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How to play an opponent who is at a lower level than you

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By Alex Glaros

In recreational playing, there are often situations when you find yourself playing an opponent who is at a lower level than you. The problem is you get bored and you may find yourself hitting junky shots to play down to his level.

First of all, if this is the only person you play, go out find new people to play with!

Second, play as well as you can, otherwise, your opponent (1) senses you're not trying hard and feels as though he's being condescended to (2) your opponent will never improve in the long run (even though it bugs him to lose in the short run) and (3) your game will deteriorate.

The key to playing someone who is at a lower level is to try as hard as you can, but for only specific shots that you want to practice:

Splat: Give your opponent all easy-to-return shots except when one of his shots comes next to a wall. Practice hitting the best splat possible. Don't forget to splat his drive serves too!

Soft touch shot to front corner: Try to take every shot he gives you and touch it softly into one of the corners. Work hard on keeping good form and technique. Don't pass him, hit ceiling balls or otherwise get him in the back court too often. He will eventually camp out in the far front court and it will become a contest to see how perfect your touch shots can be. If he gets too good, hit a ceiling lob once in a while to keep him a little less efficient.

Practice your front court game: Serve a very soft, easy lob to your opponent's forehand. Stay in front court in front of your opponent and off to the side. As your opponent swings, watch the ball come off his racquet (keep your racquet in front of your face while watching him swing!).

DTL - He will probably try a down-the-line pass, so try to cut the ball off early after it hits the front wall and hit a variety of returns. If he's a complete beginner, use the same return each time and teach him how to deal with it so you can both practice at your highest skill level. By watching the ball come off of your opponent's racquet, you get a 1 second head start on knowing which direction the ball will be going.

Cross court - Encourage your opponent to try cross court passes also, so you can cut these off. Try and catch the cross court pass before it starts getting too close to the side wall. Try and catch it very early; if it bounces before it hits the side wall, see if you can catch it just after it bounces off the floor. If this is too difficult, get the ball when it comes further back and practice hitting a perfect ceiling lob.

Ceiling shots - To learn how to cut off a ceiling shot, click here.

The key here is to select practice shots that you are weak on so that he gets a chance to win many of the rallies.

Miscellaneous: Practice any one concept over and over again. For example, hitting the perfect defensive lob, or lob serve. Your opponent will eventually cheat, camp there, and learn to deal with the shot, while you get a chance to perfect your lob.

In conclusion, change up your practice method when you see that your opponent is getting bored. That's right, he may become the one that's bored, while you are really getting into the practice session! He may ask you to end the session with a "real" game where you try to beat him by playing your best on every shot. This ties together all of the drills that he's gotten practice on, and gives him a sense of where his skill level is really at. If he's receptive to suggestions on improving his playing, all the better as this is a great indication that these practice sessions will make him a better player and lead to a mutually beneficial friendship.

One of the most frequent complaints that I've heard at clubs is that the better players don't want to play with the intermediate ones. The next time a lower level player asks you to play, use the concepts described here to create a win-win situation for both of you.







Subject:     Re: How to have fun playing a weaker player?

Date:      06 Jul 2000 19:52:48 GMT

From: (Jordan Kahn)





I have been using a "handicapping" method for kids that evens out player skill

levels.



Players play 2 games in a row.



Whoever lost the first game is given the score difference from the first game,

minus ONE POINT (important).



Example 1: Pat beats Ed 15-5 the first game. The difference is 10 points, minus

ONE POINT, so Ed serves the second game starting at 9-0, or a 9-point handicap.



You must always subtract 1-point from the score difference, in case a player

gets no-points, or if the game was only won by one point.



Example 2: Pat beats Ed 15-0 the first game. The difference is 15 points, minus

ONE POINT, or Ed serves the second game starting with a 14-point lead.



Example 3: Pat beats Ed 15-14 the first game. The difference is 1 point, minus

ONE POINT, or Ed serves the second game with NO additional points because first

game was even.



This handicap method can be used for any players, regardless of sex, age or

skill.



Jordan



PS. It creates confidence for lower skill players while better player's

experience how it feels to lose, something very important for kids.



--

Subject: Re: How to have fun playing a weaker player?

From: Pat



With my college team I do this...



I play the better players and i give them say 8 points.  If I win they get 9

the next game.  If they beat me I go down one.  We play this way all season. 

It means I can play hard.  They get experience seeing a faster game and more

shots but still have a chance to win.



We also play for sodas...keeps both sides interested.



You might say this guys get humiliated...but I tell them to learn every point

is individual...it doesn't matter what happened before.  You should see how I

feel when they get 14 and knock off that ace and I have to sit there and here I

got a doughnut.



Oh yea...if you get donuted, we move up or down 2 points.



I use to play around with people on the court.  but I have limited time out

there and I wanted to be able to play hard too.  That's why I don't like to

just keep the ball in play.



My .02



Pat

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