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Top Spin 3 FAQ & Strategy Guide: Part 3 in the series of the most popular and helpful Top Spin FAQ in Cyberspace for Top Spin 1, 2 & 3 on the Xbox 360!  The Original Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guides have been responsible for helping thousands of Top Spin fanatics around the world in dealing with cheesy gamers by providing detailed insights and innovative gameplay strategies. These Guides are widely acknowledged by gaming and sports forums (and even a developer or two) as the one-stop location on the 'Net for Top Spin information for both offline and online gameplay.  This Top Spin 3 Guide features walk-through for offline career mode and extensive strategies  for gaming on Xbox Live! 


Creation date: June 23, 2008, Updated: February 24, 2009

Below you will find yet another addition to my highly successful series of Original Top Spin Superguides

If you were a regular visitor during the evolution of my two previous Top Spin Superguides, you can expect much of the same with this one in terms of updates and organization.  For those of you who are relatively new to the format of my Guides, what you see now for Top Spin 1 and Top Spin 2 was written from experience after creating 18+ custom characters (18+ times through the offline career modes) and over 1,000 online matches Ė which equates to several month's worth of research and experience for each game.  While this guide was completed on August 4, 2008, it will be maintained and updated when necessary for up to one year from Top Spin 3's original release date.   The Original Top Spin Superguides are the most complete source for Top Spin information anywhere.

If you have any questions about Top Spin 3, please feel free to
ask.
  The inquiries for Top Spin 1 and 2 helped make my original guides a better, more complete source for Top Spin information as I was able to identify what was on peopleís minds (i.e. the noted FAQs). Any new questions pertaining to Top Spin 3 would undoubtedly improve this guide as well.


Message Board:   The Top Spin 3 FAQ & Strategy Guide was completed on 8/4/08, but was effectively "finalized" on February 24, 2009.  No further updates will take place.

All content found in the "Original Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guides" (aka The Original Top Spin Superguides) is completely original work by the noted author(s).  
Content is owned by TheXBFL.com and protected by copyright law.  It is not to be reproduced or redistributed in part or in whole without the expressed written consent of the XBFL.
 

Intro:

Top Spin 3 is the third installment to one of the most popular tennis videogames to date (the other being Virtua Tennis).  The original Top Spin was a unique game in that it appealed to both the tennis enthusiast and the casual fan with its easy-to-learn controls, and excellent replay value when experienced over Xbox Live.  TS2 was released in March 2006 after four significant delays, and surprising to some, by a new publisher (2K Sports). Aside from the better models being available to create more realistic custom players and the obviously improved roster of new pros to choose from, TS2 had other revisions which made it quite a bit different from its predecessor: the risk shot had been modified considerably, and more tactical shot making was available to gamers who chose to use it.  Despite the changes (and noted improvements) however, TS2 failed to capture and maintain its fan-base the way the original Top Spin did.  Critics widely acknowledged that TS2 lacked the "X factor" that made the original so fun, as well panning the reality flaws that could be exploited unfairly in ranked online match play.  Top Spin 3 has clearly been billed as a "tennis sim" - and with the breadth of new options available to gamers in terms of shot selection and advanced tactics, the developers of TS3 may have taken a 'split-step' in the right direction.  Is the third time really a charm for the Top Spin series?  That is up for you to decide, but I will offer my opinion at the conclusion of this FAQ & Strategy Guide.  Below, you find my in-depth instruction to playing through Top Spin 3 both offline and online, as well as many extra bits of information that should enhance your overall experience with this game.



Table of Contents:   click topic below to advance to relevant section on this Webpage.

1 - Court basics and Face Buttons
2 -
Terminology

A
-
Creating a Player
                               -
Skills
                               -
Player Types
                               -
Custom Creations
                               -
Creating Andre Agassi
B - What the Pros Use (equipment and clothing found in TS3)
                                
-
Clothing and Sneakers
                                -
Racquets
                                -
Notes and definitions
                                -
Adidas hats
C
- Career Mode Walkthrough (Max Out Your XP As Quickly As Possible & Finish Pro Circuit at #1)
                               - Career Mode Overview
                               -
Career Schedule
                               -
Career Chart
                               -
Career Tips Summary
                     
     
     - Shortcuts
D
- Offline Strategies
                             
  -
Assigning XP
                            
   - Hitting Approach Shots
                               -
Returning Serves
                               -
Baseline Exchanges
                               -
Chasing Down Lobs
                               - LB vs RB
                               - Amateur Circuit Tips & How To Beat Opponents
                               -
Challenger Circuit Tips & How To Beat Opponents
                               -
Junior Circuit Tips & How To Beat Opponents
                               -
Pro Circuit Tips & How To Beat Opponents
                               -
Legend Circuit Tips & How to Beat Opponents
                               -
Final Note: Beware of CPU Interference (Cheesy A.I.)
E -
Career Mode Summary
F
- Xbox Live Gamer Achievements
                         
       -
Offline Achievements
                                -
Online Achievements
G
- Xbox Live! Play
                               
- General Online Gaming
                   
            - Exhibition (Player) Matches
                               - World Tour
                             
  - General Advice
H -
Online Strategies 
                            
   - Be Patient, Play Only When You Are Ready!
                               -
Identifying Strengths & Weaknesses
                               -
Service Positioning
                               -
Returning Serve
                               -
Battling the Power Game (1)
                               -
Battling the Power Game (2)
I
-  Cheesy Online Gameplay: Beware!
                               -
Induced Lag
                               -
Wide-Angled Serving
                               -
Risk Shot Abuse
                               -
Risk Shot Return of Serves
                               -
Player Stacking (Multiple 100s & 90s)
                               -
Exploitation of the "Handcuff" Return of Serve
                               - Trigger Returns from Inside the Baseline
                               -
Lob Returns
                               -
Risk Slice Abuse
J - Sim-Tennis For Dummies
K
- Xbox Live/Top Spin Server Updates, Patches, and DLC
L - FAQs
M - Top Spin 3 Game Review
N - Improvements Made Over Top Spin 2?
O - Suggestions for PAM Development & 2K Sports
P - Reality Flaws In TS3
Q - Wrap Up (conclusion)
R - Miscellaneous Links
S - The Author (and acknowledgements)
T - Custom Roster
U - Gamer Log - final posting 2/24/09
 

* Special Notice Key:

- Pro Tactic: a technique I  developed to improve a scenario found in the game, or, an alternative (and original) way of winning points.
- Pro Strategy: strategy I  developed to increase the chances of winning a point.
- Pro Insight: an issue or thought that I  felt was important enough to make mention of; could pertain to offline career planning, or online gaming
- Glitch! an in-game glitch or anomaly that I  discovered during my experience with Top Spin 3
- Fun Fact:  an identified part of the game that really holds no perceived value, but is entertaining/amusing nonetheless
- FAQ: questions posed to me that share a similar theme
- Note: an observation worth noting.  It could be further explanation of an aspect of the game, or simply something in the game that I thought was worth sharing.

 

1 - Court Basics and Face Buttons:

Throughout this FAQ, I will use terms like deuce court, ad-court, baseline, etc.  These terms may or may not be familiar to everyone. Below are simple illustrations depicting these areas of the court.

Court Basics: Details various parts of a tennis court: baseline, singles and doubles lines, service boxes, and doubles alley.
Court Basics 2: Illustrates the ad and deuce courts as well as "no man's land."  The term "deuce court" refers to the left service box (and right baseline area when serving).  The term "ad court" refers to the right service box (and left baseline area when serving).



Pro Insight: Using the Face Buttons
One thing I've noticed in the past when playing people online is that they get too comfortable with one type of shot/button and use it throughout most of the match.  The A.I. opponents do pretty much the same thing.  Using different shot types can help you win some easy points, and on occasion, get you out of a jam.  Here are some examples of when to use the different face buttons:
 

A (Safe Shot): It's a flat ground stroke that is "supposed to" have a less likelihood of being mis-hit.  This is a good shot to use if:

- You are trying to establish a rally without seeking too much of an angle.

- You are being run from side to side, but still having adequate time to reach the ball.  This is a higher percentage shot to make when on the run.

- You have the opportunity to pounce on a short ball, the safe shot (and pressing UP on the analog stick for added depth) is a good choice.  
 
- You are faced with a powerful server, and need a fairly reliable return.  The safe shot ("A") is your best bet at a decent return that's reasonably consistent. 

B (Top Spin):  The ball will have a lot of forward spin causing it to bounce shorter than the "A" shot.  The drawback to heavy top spin is that it's a bit slower than the safe shot, thus allowing your opponent a better opportunity of reaching it in time.  The advantage however is that you can produce greater angles with this type of spin. The top spin shot is best used when:

- You are trying to open the court up by forcing your opponent to one side.

- You want to vary the depth of your shot in hopes of forcing your opponent to make an error.  Pressing UP or DOWN on the analog stick can change where the ball makes its first bounce on the court.  If your opponent is deep behind the baseline, short bounces may cause him to shovel the ball if he is out of position.

- You are on the run, and you want to create an opportunity to recover.  Sometimes, if hit just right when on the run, you can create a wicked angle that may surprise your opponent.

- Pro Insight: if you are playing against an opponent who makes frequent use of the risk shot, or, has 90+ XP assigned to power, the top spin shot should be avoided.  If used in this situation, you may find that your top spin shot will be slow and land short in your opponent's court, setting him up for an easy put-away.

X (Slice):  Slice is an extremely underrated shot, and one that I favored heavily in Top Spin 1 (especially when playing cheesy gamers who hit the risk shot all the time). Slice creates underspin which causes the ball to plane, as opposed to arcing over the net.  Due to the back spin, the ball bounces very low.  It is best used when:

- You are facing a big server like Andy Roddick.  When timed correctly, slice takes all the speed off your opponent's ball and returns it back to them low and slow.

- If your opponent is at the net, a slice can be a very effective passing shot.  Not only does it affect your opponent's timing (they are likely expecting a harder shot), but the reverse spin makes it difficult for them to hit a powerful volley.

- If you are on the run from side to side, and need to recover.  The most effective shot in this situation is to hit a cross-court slice since it will have a longer flight time before your opponent can hit it.  It should allow you an extra second to hopefully capture better defensive court positioning.

- You are facing an opponent who has heavy ground strokes, or, who is a cheesy gamer and hits risk shots all the time.  The slice is the most efficient way to return powerful shots if you can't match their power using "A" or "B."  Similar to returning a hard serve with slice, timing the use of your "X" button takes power off your opponent's shot and returns it back to them.

- Your opponent is out of position or deep behind the baseline, slice can be an effective shot as it has a low bounce, and can be hit with a decent angle.

- If you are a volleyer, a well placed slice is the best shot to hit prior to attacking the net.  You may have heard the term "chip and charge."  A player will chip (slice) the ball where it travels much slower than a typical shot and with reverse spin (to create a low bounce), and they follow right behind it to the net.  In theory, the low bounce should make it difficult for your opponent to hit a clean passing shot.  The slowness of your shot should also allow you more time to get to the net.  Don't forget to use the "RB" button when charging the net!

Y (Lob):  Lobs are shots that are hit high into the air, and above your opponent's head (and hopefully outstretched racquet too!).  In real life, there are two types of lobs:

1) a defensive lob, which is a ball hit high into the air with little or no spin.  The purpose of this shot is to allow you to regain court position if you are being run all over the place. The best defensive lobs are hit high and deep.  

2) Top spin lob.  Top spin lobs are offensive lobs that are hit with tremendous spin so that the ball flies over your opponent's head and arcs back down deep into the court, and just inside the baseline.  Due to the heavy forward spin, the ball will take off towards the back court after its initial bounce, thus making it very difficult to chase after.  Unfortunately, there is no distinction between the two lob types in Top Spin 3.  The lob found in Top Spin 3 is pretty basic (though more like a top spin lob than not), and is good to use in the two following scenarios:

- If your opponent is attacking the net, a lob not only can turn into an outright winner by traveling over their head and bouncing near the baseline, but it also sends a message to your opponent:  Think again before attacking the net against me!  Always remember though, lobs can be chased down in Top Spin 3, so be sure to rush the net as soon as you hit one just in case your opponent reaches it.  If they do reach it, any shot they hit will be a weak one, allowing you to put it away with an easy volley!

- If you are on the run back and forth and the outlook is not very good that you will recover, throw up a deep lob to allow your self time to regain a decent court position.  Of course, you are risking the possibility that your opponent could smash it for a winner, but it will not only help save some stamina, but it also gives you a better chance than what you had when running around the baseline.  It may also give your opponent second thoughts about rushing the net the next time he or she has you on the run again.


Pro Insights: Volley Types

A (Safe Volley) - the safe volley is nothing more than blocking the ball back before it bounces.  The speed of the volley will likely depend on the speed of the incoming ball.  Because you would be doing nothing more than re-directing the ball over the net, it is not really considered an offensive shot.  It is best to use this volley when:

- You are not in ideal position to hit an effective volley for a winner, but want to at least get it over the net safely.

- If your opponent is way out of position, and you fear missing the "easy put away," this type of volley into the open court is your best choice.

- If your opponent has heavy ground strokes (i.e. lots of power), this is the highest percentage volley to use.

B (Power Volley) - If you are in good position to hit a volley, this is arguably your best shot when at the net.  The power volley enables you to drive the ball over the net with force and angle (if desired).  If you have a relatively small zone on the court to hit a winner, this is a good choice too.  Be careful if you use the left analog stick to angle your shot though, it doesn't take much movement to hit a ball out of bounds.

 

X (Slice Volley) - A slice volley is a good choice when you are trying to take some pace off your opponent's shot.  It's also a good option when you want the ball to bounce low and to a specific area of the court.  Like the power volley, it doesn't take much movement of the left analog stick to knock one of these volleys wide of the singles lines.  Exercise caution when hitting this shot.

 

Y (Drop Volley) - Drop volleys are very effective if you are up at the net and your opponent is behind the baseline.  Depending how well skilled you are with the left analog stick, you can hit a drop volley so that it just clears the net, lands well short of the service line, and to where it hardly bounces.  You can also hit angles with drop volleys, though it takes a lot of practice.  Cross-court droppers are my favorite.  I can't help but hear Patrick MacEnroe yelling "Eye Dropper!" every time I hit one for a winner.  As with the power volley and slice volley, be careful when trying to hit too much angle.  You could either send it far wide, or, it may not clear your side of the net. Drop volleys are easier to execute the closer you are to the net.

 


 

2 - Terminology
 
Throughout this FAQ & Strategy Guide, I use some gaming terms that some people may be unfamiliar with.  Below, I've provided some definitions to explain their meanings:

2K Sports: The publisher of Top Spin 2 and Top Spin 3.

Cheesy Gamers: Gamers who resort to exploitations of reality flaws, cheats and unsportsmanlike gameplay in order to gain an unfair competitive edge over their opponents.  The play-styles of these gamers usually do not mimic the behaviors seen in the activities their respective games are based upon.  For American football games (e.g. Madden), cheesy gamers will make frequent 4th down conversion attempts, they will move specialized players out of their natural positions, they will frequently run "money plays" (i.e. plays that erroneously have high success rates), they will exploit glitches, etc.  In the Top Spin 3, cheesy gamers will resort to exploiting reality flaws such as the super wide-angled serve, excessive risk shots (including risk shot returns of serve), stacking players with three or more red zone skills (e.g. 90+ power, 90+ serve, 90+ forehand & backhand), and inducing lag.

PAM Dev: Power & Magic Development.  The developers of the Top Spin series.

Sim-Community: A collective group of gamers who abide by the codes of sim-gaming.  These individuals play honest and fair games, without resorting to exploitations of cheats, glitches, reality flaws, or loopholes.

Sim-Gaming: Simulation gaming.  This refers to the act of playing a game similar to that of the real life activity that it is based upon.  Sim-gaming does not make use of exploitations of cheats, glitches, reality flaws, or loopholes to gain an unfair advantage over other competitors.
 
