Lowering playing standard

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San_Blas
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Joined: 01/13/2012

Hello

My playing style i quite allround, my strengths are my blocking game and my forehand. But this is only true when i play against players around my own level and above. I often play my absolute best when facing players who are slightly better than me.

I often find myself drasticly lowering and changing my playing style when playing against players i feel i should be able to beat. I also do win these matches 9/10 times, but I feel very uncomfortable playing these matches. I start playing passively and waiting for the opponent to miss instead of taking the commando. The problem mostly arises when I play younger players who have a decent attacking game but make too many mistakes when attacking wildly and misses more serves than I am used to.

Example: I start out winning the first set easily playing passively pretty much without footwork. The junior hits too many of my serves into the net or out, and attack backspin pushes that he shouldn't attack. Second set i usually win playing the same passive style, mostly pushing trying to force my opponent to loop into the net. But now the junior is starting to realizing that he makes all the mistakes and I hardly ever attack. He then starts to choose his shoots more wisely and since i have not moved nor attack during the first sets i have a hard time getting my attacking game to normal standard. I usually have to play praying to God the opponent will make enough mistakes in the third set. And at this point i just can't get my normal game going an my offensive shoots are a mess.

Is anyone else experiencing this? Is it common to lower your playing level when playing a weaker player? Any tips or comments?

 

tabesamis
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Joined: 07/24/2011
Re: Lowering playing standard

I think it may  be mental or sometimes you don't give your opponent enough credit. For example I played a guy who I thought would be easy to beat. He was playing a hardbat. I play long pips and am used to watching variation in spins. Generally I don't find reading spin from pips difficult, but his serve was so dead and I just missed my first loop enough for him to pull out each game. Was he a bad player? No. He was probably the same level as me playing with his hardbat. He knew the blade. He played with that old hock for 30 years and it was near falling apart, but the fact is 30 years of experience will do something for you. I did not estimate him to be that good therefore I lost worse than I should have.

Second example. You go to a tournament and play a junior. Especially a team tournament. You see his rating is 1100, and maybe it truly is 1100 but you are playing on sunday. You see his rating and strokes and expect 1100 but in the middle of the game he gets smarter and picks his shots. All of the sudden his loops hit with pinpoint accuracy and you are left in the dust. The kid just jumped a level... Kids do that. In fact you being a good blocker could be the catalyst of a catastrophic rise in a kids level. 

Main point. I don't care if they are in a wheelchair (which I have lost to) or are 5. Play seriously. If they are that much lower keep the rally going and make it enjoyable for both of you but if a player has any reasonable skill 11-2 or 11-3 isn't an insult.

mts288
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Joined: 03/05/2011
Re: Lowering playing standard

In most sports it's common to play up to or down to your level of competition.  In club play when playing a lower level player I try to even out the match by playing  into his strength.  If you're lucky you'll get a return into your weak spot which will force you to improve that part of your game.  I don't worry about losing club practice matches.  I will also serve the same serve to my opponent the whole match which should extend the game. 

A few months ago my backhand was very weak.  After months of serving backspin balls into my opponents backhand, which usually got a push returned to my backhand.  I would then attempt a backhand loop or flip down the line.  My backhand is now one of my best shots. 

I try to finish up club nights with matches against equal or better players to see if I can implement the shots I practiced earllier in the night.  I almost always go home feeling good about my game.  A few weeks ago one of my better opponents commented that no matter how I play earlier in the evening I almost always win the last match of the night.  On my one hour+ drive home review my nights play mostly focusing on the things I did well.  By focusing on my good play I reinforce what I did correctly and look forward on improving my game even more at the next practice.

Larry Hodges
Larry Hodges's picture
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Joined: 11/19/2010
Re: Lowering playing standard

It's common for players to play down to weaker opponents. There are two main reasons for this. First, it's psychological. Against your peers and stronger players, you know, deep down, that you have to play well to win, and so you strive to play at a higher level, which means playing more difficult shots. Against a weaker player, deep down you know you don't have to play your best, and so the tendency is to not go for riskier shots, and so you end up playing a safe, passive game. It might win, but you don't play very well since you aren't using your best shots. 

The second reason is because weaker players play more erratic shots. A strong player makes stronger shots, but they come out consistently. A weaker player sprays erratic shots all over the court. Many miss (which is why you still usually win), but the ones that hit are so erratic that you can't get into a good rhythm against them. (Some top players are good at mimicking this type of "erratic" shots to mess up opponents, but that's relatively rare.) 

San_Blas
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Joined: 01/13/2012
Re: Lowering playing standard

Hello Larry. I think in my case the first reason is probably the problem, psychological.

It is true that I deep down know that i can win without risking to much, thus my passive playing style.The thing is that I just can seem to be able to get into my normal playing style in these matches, even though I'm getting close to losing. During matches I realize that the way I am playing (and that has won me the first two sets) is not really working anymore, but it's so hard to get out of the passiveness once I've started.

The last months I have increased the quality and quantity of my practice sessions and earlier this week I had an experience like the one i described in my first post. One positive thing I noticed during that last experience is that since I started practicing more I have noticed my passive play have also (unintentially) improved.

Thank you for your blog, I enjoy reading it every weekday!

Boneman
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Joined: 01/18/2011
Re: Lowering playing standard

I've had similar experiences.  A couple of reaons come to mind... first, you don't HAVE to play your best, most aggressive game against such opponents... and secondly, to me it's borderline unsportsmanlike to defeat someone 11-3 or so.

Of course, the environment can make all the difference in the world... if it's non tournament play, I'll use these games to work on parts of my game that I would never consider toying with in competition.  However, in a tournament environment, to let one's guard down during any match can prove deadly to one's performance... as momentum can carry from one match to the next.

Of course, when faced with an 8 year old opponent that you've reduced to tears by defeating them 11-4 in the first game... it's kind of difficult to remain ruthless....  :-S

Later!

Larry "Boneman" Bone
Dingmans Ferry, PA, USA
80421

 

San_Blas
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Joined: 01/13/2012
Re: Lowering playing standard

Hello Boneman. Do you still experience this from time to time or have you found a solution?

I know people who intentionally play below their best game to avoid destroying their opponent i tournaments/league games. Personally I can not do that since I might lose against weaker players if i get out of rhytm.

Boneman
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Joined: 01/18/2011
Re: Lowering playing standard

>Do you still experience this from time to time or have you found a solution? 

I still do... but in a tournament environment, not so much.  One must adapt a cold, ruthless mentalilty there.

>I know people who intentionally play below their best game to avoid destroying their opponent i tournaments/league games.

Intentionally, eh?  Well... that's kind of unsportsmanlike too.  When I go to a tournament, I expect my opponents to be giving me their best.  If they are intentionally sandbagging.... well, that's really not fair to either of us.

>Personally I can not do that since I might lose against weaker players if i get out of rhytm. 

Exactly the issue I face.  Once you're off your regular "pace"... it's very difficult to recover...

Later!

Larry "Boneman" Bone
Dingmans Ferry, PA
USATT 80421