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Joel Drucker (right)

Joel Drucker: Five Random Thoughts About USTA League Tennis

• Might league tennis punish improvement? Have heard this happen many times: Take a player named John. John is a 3.5 and works very hard on his tennis – lessons, drilling, focused practice. For several years, John played on a 3.5 team. Last year came the big jump. Playing on two league teams, John went 12-1 (9-0 in singles) – and at the season’s end, was bumped up to 4.0. But this season, on a team with better 4.0 players, he’s hardly been given the chance to play. If he’s lucky, he might play a doubles match or two. Now what?

• More on the quest to get better: Ellen has been working on learning how to serve and volley. But her partners constantly tell her not to do this in their doubles matches. How will Ellen ever learn to put this skill into play?

• Data deluge? Just learned about a website called tennisrecord.com – a comprehensive database of every league player in the country. A player on this site isn’t just rated 4.5 – she’d be a 4.1204, the data also detailing total sets and games won. Why does this site exist? What purpose does it truly serve? Confession: I’ve been on it 20 times the last three days, including hunting down at least ten people I’ve played with.

• Poor work habits. It’s amazing how recreational players will closely study Roger Federer and try to imitate his forehand. “You can learn a lot from the very best,” one told me recently. But then, that same person will arrive just ten minutes prior to a league match and barely hit a ball. How does he expect to compete effectively? Forget mimicking Federer’s forehand. How ‘bout showing up earlier.

• What happened to being a team player? If I’m on a softball team, I stay until the last ball is hit. Why do league players think it’s fine to play their match, watch a few points of another and then leave?

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