Sim-Tennis: Simulation tennis.  The act of playing a tennis videogame where the style of gameplay mimics the real life sport, and "reality flaws" and glitches aren't used, abused or exploited.

Stacking Players:  A term I came up with for gamers who apply 90+ points to multiple skill areas of their custom players.  Many gamers opt for 100 power and 90+ level forehand and backhands.  They typically do this at the expense of two to three other key areas (typically 30 stamina and 30 volley, but sometimes serve or service return). While there is nothing wrong with forgoing stamina or volley, utilizing red level skills (90+) in more than two areas is frowned upon by the sim-community because the player gains the ability to overwhelm anyone with a diversified character regardless of their skill level.  Most cheesy gamers make frequent use of the wide-angled serve in addition to having a stacked player; they will serve out wide, expect a semi-weak return, and then pummel the ball down the near sideline for a winner.

Reality Flaws: Parts of a game that are embellished (or inaccurate) when compared to the real life activity to which it is based upon.  These are elements of a game that are typically exploited by cheesy gamers.  A few examples would be the Top Spin 1 risk shot which was measured to be in excess of 120 mph, and the Top Spin 1 kicker serve that would literally bounce over the return man's head.  Risk shots in TS3 are still considered reality flaws due to the fact that they can still reach or exceed 120mph, and can be used frequently.

 
 

A - First Things First, Creating a Player:

Section 1:
Skills
Section 2:
Player Types
Section 3:
Custom Character Creation
 

1)  I wonít spend too much time here other than highlighting a few key points with regard to creating your character:

Unlike Top Spin 1 where you had pre-defined character types (defensive, power, tactician), and Top Spin 2 where you had 11 areas to distribute "stars" to improve your player, Top Spin 3 has eight character attributes that you will need to focus on in order to reach the status of world-class competitor.  By assigning XP points earned through wins at various tournaments (560 in all), you can improve your player's abilities in the following categories:

- Service: increases the accuracy, power and consistency of serves
- Return: increases the accuracy, power and consistency of returns
- Forehand: increases the accuracy, power and consistency of forehand shots
- Backhand: increases the accuracy, power and consistency of backhand shots
- Stamina: according to the developer, stamina helps you regain energy after long runs, abrupt direction changes (drained more quickly if you use the LB or RB buttons)
- Volley: increases the accuracy, power and consistency of volleys
- Power: improves power of shots
- Speed: allows you to react quicker, run faster and change direction more quickly.

Note: Gone are precision, focus and spin from TS2
 

2) The first thing I recommend you do is put together an idea of what you want your character to be: A baseliner? Serve and volley player?  A defensive player?  Power hitter?   You should have a tentative plan of what you want your character to be because you will be accumulating XP points very quickly during your career.  For your first character,  I'd recommend setting a goal of having 55 points at each skill, and from there begin to shape your custom character to the style of play that suits you best.


For reference, here are my thoughts on player types and general ranges for each:

Power Hitters (baseliners): Andre Agassi, Jim Courier.   Groundstrokes (backhand/forehand) should have plenty of XP as should their power rating. They should also have moderate stamina (which is actually contrary to Andre and Jim - both of whom were in excellent physical condition for their style of gameplay).  Depending on your power hitter, sometimes precision is a tradeoff.  Some guys have very heavy swings but allow for some margin for error with the placement of their shots, while a very rare few (e.g. Agassi) possess the ability to paste lines with tremendous pace behind their shots.  Serves are adequate, but typically not exceptional.  Volleys are below average to average at best.  In today's game, Rafael Nadal is arguably the best pure baseline player.  His combination of speed, power, and top spin shots make him very difficult to play.

- Service range: 60-70
- Return range: 70-80
- Forehand range: 75-85
- Backhand range: 75-85
- Stamina range: 55-65
- Volley range: 25-35
- Power range: 85-95
- Speed range: 65-75
** Andre Agassi: Sv: 65, Ret: 81, FH: 83, BH: 81, Stm: 55, Vol: 30, Pwr: 95, Spd: 70 (this setup is an estimate based on the restrictive 560 points allowed)
** Jim Courier: Sv: 70, Ret: 73, FH: 80, BH: 80, Stm: 64, Vol: 30, Pwr: 90, Spd: 73

All-Court Players: Pete Sampras, Roger Federer: reasonable balance in their weapons of forehand, backhand, serve and volley, with one standing out slightly more than the others (e.g. Sampras' serve).  They have decent quickness around the court, good use of spins and angles, and are above average with their consistency and stamina.

- Service range: 65-75
- Return range: 65-75
- Forehand range: 65-75
- Backhand range: 65-75
- Stamina range: 65-75
- Volley range: 65-75
- Power range: 65-75
- Speed range:
 65-75
**

Defensive Players: Brad Gilbert is the best example in this category.  Strong stamina and consistency with groundstrokes is key to being a good defensive player.  A defensive player has no real weaknesses other than lack of firepower on offense.  He'd be one of strong mental focus and excellent consistency with shot making.  Speed around the court is also essential.  A good defensive player gets into the head of his opponent and causes them to make unforced errors as they try to produce winners. Novak Djokovic is the new breed of defensive player where he can play defensive tennis and as if hitting a switch, can go on the offensive with powerful, precise shots. Below are ranges for the "classic" defensive player model.

- Service range: 60-70
- Return range: 65-75
- Forehand range: 80-85
- Backhand range: 80-85
- Stamina range: 80-90
- Volley range: 40-50
- Power range: 55-70
- Speed range: 65-80
**

Serve and Volley Players (net aggressors): Patrick Rafter, Stefan Edberg, Taylor Dent, Tim Henman.  Serve and volleyers are a dying breed in tennis as it takes an exceptional amount of skill and talent these days to succeed with this style of play.  Part of this has to do with the high-fitness levels of today's players (i.e. much more power).  The other part has to do with how racquet technology has turned tennis into a power game that can be dominated from the baseline.   In Top Spin 1, in nearly 800 online matches, I experienced less than a half dozen net aggressors - and none of them were ranked very high.  I will go on record here and say that I was the highest ranking serve and volleyer with Top Spin 1, and had modest success in doing so.   If you choose this route, make sure you have an effective serve (120mph+), a strong ability to volley, and very good court speed. The trade-off is that you won't have firepower from the forehand or backhand side, but your shot making should at least be precise.  The best volleys are made after setting up a solid approach shot where your opponent's return won't be very effective.

- Service range: 65-80
- Return range: 65-75
- Forehand range: 65-75
- Backhand range: 65-75
- Stamina range: 50-65
- Volley range: 85-95
- Power range: 65-75
- Speed range: 80
-90
 ** Stefan Edberg:
Sv: 65, Ret: 65, FH: 69, BH: 69, Stm: 55, Vol: 97, Pwr: 70, Spd: 80
 

3) If you are creating a character in your likeness, make note of three things:

1) If you have a pronounced feature like a chin or nose, what you see in the create-a-player mode will look even MORE pronounced in the game during replays and the thumbnail image of your player during the pre and post-match screens.  You may want to scale back a bit with what you have during your creation process, even if it doesn't necessarily look right at that moment.  This same sort of issue was present in TS2 as well.  

2)      The default eye options are horrendous, most of what look to be unnatural; almost alien-like.  Pay careful attention to detail when selecting the eyes of your character if you have a special look in mind.  The eye shape has the potential to adversely affect the entire look of your character.  Granted, you can later tweak your facial settings with "morphology," but refinement around the eyes is limited, and from my experience, still didn't remedy the problem I was having while trying to get my look nailed down correctly. 

3) When you name your player, you may not want to use your real name.  Whatever first and last name you give your custom-player, they will appear to those you play when on Xbox Live.

 

Height and weight:  While height is something that can be precisely modified, your character's weight will not be revealed until you are about finished and ready to save your character.  Weight is affected by the general "build" of your character, and the level of fat and muscle you've added.  I wanted a player around 175lbs., and therefore had to toggle back and forth between screens, adjusting my build/fat/muscle percentages until I got the weight I wanted.

If you have questions with regard to a good height/weight for a custom player, please refer to the Original Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guide under the same category heading.  I would assume much would still apply here.

Service Motions:

Service Motion A: Classic service motion, a very popular form used by many pros and established players.
Service Motion B: Deep knee bend with knees together, a less common motion, and practically exclusive to Boris Becker (this motion was seen in TS2 as well).
Service Motion C: Feet together, typical service motion.
Service Motion D: This is the service style of Andy Roddick (note: TS2's fourth service motion option was that of Pete Sampras, which is not available in TS3).
Service Motion E: Classic trophy pose.  Features a twist at the mid-section.  The logo of the ATP Tour was taken from this style of serve.
Service Motion F: Somewhat similar service motion to that of former tennis pro Goran Ivanisevic.
Service Motion G: Feet together, racquet drops just over shoulder prior to the upswing.  This style is modeled after tennis legend Bjorn Borg.

Right hand or left handed:

Whichever suits you best.  Right handers are more common in pro tennis, but lefties have their own advantage with contrasting spins.

Forehand Motions:

Forehand Motion A: Compact stroke, flat delivery
Forehand Motion B: Similar to Motion A, but has a greater follow through
Forehand Motion C: This is a driving forehand motion with a good backswing and follow through
Forehand Motion D: Loopy over the shoulder swing.  This motion is typically favored by Spanish clay-court players.
Forehand Motion E: This is the motion of Rafael Nadal (who is an exclusive pro player to PS3 Top Spin 3 owners).
Forehand Motion F: This form utilizes a huge backswing.
Forehand Motion G: This is a "push" motion.  In real life, this sort of swing would not generate a lot of pace.  "Pushers" typically use this type of swing.
 

Single or two-handed backhand:

Unlike Top Spin 1, TS3 does not have any obvious drawbacks due to glitches when using a two-handed backhand.  It's simply a matter of preference.  In real life, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Two-Handed Backhand Motions:

Backhand Motion A: Standard backhand swing, but with a very wide stance where the player's body opens up completely to their opponent.
Backhand Motion B: This motion features a high follow through over the shoulder.  This style resembles that of many Spanish clay-court specialists.
Backhand Motion C: A "basic" backhand form.  Player steps forward and swings out towards his target with a good follow through over the shoulder.
Backhand Motion D: A more compact stroke than the other three listed above.  

One-Handed Backhand Motions:

Backhand Motion A: A backhand swing with a high follow through.  Player's body opens up at the completion of the stroke.  Similar style to that of Roger Federer.
Backhand Motion B: This motion is very similar to Motion A, however it features a slightly higher follow through motion.
Backhand Motion C: This one-handed backhand features a more compact swing (i.e. less follow through).
Backhand Motion D: Contact with the ball is made with two hands on the racquet, but the top hand releases at the start of the follow through.  

 

Voice Frequency:

Quite simply (in my opinion):

Always On = very annoying
Power shots and efforts = okay
Effort Only = good
Never = silence is golden

Remember, you may be investing between 20 and 30 hours in offline career mode (depending on your objectives).  You will undoubtedly grow tired of your character's grunts after a short period of time if you choose "always on."


4) Creating Andre Agassi

In the Original Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guide, my section on Andre Agassi was hugely popular far beyond my expectations.  Despite the relatively limited options found in the create-a-player mode, the Agassi look-alike that I created was pretty impressive, and far better than anything else online at the time.  Due to the two-handed backhand glitch in TS1, I didn't use him very much for online competition (choosing to instead use a virtual likeness of myself).

In Top Spin 2, I had spent countless hours trying to re-create Andre, and finally succeeded.  However, I could not share my results online because of the weird functionality of TS2's "DNA" feature.  If you chose a certain DNA base, and two minutes later chose the same one again, you would get drastically different results. Because of this, I couldn't post my process despite numerous requests.

In Top Spin 3, I have infact documented the steps I took to the best of my ability.  The Agassi character I created is based on his 2001-2003 appearances.  While he doesn't look exact (primarily because of the eyebrows which can't be further modified, and the eyes), he looks every bit as good as any of the in-game representations of existing pros.  From my experiences, I've found that the picture you see in the portrait view does not necessarily reflect the final "product" you will see in a game.  For example, if you were to create a very realistic version of yourself in create-a-player mode, you will likely look quite a bit different in the thumbnail image and cut scenes during an actual match. Certain features become more prominent during actual gameplay, so be aware of this during all of your custom creations.

I ran into this problem with the first version of myself, and my very first version of Andre Agassi.  So, after some trial and error, I have two versions of Andre that I am reasonably pleased with.  One looks better (more accurate) in the portrait mode (#1) but not so much during actual game play, and the other is not as accurate in the zoom/portrait view but looks better in the actual gaming mode (#2).  Below are the settings I used, but you will need to tweak certain facial features using the "Morphology" option in the game for the nose, mouth, eyebrows, chin, etc.  That part will be up to you.  I am merely providing a base to make the initial set-up easier.

Note: The settings for body/build/muscle/fat were to get his videogame weight close to his real-life competitive weight.  Despite being fairly accurate, the videogame version of Andre looks a bit bulkier than he should be.  If you want to give him a leaner appearance, reduce the level of fat and muscle by a few points.

Note:  Rumor is that Andre Agassi will appear as a downloadable pro in the reasonably near future, along with some other pros including Pete Sampras.  As exciting as this is for fans of his, he will not be useable in World Tour mode.  As you may know, Andre's previous tennis games (for Sega Genesis and Playstation 2) were absolutely horrendous, and not even worth keeping for nostalgic value.  His appearance in Top Spin would definitely be his best game to date despite his name not being in the title. 
Update 2/09: Leave it to 2K to leak a rumor that something is coming up, and then never follow through on it.  The preceding rumor that I posted in mid-2008 turned out be nothing more than just that......a rumor. No additional players or player packs have been made available, nor has any confirmation been made about additional DLC.


Style/Setting Name

Andre Agassi 1
More realistic in portrait/salon views
(use #1 above)

Andre Agassi 2
More realistic looking during gameplay

(use #2 above)

Face: Color

 2/8

2/8

Face: Eyes

4/10

4/10

Face: Nose

1/10

3/10

 Face: Mouth

2/10

 2/10

Face: Jaw

1/5

1/5

Face: Chin

10/10

9/10

Face: Forehead

10/10

10/10

Face: Shape

2/6

2/6

Details: Color

2/8

2/8

Details: Eye Color

13/37

13/37

Details: Age

5/7

5/7

Details: Circles

1/7

1/7

Details: Lips

1/5

1/5

Details: Freckles

1/10

1/10

Details: Complexion

18/30

18/30

Details: Granular

3/4

2/4

Details: Eyebrows

9/16

9/16

Body: Build

6/11

6/11

Body: Fat

4/11

4/11

Body: Muscle

9/11

9/11

Body: Neck

6

6

Haircut:

1/26

1/26

Hair Color:

2/35

2/35

Stubble:

4/4

4/4

Shave Type:

1/41

1/41

Style:

Right Handed

Right Handed

Service Style:

A

A

Forehand Style:

C

C

Backhand:

Two-Handed Backhand

Two-Handed Backhand

Backhand Style:

C

C

Celebration Style:

Normal

Normal

Grunt Style:

Effort only or none

Effort only or none

DOB:

4-29-1970

4-29-1970

Country:

United States

United States

Hometown:

Las_Vegas

Las_Vegas

Residence:

Las_Vegas

Las_Vegas

Again, these settings will require some minor modifications in the "Morphology" area of the create-a-player mode, but they should give you a very solid foundation to which you can create a realistic "virtual Andre Agassi" in Top Spin 3.

 

B - What the Pros Use: Clothing and Racquets

Index:
Clothing
Racquets
Adidas Fun-Fact


Due to the sheer number of clothing items and equipment available in Top Spin 3, I may omit certain items that are not used by more notable pro players.  With regard to the shoes listed below, the listed players have worn variations of these styles, maybe not the specific one found in the game.  For instance, Tommy Haas wore the Nike Breathe II style in 2006.  So, what I've listed may be as accurate as you can get considering the options found in the game. 

