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Respected tennis writer Joel Drucker answers your questions about the thrills and spills of the recreational player. Got a hole in your game or a question for Joel? Drop him an email at and you may find yourself in a future column.

Q) Dear Roving Player:
I recently watched the National 55-and-over tournament. These players don"t hit that much harder than me, so I"m wondering what the key to success is in senior tennis? -JB, California

A) Dear JB:

No matter what the age, better players make better decisions. That is, they know what they can do, don"t try what they cannot do and devote time away from competition to improve their technical and tactical skills. In other words, they play with purpose. Doing all this requires exceptional discipline, a discipline that can only be gained from sustained practice and experience. And yet, as simple as this may seem, it"s not easy to do. But here"s one thought that"s more about attitude than time commitment: Do whatever you can as often as possible to put yourself on the path to improvement and smart decision-making. When you"re playing practice matches, simulate the environment of a tournament by not talking during changeovers. When your match concludes, add something extra to it such as asking your opponent to feed you 20 overheads. The next day, jot down a few notes about what worked and what didn"t work during that match. Besides practice matches, schedule drilling sessions where you focus on specific skills. Don"t just stand there and hit. Instead, build an agenda where you spend 10-15 minutes at a time working on concrete strokes or scenarios. All this work will help you play with more focus and purpose. 

Q) Dear Roving Player:
A player at my club always seems to find a way to avoid playing with me. Since we often play the same people, I don't think she's that much better or that I'd waste her time, but somehow she's never quite able to commit to a game. Am I doing something wrong here?
Jane, Miami, FL

A) Dear Jane:

A simple lesson I"ve learned from tennis the hard way: We live in a democracy, and are each free to choose who we play with. At the same time, the art of ducking is a never-ending and rather disgusting aspect of the tennis social scene. To me it"s part of what retards the game"s growth; but then again, there are players I don"t like playing with either, so perhaps I"m as much a culprit as the next dude. So why does ducking happen? While just about everyone can stomach losing a match in the abstract sense, for everyone there are certain playing styles, people and situations they"d prefer to avoid. So at one level, this opponent unquestionably fears you. Take a bow (I"m assuming you are exemplary in all matters of sportsmanship). At another level, let it go. There are many more fish in the sea. And should you ever get the chance to play this person, try and treat it like any other match rather than Armageddon. Easier said than done. I can say this all I want but I ever get the chance to play the guy who"s ducked me that I'll probably overhit the first 20 balls.  

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Oakland-based Joel Drucker is one of the world's leading tennis writers. Author of the book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, Drucker's work has appeared in a wide range of print and broadcast media, including Tennis, USTA Magazine, ESPN, CBS and The Tennis Channel. For The Tennis Channel he's worked as an on-air analyst and is co-producer of the program, Center Court with Chris Myers. An avid recreational player, Drucker's lefthanded 4.5 game attempts to combine the tactical array of Brad Gilbert with the variety of John McEnroe, a style he fondly refers to as "Spinning Ugly."