor for the human condition. People anchor on the remote outlier possibility (homerun), not what is most likely (strikeout). Lottery ticket mentality vs. Gov’t worker mentality? Tortoise vs. Hare?
    If you do not embrace and respect basic probability, or you will lose 19 out of 20 matches (and the 20th is merely Taleb’s randomness, not skill)
    This is why golf and tennis are thinking mens’ games. The impulsive always lose, over the long haul.

    Mindful of the above, I’ve made big steps forward in the last few weeks.
    In contrast, my serves were kept at 75% pace, and therefore, were mostly going in.
    With merely that pace, and inherent lefty spin, I had plenty of service winners, and even had an ace or two every set.
    I really held back on the groundstrokes until the ball was in the sweet spot = Lower unforced errors.
    Otherwise, slice or block back. Just wait to hit the winner. But, that “pusher” mindset won lots of unforced points anyway.

    3.0 is fun. No one is a beginner, and people can hit hard, but it’s a circus of randomness. Anyone can get hot or cold. Pro caliber shots buttressed by tragic miscues.
    By 3.5, I think skills and games start to become more stable, homogenized, and complete. I will be there soon.
    Harking back to Tolstoy’s opening line in Anna Karenina, “Happy 4.0’s are all alike, but mediocre 3.0s are all mediocre in their own way” Ha.

    In conclusion, FunkyMonkey's quote above is spot on 100%.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
    heftylefty, SoCalJay, Gazelle and 2 others like this.
  2. rabidranger

    rabidranger Rookie

    Sep 28, 2009
    St. Louis, MO USA
    What a great post. Describes my experience almost completely.
  3. dizzlmcwizzl

    dizzlmcwizzl Hall of Fame

    Mar 24, 2010
    I am going to have to stop posting if we are gonna start using Tolstoy quotes and correct grammar.

    But in any event, nice post and if these "secrets" got out the 3.0 ranks would disappear.
    MathGeek likes this.
  4. NTRPolice

    NTRPolice Hall of Fame

    Aug 11, 2012
    The "get it back" strategy starts to become ineffective at strong 4.0 level. At that level, you're required to go on offense and make plays especially on your serve. At 3.5 and low 4.0 you can just play defense and wait till someone makes a mistake or feeds a ball.

    Rally speeds also play a big factor to level as you can beat a 3.0 with high pace and poor placement whereas a 4.0 would need decent pace to beat an easy poach as well as good accuracy.

    Also, pointless errors regardless of level is never a winning strategy.

    I define a pointless error as an error on a "rally" ball or an error on trying to hit a winner that didnt have a realistic possibility of going in. An error on a realistic chance of a hitting a winner is a good error.

    What you say about the serves are true too. While most scrubs build their ridiculous first serve first (and then tap it over on thier second; common in 3.0 and even some 3.5), any decent player will build a strong second serve and use it twice.
    nytennisaddict likes this.
  5. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    Yes, I played a 4.0 and he wins almost any point that I hit to mid court. Very tight net game. The most glaring feature? He hits at 50% when he angles the ball away. The 3.0 will try to crush/slam the net balls (and hit it out or into the net)

    any decent player will build a strong second serve and use it twice.

    Yes!!! That's sort of exactly what I am doing at 3.0
    I am hitting my first serve slower, and my 2nd serve harder.
    Their pacing is starting to converge (compared to the typical "CRUSH the 1st serve, PLINK the 2nd serve")
    And I am winning tons more service games this way.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  6. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

