Playing the game furiously and practicing as well with a ball machine. So I was on the court five times (7 3/4 hours) last week and three times (5½ hours) this week. Was also in Newport RI watching a tennis tournament for three days last week.

My performance is mixed. Won three out of four doubles sets one day, lost to the oldest guys (they are 93 and 85) the next (one a tiebreaker). Then won at singles with a friend who has a great top spin stroke, and he suggested I change my grip—I moved my hand half an inch farther from the racket head, so that the end of the handle is in my palm rather than just past it. Now I can whip the racket more. What a difference. I can now hit the sweet spot of the racket much more often, almost every time. But the extra power sends the ball long a lot, and we lost all three sets one day.

However my team finally beat the oldest guys 6-2. This is the first time in 8 sets. A record. However pathetic. So some improvement. Then last night I played with the stronger guys in their 50’s and received compliments from two men who had played singles against me just once a year ago and were never available again—I was too far beneath their level. One was on the opposing doubles team, and I couldn’t believe how easily I returned his serve last night that I could hardly touch a year ago. Unfortunately my serve was off, and I choked in the final game. My team split sets.

One player last night uses what he calls “junk” shots—they are all spins and lobs and drops and dinks. He doesn’t do the hard power hitting that so many others choose. Joe’s game is very thoughtful, filled with well-placed shots. Much like the 2007 and 2008 champion of the Campbell’s Cup tournament I saw in Newport, Fabrice Santoro, nicknamed The Magician. Joe admires Santoro’s style, so I called him the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Joe was full of advice that I liked: stand in the center of the service box, not the center of the space between the court centerline and the doubles outside line. Don’t worry about the shots to your alley…your opponent will miss more than half of them. Never stay at the service line (in no-man’s land)—go to the net or stay back at the baseline. You and your partner should either both be at the net or both be near the baseline. Poach as often as you can in the center…even if you only make 2 out of 5 good returns, because you will freak out your opponent, and he will hit more balls into the net and wide. Adapt to what your opponent is doing, change your game, hit to the weakest side of the weakest player.

Maybe all of this is basic strategy to experienced players, but no one told me any of this. In fact some of this advice contradicts what I was told. I will give it a try! I will also practice my serve and new grip a lot more. I have to develop better control of my new-found power. I am also pretty good at “touch,” just placing the ball gently out of the way. And my net game last night was very strong. What a pleasure to make a good shot. Very satisfying.