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Old 09-20-2009, 07:05 PM   #1
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Default The Surface Specialist Thread

Just thought I'd open a general discussion / venting thread for the abundance of surfaces we all play the game on.

I joined a club this year with grass courts and it's certainly been an experience getting used to the surface. My first few games on it I really couldn't get the hang of the erratic bounce and pretty much played like a complete mug! You can actually play some classy tennis once you adjust though, so it's a fun surface if you enjoy short points and being aggressive.

I've been on a good winning streak in singles of late but had it abruptly broken today, 6-4, 6-4 against a middle aged opponent! He really used the grass well, and just kept coming forward even taking my groundstrokes out of the air with swinging volley winners - it was amazing stuff! I think in the end I didn't use the drop shot anywhere near enough and I was really struggling with the sun from one end so was forced to roll the serve in and hope for the best, which ultimately cost me. Just excuses though, I still have a lot to learn on grass.

Anyone have tips for success on grass? Or want to discuss other surfaces?
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Old 09-20-2009, 07:21 PM   #2
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

There is one place in my state of Arizona (keep in mind that the weather reaches past 120 degrees...) that has grass courts during spring season and I go there as much as I can. However, the stuff dries out so quickly that within a few days, it literally becomes dirt clumps, not to mention I don't think the owner knows how to take care of it properly... But it is so much fun because 99% of the time I play on hardcourts outdoors and the other 1% is played on clay/grass. Honestly, since there are obviously no tournaments held on grass here I couldn't comment on what would truly work but I have played at least a handful of pretty competitive matches, and the entire time we both just try to serve and volley and chip and charge. We have tried to play on the baseline, but many times the ball will hit a good chunk of dry dirt and soar over you... But it is a lot of fun though trying to take every ball in the air and rushing into the net.

As I said, with the temperature being this hot in Arizona, I think there should be WAY more clay courts. On hardcourts, the heat gets so ridiculous. You stand there and your feet feel like they are on fire...
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

Ours are owned by the LTA and kept pretty decent. Still doesn't mean you don't get terrible bounces sometimes though, and it drives you mad. Really mixed feelings about the surface, when you craft together a great point and finish it off with a punched volley that fizzes away it's a great feeling but when you fall victim to a bad hop you curse it as nothing but a joke surface.

I hit a few spectacular passing shots today, my opponent kept coming in to my backhand which is my stronger side for passing and I'm pretty good at dealing with that low skidding ball on that side. It was strange, I felt like I played a good match but still lost. I regular hammer him on hard courts so it really is simply the effects of playing on a different surface and I just didn't adapt well.
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Old 09-20-2009, 08:54 PM   #4
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

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Ours are owned by the LTA and kept pretty decent. Still doesn't mean you don't get terrible bounces sometimes though, and it drives you mad. Really mixed feelings about the surface, when you craft together a great point and finish it off with a punched volley that fizzes away it's a great feeling but when you fall victim to a bad hop you curse it as nothing but a joke surface.

I hit a few spectacular passing shots today, my opponent kept coming in to my backhand which is my stronger side for passing and I'm pretty good at dealing with that low skidding ball on that side. It was strange, I felt like I played a good match but still lost. I regular hammer him on hard courts so it really is simply the effects of playing on a different surface and I just didn't adapt well.
Yeah, the place I go to is actually privately owned by my former private coach's friend. There are 4 courts and they get bad pretty quickly.. But I know what you mean about getting mad about the bounces.. It's one thing to get mad for a situation you could of controlled, and it's another thing to have absolutely no say in the situation, like a bad bounce for example.

Hitting good passing shots always makes the match feel good whether you lose or not, haha, well at least for me. I remember back when I wasn't that great and I played one of the top ranked players in my region for a USTA ranked match, if I hit a couple good passing shots and still lost, I was never mad.. I don't know, the fact that you pass your opponent literally has a surreal fealing, I wonder if that is how Federer and Nadal feel since they are arguably the best passers in the game.

I don't know how easy to pull it off on grass but whenever I play anyone on hardcourts who loves coming in especially off slices, I play a lot of chip and charge tactics against them, or if I expect the play coming from them, I rush and try to take their baseline shot in the air and just chip it back deep because generally these players aren't that great with their defense from my experience.
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Old 09-20-2009, 10:10 PM   #5
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

Definitely agree with you a great tactic against net rushers is to attack them and take the net away from them.

