Tennisopolis : Tennis Social Network

Hey old dudes, I just want to announce that Martin created a new group dedicated to players over 50.

In the new group, you can share and discuss ideas like:

How to win the smart way.

How to stay healthy.

How to deal with young opponents.

Ways to improve your strategy.

How to recruit 20-something doubles partners.  :-)

No really, come represent and join in the fun:

Tennis Over 50

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I like Paul he plays golf enough said. I Love their clothes. Pth means what in golfish? Just messing. Keep moving around that's good stuff. We are all dying slowly or at a quicker pace but we are dying. Have fun in Miami, Many men don't warm up properly so I understand what you have said, trying to get them involved in drills takes some sneaky methods, bring some betting into the equation, whatever. Enjoy Golf many tennis players enjoy the game. Try this site to find a more appropriate partner, and good luck.

ok 53 chronologically, my wife says 14 otherwise

Ha!  My kids say the same thing - "grow up dad!"  But this is how we stay young.

Paul, we could all learn some things from you.  Can you start a thread on the group and drop some pearls of wisdom about what you have learned to help stay competitive after 50.   I don't want to turn into a soft dubs specialist! 

Ha!  Who says I'm competitive?  I get my ass kicked by younger, healthier players all the time.  I still play men's 45's.  I just can't wrap my head around playing 55's.

Anyway, the most important thing you can do is to stay healthy.  Unfortunately, like it or not, that status is largely beyond your control.  You can eat right, work out, practice regularly, etc. etc.  But, when injury and illness come, they come, and you just have to deal with it as best you can.  Time is the great healer.  And, in my experience, MD's will make it worse more often then not.

Having said that, the next most important thing is to know how to play the game.  That may sound trite or condescending.  But, it never ceases to amaze me how many players, even pros, don't know how to play, or don't play with discipline.  They may have huge shots (which is always a bonus), but, they don't know how to put them to their best use.  But, understanding court positioning and high percentage shot selection is all the more important when you're older and your mobility isn't what it used to be.  I wrote out my approach to the game in another tennis forum that I don't visit any more - too much hostility and inane arguments.  It's actually a combination of posts that answered different questions that I cobbled together and saved for future use so I wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.  I can paste it here if you like. 

Paste away, Paul! I'd like to read them.

I've reorganized it a bit and put in some headings on the different subjects to make it easier to read.   It's nothing new or groundbreaking, just fundamental tennis that I find many players, even high level players, were never taught, and/or never learned from their own experience.  Modern racquets and string do allow for more deviation from these basics.  But, the court dimensions haven't changed and, IMO, it's still important to understand these basics.

I hope you find it interesting. 


A.        Preparing mentally for a match

Tennis is a very simple game. When playing a tennis match, there are 2 things that you need to focus on:

(1) Executing your shots, one shot at a time, and

(2) Executing your gameplan, one point at a time.

That is all you should be thinking about during a match. Put everything else, including the score, out of your mind. It is all irrelevant. Until the match is over, the score is irrelevant. You still have to execute your shots and your gameplan, on every point, no matter what the score is. If you execute your shots and your gameplan to the best of your ability, you have done all you can do to win. There is nothing else to be done. Knowing that should put your mind at ease and make mental match preparation much simpler.

Having said that, let me be clear about what I mean by executing your shots and executing your gameplan.

1.         Shot execution: By executing your shots, I mean executing your technique - doing all of the little things from moving your feet, getting set up, watching the ball, taking a full relaxed swing and follow through, etc. etc., that go into hitting a tennis ball. When a player is nervous, he gets tight, his technique suffers and he doesn't execute his shots properly, UNLESS he focuses on doing just that - fully executing his shots, one shot at a time. That's why most players find that, until they have some experience in match play, they don't play as well during a sanctioned match as they do in practice matches, and don't understand why. Even top pros go through this when they get nervous for a big match. But, because of their massive experience, they get by that within a few points or games.