    Jun 15, 2007
    I'm gonna' play around with this today in my club dubs. I'm gonna' hit my second topper for firsts and spin a medium speed first in for a second. A big first often back fires in dubs because it doesn't give the server enough time to get towards the net and get set (split step) to volley. The receiver often blocks/shanks it back for a short dribbling winner.
  7. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    I am going to try this as well. The other side of the coin is that if the serve is TOO slow, then the opponent might smash it back. No good if you've made it to the net. I guess one key is to hit the slow dribbler to their backhand. Putting away their return from net will get very frustrating for them, in light of the weak serving working so well (as they double fault all their booming serves)
  8. fightfan

    fightfan New User

    Dec 16, 2008
    Bay Area, CA
    Haha, awesome post and so very true. Most serious players realize that consistency is the name of the game up to 4.0, but heck, a lot of players will find that defensive strategy too boring to be fun. I don't mind players who play either way. What kind of gets on my nerve though are the bashers who claim that pushers don't play "good" tennis even though they win. That entire argument could even be reversed, pushers saying bashers don't play good tennis because they don't keep balls in play and try to win. However, you almost never hear that argument. :)
  9. OrangePower

    OrangePower Legend

    Sep 7, 2007
    NorCal Bay Area
    ^^^^^ Not just up to 4.0; I know several 4.5 players that win primarily through consistency, not having any major weaknesses, and smart play. They don't have 'weapons' per se, but still can get good results depending on the matchups.
  10. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    Just to clarify, I am not espousing playing like a boring pusher. I get that. I am really just harping on being more consistent. Trust me, I hit plenty of hard winners, slams at the net, aces, etc. I ALSO reduced my unforced errors as well.

    No one one that court walked off saying I was some wimp. I probably hit harder than all of them (except the serve, but my first serve % blew everyone's away, so I had the most service winners, by far) I was just more selective about when I went all out. Big difference!
  11. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    In golf, someone who hits big boombing drives, but can't do anything else is not considered good. He's a hack. If he's crushing drives but chunking his chips and 3 putting for an 8, he's a hack who needs work. It would be crazy for him to think he's better than someone who consistently drives the fairway 200 yards every time and then hits green in regulation with a long iron and 2 puts. The only exception to this is a brittle 70 year old who drives 100 yards off the tee, and NEVER makes a mistake. He shoots in the high 80s, and beats most recreational golfers. It's hard to accept that guy is better than you, even if you shoot 10 strokes above him.

    So, perhaps the analog in tennis is the guy who hits moderate topspin and is consistent with the occassional hard winner, slam, ace, etc. vs. a true pusher who can't even hit topspin has no 2nd serve but can win b/c they slap everything back. For the latter, it really is hard to admit he's better than you. But, it's chear the former is a better player than you.

    To be perceived as good, don't hit too hard (you'll lose), or TOO soft (wimp).
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
  12. mib

    mib New User

    Jun 13, 2012
    I know a guy who played 4.5 (now 4.0, where he is among the best) with the strangest technique you can imagine. Every shot is a slice and he barely ever hits a winner. Yet he is quick and barely ever makes a mistake either.
  13. anubis

    anubis Hall of Fame

    Mar 2, 2012
    I'm playing in a local tournament here and I agree with the OP. Seeing a bunch of Mens 3.0 singles matches in progress at the same time, was both beautiful and ugly. Some people hit beautiful winners, and then turned around and lost their own service game @ love-40.

    Some people were jumping around like lunatics, wasting a lot of energy, when all they had to do was retreat by a couple of steps to cover the majority of the court.

    Others had this wonderful 80-90 mph+ first serve that they so spectacularly displayed during warmups. But by the time of the end of the second set, they were patty caking it over the net.

    meanwhile, the 3.5's seemed to have their stuff together. They didn't patty cake it. They all maintained fast first serves. They had long rallies, no moon balling. Plenty of top spin, good placement. I couldn't really find anything wrong with their play... and its no wonder that quite a few of the 3.5's that also signed up for the 4.0 draw won in the initial round of 32, beating other 4.0s.
  14. buruan

    buruan New User

    Oct 12, 2010
    From reading these boards a long time (rarely posting) the cutoff for being a good player is the 100+MPH serve.
    Nothing else matters.

