Practice Partners

Fred Drilling
Fred Drilling
While practicing your tennis skills really helps, just doing drills isn’t enough to get you ready for tournament or league play. The next step in the process is playing “live” practice matches; but what level opponent should you play with?

The guideline that I had heard was that you should play practice matches with: players better than you 25% of the time; players you can beat 25% of the time; and players even with you 50% of the time. But Fred Drilling disagrees with that.

Build Your Confidence

According to the former world #1, you should play practice matches with players you can beat most of the time for two reasons:

1) You get more chances to practice shots and work on your weaknesses

2) And, you can develop confidence from a pattern of winning matches.

He may be right. What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Practice Partners

  1. Good morning,
    Fred might be right. When I was playing tournaments in my 20s I always tried to play players better then myself.
    When I turned 30 I stopped playing and started again when I turned 56. I started as a 4.0 and after a couple of months won all my singles matches for the next 2 yrs. This winning gave me a confidence I don’t recall having when I was young. When I moved up to 4.5 and as a 62 yr old was not able to win alot of singles matches against opponents in their 20s and 30s I felt like it effected my expectation or habit of winning and feel it has effected my improvement.


  2. I don’t see that much of a difference between George and Fred.
    + Mostly best to play the vast majority of practice matches versus players of quite similar skill and players worse.
    + Similar is always tricky to assess — is the rivalry 50-50? Or if you start losing, does that rival now become the better player?
    + Worse provides the chance to build new skills, face pressure, generate confidence

    What I like about George’s post most of all is that there is minimal energy devoted to the illusion that one gets better playing better players. Certainly there’s value in seeing where one stands against people like that. But also, at heart, very little competitive pressure in these scenarios.

    Joel, i agree… playing better players doesn’t really make you better; it just points out what you need to work on to get closer to them. thanks, george

  3. I play in an indoor singles league in the wintertime here in PA/ NJ. One of our players acts as the league coordinator. He sets up the matches each week. Some of the players are stronger/ weaker than others. I am considered one of the stronger players (but by no means am I the strongest — we have and have had legitimate 5.0 level players in the group).

    Every season I tell the coordinator I really want to play matches against EVERY level of ability in our league. And every season he proceeds to ignore my requests and only sets me up, each week, against a handful of the strongest guys. When I complain, he tells me that he gets bored playing against guys that he knows he can beat, and he just assumes I am the same. But I tell him that it helps my game to play some matches against players that I am certain I can beat. What usually happens is that I gain confidence by playing such opponents and that confidence inevitably carries through to the next week when I may be scheduled to play someone who is better than me or just about at my level. Conversely, if EVERY match that I play is a struggle, my confidence tends to go down — not to mention putting way too much wear and tear on my body each week.

    While my debate with my league coordinator will, I am sure, continue, the bottom line is I believe Fred Drilling is 100% right.

  4. Fred is right for his admirable game – his consistency, movement, and quality of shot making are really a complete package (of course tweaks can always be made to improve but when healthy, his game is a finished, superb product).
    For those of us with major steps to take for Fred’s kind of consistency, we can be lulled into a game that beats lesser players but not others that are “better” now but could conceivably be equaled in time. Getting consistent with shots that will not beat better peers is fine if you have little ambition. Having a realistic understanding of your potential and working to develop it fully involves competing out of your comfort zone within reason. Once you have approached your potential, less is gained by playing against too strong of a player.

    Winder, one of the benefits i get playing vs the better players is the ADVICE they give me on how to improve my game. george

  5. I am reminded that when I used to play pro squash tournaments I felt my wife was my best practice partner the day before competing. While she was a good player, she wasn’t a tough match for me; and I worked on my footwork, relaxation, placement and concentration skills. It seemed to be the best preparation for me for upcoming tough matches.

    Spike, buuut didn’t seem to help your marriage too much 🙂 george

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