2.         Gameplan execution: Most pros and many amateurs understand that tennis is a percentage game, and their gameplan is founded upon the principles of high percentage tennis. In other words, your gameplan has a foundation based on the principles of high percentage tennis and that never changes no matter who you play. Knowing that should also put your mind at ease in terms of what are you going to do during the match.

There's more good news. The basic principles of high percentage tennis are very simple. Did I mention that tennis is a simple game?  So, the question becomes, what is high percentage tennis?

B.        Tennis is a percentage game

The key to giving yourself the best chance to win is to understand that tennis is a percentage game, and knowing what the high percentage shot (read: target), is in any given situation. In practice, it's actually very simple. The are a very limited number of high percentage targets in the game of singles tennis.  The winning part comes down more to making high percentage choices with discipline, and then just executing your shots.

1.         Singles tennis is a cross court game.  Cross court is always the primary high percentage target from the baseline. Trying to redirect a cross court shot dtl presents a few problems. (1) It goes against Wardlaw's directionals and, therefore, has a tendency to go wide, (2) you have a shorter court with a higher net, and, perhaps most importantly, (3) unless you hit a winner (a low percentage play from behind the baseline no matter where you hit it), you have left yourself out of position and given your opponent a wide open court cross court to your other side.  When you hit cross court, your target should about 5 feet from the corner. That's deep, but, with a good margin for error.  Keeping the ball deep and cross court prevents your opponent from attacking and tends to draw weak shots that you can attack. If you hit short cross court, without hitting a sharp angle, then you've given your opponent the opportunity to attack.  However, trying to hit a sharp angle from behind the baseline has a low margin for error unless you hit with World class topspin.  

2.         Exceptions to hitting cross court.  The exceptions to hitting cross court are: (1) when your opponent hits a short or weak ball, (2) when you have an opportunity to run around your backhand and hit an inside out, or inside in forehand, and (3) a passing shot from well inside the baseline, or when your opponent hits a cross court approach shot. Obviously, what amounts to a short weak ball, or an opportunity to run around the backhand, changes as the level of play goes up. For a low level player, a short weak ball is when he's closer to the service line than the baseline. For a pro, it's when he can take a ball inside the baseline. For Federer and Nadal, it's any ball that doesn't put them on defense. Anyway . . .

On a short/weak ball there are two scenarios: (1) If the ball is a high sitter, it is a high percentage play to go for a winner into the open court. (2) If it's low, and you have to lift it above the net, going for a winner (other than a drop shot which is a good option on a low short ball), is a low percentage play because it's too difficult to hit up over the net, and get the ball back down inside the court, with enough pace to be a winner. Rather, on low short balls you should hit an approach shot dtl and position yourself at net so that you take away a dtl pass attempt and force your opponent to go for a cross court pass or lob. He only has a small window to get the ball by you cross court and keep the ball inside the sideline. Those percentages favor you. For every successful pass, he'll hit at least one UE and one shot you can volley away.  Further, when you hit a dtl approach shot, it's a good idea to aim for that same target 5 feet from the corner. You have more time to catch up to a passing shot when it's coming from behind the baseline. You can mix that up with a short low approach and force your opponent to hit up while you're at the net ready to knock it away.  Why dtl?  A cross court approach shot is a tactical error because you have left yourself open to be passed on either side, the open side and behind you as you scramble to cover the open side.

When you run around your backhand to hit inside out, you are in effect hitting cross court with your stronger stroke and only a little bit out of position. Hitting inside in is going with directionals, but, its the short court and the high net and will leave you out of position if it isn't a winner or at least puts your opponent on the stretch so that he can't hit big to your open cross court.