Depending what mood I'm in, I often simply serve and volley against them. It's not my natural game, but as you say, generally they have poor defence and you can win easy service games against them like this. I think this is quite important psychologically as well, not only are you matching them at their own game, you're also overall beating them from the baseline. That's gotta be quite soul destroying. Using a professional example, just look at Haas this year at Wimbledon. He was killing guys with his serve and volley prowess, as well as matching them with the solid baseline game. It's such an inspiration to me as a player, because I try to play an all-round, all court game like that (sadly, nowhere near Tommy's standard!).
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Old 09-20-2009, 10:18 PM   #6
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

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Originally Posted by Bernard Black View Post
Definitely agree with you a great tactic against net rushers is to attack them and take the net away from them.

Depending what mood I'm in, I often simply serve and volley against them. It's not my natural game, but as you say, generally they have poor defence and you can win easy service games against them like this. I think this is quite important psychologically as well, not only are you matching them at their own game, you're also overall beating them from the baseline. That's gotta be quite soul destroying. Using a professional example, just look at Haas this year at Wimbledon. He was killing guys with his serve and volley prowess, as well as matching them with the solid baseline game. It's such an inspiration to me as a player, because I try to play an all-round, all court game like that (sadly, nowhere near Tommy's standard!).
Also the thing about Tommy was that he was hitting his second serves with some fire.. I mean it wasn't kicking up high, but placement and pace was really aggressive. Didn't he come into the semi with like 50 double faults or something? I mean in my opinion I don't see why players don't put more on their second serves. In the past I have seen Roger put a good amount of pace on his second serve on select occasions, but I think players should overall put more on their second serves, it could help mix up their game and keep them in a offensive position, because many times the second serves puts them in a neutral position forcing them to come up with something special during the rally to get back on top.
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Old 09-20-2009, 11:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

Yeah, Murray is a perfect example of this - the guy's 6'3" and with a bullet of a first serve when he decides to go for it, but can't seem to hit through his second serve whatsoever. Admittedly, he gets a lot of work on the ball which fools lower ranked players but at the top of the game the return is back on his boot laces before he's even through with the service motion.

Going back to amateur tennis, I reckon it definitely pays dividends to put a bit more on your second serve, especially on fast surfaces. I think a lot of players just hate the thought of giving their opponent a free point via a double fault but the way I see it, if you're hitting the second serve well enough you'll get a lot of free points yourself or at least start out the rally on top every time which over the course of the match will balance out well in your favour (unless your double fault count becomes astronomical). I also see a lot of players just lazily kicking in the second serve every time, they never seem to change it up with slice or mix the pace whatsoever. Considering most amateurs probably hover around 50% first serve percentage they really should put more thought and effort into the second serve which accounts for the other 50%.
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Old 09-21-2009, 10:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

I actually quite like grass, it suits my game with my reasonably big serve. Even more so, I hate hitting my single handed backhand from high up, so the low bounce of grass helps me, I'm pretty comfortable even if the ball keeps lower than usual. My problem comes if I play a big hitter on it, I'm a bit like Soderling with my big swing on my forehand so it's tough with the ball coming on to me fast.

As you were saying though, the number (or lack) of grass courts here isn't enough for me to justify trying to improve on the surface. I also have yet to play on a decent one. The bounces are horrible.
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Old 09-21-2009, 10:30 AM   #9
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

Grass is a big clown surface. Shorten your swings on grass, so it's easier to adjust to the shit bounces that can happen.

Since it's a lower bouncing surface for the most part use that to your advantage, with some slices among your normal play.

If some cat is taking the net away from you, then vary the types of passing shots you are hitting, the 1-2 tactic can work on grass as well as other surfaces.
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I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:14 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

Cheers, fellas.

I don't think we have nearly as many grasscourts in the UK as people think. I think my club is one of only two places that has them in the whole of the midlands. It's massive home advantage when we take on other clubs because their players have little to no experience on them. Thing is though, not many people here like them, especially the men, and I think that's simply because you can't get a proper work out on them or a fair game. Points rarely last more than three shots, and are often spoilt by a bad bounce. We often just switch to the hard courts instead for a proper game!

You have to challenge yourself sometimes though.

We used to have clay courts nearby but they seem to have been abandoned, and that club in question switched to your favourite, Mr Jackson, synthetic grass! Would love to give clay another go though, sadly haven't played on them since I was a junior but no idea whether there are any left in my area now.
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:19 PM   #11
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

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Originally Posted by Bernard Black View Post
Going back to amateur tennis, I reckon it definitely pays dividends to put a bit more on your second serve, especially on fast surfaces. I think a lot of players just hate the thought of giving their opponent a free point via a double fault but the way I see it, if you're hitting the second serve well enough you'll get a lot of free points yourself or at least start out the rally on top every time which over the course of the match will balance out well in your favour (unless your double fault count becomes astronomical). I also see a lot of players just lazily kicking in the second serve every time, they never seem to change it up with slice or mix the pace whatsoever. Considering most amateurs probably hover around 50% first serve percentage they really should put more thought and effort into the second serve which accounts for the other 50%.
Nothing annoys me more than gifting opponents breaks with double faults. I wish I had a 2nd serve I could rely on, I have huge admiration for how much work Roddick for example puts into his 2nd serve. I just don't have the confidence in it. In fact, there are times it's so fragile that I'm kicking in my 1st serve just so I don't have to hit 2nd serves. Not good
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Cheers, fellas.

