The point is they compensate for lazy programming by boosting CPU abilities abilities massively for SF and F in majors. You can sleepwalk through early rounds against most opponents, and then suddenly the late rounds will actually have an opponent who gets to the ball and can hit winners (it doesn't matter who the opponent is either; Nadal for example will be quite straightforward early in a tournament but something of an effort if you meet him in a late round).
You can still beat most opponents easily in the late rounds thanks to the very straightforward patterns they're vulnerable to, but those patterns take a LONG time of perfect execution to pay off against pushers at the 'very hard' and 'expert' levels (Murray, Simon and the Colombian generic come to mind). Dreading facing Murray (including on clay
) or Simon in an event while hoping for Federer and not minding Nadal or Djokovic tells you there's something seriously wrong with a game's mechanics. And that the programmers ramp up the difficulty late in tournaments tells you that THEY know they've fucked up too. Players should get more difficult to beat as you progress in a tournament, and that wouldn't be the case against most opponents (besides Murray) if they didn't have the AI cheat.
Frankly I'm surprised you'd defend the game considering how strong it makes pushers compared to players with a more attacking style; the game's big hitting baseliners are laughably easy to neutralize when playing with a defender. I'm sure Ferrer would love it if real life tennis played like Top Spin 4.
Don't get me wrong, TS4 is a highly flawed game and the offline mode is not very interesting to me. Stats are messed up, animations are meh too. I can overlook it though because of how strong the online mode is, for me sports games are fun to play against people not the CPU anyway, I only care about the CPU to become good enough to master it and then I barely play offline again.
And the patterns are easy actually, just use angle/control shots in every rally shot, crosscourt every time and the match is yours. It really doesn't take that long to perfect at all and it always works; it also solves the pusher bias, angles are the best way to defeat pushers even online.
The game does play very slow and mostly favors defensive players, I agree, but there's ways around that. A lot of people underuse angle shots, they are the best shots on TS4 and should be used 90% of the time, they are safer and much more effective at opening up the court and give you better placement as well.
But yes, if you play offline all the time I can understand you'd be unhappy; stats and animations are mostly meh, career mode absolutely sucks, etc... TS4 is only worth it for the online experience, would have binned it long ago otherwise.