Clothing:

Racquets:

Babolat Aero Storm:
Babolat Aero Strike:
Babolat Aero Pro Drive: Rafael Nadal, Caroline Wozniacki
Babolat Aero Z Lite:
Babolat Drive Z Tour:
Babolat Pure Drive:  Andy Roddick uses the Babolat Pure Drive Roddick Plus Signature racquet, Carlos Moya uses the Pure Drive Standard, and Julienne                                   Benneteau uses the Pure Drive Plus
Babolat Pure Storm: Fernando Gonzalez, Elena Veshina
Babolat Storm Tour:

Dunlop TR Aerogel 200: James Blake, Thomas Berdych
Dunlop TR Aerogel 300: Tommy Haas, Tommy Robredo
Dunlop TR Aerogel 400
Dunlop TR Aerogel 500:

Head Flexpoint Radical MP: Amelie Mauresmo, Patty Schnyder (Andre Agassi once used the OS version)
Head Flexpoint Instinct:
Head Microgel Extreme Pro: Svetlana Kunetsova
Head Flexpoint Prestige: Gustavo Kuerten used this frame prior to his retirement
Head Radical MP:

Prince O3 Hybrid Tour: Sam Querry
Prince O3 SP Tour MP:
Prince O3 Speedport Black MP:
Bob and Mike Bryan
Prince O3 White MP:
Maria Sharapova
Prince Tour Diablo MP:
Prince Original Graphite:
If you are looking for the "Classic Graphite" model, this is the closest you will find in TS3.  The Original Graphite is not used by any notable                                         current or former pro, however, the Classic Graphite (commonly, yet incorrectly referred to as the "Original Graphite" since it's a frame dating                                         back to the mid-to-late 80s) was used by a number of pros:  Andre Agassi (1986-1989), Michael Chang (late 80s-early 90s), Patrick Rafter                                         (1993), Juan Carlos Ferrero (2007) -- and yours truly.  Some differences between the frames include stiffness, color, and the lack of a                                         throat stabilizer on the POG.  After 20+ years, the Classic Graphite is still one of Prince's best-selling racquets!.
Prince Ozone Seven: Daniela Hantuchova
Prince O3 Tour:


Yonex Red Racquet 1: (RQ iS 1 Tour is used by Ana Ivonovic and Lleyton Hewitt)
Yonex Red Racquet 2: (RQ iS 2 Tour is used by Maria Kirilenko and Nicole Vaidisova)
Yonex Red Racquet 3:
Yonex Blue Racquet:
Yonex Yellow 1: (David Nalbandian uses a similar looking frame)
Yonex Yellow 2: 

Notes: If you are unfamiliar with some of the terminology following the racquets' names in the Global Shop or specific manufacturer's shop,  here's a quick summary........and a few other observations I've made while looking around in the various in-game stores:

- Fun Fact: Looking for Adidas headwear?  Well, you won't find them in the store, you'll find them in the salon!  For an Adidas hat, simply choose a hair-style that has a ball cap (options 24, 30, 36 or 38), and select option 62 under the color options.     

 

C - Career Mode Walkthrough (Max Out Your XP as Quickly As Possible & Finish Pro Circuit At #1)

Index:
Career Mode Overview
The Schedule
Career Chart
Career Summary & Tips
Shortcuts
 

Career Mode Overview:

Unlike the previous two Top Spin titles, Top Spin 3 provides a narrow pathway to character development.  In TS3, you no longer have a coach, and training drills are found only in the Top Spin School which is a separate gaming option outside of Career Mode (results there have no impact on the Career Mode).  Top Spin 3 utilizes "XP" as opposed to TS1 and TS2's star systems, and are accumulated through wins on the Amateur, Challenger, Junior, and Pro circuits.  XP can be assigned to increase the point values in each of your eight skill categories.  More XP is required to increase higher point values (e.g. 5 XP for a point between levels between 31-39, 10 XP for a point between levels 40-49, 15 points to increase point values between 50-59, etc.).  Overall, there are 560 points that you will distribute across eight skill categories.  

In addition to earning XP throughout your career, you will also earn Unlocking Points (U.P.) through matchplay which can be used to unlock a plethora of tennis clothing and equipment found at the Global Shop and manufacturer-specific outlets.  Top Spin 3's monetary system is more "relaxed" than its predecessors with respect that you no longer need to worry about coaching and training fees.  There is an earnings-based Achievement in addition to one that's awarded for unlocking 300 store items.  

The conclusion of your Career Mode comes after completing the Legend Circuit; a two part finale to your career.  The first part is the Grand Slam which is where you must successfully win all four major titles (Australian, French, Wimbledon, U.S. Open).  The second part is the Hall of Fame: a series of progressively longer and more difficult matches against eight top players featured in Top Spin 3, including the few retired legends found in the game.

Please note that the following guide is subject to revisions as I go through career mode with multiple characters.  New/better ways may be found, but what I have written so far is a decent way of making it through with your first character.  I have included a several original  strategy tips as well as some ways to score "cheap" points on your service games.  As expected, they were posted here FIRST!  Furthermore, let me emphasize that the following is the best route to take for completing career mode on the default "normal" difficulty setting.  That being said, you may not find this course easy - - but hopefully my tips and tricks will help you overcome the challenges that await you!


The Schedule:

Your career will be divided into four sections from where you will earn your XP:  Amateur Circuit, Challenger Circuit, Junior Circuit, and Pro Circuit.  The Amateur Circuit pits you against three opponents in a standard tie-breaker format (first to seven points but leading by two, wins).  You are given the option to choose the order of how you will play your three opponents here.  You should find the Amateur Circuit quite easy to pass through quickly.  I was an early Top Spin School drop out (I only took the introductory lesson) and was still pretty much clueless as to the proper timing of button releases when I first entered the Amateur Circuit.  Despite my inexperience, I did reasonably well and defeated my three opponents without too much difficulty. The "Rookie Award" Achievement (10 pts.) is available for completing this portion of career mode.

The Challenger Circuit pits you against six competitors, each of which is around Level 35 (your base level is 30).  Unlike a regular tournament, the Challenger Circuit begins as a round robin format, where the outcome of your first three performances will determine how you place for the bracket featuring the eight best players.  Once you qualify for the Challenger tournament, you will start in the quarterfinals where you will notice an increase in awarded XP and U.P. for each win thereafter.  Please refer to my
chart below for details.  Once you successfully complete the Challenger Circuit, you will once again be awarded with an Achievement (Newcomer Award: 20 pts.).

The Junior Circuit offers you two options per month:  One option is a hard venue (found at the top), the other is an easy tournament (found at the bottom).  The payouts are substantially higher for winning the difficult events, though many gamers may find the opponents there a little overwhelming at first.  That being said, if you mastered what the Top Spin School had to offer, I wouldn't hesitate in suggesting that you try the more difficult tournaments in the Junior Circuit.  That's the route I chose.  If you lose a few events early on, don't worry.  You will have 12 events in total to reach a Top 3 ranking, and you will need to win approximately five tournaments to capture (and secure) the #1 ranking.  If you lose your first seven tournaments in the FIRST ROUND, but win the final five - you'll attain the #1 ranking in December after winning the last event.  Remember though, in Top Spin 3, all you have to do is make the Top 3 to advance to the Pro Circuit.  The format for the Junior Circuit is a single set match where a standard tie-breaker is used if necessary at 3-3.  The "Orange Prize" Achievement (40 pts.) is awarded for successfully completing this part of Career Mode.

The Pro Circuit becomes available when you reach (and maintain if necessary) a Top 3 ranking as a Junior at the end of the calendar year.  Your first match as a pro will take place at the Australian Open.  In four tries (three on an Xbox 360, and a report from a friend using a PS3), Roger Federer will likely be your first opponent.  While this might seem insane considering your relatively weak player, Roger is definitely beatable!  Check out
Section D for help if you think you'll need it.  Pro Circuit matches consist of best of three set matches (three games per set), with the third set being nothing more than a Super Tie-Breaker.  A player wins a Super Tie-Breaker by scoring 10 points first, but where they must be ahead by two (e.g. 10-8). If both players are at 9-9 in the Super Tie-Breaker, the first player to win two consecutive points earns the victory.

Should you do fairly well at the Australian Open (or even win it), I would suggest that you continue to compete in the more difficult tournament options each month. Unlike Virtua Tennis 3 where rest is required between certain events, in Top Spin 3, you can pretty much beat your custom player into the ground by playing month after month at the hardest events.  He or she will not show any signs of fatigue from playing such a demanding schedule.  After all, one is to assume that a player has at least two or three weeks off between events.  Your goal in the Pro Circuit is to capture and maintain the #1 ranking by the end of the calendar year.  Should you win the Australian Open to start off the year, you are already in good shape!  Be sure to strategically assign your XP in the key skill areas that you'll need to succeed at this level.  The "Legends Club" Achievement (50 pts.) is awarded for completing the Pro Circuit.

The Legend Circuit is the final stage of your career where you will need to complete two events: the Grand Slam where you have to successfully play through each of the four major events (Australian, French, Wimbledon, U.S. Open), and the Hall of Fame where you will play eight pros and legends in single matches (on their favorite courts) that become progressively longer and more challenging.  You can earn two Achievements in this area depending on the difficulty you select for the HOF events: The Lemon Prize (70pts) for completing the Legend Circuit and Big Names List (20pts) for winning the HOF on the "hard" difficulty setting.  Of course, you can take advantage of other Achievements that may have eluded you along the way (i.e. Faster This Way).

Below is the course of action I took through my first  career mode on the default (normal) difficulty - - -  except for the HOF which I played on "hard".
 


Career Chart

Key:

- "Stats" represents my statistics going into a particular match or tournament (does not represent the XP applied AFTER the noted match/tournament was won).  
- "Monetary Award" represents the earnings coming from winning the noted tournament final.
- "Time at this point" represents the running total of time invested in Career Mode. This is an approximate value, not a literal one.

Notes:
- I listed my final opponent(s) for each event.  You may experience a different line-up of players than I did, primarily in the Junior and Pro Circuits.  Your success in a given season will sometimes determine who your final round opponent will be (or so it seemed that way to me).


Index:
Amateur Circuit
Challenger Circuit
Junior Circuit
Pro Circuit
Legend Circuit Grand Slam
Legend Circuit Hall of Fame

Date

Action

Comments

 

Amateur Circuit
Chicago Public Courts
Match #1

Opponent: Joel Alonso
Stats:
30 for everything
Monetary Award: 10 XP, 20 U.P.
Time at this point:
4 minutes
Notes:
Simply focus on your timing using the "A" button and always hit both serve returns and regular ground strokes down the line.  That's all you'll need to win these Amateur Events.  If you want to use XP from winning this match, I would recommend spending 5 points on both your "forehand" and "backhand."  If for some reason you feel like you will have difficulty beating these Amateur players, review my Amateur Tips.

 

Amateur Circuit
Chicago Public Courts
Match #2

Opponent: Oliver Leduc
Stats:
30 for everything except forehand (31) and backhand (31)
Monetary Award: 10 XP, 20 U.P.
Time at this point:
10 minutes
Notes:

 

Amateur Circuit
Chicago Public Courts
Match #3

Opponent: John Carter
Stats:
30 for everything except for forehand (31), backhand (31) and power (32).
Monetary Award: 10 XP, 20 U.P.
Time at this point:
15 minutes
Notes:
Hopefully, your timing is getting good to where you are hitting service returns down the nearest sidelines for winners.  Going into the Challenger Circuit, this type of strategy will earn you some easy wins. Always hit to the nearest sideline in these "warm-up matches!"

 

Challenger Circuit
Round Robin #1
Atlanta Doves

Opponent: J. Vivaldez
Stats:
FH: 32, BH: 32, SV: 30, Ret: 30, Vol: 30, Pwr: 32, Spd: 30, Stm: 30
Monetary Award: 10 XP, 30 U.P.
Time at this point:
20 minutes
Notes:
The difficulty is the about the same as the Amateur Circuit, but you are playing a full three game set versus a standard tie-breaker.  If you think you'll have problems beating these guys, check out my Challenger Tips.

 

Challenger Circuit
Round Robin #2
Atlanta Doves

Round Robin Opponent: W. Loparks
Stats:
FH: 32, BH: 32, SV: 30, Ret: 30, Vol: 30, Pwr: 33, Spd: 31, Stm: 30
Monetary Award: 10 XP, 30 U.P.
Time at this point:
26 minutes
Notes:
Check out my Challenger Tips if you are having difficulty with this player.

 

Challenger Circuit
Round Robin #3
Atlanta Doves

Opponent: C. Menroza
Stats:
FH: 33, BH: 33, SV: 30, Ret: 30, Vol: 30, Pwr: 33, Spd: 31, Stm: 30
Monetary Award:  10 XP, 30 U.P.
Time at this point:
32 minutes
Notes:
 Check out my Challenger Tips if you are having difficulty with this player.

 

Challenger Circuit
Quarterfinal Round
Atlanta Doves

Opponent: P. Sipeblo
Stats:
FH: 33, BH: 33, SV: 31, Ret: 30, Vol: 30, Pwr: 33, Spd: 32, Stm: 30
Monetary Award:  15 XP, 50 U.P.
Time at this point:
38minutes
Notes:  
Check out my Challenger Tips if you are having difficulty with this player.

 

Challenger Circuit
Semifinal Round
Atlanta Doves

Opponent: J. Fernandas
Stats:
FH: 34, BH: 34, SV: 31, Ret: 30, Vol: 30, Pwr: 34, Spd: 32, Stm: 30
Monetary Award:  20 XP, 70 U.P.
Time at this point:
43 minutes
Notes:  
Check out my Challenger Tips if you are having difficulty with this player.

 

Challenger Circuit
Final Round
Atlanta Doves

Opponent: R. Lossis
Stats:
FH: 34, BH: 34, SV: 32, Ret: 31, Vol: 30, Pwr: 35, Spd: 33, Stm: 30
Monetary Award:  30 XP, 100 U.P.
Time at this point:
49 minutes
Notes:  
Check out my Challenger Tips if you are having difficulty with this player.

49 minute mark

** Stats Update **

FH: 35, BH: 35, SV: 32, Ret: 33, Vol: 30, Pwr: 35, Spd: 35, Stm: 30.   

January

Junior Circuit
Dubai, UAE

Final Round Opponent: M. Ward
Stats:
FH: 42, BH: 42, SV: 39, Ret: 39, Vol: 30, Pwr: 42, Spd: 39, Stm: 30
Rank After Winning Tournament: #7
Monetary Award: 205 XP, 600 U.P. for winning event.  (410 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament).
Time at this point:
1 hour, 13 minutes
Notes:
This first Junior level tournament can be very difficult to win, be sure to check out my Junior Tips if you anticipate having difficulty with certain A.I. opponents.

