I've seen some scrappy tennis players in my life. To be honest, I am one myself, haha. 90% of the people I have played with or captained and organized in over 1,000 events over the past 10 years are players with no formal tennis training. No significant High School or College tennis experience, never really had private lessons, maybe participated in the occasional clinic at a local club or park. Most of them don't play leagues or tournaments, they just want to get together and have fun. They love mixed doubles and going out for dinner or drinks afterwards. I call this the forgotten majority of tennis players in the United States. There are millions of them (us) and I am working hard on planning to organize their fun under the umbrella "Social Tennis Networks".
Many of those players may not look like Federer or Sharapova on the tennis court, but they have one talent that only comes with experience: They know how to win a match (despite their scrappy game). I want to share with you what I think are the qualities you need to have to win matches. Bear in mind, I am not a teaching pro. I can't tell you how to serve and what airline to chose for your grip (Eastern, Western, Continental ???). Got that? I'm just Mr. Scrappy who just beat his buddy J. 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 - because I know how to win a match!
1. Stretch your muscles
What good does it do you when you injure yourself halfway through the first game (happened to me!)? Honestly, you are wasting time and can't play for days, weeks, months. You want to beat your opponent? Then make it a habit to stretch! 5 minutes of stretching before and 2 minutes after a match go a long way to prevent some nasty injuries. This is no joke, folks!
2. Observe your opponent
Oftentimes you know your opponent real well. Still makes sense to observe his or her game during warm up. Even more important when you're playing against someone you don't know at all. Make sure you hit to their back hands and see what they do with it. Give them a couple of overheads and check their volleys at the net. Then save that information to memory - provided your brain isn't burned out already in the hot Califormia sun, haha. Oh, you don't live in California? Too bad. Then provided your brain isn't washed out by all those rains you had lately, haha.
3. Prepare two game plans
So you saw your opponent moved to the net already during warm-up? He didn't really have any good ground shots from the base line? Oh, too bad, here is your first game plan: YOU WILL OWN THAT NET. Tie your shoe laces and get that passport ready: You'll be traveling to the net A LOT.
In case that plan fails because your opponent is much faster than you and knows how to come in quicker than allowed by the court police: game plan two. Practice those lobs and passing shots, my friend, because it's gonna get nasty. Your opponent will think this is a 4 hour Super Senior League match.
4. Exploit his / her weaknesses
Every one of your opponents has one or two weaknesses. You know it and I know it. We all have those, right? You, my friend, will be the most ruthless tennis player this side of the Mississippi today. No more Mr. Nice Guy. He doesn't really have a back hand but loves those powerful forehand ground strokes that pin you to the baseline? Guess what? From now on ALL you give him are shots to his back hand. Got that? Stay away from that forehand whenever you can.
And then this lady who likes to rush to the net? Remember you are going to own that net? You serve, you move, you pin her to the baseline. She will give you crappy shots from there and you WILL put those away, you hear?
5. Stay focused*
*You won the first set despite your scrappy game? Yeah baby, you had a game plan, remember. And nothing deterred you, not even the airplanes flying low over the court, or the grunt noises of the guy on the neighbor court. Now you want to close the deal and win in two, right? Stay focused now. Don't think you got it bagged and can take it a little easier now. Many a thousand of tennis players have lost the second set after a seemingly easy first set. Don't let up. Be on your toes and stay focused, ruthlessly exploiting those weaknesses of your opponent.
See, now you know how to win a match despite your scrappy game. Now go and do it. And don't come back with an injury. Okay?