Pete Tarnowski won two upper level courts and took the early season lead in the standings. Tarnowski has played four sessions and has a 21.75 point average. Other court winners were Bob Kooris, Scott Kiker and Adam Kwiecinski. Anthony Palmenter and JR Randall shared first on an upper level court. Brantley Dreisbach and Scott Degerberg split points on a lower court. Results.
Tips for Playing in the Rain:
Platform tennis is played outdoors in all types of weather conditions. Each different condition presents it's own set of challenges. Each has specific strategies and tactics proven to help you perform better. This week we played part of the 7:30 session in pretty wet conditions. I thought I would present a couple of tips for improving everyone's rain play while the memories of hydroplaning shin busters are still fresh.
Holding serve in the rain is critical. It becomes difficult to hit offensive returns and harder to win points from the baseline. This makes breaking serve much less likely. Therefore, if you get broken by a team with two good rain servers, it is probable that you will lose the set.
The most common way players lose their serve in the rain is by faulting too often. Servers who rely on a lot of spin are more prone to faulting in the rain. The solution is to add more weight to your shot by hitting the back of the ball rather than the side. Making contact with the ball higher and not as much to your right side (right-handers) aids this.
You must force yourself to come in and be ready to volley. Staying back is not a great option. Always approach favoring your backhand volley as almost all returns hit higher than your shoulders are going out in the rain. Good returners tend to take more chances because they know how much harder winning a prolonged point from the baseline will be. Controlling the net through the first three shots (serve, return and first volley) yields even greater benefits than in normal conditions.
Oddly enough, another common way to lose serve is by being too afraid to fault. Push servers who rely on hitting a ball that arcs high over the net run the risk of having the lone returnable serve on the court. The high arcing serve tends to bounce straight up with no skid. To correct this, hit the ball at a higher point than you are accustomed to. Try to create a less arcing, more downward ball flight. These servers will benefit from taking a little more risk on the serve. Serving 100% is not necessary in the rain. In PT there is always a risk-reward factor to consider. Since skidding your serve yields such high rewards, it is worth risking a few faults.
Playing from the Baseline:
Take more chances. Playing prolonged defensive points becomes risky because of how difficult the shots become. When possible, attempt transitional shots from typical defensive positions. Do not pass on decent offensive chances.
Lob high. Excessively high if possible. Use these lobs to create drive opportunities off your back screen. Overheads are tough to spin off of high lobs in the rain, especially as they get deeper than the service line. The tendency is for the overhead hitter to strike the ball at a higher point than usual and add depth to the shot. These balls generally come off the back screen high and out into the court. You can now drive the ball easier because it is higher than the net - this compensates for your inability to control drives with topspin in wet conditions. The overhead hitter's only other option is to push his overhead softly, which off the high lob is tougher to control. Now he runs the risk of hitting a ball that naturally bounces higher off the deck, giving you an equally good drive opportunity. If you notice this happening, taking some chances with the blitz can also be beneficial.
Drive primarily crosscourt and rely on opponents missing volleys. The crosscourt shot travels over the low part of the net, which enables you to hit a flatter drive. It also creates a much longer (diagonal) path than a down-the-line shot. These factors give you more room for error. Do not try to pass your opponents cleanly when hitting their paddle with the wet ball will suffice. This too gives you much more room for error as it is very common to volley balls that are going out in the rain. This is because players fear losing control of the net and know retrieving the ball off the back screen is less of an option. They become highly focused on hitting volleys, thus more prone to making a play on the "out" ball.
Do not blitz on your partner's return of serve. First, the returner is likely to make contact "late" because the ball skids fast at him. This means the return will not go crosscourt but flutter down the line. Not a good situation for a blitzer. Second, it is very hard to make solid contact and mishits are common. Again, not a good blitz situation. Third, but most importantly, successful blitzing relies on the returner hitting down at the net rusher. This forces him to hit volleys up and creates easy volleys for the blitzer. Most rain serves never bounce higher than the net, thus the returner can't hit returns down at the net rusher.
Playing the Net:
Don't take chances. Once you have control of the net, understand that your percentages for winning the point are very high if you just play good defense. Any time you are pushed more than five feet back off the net, simply look to keep the point in neutral - meaning don't give the baseline team anything that bounces higher than the net that they can drive. If they hit a short shot, within five feet of the net, you can go for slash winners and drop shots - but only if you can make them near 100% of the time.
Heavy paddles work better than light ones. Gritty paddles work better than smooth. Gloves work well - wide receiver gloves better than racquetball (but only in the rain). Tournagrip original works well too - but never in combination with a glove. Catcher's masks, chest protectors and shin guards are also useful.