February

Junior Circuit
Rio de Janiero

Final Round Opponent: R. Frasconi
Stats:
FH: 42, BH: 42, SV: 39, Ret: 39, Vol: 30, Pwr: 42, Spd: 39, Stm: 30   (I never updated my player).
Rank After Winning Tournament:
#1
Monetary Award: 205 XP, 600 U.P. for winning event (405 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament).
Time at this point:
1 hour, 34 minutes
Notes:

March

Junior Circuit
Dallas Open

Final Round Opponent: C. Zhaejing
Stats:
FH: 45, BH: 45, SV: 45, Ret: 45, Vol: 30, Pwr: 45, Spd: 45, Stm: 44
Monetary Award: 205 XP, 600 U.P. for winning event (385 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
1 hour, 53 minutes.
Notes:

April

Junior Circuit
Munich

Final Round Opponent: Z. Kuti
Stats:
FH: 50, BH: 50, SV: 50, Ret: 50, Vol: 30, Pwr: 50, Spd: 50, Stm: 47
Monetary Award: 180 XP, 600 U.P. for winning event (380 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
2 hours, 14 minutes
Notes:

May

Junior Circuit
Barcelona

Final Round Opponent: J. Hatzfeld
Stats:
FH: 50, BH: 50, SV: 50, Ret: 50, Vol: 30, Pwr: 50, Spd: 50, Stm: 47 (I didn not update my player).
Monetary Award: 205 XP*, 600 U.P. (360 XP*, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
2 hours, 34 minutes
Notes:

June

Junior Circuit
Estoril

Final Round Opponent: J. Hatzfeld
Stats:
FH: 50, BH: 50, SV: 50, Ret: 50, Vol: 30, Pwr: 50, Spd: 50, Stm: 47 (I didn not update my player).
Monetary Award: 205 XP*, 600 U.P. (360 XP*, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
2 hours, 34 minutes
Notes:

July

Junior Circuit
London

Final Round Opponent: J. Hatzfeld
Stats:
FH: 55, BH: 55, SV: 55, Ret: 59, Vol: 30, Pwr: 59, Spd: 59, Stm: 50
Monetary Award: 180 XP, 600 U.P. (330 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
2 hours, 56 minutes
Notes:

August

Junior Circuit
Boston

Final Round Opponent: J. Hatzfeld
Stats:
FH: 55, BH: 58, SV: 59, Ret: 59, Vol: 30, Pwr: 59, Spd: 59, Stm: 50
Monetary Award: 180 XP, 600 U.P. (330 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
3 hours, 17 minutes
Notes:

September

Junior Circuit
Amsterdam

Final Round Opponent: J. Hatzfeld
Stats:
FH: 60, BH: 58, SV: 60, Ret: 59, Vol: 30, Pwr: 59, Spd: 59, Stm: 51
Monetary Award: 180 XP, 600 U.P. (330 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
3 hours, 27 minutes
Notes:

October

Junior Circuit
New Delhi

Final Round Opponent: J. Hatzfeld (second time played through, D. Norieja was the finalist)
Stats:
FH: 60, BH: 60, SV: 60, Ret: 60, Vol: 30, Pwr: 60, Spd: 60, Stm: 51
Monetary Award: 180 XP, 600 U.P. (330 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
3 hours, 48 minutes
Notes:
I've noticed that in playing through the Junior Circuit twice, the cast of "characters" have changed.  While there has been a little overlap, most of the characters that I encountered each time have been different.  Hatzfeld appeared in six finals in one calendar year (the calendar year I am reporting here), while Norieja appeared in five finals in my other run through the Juniors.

 November

Junior Circuit
Moscow

Final Round Opponent: R. Garcia-Loca (second time played through, D. Norieja was the finalist)
Stats: FH: 60, BH: 60, SV: 60, Ret: 60, Vol: 39, Pwr: 60, Spd: 60, Stm: 55
Monetary Award: 180 XP, 600 U.P. (330 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
4 hours, 9 minutes
Notes: I am on the verge of creating the "base" for my custom all-court player.  With my future XP, I will advance his volley skill to 60, and then from there, define his strengths and weaknesses by adding on to the areas I want my player to improve upon.  I will keep his stamina at 55 because in best of three set matches comprised of three games per set, 55 is perfectly adequate.  If it were my intention to play extend matches, then a 55 stamina could possibly be a liability.  In the Legend Circuit, the later matches will certainly exploit this low stamina rating since they are made up of longer sets, eventually leading up to the full best-of-five set match with six games per set.  If you are mirroring my progress here, hopefully your strengths will compensate for the relatively low stamina rating once you reach the Legend Circuit.

 December

Junior Circuit
Casablanca

Final Round Opponent: R. Kalustian (second time played through, D. Norieja was the finalist)
Stats:
FH: 60, BH: 60, SV: 60, Ret: 60, Vol: 49, Pwr: 60, Spd: 60, Stm: 55
Monetary Award: 180 XP, 600 U.P. (330 XP, 1100 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
4 hours, 55 minutes
Notes:
Tips on beating R. Kalustian can be found in my
Junior Tips section.

4 hours, 55 min.

** Stats Update **

FH: 60, BH: 60, SV: 60, Ret: 60, Vol: 59, Pwr: 60, Spd: 60, Stm: 55
Note: In my experiences with the Junior Circuit, I tested two things: maximum points available by winning every Junior event, and how bad you can be and still reach the end-of-season goal of making the top 3.  The calendar above illustrates a perfect Junior Circuit.  Hopefully, you will accomplish this too on your first try (see my Junior Tips section if you need help beating certain players).  If not, this is what you need to know to successfully complete it:  You will need to win 4 Junior events to capture the #2 ranking, and depending on your draws, do reasonably well in at least one other tournament to secure your Top 3 placement.  In my test, I failed in the first round of the first seven events, and then went on to win the final five.  In this scenario, at the conclusion of my fourth win in a row (November), I was ranked #2.  I won again in December which clinched the #1 spot.  These were my approximate stats based on that particular performance:
FH: 56, BH: 56, SV: 56, Ret: 54, Vol: 45, Pwr: 62, Spd: 54, Stm: 47

January

Pro Circuit
Australian Open   

Final Round Opponent: J. Estegas (second time through, M. Phillippoussis)
Monetary Award:
625 XP, 4000 U.P.
Time at this point:
5 hours, 20 minutes
Notes: Check out my Pro Circuit Tips if you are struggling playing your first Pro Tournament.  After concluding the first round, I finally had my "base XP points" assigned (60 for everything except for stamina (55)).  Going forward, applied XP will really begin to shape my first custom player to how I want him to be.  In the second scenario described at the conclusion of the Junior Circuit above, I achieved my "base XP points" by the semifinals of this tournament.

 Feburary

Pro Circuit
Pacific Life Open

Final Round Opponent: Roger Federer
Monetary Award:
625 XP, 4000 U.P. (1685 XP, 6800 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
6 hours, 35 minutes
Notes: I would recommend focusing placement of your XP on power, forehand and backhand during this event.  At least one of those should reach 70 over the course of this tournament.

 March

Pro Circuit
Sony Ericsson Open 

Final Round Opponent: Tommy Haas (second time through, Andy Roddick)
Monetary Award:

Time at this point:
6 hours, 48 minutes
Notes:
Try to work on improving your player's speed, return of serve, and serve during this event.

 April

Pro Circuit
Rome Masters  

Final Round Opponent:
Monetary Award:
Time at this point:
7 hours, 51 minutes
Notes: 

 May

Pro Circuit
Hamburg Masters 

Final Round Opponent: Thomas Berdych
Monetary Award:
500 XP, 2000 U.P. (1504 XP, 4700 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point: 
7 hours, 52 minutes
Notes: 

 June

Pro Circuit
French Open 

Final Round Opponent: Andy Murray
Monetary Award:
604 XP, 4000 U.P. (1804 XP, 9200 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point: 
9 hours, 7 minutes
Notes: 

 July

Pro Circuit
Dublin (i.e. Wimbledon) 

Final Round Opponent: James Blake
Monetary Award:
604 XP, 4000 U.P. (1804 XP, 9200 U.P. for entire tournament)
Time at this point:
10 hours, 21 minutes
Notes: If you are creating an all-court player with no skill higher than 75, you will likely complete, or come very close to completing him at the conclusion of this event if you have had success all through your Pro Circuit season thus far.

 August

Pro Circuit
Toronto Masters  

Final Round Opponent: Roger Federer
Monetary Award: **
I was receiving only U.P. at this point since my player was maxed out with XP.
Time at this point:
11 hours, 16 minutes
Notes: If you have won every tournament thus far in the Pro Circuit, you will eclipse the 1000 point mark on the leaderboard after making the semifinals in Toronto.  You should also have a somewhere around a 400 point lead over the highest ranked CPU player (#2).  Also, please note that the leaderboard ranking points are different than the singles points associated with the corresponding Xbox 360 Achievements.  Leaderboard points only pertain to your ranking in Career Mode.  

 September

Pro Circuit
U.S. Open 

Final Round Opponent: Roger Federer
Monetary Award:
4000 U.P. (9200 U.P. for the entire tournament)
Time at this point:
12 hours, 30 minutes
Notes: 
You should be able to unlock the "Big Spender" Achievement right around now.  Also, if you are building a higher powered player (level 80 or higher), you should be able to complete them after this tournament depending on how many 90+ rated skils you have being developed.  Characters with several 90+ level skills may require additional tournaments.

 October

Pro Circuit
Cincinnati Masters 

Final Round Opponent: Tommy Haas
Monetary Award:
2000 U.P. (4800 U.P. for the entire tournament)
Time at this point:
13 hours, 35 minutes
Notes: 

 November

Pro Circuit
Madrid Open (Indoor)
 

Final Round Opponent: David Nalbandian
Monetary Award:
2000 U.P. (4800 U.P. for the entire tournament)
Time at this point:
14 hours, 38 minutes
Notes: 

 December

Pro Circuit
BNP Paribas Open

Final Round Opponent: Roger Federer
Monetary Award:
2000 U.P. (4800 U.P. for the entire tournament)
Time at this point:
15 hours 44 minutes
Notes: 

 15 hours 44 min

** Career Update **

Notes: Provided you won all of the events listed above, you will have earned enough XP to max out your character and enough U.P. to purchase all the items found in the Global Shop (thus earning you the Big Spender Achievement). Additionally, by finishing at #1 at the end of the calendar year, you will have earned the title of "Legend," the Legends Club Achievement (50 points), and access to the final stages of Career Mode.  Here you will be presented with two options: Grand Slam or Hall of Fame. Grand Slam is the four major tournaments against mostly "name-brand players" including Boris Becker (Bjorn Borg did not appear for me).  In order to successfully complete this stage, you must win all four Grand Slam trophies.  Hall of Fame features progressively longer matches against the real pros found in the game (e.g. Roddick, Nalbandian, Federer, Sharapova, Henin, etc.), and on their so-called "favorite courts."  Here, you can pick and choose the order of which matches you will play.  I'd recommend starting off with the shortest and working your way towards the longest which is a full-length regulation men's match (best of five sets, six games per set). The Lemon Prize Achievement is awarded after successfully completing the Hall of Fame, and has the game's highest Achievement value at 70 points.  For an extra Achievement award, try playing the HOF mode on "Hard" difficulty to get the "Big Names Club" Achievement (20 points).

 

Legend Circuit
Grand Slam
Australian Open

Opponents: Boris Becker (16), Andy Murray (8), James Blake (QF), David Nalbandian (SF), Roger Federer (F)
Time at this point: 15 hours, 40 minutes
Notes:  Difficulty has increased a bit over the Pro Circuit.  Please refer to my Legend Tips on how to increase your chances of success against certain players in these final stages of your Career Mode.

 

Legend Circuit
Grand Slam
French Open

Opponents: R. Singleton (16), M. Cisolla (8), Andy Murray (QF), David Nalbandian (SF), Roger Federer (F)
Time at this point: 16 hours, 38 minutes
Notes: I experienced a lot of cheesy A.I. in my final against Federer, primarily involving the running groundstroke glitch, bogus double faults, and quite a few miss-hit return of serves that should have been perfect..

 

Legend Circuit
Grand Slam
Wimbledon

Opponent: Roger Federer (16), G. Doseca (8), Gael Monfils (QF), Thomas Berdych (SF), J. Estegas (F)
Time at this point: 17 hours, 37 minutes
Notes:
  J. Estegas in the finals?  Are you kidding me??  Oh wait, the CPU dummied down the responsiveness of my custom player - - that at least makes Estegas a little bit of a challenge.

 

Legend Circuit
Grand Slam
U.S. Open

Opponent: James Blake (16), Mark Phillippoussis (8), Andy Roddick (QF), Thomas Berdych (SF), Roger Federer (F)
Time at this point: 18 hours, 44 minutes
NotesTennis' number 1 most overrated player once again makes an appearance in a Legend Circuit final.  Be prepared for cheesy CPU interferrence that will make it difficult for you to hit winners (or hit at all) when at the net.  Roger's tactics will change if you face him in the U.S. Open final, rendering my suggestions in the Legend Circuit Tips mostly irrelevant - - though I did point out a few new things about this particular final against Roger.

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: Justine Henin (best of three set match, three games per set)
Time at this point: 18 hours, 58 minutes
Notes: For Hall of Fame, I went in order from the shortest matches to the longest.  I also played all of them on "hard" difficulty the first time through so that I could earn the "Big Names List" Achievement.  I had absolutely no intention of playing through Career Mode again -- so I went for it all by increasing the difficulty.  Be sure to check out my Legend Circuit Tips if you think you will have some trouble beating the pros/legends in this final stage of your Career Mode.

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: Monica Seles (best of three set match, three games per set)
Time at this point: 19 hours, 11 minutes
Notes:  Hard Difficulty Setting. Monica Seles taking single-handed forehands???  That's sooo incorrect.

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: David Nalbandian (best of three set match, three games per set)
Time at this point: 19 hours, 26 minutes
Notes: Hard Difficulty Setting. David's gameplan changes a bit when compared to the behavior exhibited during the Legend Circuit Grand Slam tour.  Still try to attack his forehand, and be alert that David likes to hit cross-court backhands.

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: Roger Federer (best of five sets, three games per set)
Time at this point: 19 hours, 46 minutes
Notes: Hard Difficulty Setting.  Expect a lot of CPU cheese where your player may not respond appropriately, and where Roger will hit an unusual amount of forehand slices.

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: Maria Sharapova (best of three sets, six games per set)
Time at this point: 20 hours, 10 minutes.
Notes:
 Hard Difficulty Setting. Maria is by far the most challenging of the women players in HOF, and the best looking too.

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: Boris Becker (best of three sets, six games per set)
Time at this point: 20 hours, 34 minutes
Notes:
 
Hard difficulty setting.  Playing Boris reminds of a time when tennis actually had a very talented player pool, and personalities that fans cared about......much unlike today.

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: Bjorn Borg (best of five sets, six games per set)
Time at this point: 21 hours, 10 minutes.
Notes: Be prepared to spend somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes to complete this match.   Also, I was disappointed to see Borg using a generic racquet.  Why isn't he using a Donnay?  They are back in business (sort of), and rights should have been relatively easy to obtain.  

 

Legend Circuit
Hall of Fame

Opponent: Andy Roddick (best of five sets, six games per set)
Time at this point: 21 hours, 40 minutes
Notes: Seriously, shouldn't Roger Federer be the "long match" and not Andy?  As with the match against Borg, be sure to have enough time to get this match in.  It could take up to an hour if you go the distance.   Andy is the only player in HOF mode on "hard" difficulty to get more than two games off of me.  He managed to get six in three sets.

 21 hours 40 min

** Career Complete **

My total time was just under 22 hours overall, from beginning to end.  I grew very bored of the game during the latter stages of the Pro Circuit, and especially during the Legend Circuit Grand Slam mode which seemed way too repetitive of what I experienced during the Pro Tour.  The Legend Circuit HOF was just okay, but I had a problem with the term "Legend" being used for people like Nalbandian, Roddick and other players who are still active on the tour.   I think it would have been best for Pam Dev to have eight bona-fide legends of the game versus the three featured.   One thing I should note here:  I always save my progress after I am through on a given day.  I had completed the three shortest matches in HOF Mode and took a few days off from the game.  Upon my return, I saw that Grand Slam was still completed, but my HOF progress was ERASED!  I had to play all my matches over again!  Thankfully, it was just three (the three shortest) - but I still wasn't happy with what happened.  I never once saw a save error pop up prior to my logging off at any time.

* not confirmed (I forgot to write the total XP/U.P. earnings after the final event).

 Career Mode Tips Summary:

Season 1 Amateur Circuit Tips

Basic Tips:

Goals:

 

Season 2 Challenger Circuit Tips

Basic Tips:

Goals:

 

Season 3 Junior Circuit Goals: 

Basic Tips:

Target Goals:  



Season 4 Pro Circuit Goals: 

Basic Tips:

Target Goals:

Season 5 Legend Goals: 

Basic Tips:

Target Goals:

 

Shortcuts:

While my recommendation is for everyone to play through Career Mode on "normal" difficulty the first time through (as described above), I would not suggest doing that again for additional custom-character creations.  It's simply a waste of time.

