Thursday, April 24, 2014

Exhibition Play at Villages Florida April 2014

In the Fall of 2013, at the USAPA Nationals Tournament In Arizona, the winning team in Open Men's came from the Villages in Florida.  It was the team of Phil Bagley age 45, and Brian Staub, age 51.  They beat Tim Nelson age 24 from Seattle, in Washington State and his partner Billy Jacobsen (51).

The exhibition video attached has 3/4 of a rematch.  In this match up though, Tim Nelson is paired with 51 year old Michael Gates from California.  Michael Gates is no slouch either as he teamed at Nationals with a Canadian lady, Luba Zhekhovskaya, age 53 from Surrey BC) to win the Gold Medal in Mixed Doubles .

The linked video includes two games to 15 with Staub/Bagley losing the first game to Nelson/Gates and winning the second one.  There is also about 10 minutes of singles play with a 19 year old against a 41 year old.

Focusing on the doubles matches, I mentioned the ages of the participants, because some of the things that these players did we older folks should not try at home.  Younger players have faster minds and hands than us seniors.  That does not mean that younger players will necessarily beat us, but playing them requires a different strategy, than some of the ones seen in this video.

In that all 4 doubles players are very experienced 5.0 players, they play a very good short game.  Third shot drops are almost always just over the net.

To start, in the two games there was ONE missed serve, and that was a clear concentration error.  None of the serves were fancy, just putting the ball in play.

Second shots were almost always reasonably deep.  That allowed the returning team to get to the net and be set before the third shot drop.

The serving team was often kept back from the non-volley line by good play from the return team who were already at the net.  But, the serving team did not take being away from the net as a disadvantage and pressed themselves on to the net by smart short play.

There was  also a lot of aggressive hard volleying at the net, and most of the time the volleys were able to be slowed down by the opposition to keep the ball in play.  There is one 46 shot rally starting about the 8:30 mark with multiple sets of hard volleys followed by side to side dink shots.

The most successful hard shots were placement shots that followed a ball hit to the backhand of one of the players, which was returned across the net to the opposite player who was able to drill a shot low over the net just past the forehand side of the player who had hit the backhand earlier.  When a player is on his backhand, there is a small space and time gap because of the amount of time it takes for that player to return to a neutral position able to hit either a forehand or backhand shot.

An interesting strategy was targeting of a player.  Tim Nelson is known as a quick handed smart player, so Staub/Bagley hit a large percentage of their shots to Michael Gates intentionally.  Michael Gates is an excellent player, but lacks a bit of the speed of Nelson, and might be a bit shorter on savvy.  He is also more than twice the age of Tim Nelson, and that was certainly a factor.  This was not a specific targeting to his backhand or his forehand because it might have been weaker, but a targeting of him period.

Targeting one opponent can be a very successful strategy, particularly if you target that player's greatest weakness, which is usually the backhand.

I did not see evidence that Nelson/Gates targeted Staub/Bagley at any time.  My logic in that would be that you would be picking your poison.  Both Staub/Bagley are very effective on forehand and backhand shots. They are the only team I have watched who consistently hit backhand returns of serve.  Most of us will move around a served ball to deliver a forehand return.  These two don't and don't need to.

For tips on effective backhands, Brain Staub is a good person to watch and learn from.  In any backhand shots of substance, by that I mean other than the little ticky tacky dink shots, if you watch Staub you will notice that as his right paddle hand moves into the ball and away from his body, his left non paddle hand moves away from the body as well.

For the fun of it, stand up and pretend that you have a paddle in your playing hand.move that hand across and away from your body as you would taking a backhand shot.  Notice that your upper body moved a bit, or possibly a lot.  Now try the same movement, but also do the same motion with your non paddle hand. Notice that your upper body was more stationary the second time than the first time.

One of the things that hurts most people's backhands is that the upper body is not quiet.  Consequently, you were planning on hitting the ball at a certain point, and find that because of the movement of your body that the ball does not go where you want it to.  There is far better control of the body and the ball if you use a technique like Brian Staub does with his backhands.

Well, enough analysis, watch the video and see if you pick up things that can be added to your arsenal.

Here is the link to it.

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