The third exception to hitting cross court is when your opponent hits a short approach shot, or a cross court approach shot.  If you are well up in front of the baseline, and your opponent has left an ally dtl, you have a better chance of getting the ball by him dtl.  If you try to hit a cross court pass from inside the baseline, you will have almost no window to get the ball by your opponent and keep the ball inside the sideline.  He'll just cut it off and hit into the open court.  If your opponent hits a cross court approach shot, he has left a dtl pass wide open.  You can also go cross court when he scrambles to cover the wide open ally dtl. 

That is a major part of high percentage tennis right there.  It is the foundation of your gameplan and you can go a long way and win a lot of matches with this alone. But, there are going to be exceptions to every rule that you can only learn through experience. For example, from time to time you may play someone who has a shot that he can hit against these rules on a high percentage basis. But, most won't be able to. So, don't panic if, for example, an opponent rips a dtl groundie for a winner. You have to believe in the system. Just clap your racquet (ala Agassi or Djokovic), knowing that if he keeps going for it, in the long run, he's going to lose more points than he wins. When an opponent hits a dtl groundie to me, I smile inside knowing that he's going to be doing a lot more running than I am, and he's going to hit more UE's than I am, too.

One last point (that I made in another thread): According to Vic Braden, the average pro point lasts for 3 shots in play, serve, return and one more shot in play before someone hits an UE or a winner. For amateurs it's 2 shots in play, serve and return. This is why I say that the majority of your practice time should be devoted to: (1) serves, (2) returns, and (3) cross court drills. The point is, it's important that you know you can hang with anyone hitting cross court on either side for as long as it takes to get an opportunity to attack. There's no excuse to be stuck with a weak side that you can't hit cross court for as long as it takes. Trying to get out of it with a low percentage shot selection (ie: dtl) is not a winning tactic over the course of a match.  Hopefully, you see how important cross court drills, with a target of 5 feet from the corner, are. Finding a like minded drilling partner is crucial. A machine is a good substitute, but, not nearly as good as a partner who will give you all kinds of variety that you'll get in match play.

Very well written and I read the whole thing. I agree that this strategy does work for most players. But when you meet someone with a strong accurate topspin DTL drives, the strategy becomes more around utilizing inside out forehand to one's advantages and creating a bigger offensive angle of attack.

I think of the principles that I wrote out to be more in the manner of truths, or foundational fundamentals, of tennis strategy.  However, virtually everyone who can hit strong, accurate, topspin groundies cross-court can hit them DTL.  The question is, aside from the exceptions I listed, should they hit them DTL, and if so, when? 

Even if a player is adept at redirecting an opponents deep, hard hit, cross court groundie DTL without the ricochet ("directionals"), causing the ball to go wide (ie: Agassi's and Djokovic's 2hb's), he should only do so when he thinks he can hit a winner because he has left himself out of position.  Even in the case of a backhand as great as Agassi's, Brad Gilbert coached him only to attempt that shot when taking the ball well inside the baseline - generally a weaker cross court shot that reduces the effect of directionals and a shorter distance to the target to hit a winner from.  That, I would suggest, forecloses any argument to the contrary on that subject. 

An inside out/inside in forehand is quite different from a DTL forehand.  An inside-out fh is a cross court groundstroke for the purpose of court positioning, except that you are a little bit more off the court than you would be for a backhand.  Further, directionals are not significant because you are either hitting with directionals (cross-court to cross-court), or, if you are redirecting a DTL groundie inside out, you have a huge margin for error unlike trying to redirect a cross-court groundie DTL.  An inside-in forehand is DTL but it is always hit with the intention of hitting a clean winner off of a  cross-court backhand (from a righty), where the opponent is off the court on the backhand side, which also means you are hitting with directionals, not against them.

PS: Tim, I wrote my reply without watching the video you posted - it's 25 minutes long.  When I do get a chance to watch it, I'll comment on it, if I have anything to add.

What you say is all correct. I do not disagree with any of this. The distinction is the inside-in DTL being an offensive but within percentage tennis. 

Hey Paul, I'm glad you found us and you never have to go back to that hostile forum (that we all know).


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