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Learning USTA levels can help your game

Are you realistic about your ability as a tennis player? Do you know at what level of play you're really at? A vast majority of tennis players are at the 1.0-4.0 playing level. Players who are rated 4.5 and higher are usually pretty adept at all facets of the game.

The United States Tennis Association has set up a rating guide for players at all levels. A condensed evaluation of players from 1.0-4.0 follows. The rating system should go a long way in helping you decide what your level of play is:

*1.0 player: This is a beginning player who is just learning how to play the game.

*1.5 player: This player is just slightly better than a beginner and should just be concerned with keeping the ball in play.

*2.0 player: This player has an incomplete swing on most shots, avoids hitting backhands and playing net as much as possible. Although he or she may be familiar with positioning for singles and doubles, these players are frequently out of position.

*2.5 player: Still favors his forehand over his backhand. However, he can keep the ball in play reasonably well, and is getting better on his return of serve.

*3.0 player: Is starting to hit with more consistency on moderately paced shots, and is starting to hit more backhands with consistency and pace.

*3.5 player: This player is improving in all aspects of his game. He has more control and spin on his serve, is more aggressive at the net, and more consistent on harder hit shots.

*4.0 player: Hits the ball with greater consistency, power, and depth on ground strokes. Can consistently place first and second serves, and has a much improved net game.

If you are still not sure what your level of play is, you would be wise to call one of the following tennis clubs to have one of their teaching professionals give you a quick evaluation:

Miller Tennis Center (632-8600), Sportsplex (694-8877), South Towns Tennis Center (662-9396) and the Village Glen (633-1635).

If you don't feel comfortable being assessed by someone you don't know, you could ask a friend who is a good player to assess your game.

Once you have a firm understanding of what your level of play is, some of the following tips could be helpful in improving your game. Most important, you have to be realistic about what your level of play is.

Private and group lessons are available at all local tennis clubs. Taking lessons is one of the best ways to improve your game. It constantly amazes me how many players, regardless of their ability level, think that taking lessons is beneath them.

Realistically, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, the two best players in the world (men and women) have coaches who help them. If it's good enough for these superstars then it is definitely good for the rest of us.

Private lessons are more expensive than group lessons, costing upwards of $75 an hour. However, the whole focus of the lesson is on one person -- you. You will be hitting hundreds of tennis balls and should notice dramatic improvement after three or four lessons.

Group lessons are much cheaper (costing as little as $15 or less an hour, depending on the number of people in your group). Group lessons may also be less intimidating because you will often have three or four players in the lesson with you. You will also notice that most of the players in your group are about the same level that you are. This will greatly improve your confidence and will give you some practice partners whom you could play with during the week.

As your prowess increases you would be wise to participate in tennis clinics. Even though there may be as many as 10-12 students in a clinic they are usually held on two courts. All aspects of the game are covered in drills that last about 90 minutes.

Every player should try to be on the tennis court playing at least three times a week to guarantee improvement.

A word of caution: You have to be realistic about your game. Try to compete with players who are at the same level that you are. Occasionally, you may want to play against superior players. However, you must realize that your opponents might be hitting shots that you may not be capable of returning.

Playing within your limits will give you great satisfaction both physically and mentally. And, you may notice that your game has improved, allowing you to compete at a higher level.

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Squash champs crowned

Nardin defeated Nichols, 4-1, to win the Western New York girls high school squash championships.

The results: first singles, Pamicka Markello (Nichols) def. Monica Wlodarczyk, 3-2; second singles, Courtney Leous (Nardin) def. Grace Marlette, 3-0; third singles, Sara Wlodarczyk (Nardin) def. Jessica Demakos, 3-0; fourth singles, Rebecca Papaj (Nardin), def. Penny Hamilton, 3-1; fifth singles, Stephanie Che (Nardin) def. Sarah Basson, 3-0.

e-mail: thegreatgar@verizon.net

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