There are two ways you can create a custom-player more quickly
:

1.) Play a new career mode on EASY, which should shave off about half the time you spent during your first time through.  You will still earn Achievement Points that pertain to Career Mode and various in-game accomplishments.  

2.) **Note 5/09: The following trick has apparently been disabled through a required DL patch.  You may be able to circumvent the restriction with the HD maintenance procedure (though I have not personally confirmed this). The second way was a process brought to my attention by fellow gamer Hugo Vibes.  There is a glitch (or loophole) in the game that enables you to apply massive amounts of XP that you didn't earn.  Utilizing this "trick" enables you to have a custom character maxed out (level 70) in about 10 minutes once you save the look of your player.  Throughout July '08, I had this cheat available through email only (there were concerns that if PAM Dev found out, they would patch it up) - - but now that it is August ('08), the full cheat is being found in league message boards and Xbox Live threads.   So, there is no need for me to keep it reasonably discreat any further.

1.   Create a new player, and save.
2.   Play one Amateur match and win (10 XP).

3.   At the conclusion, go to the player info screen where you can either assign XP, shop, see player stats, etc.  Go to XP screen.
4.
  Use those 10 point to upgrade forehand to 32
5.   Press A
6.   Press A again
7.   Delete the added points with the left thumb stick
8.   Press B

Your forehand skill will still be 32, but you will keep your original 10 XP

9.     Use those 10 points to upgrade the skill from 32 to 34
10.   Press A
11.   Press A again
12.   Use the left thumb stick to delete ALL 4 points, from 34 to 30
13.   Press B

Your forehand skill will still be 34, but you will have 20 XP

14.   Use the 20 points to upgrade the skill from 34 to 38

15.   Press A
16.   Press A again
17.   Use the left thumb stick to delete ALL 8 points...from 38 to 30
18.   Press B

Your skill will still be 38, but you will get back 40 XP

Continue this process until you get 100 XP in forehand, then repeat the steps 15-18 one more time by backing down to 30 XP in thus increasing your bank of XP.
  Then remove what XP you donít want to forehand (for instance, if you only want a level 75 forehand, then back down from 100 to 75); whatís removed with the left thumb stick will further add to your bank of XP!

At this point, you can go to the other seven skill categories and assign your 21,000+ XP that you have banked.
   If at any time you run out of XP, you can simply re-do this trick on any skill.


Be sure not to save until you are completely finished!

Note: You donít need to start this process with the forehand skill, itís only my preference to do so since itís the first one listed.

Note the amount of XP in the "bank" (above image).  Of course, not all of that is needed, but at this point, you can quickly customize your player to have the skills that suits your style of gameplay.

The way I see it, it's an injustice to make gamers invest 7-15 additional hours to create characters after an initial run-through, so I feel this loophole is almost needed  to preserve the replay value of the game.    Once again, thanks to Hugo Vibes for this awesome trick!  Thanks go out to Pat for the screen shot too!

 

D - Offline Strategies

Note: All of these strategies assume that players are right-handed, and playing on the default "normal" difficulty setting.  If you have a left-handed player, reverse the instructions when appropriate.

General Tips:

Index:
Assigning XP
Hitting Approach Shots
Returning Serves
Baseline Exchanges
Chasing Down Lobs
Amateur Circuit Tips
Challenger Circuit Tips
Junior Circuit Tips
Pro Circuit Tips
Legend Circuit Tips
Final Note: Beware of Cheesy A.I.

 

Pro Insight: Assigning XP
In the past, many gamers have emailed me asking specific questions about where to assign their "points" to make THE MOST effective player for online competition. Assuming that this will be the case for Top Spin 3, let me say this: there is no "perfect" way to create a player.  It really depends on the style of play you intend exhibit while playing online.  The one piece of advice I CAN offer you though is that there are ways one can "waste" XP unknowingly, and if you keep that in mind, you can maximize your player's potential.  So, how do you "waste" XP?  Despite the developer's claims that stamina plays a more vital role in this installment of the Top Spin series, it still has a long way to go to be considered realistic.  Online, people are still utilizing the risk shot consistently, or maxing out their power and groundstroke abilities with very little stamina.  This shouldn't be the case. Repeated use of the risk shot (or high power usage) should significantly drain your player's strength, adversely affecting his movement over time as well as the accuracy of ball placement. In TS3, it does not, at least not to the degree that it should.  If it is your intention to play three game sets in a best of three sets format, I don't see the need to increase your stamina any higher than maybe 40 or 45 points.  That's my personal opinion. Anything more than 55 is what I'd consider to be wasteful, considering that there are other more vital areas you can be assigning points to.

Additionally, I've observed noticeable gains in skill come from reaching both 5 and 10 point advances in each skill category, moreso than single point increments.  In other words, if your player has a 58 forehand, and you upgrade him to a 60 level forehand, you will likely notice an improvement in that particular ground stroke.  However, if you improved a 56 rated forehand to a 58 or 59, you probably won't see anything significant.  The same thing applies to other skill areas ranging from 51-54 - you shouldn't notice any difference.  Now, if you went from a 51 to a 55, you should see a slight improvement. In my opinion, you should stick to multiples of five with all your skill sets (55, 60, 65, 70, 75, etc.) and be sure that you don't have any single point scores once your player is finalized (of course, when you are upgrading your player through the various circuits, you SHOULD increase in single point increments).  Because of this, you will need to be mindful of where you are assigning points once you reach the Pro Circuit level.  Grand Slam wins will reward you with quite a bit of XP, and it is easy to just blindly apply them to areas like "Power" or "Speed" without thinking too much about the overall balance of your player, and what the final skill set will eventually be.

To clarify, if you have career ending stats that look something like, FH: 73, BH: 73, SV: 75, Ret: 64, Pwr: 79, Vol: 60, Spd: 78, Stm: 58, I see that you've potentially misplaced 18 points.  To be specific, a 73 is really no better than a 70 with the forehand or backhand, a 58 stamina is likely not much of an improvement over a 55 and a 78 speed won't be so obvious over a 75.  So, I'd take some of those "odd points" and improve some other areas to make your player better on the whole:

FH: 75, BH: 75, SV: 75, Ret: 60, Pwr: 80, Vol: 60, Spd: 80, Stm: 55

In the revised example above, I took 3 points from stamina and rounded off speed and power to the nearest 10.  I took four points from return of serve, and added two points each to forehand and backhand rounding them off to the nearest five.  This change may appear minor, but the end result is a significantly better player overall - with improvements you should notice.
 

Pro Tactic: Hitting Approach Shots
In some of your online or offline games, you've undoubtedly hit a good shot that resulted in your opponent returning a ball that lands short in your court.  In many cases, you might have pushed up on your analog stick to move your player accordingly, hoping to crack a clean winner and effectively end the point.  Doing this doesn't always result in a powerful swing because your balance may be off a bit.  What I do is use the "RB button" as I am charging my groundstroke (typically "A" in this situation), push forward on the analog stick (and continue holding forward), and then release the "A" button.  The animation has my player moving forward as his racquet strikes the ball and his momentum carries him in the direction of the ball he just hit.  This not only gets you in good position for a winning volley should your opponent reach your approach shot, but in my opinion, it also enables you to hit through the ball a little better than if you just ran up, hit the ball, and then backpeddled to the baseline.

 

Pro Strategy: Returning serves
-- When returning serve, I typically remain at the default position when facing players with huge serves (85 XP+).  When returning serves from weaker servers, I have my custom player take a step forward from the default position.  On all second serves (except for maybe Roddick), I'll have my toes ON the baseline.  These appear (to me) to be effective locations for returning serves with decent pace provided the ball is struck cleanly.  For any serve skill of less than 70 XP and power being 75 XP or less, you can safely stand where your toes are just barely touching the baseline.

-- When players line up wide to serve at a sharper angle, position your player so that his toes are ON the baseline, and shuffle him over to the side where his outside foot is on the area where the vertical singles line meets the baseline.  This is the best place to take return of serves that are intended to bounce out wide.  By being positioned there, it will still allow you to reach the ball if the A.I. opponent tries to sneak their serve down the center line.  It also cuts down on the angle of the serve by taking those few steps forward to the baseline.

-- The most effective return of serve from a monster server like Andy Roddick is the slice return (assuming you don't have a lot of XP assigned to your Return of Serve or Power skills).  For players with lesser powered, but still strong serves, I'd recommend using "A" if you are in the first year of the Pro Circuit with your custom player.  "B" works well if your opponent has a weak serve, your player's positioning is near perfect, and you have adequate XP assigned to forehand/backhand, return of serve, and power.  Again, this is all based on how strong your custom player is.  If he has decent groundstrokes and a good return of serve, a slice return may not be necessary ("A" could be the better choice).


Pro Strategy: Baseline Exchanges
-- One thing I noticed in Top Spin 3 is that A.I. players tend to roam several feet behind the baseline during the exchange of groundstrokes.  In real life, this sort of positioning favors a minority of players, where most prefer to stand their ground only a few feet behind it.  If you are finding it difficult to hit cleanly on a consistent basis, try stepping back few steps during your rallies.  Chances are, you'll notice more "pop" on the ball.  Just be careful though; if you are forced to be on the run when behind the baseline, you may inadvertently drop back further and further leaving you susceptible to a winning drop shot by your opponent.  Additionally, if you are behind the baseline, you become exposed to even greater angles that may be exploited by your opponent.


Pro Strategy: Chasing Down Lobs
-- If by chance you are at the net and an opponent lobs the ball over your head, you still have a chance at chasing it down.  If you see the lob coming off your opponent's racquet strings, pull back on the left analog stick immediately and press and hold "RB."  In many cases (if the lob was more defensive than offensive), you will have an opportunity to chase it down hit it back over the net.  Chances are though, your return shot won't be very powerful, so you may want to consider hitting a return lob, or a slice so that you can get back into position.  A good rule of thumb is that if you can't get into position at the service line before the lob's decent appears on your screen in the default view, you better start hauling butt back to the baseline and hope you can catch up to the ball there.


Pro Insight:  LB vs RB
Some people may get confused in the heat of battle as to which button they should use to accelerate their player's motion.  I came up with a simple way of remembering which button is which:

LB = Lateral Button (for running laterally, left and right)
RB = Rush Button (for rushing the net)


Amateur Circuit Tips:

Pro Strategy: Beating Joel Alonso
Simply focus on your timing using the "A" button and always hit both serve returns and regular ground strokes down the lines.


Pro Strategy: Beating Oliver Leduc
Continue to practice just using "A" and try to hit a cross-court shot to get Oliver to one side.  In most cases, he will hit the ball back to you and just stand at the corner of his last return.  This allows you to hit your next shot down the line into the open court for a clean winner.


Pro Strategy: Beating John Carter
Focus on your timing using the "A" button and always hit both serve returns and regular ground strokes down the lines.
 

Challenger Circuit Tips:

Pro Strategy: Beating J. Vivaldez  
Use "A" to hit every ball to the nearest sideline (including service returns). In the eight points Vivaldez served, I won 7 of 8 with a down the line winner on the first or second shot (the eighth point took three tries because I didn't hit the first shot cleanly).  If you can use the right analog stick to serve, you can get some "free points" against Vivaldez too.


Pro Strategy: Beating W. Loparks
There is nothing special about this guy's game.  Continue using "A" and hitting to the nearest sidelines.


Pro Strategy: Beating C. Menroza
Return all of Menroza's serves down the line with "A."  Also, similar to playing Oliver Leduc in the Amateur Circuit, hit a cross court shot to get Menroza committed to a corner.  Then on your next shot, hit the ball down the line for a clean winner.  He should be very easy to beat.  If you use the right stick to serve, you can possibly get a few aces too.


Pro Strategy: Beating P. Sipeblo
Hit all your shots down the lines with "A" including your service returns.


Pro Strategy: Beating J. Fernadas
Playing Fernandas gives you a few strategies to try out.  Using "A," you can force him to chase down balls side to side if you are able to hold position at the center of the baseline, or, like with several of your previous opponents, you can try for line shots.  Either way, you should find success.  When returning Fernandas' serve, always use "A" to hit it down the line.  When you are serving, practice trying to hit it out wide so that when he returns the ball right back to you, you should then be able to hit a safe shot ("A") to the open court for an easy one-two punch winner!


Pro Strategy: Beating R. Lossis
Whichever side Lossis hits the ball to, return the ball down the nearest sideline using "A" or "B."


Junior Circuit Tips:

Note: The tips and strategies below describe ways of defeating players during your first meetings with them.  I won't list everyone here, but enough of the guys who will appear in the first five or six tournaments you will be participating in.  By the sixth tournament, your custom character should be reasonably competitive, and able to handle the competition throughout the rest of the Junior Circuit Calendar year.  If you are having difficulties beating any player not mentioned below, feel free to email me and I'll add them.

Index
L. Campieri
R. Frasconi
J. Hatzfeld
S. James
L. Juegaldo
R. Kade
R. Kalustian
Z. Kute
H. Lo
W.Mills
D. Norieja
M. Taillandier

H. Troujni
D. Stuk
S. Turner
M. Ward
J. Willemsen
C. Zhaejing

 
Pro Strategy: Beating S. Turner
Use "A" to battle from the baseline.  Turner often times hits his risk shot long if you keep a point going for a while.  From time to time, throw in a slice too ("X") which can cause him to make an unforced error.  That being said, the most effective way of beating Turner is to move him side to side, and when you have him out wide, press the "RB" button and hit a deep approach shot to the open court (use "A").  He'll chase the ball down but will almost always float the ball back right to you, which you should be able to put away with a volley using "B" to the open court.  This takes practice and good timing, but you can REALLY shorten this match with this strategy.  Just be sure to be right at the net (not a few feet behind) when you hit your volley.


Pro Strategy: Beating H. Troujni
Serve out wide, whether it be using the right analog stick or simply using face buttons (+ the left stick for placement).  When he returns the ball back to you, hit it deep down the line (same side as you served from).  When he serves, you can use the same strategy described above to beat S. Turner.  This works very well for Troujni too.


Pro Strategy: Beating M. Ward
Ward will likely be your final round opponent of the first Junior Tournament you participate in (Dubai).  Use slices ("X") for passing shots against Turner, as they are very effective.  If you can get him in a cross-court rally, hit your first or second shot deep, then follow up with a short, tight cross court shot ("B" and pull down on the left analog stick and towards the direction you are wanting the ball to go).  If he gets the ball back to you, you should then hit it deep into the open court, which should be down the sideline.



|
Pro Strategy: Beating J. Hatzfeld
Hatzfeld likes to attack the net which can make him challenging at times.  Here are a few observations I've made:

- On the ad-court side, always return his serve down the line.  
- If he attacks the net, try to pass with a slice, but expect him to get it.  Your next shot should be a lob (tap "Y" and if needed, flick the left analog stick UP).  You should be able to hit a lob winner every time.
- Hatzfeld ends up in "No-Man's Land" quite often as he's wanting to approach the net, but hesitates due to deep groundstrokes coming back at him.  This is when you should try to put deep forehands and backhands to the corners of the court.  Make sure you press UP on your analog stick if you see him in this position.   Keep those groundstrokes DEEP.

The second time you play him during your Junior Tour (probably Estoril), your player will have improved substantially, and you should be able to exploit Hatzfeld's lack of speed by running him side to side behind the baseline.


Pro Strategy: Beating R. Kade
Kade has powerful groundstrokes from the baseline, and some of your rallies can take some time to resolve.  Keep moving the ball around the court using "A," but throw in a slice "X" every once in a while.  Not only does it mix up the pace of the rally, but it sometimes causes Kade to miss-hit a ball. Take advantage of Kade's second serves, as you will see a lot of them (he misses his first serve quite a bit).


