How do you assess a Skill Level?
Let's say you are about to play someone you've never played before in a local Tournament
and you have no idea what their skill level is, how to you evaluate it?
1. Pay Attention to details ...
(a) If your Opponent gets to serve first, take note of where they tend to direct most of their servers.
(b) Are they comfortable in mixing them up keeping you guessing
(c) Do they do a good job at disguising where the serve is going to go?
(d) Do the serves come in with kick, power, slice?
2. If you serve first what do you look for?
(a) How comfortable are they with servers to the backhand side?
(b) How quick are they at getting to a [down the tee] serve?
(c) What do they do with the return, do they just get the ball back in play or do they try to place you on defense from the start?
3. Continuing with the serve ...
(a) How does your Opponent handle your 2nd Serve, do they try to tee off on them or again just get it back in play?
4. Within a baseline rallies ...
(a) take note on their side to side - up & back movements.
(b) Are they quick to get to a drop shot and subsequent overhead?
(c) Does your Opponent seem to try everything to get to the Net?
Within the first few games, you should be able to tell what type of match you are about to have. It doesn't take long to figure out where their strengths & weaknesses are. Many Recreational Players have a strict mindset that works for them and they don't generally deviate from that. Are they a Chip & Charge type Player that wants to attach you from the Net or do they like staying back and hitting baseline rallies?
For the Players that tend to hang at the baseline, are you looking at mostly forehand shots from them or do they mix it up nicely attempting to feed you both forehand & backhand shots?
Another important sign to look for is whether your Opponent is comfortable setting up the point or do they try to put the point away from the first couple of shots?
Remember most recreational Players aren't capable of long extended baseline rallies. Thats for the Pros, who work the point until they get the opening they're looking for. With Public Park Players (Club Players) having the ball cross the net more than five times is not the norm. It's important to watch which side breaks down more often.
Take a few games to size up your Opponent and construct your Game Plan from that assessment.
Have fun and don't forget to pay attention