    I was a disciple of the Church of Big Serves as well, hardly working on any other parts of my game, until a rotator cuff surgery forced me to use very slow spin serves, I worked on improving other parts of my game, and haven't looked back.
    Never enjoyed Tennis more, now that I am not a hostage of the "BIG" Serve anymore.
  15. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    Bumping this for 2017. It's amazing that I knew this five years ago, yet forgot it somehow. I am now back to pushing and winning.
  16. BeyondTheTape

    BeyondTheTape Rookie

    Aug 15, 2013
    Impressive to find your old post. Are you still a 3.0 since the 5 years of the original post? A lot has changed in 5 years. What has changed the most for you?

    In a span of the last 5 years, i wonder the % of players who have been bumped up 2 levels? I have gone from 3.5 to 4.5.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2017
  17. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    I'm now a 3.5. Serve is much better. Volley is better. Groundstrokes are a little better, but will further address that in 2017. Really didn't play much since that post. Started seriously in summer of 2016.
  18. MathGeek

    MathGeek Hall of Fame

    Jul 28, 2014
    I will probably spend my whole recreational tennis life among the 3.0s and 3.5s. Keys to happiness:

    Worry more about my game than that of others.

    With doubles partners, make one gentle suggestion that will reap the biggest reward if followed. You can't fix their whole game, but it is realistic to hope for one regularly made improved decision.

    Smile at all the quirks, realizing if I didn't have my fair share too, I'd be at a higher level.

    Worry more about the food than about the quality of the other players on the court. The food is almost always a lot better than the other players. If not, go out to eat.

    Appreciate the personality and friendliness of other players. If that is problematic, find a new venue.
    S&V-not_dead_yet and Dartagnan64 like this.
  19. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    Excellent advice.
    I sort of do this also.
    Playing 2x a week requires realistic expectations.
  20. SouthernCourts

    SouthernCourts Rookie

    Sep 11, 2016
    I didn't become a truly "great" 3.0 player until I took speed off my first serve—I definitely went through a couple months being seduced by the occasional fast ace. Once I learned how unimportant those shots were to the larger match, compared to the errors it produced, I became infinitely better. That, plus learning a topspin second serve, changed me from a slightly above average 3.0 to one that almost beat the best 3.0 in the state at the state tourney.

    Here's a trick I use against the guys who try to kill the ball on the serve, and get it in at about a 30% clip: When they do get one in, just stare at it, stare back at them, and go "wow," like you've never seen anything like it before in your life. Having been there, I understand that they're seduced by the rare ace, and if I can further that seduction along by looking amazed, I know they'll be more likely to keep those faults coming.
  21. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Hall of Fame

    Aug 3, 2012
    LOL, that's a great mind game. You're right on.
    If you just block it back, they might dial it back.
  22. SoCalJay

    SoCalJay Semi-Pro

    Mar 17, 2012
    Nice post, OP. I've never played 3.0 but, from what I've seen and been told by 3.0 players that I know, it seems to be a little more free from rampant sandbagging that goes on in 3.5 and 4.0. I hope that's true and I'm glad to hear that you are having a good time!
  23. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

    Nov 16, 2006
    Northern California
    3.0 gets plenty of sandbagging. The most common example is the player that was the #2 singles player on their high school team, has good clean, coached stokes, but self rated at 3.0 because they haven't picked up a racket in a couple of years. If you see a 3.0 hitting backhand winners, you know something is wrong...
  24. Dartagnan64

    Dartagnan64 Hall of Fame

    Dec 12, 2015
    I think only 1.0 is free from sandbagging.

    My personal view on intermediate level sandbagging is it's a great opportunity. Normally advanced players have no interest playing with us intermediates so to find one sandbagging is a special moment. One of the few times I get to see those kinds of shots and pace.
    happyloman likes this.
  25. zaskar1

    zaskar1 Rookie

    Oct 11, 2010
    yeah, we see this all the time! but we play tennis for fun, we are not bound for the ATP tour

  26. Mr.Lob

    Mr.Lob Legend

    Aug 12, 2013
    But, you were okay with the "Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer"
    reference? ;)

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