Pro Strategy: Beating R. Frasconi
Frasconi is a monster of a player - at 6'4", he does not hesitate to rush the net after serving.  You may face him for the first time at the Rio de Janiero tournament. To make your task of beating him easier, try these tactics:

- Use "A" to return his serves down the line.  Try to hit your returns with perfect timing as they will be more powerful, sometimes resulting in outright winners.
- Use the slice "X" to pass him if he is at the net.
- Look for his approach shot, and be prepared to hit "Y" with a little forward movement of the left analog stick to lob up and over his head.


Pro Strategy: Beating J. Willemsen
When playing Willemsen, expect to play from the baseline, though due to his powerful groundstrokes, I'd suggest taking about two steps behind the baseline and standing your ground there.  You should find that your shots will be more powerful from that distance.  Use the top spin shot "B" as your main groundstroke and try to move Willemsen back and forth, with varying depths to your shots.  Once in a while (like every third or fourth time you hit the ball in a rally), use a slice "X," whether it be down the line or cross-court.  By doing so, you may get an unforced error out of him.


Pro Strategy: Beating L. Campieri
When Campieri serves, return the ball down the line using "A."  Use slice passing shots if he approaches the net.  Try and stay right around the baseline (or on it) when you engage in a rally.  Some of his shots tend to bounce short, and if you are caught behind the baseline, you'll have to "shovel" the ball back to which would give him the opportunity for a put-away shot.   When you serve, hit your serves out wide (in both the deuce and ad-courts).  He'll return the ball back to you, which you can then fire up the nearest sideline which would then put him on defense.


Pro Strategy: Beating C. Zhaejing
Zhaejing is a serve and volley guy.  Slice your service returns down the line and immediately use "LB" to run to the center of the baseline.  Zhaejing will hit his next ball right to that area.  Your next shot should be a lob "Y" over his head for a clean winner.  When it's your turn to serve, hit your serves out wide and await his return, to which you should punish down the nearest sideline into the open court.


Pro Strategy: Beating L. Juegaldo
In many cases, you should notice that Juegaldo likes to his backhand down the line, and his forehand cross-court.  Try moving the ball around the court to see if he does this for you, and take advantage of this with good anticipation.  From the baseline, try to make him run back and forth across the back court until you see an opening (and use top spin "B" to exploit it).  He sometimes likes to come into net, but if you are on the offense and have him running, he won't have the opportunity to do so.


Pro Strategy: Beating W. Mills
Mills is a pure baseliner, and tends to make a lot of unforced errors.  Just be consistent with your game and you shouldn't have a problem beating him.  You may see him for the first time in Munich.


Pro Strategy: Beating Z. Kuti
Kuti is another baseliner with an occasionally big serve.  Use "B" and "A" for your groundstrokes, and move him all over the baseline.  He may appear as an opponent in Munich.


Pro Strategy: Beating S. James
James (Barcelona) is much like Mills and Kuti, though he has less unforced errors, and he's a lot faster.  It may take you several shots to set up the point to be in your favor.  Just be patient, and vary your shots with "A," "B," and "X."  Always keep him moving side to side, and try to use a tight top spin shot to throw him off the court so that you can take his next ball and put it up the line.


Pro Strategy: Beating K. Taillandier



Pro Strategy: Beating D. Norieja


Pro Strategy: Beating D. Stuk
Other than having a big serve from time to time, Stuk is nothing really special since your custom player should be reasonably competent in terms of skills at this time, that is, assuming you are playing him in Estoril for the first time.


Pro Strategy: Beating H. Lo
There is really no defining elements to this guy's game.  If you are meeting Lo in Estoril for the first time, your custom player should be able to overtake him without too much difficulty.


Pro Strategy: Beating R. Kalustian
Kalustian is a wuss when it comes to serving, where his first serves typically cross the net at 92mph.  Simply step up to the base line (toes ON the baseline) and tee off on his serves.  On the deuce side, try to put them down the line. This guy should be a walkover for you.

 

Pro Circuit Tips:
Note: The tips and strategies below describe ways of defeating players during your first meetings with them.  All players' difficulty levels increase throughout the course of the seasons you will play in Career Mode.  That being said, many players will exhibit similar tactics when playing them in subsequent matches.

Index:
Mario Ancic
Thomas Berdych

James Blake
J. Estegas
Roger Federer
Tommy Haas
K. Ji-Il
Gael Monfils
Andy Murray
David Nalbandian
C. Peck
Mark Phillippoussis
J. Pjoner
S. Rabari
M. Ribaud
Andy Roddick
S. Senkjaer
J. Sibalek
R. Singleton
P. Stochakov
L. Zeng


Pro Strategy: Beating Roger Federer
The first time you will face Roger will be at the Australian Open during the first round.  Roger has a pattern that if you observe correctly, should enable you to take advantage of his shot selections.   Let's assume this:  You are on the right side of the court (deuce court) and Roger is on the left side of the far court.  You hit a cross court forehand to Roger's forehand.  Roger will reply by hitting his shot down the left line, you run to get his ball and you return it with a cross court backhand to the far right side.  Roger will chase down that ball and hit it (backhand) down the right side.  So, for every cross-court shot you are hitting, Roger will reply with a down the line shot to that very same side.  You can repeat this pattern about three to four times before Roger breaks out of that "mind set" and begins to hit cross court as well.  If you anticipate his down the line shots by holding down the "B" button and getting into position, you can hit a very effective top spin cross-court shot that he may not be able to return.  If by chance he does reach it, it will be a weak reply down the line which again, with good preparation, you should be able to put away for a winner to the other side.

Again, keep in mind that Roger only follows this pattern for three to four times per rally - - and I should note that he does this primarily in the first set.  He sometimes changes up his game in the second set if he loses the first.  That being said, he does fall back into this mode from time to time in the second set.  You need to be able to identify this pattern of his so that you can take advantage of it when it begins to unfold.

** When you face Roger for a second or third time in the Pacific Life or Sony Ericsson tournaments, he will be noticeably better and may vary the direction of his shots.  He does however slip into the routine described above from time to time.  Be aware of this and take advantage of it as early and often as you can!


Pro Strategy: Beating C. Peck
Peck is the exact opposite of Roger with regard to how he responds to cross court-shots.  Peck prefers to exchange cross-court rallies with more powerful shots.  If you get forced out wide of the singles lines and hit a weak ball, he'll blast it down the line for a winner.  While it is usually very important to regain the center of the court after each ground stroke, with Peck, I'd suggest you sort of camp out between the singles line and the center baseline hash mark (i.e. a bit wider than where your default serve position is).   When he hits cross-court, just shuffle over to the side the ball is heading, return it cross-court, and shuffle back a few feet to your last "ready position" and await the next ball.  I recommend this positioning because there are times he does go for a down the line shot, and you will need to get there as soon as possible.

In order to gain the advantage over Peck, you really need to get him off the court, and behind the baseline if possible.  If a cross-court baseline exchange takes place, very early on, power-up your top spin shot "B" and press the analog stick UP and to the opposite court.  This will hit a deep top spin shot that will keep him at bay.  In return, he will hit a cross court shot with reasonably good angle.  Already be in position with the "B" button charged and this time, press DOWN and towards the opposite court.  This will rope a very tight top spin shot over the net forcing him to move outside the singles line and into the alley to get the shot.  He should again return the ball to you cross-court.  Now, have your "A" or "B" button charged again, but this time, blast this ball up the line on your side of the court (i.e. straight ahead) for what should be a clean winner.  Remember, your positioning is key to how effective your down the line shot is.   If he does by chance get the ball, he should be out of position to where you can step up and hit his next shot to the opposite court for a winner.

Please note that just like Federer, Peck only follows this pattern for about four times before he changes up a bit.  As soon as you can, try to force him into a cross-court rally and make your shots as effective and powerful as possible to set him up for this one-two-three punch.  In some cases, you may need a few shots over the net to set him up for this (i.e. two deep cross court top spin shots, followed by a short, very tight top spin shot - then go for the down-the-line winner).


Pro Strategy: Beating P. Stochakov 
On the Xbox 360, Stochakov may be your third round opponent in the first Australian Open, and some of his strengths will be more than double your highest rated strength. There are two things you will need in order to handle Stochakov with relatively little difficulty: a good return of serve (54 XP or higher for the first Aussie Open meeting), decent groundstrokes (56+ XP forehand and backhand, and 62+ XP power) and the ability to hit a wide slice serve from the deuce court (56+ XP serve).

When serving from the deuce court, you can try to serve from the default position, or a step or two wider towards the singles line.  Forgo the right analog stick "power serve" and go for the "X" button slice serve.  Use the left stick to motion the ball to land to the outside of the service box so that it forces Stochakov out past the doubles alley.  He will almost always return a fairly slow return cross court.  Should you be in good position (on or just inside the baseline near your default serving point), you should be able to hit a powerful "A" or "B" shot up the line for a winner.  If by chance he gets to it, he will grunt and float another ball your way.  If that happens, simply charge up your top spin shot "B" and hit it cross court for a winner.

When returning his serve on the deuce side, always use "A" to return his serve down the line.  Doing this puts him at an immediate disadvantage as he does not appear to be ready for returns to this side of the court.  I'd suggest that you then power-up your top spin shot "B" to hit his next shot to the open court.  Sometimes, if you return his serve just right, you can hit a clean winner by just using the safe shot "A."  It's rare to hit a clean service return winner at this stage in the game, but very satisfying when it does happen!

When returning his serve from the ad-side, I'd recommend returning it cross-court with either "A" or "X" and immediately cover the down-the-line shot (opposite sideline from where you are standing for the return) with "LB" to where you can counter it with a cross-court top spin forehand to the open court.


Pro Strategy: Beating Mario Ancic
After facing three tough opponents in your first Australian Open, Mario Ancic offers a bit of a breather.  The one distinctive quality that Mario possesses over your three earlier round opponents is that he chips and charges from time to time, and has a very effective volley and overhead.  The key to beating him is to keep him at the baseline by consistently hitting deep shots.  For Ancic, I'd recommend using top spin "B" exclusively in baseline rallies, and try to keep him either moving from side to side, or at the far right corner of the baseline because for some reason, he seems to hesitate there.  If you move him from the left side to deep in the right hand corner, and hit another shot left; he sometimes takes a stutter step as if he thought you'd try to hit behind him if he committed to covering the open court.

If you happen to have Mario on the full run, you can switch to a tighter top-spin shot (pulling down on the analog stick and to the corner you are directing the ball) to really force him out wide, then follow up with a deep top spin shot to the opposite corner.  Be wary though that good positioning is key to keeping him back.  If you misjudge a ball, Mario will execute a slice and come in behind it.  If this happens you might have a few options depending on the scenario:

1) If you hit a weak ball from the center of the baseline to the right side, Ancic will sometimes slice the ball and follow in right behind it to attack the net: use "B" to hit the ball down the left line, but pull BACK on the analog stick so that it bounces short.  This may cause him to pop the ball back up into play leaving you another crack at a passing shot or perhaps a lob. The effectiveness of this tactic is dependent on how close he is to the net.  If he's at or just inside the service line, this would be a reasonably good option to choose.

2) If Ancic is approaching the net from right to left and you are at the left, you can try to either use "A" to hit down the left sideline, or "A" to hit it cross court.  Chances are, he'll get his strings on the cross-court shot and volley it straight ahead.  At this point, he will be fully committed at playing the net.  Here, you can charge up your "Y" button along with the "RB" button.  Hit the lob and press up on your analog stick (while holding "RB") to attack the net yourself.  Anic may be able to chase down your lob and if he does, he'll float a ball back in your direction.  Make any minor positioning adjustments necessary, and either hit a slice "X" or power "B" volley to the right or left side (whichever is furthest from him).

When Mario is serving to the deuce side of the court, ALWAYS use "A" to hit a return down the right sideline.  You will have a high likelihood of getting a service return winner there when you face him at the Australian Open (first time meeting him).


Pro Strategy: Beating J. Estegas
For those of you playing Top Spin 3 on an Xbox 360, Estegas may be your final round opponent at the first Australian Open.  He really doesn't have a defined gameplan when compared to that of Federer and Peck, but you can still force him into a cross-court rally from time to time which should be to your advantage.  When doing this, hit your first few top spin shots deep followed by tighter top spin shots (i.e. pulling down on the analog stick and towards the opposite court), this should open the side of the court you are on for a down the line winner (or at least set you up for your next shot to be a winner).  

Estegas uses risk shots more often than other players, but he's prone to hitting them long, especially if you throw in a slice from time to time during your rallies.  Slices keep Estegas at bay, and prevents him from really attacking the ball.  If by chance he has YOU running around trying to chase down his shots, I'd recommend using "A" to get the ball back into play if you don't have much time to prepare for the shot.  With the amount of pace he puts on the ball with risk shots, a slice may go wide if you are pressing on the analog stick in a certain direction (stamina allegedly plays a part in this too).  I've found that using "A" has at least gotten the ball deep over the net to where I can then PLAN to slice the next shot I chase down, which would then hopefully buy me a second to get back into a ready position, and take away the advantage he just had.   In my first encounter with Estegas in the Aussie Open final (first pro season), he had 10 unforced errors in the first set alone.  I had only one.  By the time the match was over, he totaled 17 unforced errors, but had 28 winners, many of which came off of down-the-line risk shots.  If you can mix up your game with slice from time to time, you could possibly force Estegas into giving you quite a few free points.


Pro Strategy: Beating S. Rabari
Rabari was my first round opponent at the Pacific Life Open.  Rabari likes to charge the net at every opportunity, but he does pick and choose his moments in doing so (as opposed to stupid A.I. that would just charge then net for the sake of doing so).  Since you've played so many baseliners, Rabari could possibly throw a kink into your gameplan - - but don't fret, he's not that difficult to beat, ESPECIALLY if you keep him at the baseline.

When serving, try to hit your serves out wide so that he has to stretch to get it (he's a lefty, so watch out!).  When you get the next ball, hit to the opposite side of the court and begin to run him back and forth with deep groundstrokes.  You should be able to wear him down doing this.  Be careful though, if you accidentally hit a short or weak ball, he'll slice and come in behind it!

One common motion Rabari performs is his slice forehand down the right side, typically performed when he is in the ad-court.  In some cases, he'll charge in behind it and approach the center of the net.  If you have a clear shot at a pass, do so using "B."  If it looks like a passing shot may be 50-50 in terms of success, SLICE your passing shot down the nearest line.  For some reason, Rabari has difficulty reacting to sliced passing shots, even when he is close enough to reach them.   

If you try to pass Rabari (even with slice), always expect him to get it, and prepare for your next shot being a lob.  If he does successfully squander your attempt at passing him, lob your next shot over his head and use the "RB button" + analog stick to run in behind it.  Most of the time your lob will be a winner.  In some rare instances, he may chase it down and hit a weak floater back.  If you are at the net, you should be able to easily put it away to either side of the court using "B" or "X."


Pro Strategy: Beating David Nalbandian
 I will need to play against David a few more times to post something substantial here.  During our first meeting (I won 3-0, 3-1), I only noticed a few things:

- David sometimes serves up a slow, short bouncing ball so that your player stumbles forward and mis-hits the return.
- David hits the risk shot quite often, especially from his backhand side.
- Moving him back and forth at the baseline prevents him from setting up a booming groundstroke.
- Using his risk shot pace against him with a well timed, well-positioned groundstroke (use "A") can be very effective.
- Return serves to his forehand side.  This keeps any weak returns away from his more powerful backhand side.
- Use top spin "B" to pull him to one side of the court, anticipate his next shot, and hit "A" to the open court for a winner (or a very weak reply by Nalbandian).


Pro Strategy:
Beating Andy Roddick
Andy's primary weapon is his serve.  That's no surprise to anyone.  However, if you neutralize that weapon, Andy is only a slightly above average pro player at best.  

