Over the past few years, many people have been asking me about how to elevate their 4.0 singles game to the 5.0 level. Luckily, there are not too many tricks to the trade, but rather a few simple improvements that people need to make.
If you’re already around a 4.0 level, you most likely already have a solid technique; therefore, placement, direction, depth and spin are hopefully already there. So let’s talk about strategy and the mental aspect of the game.
Return of Serve
In nearly all 4.0 singles games, there are way too many unforced errors and way too many baseline rallies. In addition, most 4.0 players need to get to the net a lot more. My first tip would be to make it your routine to return the serve and go to the net to put pressure on your opponent. In other words, don’t sit around waiting for that perfect ball to come in on because it won’t happen enough. If your strokes are good enough to place the ball down the line off the return, come in behind it and volley the next ball.
When you are the server, and your opponent is coming in to the net, the number-one rule is to pick your shot and execute. Do not second-guess yourself and doubt where to put the ball in the middle of your stroke. Of course, practicing your passing shots with a friend will go a long way and pay off during the competitive matches.
The Mental Game
I have seen too many players missing serves, returns and making other simple, unforced errors. I refer to these as “loose points” – and they should be eliminated from your game as much as possible. If you’re playing without discipline, a plan or mental intensity, you will be a victim of a lot of unforced errors. The best advice is to stay focused and prepared. At most levels, the mental game is more important than the physical game.
To sum it all up, get to the net, commit to your shots, stay positive, have a plan, and eliminate the simple mistakes from your game. Good luck and I hope to see you on a pickleball court soon.
Marcin Rozpedski is the Director of Sports at the Lakes Country Club in Palm Desert, CA. He is also the 2015 and 2016 USAPA Men’s Singles National Champion.