I don't think we have nearly as many grasscourts in the UK as people think. I think my club is one of only two places that has them in the whole of the midlands. It's massive home advantage when we take on other clubs because their players have little to no experience on them. Thing is though, not many people here like them, especially the men, and I think that's simply because you can't get a proper work out on them or a fair game. Points rarely last more than three shots, and are often spoilt by a bad bounce. We often just switch to the hard courts instead for a proper game!

You have to challenge yourself sometimes though.

We used to have clay courts nearby but they seem to have been abandoned, and that club in question switched to your favourite, Mr Jackson, synthetic grass! Would love to give clay another go though, sadly haven't played on them since I was a junior but no idea whether there are any left in my area now.
There isn't that many at all, even in London. There's some at the national LTA centre which are nice, and a few others spread out but most of them are in poor condition. I'd say there are even fewer playable clay courts. I've played 99.9% of my matches either on hard courts or indoor carpet.
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Old 09-22-2009, 09:12 AM   #12
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

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Nothing annoys me more than gifting opponents breaks with double faults. I wish I had a 2nd serve I could rely on, I have huge admiration for how much work Roddick for example puts into his 2nd serve. I just don't have the confidence in it. In fact, there are times it's so fragile that I'm kicking in my 1st serve just so I don't have to hit 2nd serves. Not good
Yeah, of course it is easier said than done. Yesterday I had a shocker of a second serve performance, just no control into the deuce court and an ample dose of double fault-itis. To be fair, I was playing against a big banger of an opponent and I know if I'd just rolled it in he would most likely have filled his boots with return winners.

As a thought the second serve is probably the most high pressure shot in tennis? I can certainly relate to moments where I pray my first serve will go in simply so I don't have to hit that second serve at match point. If we take a typical warm up session, how much of it is actually practicing the serve? We all practice a ton of groundies then a few volleys and maybe a dozen looseners on the serve? We don't really practice it with any conviction. Of course, I'm talking of "we" in general here, I'm sure there are a few who spend hours practicing their serve, such as Set Theory in his serving thread and from his videos his serve is really improving rapidly for a beginner.


Quote:
There isn't that many at all, even in London. There's some at the national LTA centre which are nice, and a few others spread out but most of them are in poor condition. I'd say there are even fewer playable clay courts. I've played 99.9% of my matches either on hard courts or indoor carpet.
What, you mean you don't play on the king of surfaces - synthetic grass?
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Old 09-22-2009, 07:35 PM   #13
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

Thanks for the kind words re my serve Bernard, one reason I practice my serve so much is because I don't have access to a practice wall and I only have a couple of people to play against who are only available once or twice a week, also they only want to play games and don't seem that interested in 'hitting' or drills (which I think is more useful at this stage, neither player I play against are experienced either)

Also it's quite peaceful on court in the morning, which is nice :-)

Which Midlands grass courts are you playing on?, the only ones I know near me (in Birmingham) are in Edgbaston (the priory or Edgbaston Archery and Tennis club or whatever it's called.)

Let me know if you are in Brum and want a not-very-good tennis partner to 'hit' with, I could do with the practice (I don't think playing a game would be worth it though really, I would lose, badly.)
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Old 10-07-2009, 11:02 AM   #14
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

So now I'm back on the hard courts and convinced that grass has ruined my game! At least for now anyway.

Timing is completely lost on my groundstrokes, no confidence in my forehand at all and footwork is all over the place. Managed to get a win in my singles at the weekend but pretty much got through on good serving and grinding out points, relying on my opponents mistakes so I couldn't take any pleasure from it. Hopefully I'll find my hard court feet again soon though. I can definitely see how it's pretty much impossible to progress as an all-round player on grass, it is perhaps only good for improving your reflexes and picking up low balls.

Now the great British winter is starting to set in, it's time to head indoors! Will post reports on how I get on there. Played great indoors last year so hopefully I can carry that on this year.

Any others care to share their experiences on different surfaces? Clay? Cement? Wood? Ice?
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Old 10-07-2009, 11:05 AM   #15
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Default Re: The Surface Specialist Thread

All part of the development experience, grass sucks and always has sucked, but there are skills learnt that are transferable to other surfaces.
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Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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