When taking Andy's serves, I suggest you stay at the default distance from the baseline.  You may notice that at various points in the match, the CPU will move you further back at times.  I'm not sure why it does this, but I've found that those are very effective distances to take Roddick's serve from.  If you have adequate XP assigned to your return of serve, power, and groundstroke abilities, I would recommend using "A" to return Andy's serves, and direct them down the line.  If you are making reasonably good contact with them, keep up with that formula for the rest of the match.  However, if you are struggling due to a weak return of serve skill, then I'd suggest slicing it down the line.  Or, simply mix up use of "A" and "X" to return his serves.  Chances are, you'll get a few service return winners down the line because he doesn't expect them to come back very often!

When serving, serve to Andy's forehand.  While I didn't thoroughly test his backhand service return, I had tremendous success against his forehand (3-0, 3-0).  As soon as Andy returns the ball back in your general direction when serving from the deuce court, smack a top spin shot to the right corner and proceed to wear him out by running him back and forth.  Eventually, you'll get the open court shot you are looking for.

During rally's, try to keep Andy from setting up for a risk shot from the left side (ad-court).  His favorite risk shot is a cross-court forehand.


Pro Strategy: Beating James Blake
 I will need to play against James a few more times in order to post something substantial here.  During our first meeting (I won 3-1, 3-1), I only noticed a few things:

- James ends up inside the baseline quite a bit, which can be to your advantage with deep shots to the corners.
- James' risk shots often go long, moreso when he tries to hit them to the deuce side of the court.
- Repeatedly hit to his backhand every chance you get.  It's his biggest weaknesses, and you'll often force him to make an error (or, float up a weak ball).


Pro Strategy: Beating Tommy Haas
During my very first encounter with Tommy Haas at the Sony Ericsson Open, I couldn't help but notice how slow he was.  It seemed as if it took an effort for him to change direction, or, take off running from a standing position.  Also, I observed that many of his groundstrokes were slow (when compared to his competition) and featured high bounces.  Needless to say, he was a fairly easy walkover.  When you play him, take advantage of his slower-than-usual lateral movements, and his high looping shots that may have you on or just inside the baseline thumping away at.  Beware though, the one thing Tommy has going for him is his unpredictability.  He may be hitting "junk" in your direction for a few seconds, and then out of the blue, he'll nail a risk shot right past you.  Just keep him moving so that he doesn't have time to set up for something like that.  Also, early in the match, his serves will be in the sub-105mph range.  Take advantage of this opportunity early on, because once he's "warmed up," his serves may end up in the area of 120mph.


Pro Strategy: Beating Mark Phillippoussis
If you face Mark in one of the first few tournaments of your Pro Circuit career, he may not give you much of a hard time until the cheesy A.I. kicks in late in the second set. One way to get free points off of Mark's serve is to use the safe shot "A" to return all his deuce-side serves down the sideline.  Provided you hit them cleanly, you should almost always pass him for a clean winner.


Pro Strategy: Beating Gael Monfils
Gael is not much of at threat as long as you continuously hit to his backhand which is his weakest side.  If you can hit deep, flat shots to his backhand side, you may force him to hit a short ball that you can put away to the open court with angled top spin ("B" + left analog stick), or, provoke him into hitting a risk shot which will likely result in an unforced error.


Pro Strategy: Beating J. Sibalek
J. Sibalek definitely follows a pattern of play.  If you return his serve down the line from the deuce court, he will retrieve your ball and hit it cross court (to your left).  If you return his serve down the line from the ad-court, he will most likely return it right back to you on the same side (left side).   Being in proper position for his first post-serve groundstroke will better enable you to be more offensive, and end points rather quickly on his service games.


Legend Circuit Tips

Note: The tips and strategies below describe ways of defeating players during your first meetings with them.  While these players will exhibit similar patterns to those found in the Pro Circuit, their level of difficulty will have noticeably increased.  Each player will be operating to the full potential of their skill levels, and risk shots will be a more common occurrence.

Index:
Boris Becker
Boris Becker (HOF)
Thomas Berdych
James Blake
Bjorn Borg
M. Cisolla
G. Doseca
J. Estegas
Roger Federer
Roger Federer (HOF)
Justine Henin
Gael Monfils
Andy Murray
David Nalbandian
Mark Phillippoussis
Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick (HOF)
Monica Seles
Maria Sharapova
R. Singleton


Pro Strategy: Beating Boris Becker (Grand Slam)
Boris Becker will make his first appearance in the Legend Circuit, and despite his legendary status, he's not all that difficult to beat.  Keep in mind the following:

When Boris serves to the deuce court, put your return down the sideline.  If you have at least a 75 return of serve, 75 power, and 70 ground strokes, you should do fairly well with my strategy.  Hitting down the sideline using "A" will result in one of two things:  1) Boris will get to the ball and return it right back to you, or where he hits it slightly more towards the center of the court which won't require too much movement on your part to reach it.   2) You will hit an outright winner down the sideline, especially if Becker starts lining up wider to get more of an angle on his serve.   He's not especially fast, so you can take advantage of this.

When Boris serves to the ad-court, you can choose to return the ball down the line (use "A"), or cross-court ("X"), however cross-court usually prompts a more predictable response.  If you hit cross-court (I'd advise a slice "X" return), Becker will then hit it down the the center of the court, or to the far sideline (deuce side). Either way, you will need to use the LB button immediately following your return to get into position.  Your next shot should then be a top spin shot "B" to the left side, and as tight as you can get it (down and left on the stick + "B").  This should put you in control of the point, and allow you to dictate what transpires thereafter.


Pro Strategy: Beating Boris Becker (HOF)
- When returning serve from the ad-court, slice your returns down the line.  Boris will get the ball, but hit it right back to you.  Take his shot and blast it back with a cross-court top spin "B" shot.  This should either be a winner, or at least put you in control of the point.

- Serve out wide from both sides.  Boris will likely return the ball towards the center of the court, or right back to you.  Use "A" to try for a down-the-line winner, or, "B" back cross-court to keep him pinned there, and wait for his next shot to then put down the line for a winner.

- Pound Becker's backhand as much as possible.  If done successfully (by powering up the "A" button), Boris will hit his backhands off balance.  This will result in one of two things:

1) He'll be out of position to chase anything you hit cross-court.
2) He'll begin to charge the net to which you can hit a cross-court top spin "B" winner, or, use "X" to slice the ball pass him.


Pro Strategy: Beating Thomas Berdych
Thomas' strengths are his serve and heavy groundstrokes.  His glaring weakness is his speed.  Run him from corner to corner with the safe shot, and look for the opportunity to use top spin to a wide-open court, or use the "RB" button to hit an approach shot down the line.  Be careful if you attack the net though.  If your approach shot is not effective, Thomas will blast a shot right at you, likely hitting your player's body giving him a free point.

If you anticipate a big serve coming from Berdych, slice your return down the sideline and press UP on the analog stick to make it travel deep into his court.


Pro Strategy: Beating James Blake
There is really nothing outstanding about James Blake's game in TS3.  Simply attack his backhand as often as you can whether it be on service returns or in rallies.  Try to focus on placing your shots deep to his backhand side too which may result in him hitting an unforced error (some times off a risk shot attempt).  I am willing to bet that that Blake cannot hit five consecutive backhands without an unforced error (or, he'll put his momentum towards the deuce court thinking you'll hit to his forehand, giving you a clean winner behind him).


Pro Strategy: Beating Bjorn Borg (HOF)
Bjorn Borg is one of the greatest tennis players in the history of the game, but his talents graced the courts when finesse and strategy separated winners and losers. Today, he would be out gunned by the power game and advances in fitness and technology - - and this is pretty well represented in Top Spin 3.  Borg doesn't have any particular weapon other than reasonably smart shot making.  His serve won't kill you, nor will most of his groundstrokes.  Just follow these simple steps to beating Borg in one of the two Hall of Fame marathon matches (best of five sets, six games per set).

- Borg almost always serves wide to the deuce court.  When he positions himself to serve from a doubles position, he is definitely committing to serving a very wide angle.
- Always return Borg's deuce-side serve down the line.  Position yourself closer to the doubles lines than you normally may be used to.  Use "A" to return his serve, and immediately use the "LB" button to cover the open court.  If you hit a winner (which you should often do), that's great.  If not, Bjorn will attempt to hit a cross court winner. By using "LB" and sprinting to your left, you can chase down his shot in plenty of time.  I would recommend slicing the ball and pressing UP on the left stick to allow you an extra second to regain your composure prior to the rally that will begin at this point.
- When receiving serve in the ad-court, Borg predominantly hits wide in the service box, but will put a few serves in the middle of the box, or down the center line.  I usually gamble on his serves being wide, knowing that they aren't too fast, and that I could still reach the ball if its hit down the middle.
- Borg's backhand is his best side, and he likes to hit cross-court shots with it.  I'll humor Bjorn with a very short cross-court rally and then using "A" to put my shot up the line.  For example:  If Borg hits a cross-court shot, I will hit one right back to him (cross-court) using "B".   He'll hit another cross-court shot right to me, which I'll then use "A" to put it up the line for either a winner, or a shot that puts him off balance.    Please note though that if you hit a weak cross-court shot in the early stages of this process, he will put it down the line on his own, resulting in you losing the point.


Pro Strategy: Beating M. Cisolla
M. Cisolla is not difficult to beat.  Keep attacking his forehand side, and try to make him stretch for it if you can.  He'll almost always float back a weak reply.  If you engage in long rallies, be consistent.  Cisolla often hits unforced errors.


Pro Strategy: Beating G. Doseca
G. Doseca is a classic junkballer.  One serve is 94 mph, the next is 106 mph; one groundstroke is short, the next is long.  While he doesn't always exhibit these inconsistencies, he is pretty annoying to play.  Just be wary of his tendency to hit cross-court a lot, and try to exploit that.  There is really nothing special to his game.  If you happen to play him at Wimbledon, be wary that the CPU may try to dummy down your custom player's ability by making him unresponsive, or mis-hit a lot of balls. When I played him, my backhand became erratic for no apparent reason (and for the first time in my entire Career Mode thus far!).


Pro Strategy: Beating J. Estegas
J. Estegas is yet another scrub who somehow made the Legend Circuit, and who I faced at the Wimbledon final in my first time through the final stage of my Career Mode.
Part of the challenge in facing Estegas for me was that the CPU really dummied down my response rate on volleys and running shots.  Had that not been an issue, this guy would be a walkover.  Estegas likes to hit sharp cross-court shots, so oblige him one or two times so that he's right at the opposite doubles alley and take his next cross-court shot and put it down the middle with "A".  Don't keep trading cross-court shots though because he'll eventually go down the line.  Just hit one or two tight shots using "A" to keep him pasted to the corner, and hit a liner down your sideline (or hit an approach shot down the sideline) using "A".


Pro Strategy: Roger Federer (Grand Slam)
Roger Federer is one of the most difficult opponents to face in Legend Circuit because of his court coverage.  He always seems to be in place no matter what type of shot is dished at him.  I like to provoke Roger into trying a down-the-line shot so that I can counter with a well timed super-tight cross-court forehand or backhand ("B").  If he gets it, it will be a weak reply that I can put away either with a volley or a baseline groundstroke.  If you have good net skills and have Roger on the run deep behind the baseline, don't hesitate to charge the net ("RB") and cut off his next shot with a volley.  In facing Roger, I typically use "B" as my primary shot, "X" when I am on the run, and "A" only for my approach shot to the net.

One of Roger's tendencies is to hit down the sideline of wherever you last hit your shot.  So, if you hit to the right side, he'll hit his next shot down the right sideline.  He doesn't always do this, but enough to where I'd say that he does it at least 60% of the time.

For quick points on your service, try this:

- Aim your serves down the line as best you can (position yourself right at the center of the baseline when serving).  Roger will most likely return a looping shot that you can easily step up to crush to the opposite corner with top spin ("B").  If he varies his return, it will still be within reasonable proximity to you so that you can still be on the offensive.

For easy points against Roger when he serves to the ad-court, try this:

- Slice your return down the line, but do your best to make it a perfect slice (as noted by the sound of the shot).  If you do this, Roger will most likely hit the ball right back to you on the same side.  Be waiting for it, and reply with a powered up top-spin shot to the right side.   This is also effective when returning serves from the deuce court, but in my experience, Roger is more "programmed" to hit back down the line on the ad-side.

Note:  Roger's tactics will change quite a bit if he appears in the final of the U.S. Open (Legend Circuit).  Few windows of opportunity will exist, and the CPU will seriously hinder your custom player with regard to delayed responses, especially when at net.  If you try for a winning shot either cross-court or down the line, use the "RB button" + safe shot "A" to hit the ball with a little more power.  Many of your winners will be narrow misses by Federer's racquet.


Pro Strategy: Roger Federer (HOF)
- Slice your return of serves down the line.  He will in turn hit them right back to you down the same sideline (this occurs more than 75% of the time).
- Pass Roger with slice and lobs when he is at the net.
- Look for the pattern Roger follows that I described in the Pro Circuit Tips and take advantage of it.


Pro Strategy: Beating Justine Henin (HOF)
There are a few things you can do to breeze through your encounter against Justine in the Hall of Fame match..

- Try to take advantage of her relatively weak serve by hitting clean shots down the sidelines at every opportunity.  You want to either hit an outright winner, or, at the very least have her return your shot while off balance, thus setting you up for a cross-court shot to the open court.

- If you hit a tight cross-court shot, Justine will likely return it right back to you cross-court and it will have some pretty good pace on it.  Take that shot from her and put it up the line using the safe shot "A".  If done right, you will hit a winner.


Pro Strategy: Beating Gael Monfils
To beat Gael:  Attack his backhand, attack his backhand, attack his backhand.  Seriously - it's the weakest part of his game, and if you can get him to lunge on his backhand side, he'll float up a ball that you can put away with ease each and every time.  

When serving from the deuce court, try to serve out wide so that it throws him off balance to hit a forehand, and immediately attack his reply with a cross-court shot ("B") to the open court.  He'll likely get it because of his speed, but it will be slow and loopy, and easy to hit for a winner.

You'll likely notice that Monfils almost always hits shots while off balance when you run him from corner to corner.  If you keep up with your offensive shots, he'll never be able to hit a shot with authority, and may cause him to make an unforced error if he tries for a risk shot.


Pro Strategy: Beating Andy Murray
Return your serves cross-court with slice.  This will make Andy return your shot down the line.  Use "LB" to get into position where you should have plenty of time to rip a cross-court shot "B" that will put him on the run.   You should be able to control the point on all his service games doing this.

When you serve, serve out wide.  This will make Andy return your ball cross-court, and essentially right back to you.



Pro Strategy: Beating David Nalbandian
David likes to engage in cross-court rallies from the ad-court (where he hits with his stronger backhand).  For your first cross-court shot, use "B" and place it deep into the corner (use the analog stick).   On your second shot, pull down and to the right using the analog stick .  On your third shot, be in position to receive his next cross-court shot, and use "A" to put it down the left sideline.   If done correctly, you should hit a clean winner.  If not, he'll get a piece of it to which you can then use top spin to the open court for a winner.  Note that on your second attempt at a cross-court shot, David sometimes puts it down the center of the court versus a true cross-court ball. Should you be in good position, you can still effectively hit the ball to the open court using "A".


Pro Strategy: Beating Mark Phillippoussis

Mark likes to hit to the same side you hit towards, and sometimes mixes up his game by attacking the net.  No need to worry though!  When returning serve, always hit down the sideline!  Mark's reply will almost always be right back to you - - - take that ball and use "B" to rip it cross-court for a winner, or at least a very offensive shot that will set you up for a winner on your next whack at the ball.  This pattern doesn't waver from the first to the second set as much as other players' defined patterns, so you should see tremendous success in taking advantage of this strategy.


Pro Strategy: Beating Andy Roddick
Attack Andy's forehand as much as possible, and try to get him into a back-and-forth rally on the left side of the court (ad-court for you, deuce court for him).  If you can maintain a rally on the left side of the court for about four or five strokes, Andy will abandon his deuce court leaving you to hit a clean winner behind him.  In some instances, Andy will become "frustrated" during these types of rallies and will risk shot the ball into the net.  

