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How to Play Against Weaker Players
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

Playing a player who is not as good of a tennis player as you can sometimes be a mental challenge. Usually when the weaker player steps out on the court with a better player, the weaker player is hungry for the upset. I think that the biggest key for the stronger player is mental. Confidence is good, but over-confidence can be dangerous. I approach all my matches as follows: "If I do not play good tennis I can potentially lose this match". I do not think that to put pressure on myself, but to force myself to stay focused. It does not matter if I am 200-0 vs. a player, they get my full attention and I will play my hardest. If you walk out onto the court thinking you have an easy win about to come, your overconfidence can spell problems. When you start to think a win should come easily it is easier to get frustrated and nervous if things do not go your way or come as easily as you expected.

No matter who you are playing the best way to approach the match is "point by point". Do not try to think ahead to who will end up winning the next point, game or the set. If you let your mind wander beyond the current point your game can wander with it.

You can usually expect the weaker player to come out strong at first. I have played several matches that went to 3-3 in the first set before I went through and won 6-3, 6-0. The better player should have more patience and should be able to identify weaknesses and expose them better. A lot of times the weaker player just cannot keep up the level of play and starts to have some self doubt which can really open up the door for the better player. They may lose patience and start to go for shots too soon from feeling the pressure and consistency from the stronger player.

If you ever get stuck on the court with someone who has a NTRP of 1.0 or lower than you it is a good time to practice certain parts of your game. Anyone who is rated that much lower than you will not be able to prove to be much of a challenge. So how do you keep it interesting for both players? Winning 6-0, 6-0 is not much fun and does not help either player. Instead of playing your "A" game, try developing your "B" game. If you do not serve and volley much, give it a shot. Try new serves, new spins and new strategies. This is a good time to practice the shots that need work. You will most likely hit a decent amount of errors and it will help to keep the match close and more fun for everyone. You can always resort back to game plan "A" if things get ugly.

In the end, just because you think you "should" win, does not mean you "will" win. Stay focused, give your absolute attention and play it one point at a time. If you truly are the better player it will show.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker
Tennis4you.com