What fewer, but still quite a few, folks do is get reports to aid in scouting future opponents. These can be lists of ratings or team reports that show overall ratings, and records and courts played on a given team. With these you can get an idea of who plays with who and on what court and if teams stack their line-ups or if they play straight up.
But what about once you are on the court? A customer, let's call him Bob, just shared his experience with me from a recent match where knowing the opponents estimated ratings helped he and his partner have a strategy from the start that allowed them to win a match they might not have otherwise.
The opponents for the upcoming match were both 4.0s, but one was just bumped up from 3.5 and the other down from 4.5. The impulse reaction would probably be that Bob and his partner should try to avoid hitting to the bumped down 4.5 and attack the bumped up 3.5, and this is exactly what Bob's partner and teammates all advocated. But Bob had gotten a report on the opponents and knew that the bumped up 3.5 actually had a higher estimated dynamic rating than the bumped down 4.5, 3.9 vs 3.6, and had a game plan to take advantage of that.
With the game plan in hand, Bob and his partner went after the bumped down 4.5. Bob describes how the match went the best:
The former 4.5 was a big hitter, who could hit two great shots in a row, but not three. The former 3.5 guy was very solid, steady, and didn’t miss much, but he was one-dimensional and climbed on the net.Like he says, the strengths and weaknesses could perhaps have been figured out. But given that the 4.5 was a big hitter who could hit great shots, how quickly would one have deduced that we was actually the weaker player? And in league play where the third set is a 10-point tie-break, figuring this out after losing the first set means that at best if you win the second set you are playing roulette with the 10 pointer. Knowing the ratings ahead of time and trusting them (to a point), allowed Bob have the right game plan and stick to it even when the guy they were attacking could hit a few great shots.
So, I lobbed the steady guy to get the ball to the big hitter, got in rallies with him, and waited for him to miss, which he did, confirming his rating. The former 3.5 guy got very frustrated, got impatient, and got worse as the match went on, trying to finish points as soon as possible.
Without the ratings, I would have played the match exactly wrong. Maybe I would have figured it out along the way, maybe not. Going in with the ratings on their foreheads helped me a lot.
As always, contact me if you are interested in any reports on any USTA League player or team.
Note: Names and specific (but not relative) ratings were changed in the above to protect those who wish to stay anonymous