Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Pickleball Wars

Pickleball Musings from a FB post I wrote in July. Here in September, this woman can't beat me, yet. We played to 11-6 recently (in singles, which is much different from doubles). It won't be long.

I'm creating a Frankenstein monster. For three weeks I have been helping a woman new to pickleball (she started 5 weeks ago she claims) who is younger than me by several years and much more fit (she runs for things but doesn't always get there) by practicing with her one-on-one for 75 minutes two or three times a week. Decades ago she played a little tennis.

She asked me to help her with her serve, which never went in, and her game which was all over the place. Serving rules in PB are dumb, so I dumbed it down for her. Just drop it (and then all the fussy rules don't apply) I told her, and hit it on the bounce up into that big rectangle over there diagonally and you'll instantly improve your game 100%. Because you can't score if you don't get your serve in, period.
But I want a deep serve (to keep her opponent back and on the defensive) she said. Just get it in, I said, and deepness, and a good shortness which is a tricky change of pace and can produce an ace, will come. That's what we did the first week; using my 8 practice balls I would demonstrate putting 22 of 24 soft serves in, and that was 22 serves I could pick up points on. She is a quick study, and being competitive, she simplified her serve by converting to a bounce serve and ditching the awkward high-shoulder drop, dropping the ball from waist-high instead (better control as to where the ball will bounce up to) and softened her service strike by foregoing smash or spin attempts, and now she never misses putting a serve in. And once or twice she gets an "ace" in each game because her serve suddenly bounces short and is unreachable.
Then we worked on rallying, off our serves. We don't keep score, we just serve to each other and hit it back and forth, back and forth and back and forth till it goes out or in my case, she hits a slant shot to the other half court on my side (she's good at those and never puts this "touch" shot out) that I eschew running for because I'm old, heavy and tired. She always pulls up short and cries, "Yes!" when she does this which makes me chuckle.
Then to get back, when she serves next I hit the return low and hard to the spot she just vacated as she moves towards the center of her court (i.e. behind her) and watch as she reverses, sprints for it, lunges and, barely missing it, cries out in exaggerated anguish. It's fun and funny.
So in two weeks she picked up serving, returning and rallying, and added her natural talent at slant shots (balls off to the side). But her backhand was weak and she jumped at the ball, waving at it in a backhanded stab that rarely made it over the net. Can't generate any power if your feet are off the ground, I told her. Plus she wasn't getting set for the shot, she was always moving towards the ball but never "arriving at it." So we worked on that this week and she came up with, on her own, incorporating a 2-handed backhand, which a few players have but not many. Her BH improved exponentially as we practiced (she got properly set by using the 2-handed technique) and today I watched as she played at Senior Drop-In games looking like Evonne Goolagong raking double-fisted backhands by Chris Evert, one after another. In only five weeks, I wondered?
I've been working for 11 long months to get to where I actually win occasionally, and I "only" lose 9-11 to the immortals now at Drop-In (being, of course, partnered with an immortal whom I cause to lose alongside of me) instead of 2-11. I've been getting backhanded compliments lately, Peter your game has really improved! Now I look at my "student" and wonder if I'll be able to beat her in August even. Didn't the monster creation kill Dr. Frankenstein?

1 comment:

Steve said...

Is anyone playing pickleball this time of year? I would like to give it a try but have never played.