Another pattern you can force Andy into is that he'll hit it cross-court with his forehand from the ad-court.  You run to the deuce court (right side) and hit it back cross-court to his forehand (use "A").  He'll then hit it down the line for you to hit back up the line (both of you on the left side of the court).  Andy will then hit a cross-court shot (his equivalent of "A"), you chase it down, hit "A" back cross-court and he'll hit it down the line again.  Sort of like a "lather, rinse, repeat operation."  Eventually, he'll either get burned by your shot cross-court with "A", or, he'll resort to hitting all his balls down the left sideline (your left) to which the above pattern will then apply, and you'll win the point with little difficulty.

When Andy serves, always hit down the line using the safe shot ("A").  His serve is much faster than he is, and if you can get the ball back with decent pace down the line, he won't have a chance to reach it in time.


Pro Strategy: Beating Andy Roddick (HOF)
- Be alert when Andy serves to the ad-court.  When he's behind in the score (or just at random), he'll crack a serve in the 130s (mph) that lands deep  in the lower left corner of the service box.  This is a VERY DIFFICULT serve to return, even if you commit to protecting against it.

- If you can get Andy to exchange groundstrokes where you are both on the same side of the court (primarily the left side), keep pounding his forehand.  He'll either miss-hit the ball after the fourth or fifth stroke, or, he'll begin to cover the open court, and his momentum will prevent him from cutting back thus giving you a clean winner.

- Press up on all your safe shots "A" to add depth to where your balls will land.  This sometimes jams Andy depending on where he is on the court.

- If you are having difficulty serving out wide against Andy, line up close to the center hashmark, and serve down the center of the service "T".  This will reduce any extreme angles he could otherwise hit.


Pro Strategy: Beating Monica Seles (HOF)
Don't underestimate Monica, even if you are playing her in a men's Career Mode.  She can pack a wallop with her groundstrokes.

Try to take advantage of her weak serve (weak in comparison to the men's game).  Try to hit clean winners down the sideline as often as you can.  When she lines up wide to serve from the ad-court, position yourself very wide to receive it (i.e. in line with the doubles alley).  

When serving, try to use the risk serve with a little spin to the outside from both sides (deuce and ad-court).  This may make Monica lunge for the ball, and allow you a bit more time to hit the ball to the open court before she completely recovers after her initial return of serve.

Monica's favorite shot is a down-the-line ripper on the right side (your deuce court side).  Be wary of this if you engage in a cross-court rally that has her on the upper right side of your screen.


Pro Strategy: Beating Maria Sharapova (HOF)
Maria is quite different from the majority of other players found in this game, primarily because what works against them, doesn't necessarily work well against her.

First of all, don't bother returning serves down the line against her.  She can get to everything pretty easily, and if you try to hit down the line from the deuce court, she'll rip a powerful two-handed backhand cross-court that is a potential winner.   Simply return her serves right back to her using "A".

Also, when serving, move to the center of the baseline (right next to that small hash mark).  Try to put all your serves down the center of the service "T" , this will cut down on any return angles that she can hit.  You won't get any service winners here, but then again, she won't hit any return winners.

Maria has the potential to hit wicked angles with power from her backhand when she's on the upper right side of the court (ad-court).  Be wary of this, and if she tries to start a cross-court rally, humor her for no more than one or two passes over the net before trying to end the point with a down the line shot with "A".



Pro Strategy: R. Singleton
There is nothing to fear with R. Singleton.  He was my first round French Open opponent and a virtual walkover.  Attack his forehand which is weak, and prone to hitting floaters.  If you can, make him run to the deuce-side of the court, once he hits a relatively weak forehand, blast a cross-court top spin shot to the right.  If he gets it, it'll likely be to the middle of the court or the ad-side.  There, use "A" to put the ball down the line for a winner.  For free points, look for Singleton to line up out wide on some of his serves (usually around 0-30).  Adjust your positioning accordingly and hit all his serves down the sideline.  Finally, he may have a surge late in the game (just prior to him losing).  Don't worry - just continue to play your game.  He may get lucky a few times, but you should still be in control to finish up the match with a win.



Final Note: Beware of Cheesy A.I. 

One final thing I would like to point out is this:  You may notice that during your matches, particularly the Pro Circuit and Legend Circuit matches, that just prior to you closing out a match (typically where you are only a game or two away from winning the match), your custom player may exhibit inconsistent behavior.   You may observe that he'll start missing his first serve, the effectiveness of his return of serve will decrease, and unforced errors will creep in at the most inconvenient times - not to mention the fact that he may become unresponsive too.  Initially, I thought this was just me - - but after speaking with several other gamers, all of which experienced the same thing, it appears that this change in CPU behavior is intentional, and meant to add a last bit of extra difficulty to a given match.  While it is very frustrating to experience, be aware of what's happening and do what you can bypass it:

- If you fault on your risk serve where your ball hits the net, simply use a face button as your second serve just to get it in.
- Use "A" more often to move the ball around, using only the "X, Y, or B" buttons when you are about to hit a weak reply.
- Step back a bit more on your service returns to allow for more time to prepare - thus producing a more powerful, more consistent return of serve.


 

E - Career Mode Summary

Career mode will require approximately 20-25 hours of your time from start (Amateur Circuit) to finish (Legend Circuit).  You can max out your XP somewhere in the latter stages of the Pro Tour which is about 11-15 hours into the game.

If you become discouraged with the controls early on, be patient.  By the mid-point of the Junior Circuit, you should have become very familiar with the controls of the game, to the point where they are almost second nature to you. 

Many of the players exhibit specific patterns which if identified early on, can enable you to beat them with ease.  In the prior section (
Section D), I detailed the behaviors of a number of players in hopes that it will help you during your matches, especially as the difficulty increases over the course of your Career Mode.

Take advantage of the easier matches at the Junior Circuit to hone your skills with each of the shot types, and determine what works best for you and master it.

Try to diversify your character to meet the requirements of the game-style that suits you best.  Early on, focus on developing your power, groundstrokes, and speed. Then, move to other areas of requirement.   Personally, I see no reason to increase your stamina beyond a level 55.

Focus on winning the Grand Slam events during the Pro-Circuit Tour as those will get you the most XP, U.P. and player points (not to mention an Achievement).

If you are confident enough in your abilities and your custom character's skill set, boost the difficulty to "hard" on Hall of Fame mode (Legend Circuit).  This will give you the opportunity to attain an additional Achievement Award.

 

F - Xbox 360 Top Spin 3 Achievements

One thing going for Achievements in the Top Spin series is that they are still reasonably easy to attain. A time commitment to this game will likely be the deciding factor as to whether or not you claim all 1,000 points.  Unlike TS2's Achievements, TS3 has a fairly lengthy list of objectives to meet.  As a result, the net point value for accomplishing each goal is fairly low (the highest being 70).  For TS3, we have 41 Achievements, one of which is a "Shame Achievement" worth zero points.

Offline Achievements

Description

Point Value

 Here You Go

 Create a player with the Player Creator.

 5

 Warmed Up

 Win a singles match, in any game mode against any opponent.

 5

 Winning Duo

 Win a doubles match

 5

 Rookie Award

 Complete the Amateur level in career.

 10

 Safeplay Award

 Win a set with no unforced errors in a singles match, in any game mode, against any opponent.

 10

 School's Out

 Complete every lesson in the Top Spin School.

 10

 Focused Award

 Win a singles match with 3 sets per match and 3 games per set with less than 10 unforced errors.

 15

 Rusher Award

 Win a singles match with 3 sets per match and 3 games per set with at least 20 winners at net.

 15

 2K Award

 Win 2000 points in singles matches.

 20

 Big Names Club

 Complete the Hall Of Fame in career mode on hard difficulty.

 20

 Faster This Way

 Serve at least 10 aces in a singles match.

 20

 Half the Way

 Win 1000 points in singles matches, in any game mode against any opponent.

 20

 Mean Server

 Serve 100 aces in singles matches.

 20

 Newcomer Award

 Complete the Challenger level in career.

 20

 No Kidding

 Win a singles match with at least 30 winners, less than 10 unforced errors on hard difficulty.

 20

 Not That Tough

 Win 10 consecutive singles matches on hard difficulty without dropping serve.

 20

 Trigger Happy

 Hit 500 winners from the baseline in singles matches.

 20

 Two Times In A Row

 Win 2 consecutive tournaments in the Pro level in career.

 20

 Men's Award

 Win a singles match with 5 sets per match and 6 games per set on hard difficulty.

 25

 Court Regular

 Play 100 matches (singles or doubles, in any game mode).

 30

 First Liner

 Hit 250 winners at the net in singles matches.

 30

 Played Cash

 Win $5,000,000 in Career mode.

 30

 Big Spender

 Unlock 300 items in the mall.

 40

 Experienced

 Reach an Overall of 70 with a created player.

 40

 Orange Prize

 Complete the Junior level in career.

 40

 That Goes With Glory

 Win $1,000,000 World Tour Prize money.

 40

 Legends Club

 Complete the Pro level in career.

 50

 Tournament Hot Shot

 Win all tournaments in Tournament mode.

 50

 Lemon Prize

 Complete the Legend level in career.

 70

 

Online Achievements

Description

Point Value

 Tennis Elbow

 Lose a singles match on Xbox LIVE without winning a game.  (Shame Achievement)

 0

 Local Champ

 Enter your geographical zone's top 1000 (at least 20 matches played in World Tour).

 20

 Tennis Teacher

 Win a singles match on Xbox LIVE without losing a game.

 20

 100 Mixed

 Play 50 matches in women's World Tour and 50 matches in men's World Tour.

 20

 Keep It Up

 Win 5 consecutive World Tour matches.

 20

 World Premier

 Win a World Tour match.

 20

 World Tour Regular

 Play 5 seasons in World Tour.

 20

 Beat 'Em All

 Win a Grand Slam tournament in World Tour.

 30

 Grid Top Regular

 Reach 4 finals in a World Tour season.

 30

 Season's 5000s

 Win 5000 points in a World Tour Season.

 30

 World Career

 Play 100 matches in World Tour.

 30

 It's All About Timing, See?

 Win 10 consecutive World Tour matches.

 40

 

G- Xbox Live! Play

Index
General Online Gaming
General Advice

Exhibition (Player) Matches
World Tour Mode


General Online Gaming

Playing Top Spin 3 over Xbox Live against human competition can be both a rewarding and frustrating experience, but regardless, this feature adds tremendous replay value to the game.

Unlike the previous Top Spins, TS3 does not have one massive leaderboard that is determined through "Quick Matches" and "Opti-Matches."  Nor can you view who is online and looking for competition.  Instead, you are randomly paired up against other human players.  A player's skill is not factored in when being paired in Exhibition matches and ranked World Tour matches.  One match could be against a top 10 player, the next against someone ranked 10,000.

One of the newer online features for TS3 is the fact that a match is immediately saved and recorded once the network finds you an opponent.  I believe this is PAM Dev's response to the disconnection cheat that hundreds (if not thousands) of gamers exploited in Top Spin and Top Spin 2.  While this does rectify that problem, it creates another issue when you consider the fact that if you choose to drop out prior to the match being mutually accepted, you will be given a loss.  This is a bit unfair, because it is fairly easy to determine if a match will have a solid connection or not (determined by the amount of time it takes for your opponent's info to appear after the "Save" pop-up window appears.  If it takes more than five seconds, you will likely get a bit of lag.  If it takes more than 10 seconds, then you will likely experience frequent lag.  I prefer not to play in lag-filled matches, so I will disconnect if my opponent doesn't appear almost immediately following the save screen.  As a result, I will get an undeserved loss.  So, be wary of this fact if you do the same, and care about your win/loss record..

The online portion of Top Spin 3 is broken down into three sections:  Exhibition (Player) Matches, World Tour Quick Match and World Tour Tournaments.



General Advice 

- When online and seeking a match, if it takes more than 5 seconds to connect to your opponent after the "Save" pop-up window appears, you will likely face lag.  The length of time that exceeds the five second mark is usually indicative of the severity of lag you will face (i.e. the more time that passes, the more lag interference you will encounter).  Since the leaderboard re-sets every few weeks, it's probably worth it to just disconnect and take the loss than deal with a crappy connection that will most likely frustrate you (especially if you are dealing with lag AND an unsportsmanlike gamer).  Personally, I don't like dealing with lag, so if it takes someone 7-10 seconds to connect after the save screen disappears, I'll back out and take the recorded loss.

- Always go into an online match prepared to deal with guys who do nothing but serve out wide looking for that extreme angle.  Additionally, plan on facing a lot of guys with stacked power players who might abuse risk shots too.  It's always best to be prepared for the worse gaming experience each and every time you connect.  If you happen to find a sim-player, you will be pleasantly surprised!

- I would advise that you have at least two characters in your roster - one that you enjoy playing with the most, and one that is geared more towards a power game (though, these could be one in the same if that's your style).  The overwhelming majority of Top Spin 3 gamers are utilizing stacked players with 90+ points allotted to power, forehand, backhand, and usually one other attribute like speed.  Balanced players are at a serious disadvantage against stacked players, especially if risk shots are used.  I would advise that your power player have at least a 90 power and 85 for forehand and backhand.  Or, you can get away with 100 power and an 80 forehand and backhand.  By doing this, you should be able to match your opponent groundstroke for groundstroke, even if risk shots are used (though, your positioning and timing will be critical).

- If you engage in the Tournament mode in World Tour, wait a few days after the server resets to join in.  Most cheesy gamers dive right in so that they can rise to the top of the leaderboard very quickly.  If you wait a few days, you will likely encounter less unsportsmanlike gamers (though, since there are thousands, you will undoubtedly still compete against some).  That being said, do not wait too long to get involved!  If you wait until the final 24-48 hours before the server resets, you may have quite a bit of difficulty getting paired up with another gamer, especially if you are in the finals of a specific tournament.  One of my frustrating Tournament Mode experiences involved me trying to find an opponent for the Pacific Life Open final.  It was the very last match I had left to complete, and I had three days before the server reset.  I would go online and literally leave my Xbox 360 running while I worked on other things, waiting and waiting for someone to join in.  It literally took several evenings (about 20-30 minutes of waiting each time) in the evening hours (and one morning too) before I was finally matched up with someone.  At that point, I just wanted to complete my season, and I didn't care if the person was a sportsmanlike gamer or not.  I barely got the game played in time. 

 
Exhibition (Player) Matches

Exhibition matches are non-ranked online matches against random competitors.  There are a few benefits to playing here:

1) Matches are not ranked, so if you have an incomplete player and want to try him out, this is the place to go.

2) This is a good testing ground for newly created players.  Here, you can test your latest creation without consequences if they don't turn out how you expected them to be (i.e. in terms of performance or look).

3) You can select an in-game Pro Player such as Roddick or Federer to play in Exhibition matches.

4) Most cheesy gamers compete in the World Tour mode, so if you are looking to avoid that sort of challenge, then Exhibition Matches should be your safe haven for a little while until you get over the learning curve of Top Spin 3.

5)  You can set up a match to the specs you prefer (i.e. match length, venue, etc.) and wait for someone to join you, or, invite a friend to play against.



World Tour Mode
 

World Tour Mode provides online competition in both "Quick Match" and "Tournament" modes.  

Quick Matches are nothing more than matches against random online competitors in a best of three set match, with three games per set, and the third set being a super-tie breaker.  There are no parameters for who you will face (unlike how Halo 3 chooses competition similar to your skill level); you could play someone significantly better than you in one match followed by someone who is ranked near the bottom of the leaderboard.  It's completely random.  All quick matches take place on what I call the "WT Lobby."  In addition to the random selection of opponents, locations are randomly selected as well.  Both XP and WT points are awarded for wins.  Should you get 5000 points in a single World Tour season (about 15 days long), you will be awarded the Season's 5000s Achievement (30 points).

Tournament Mode is what the title implies, competition in a tournament format.  When entering this mode of online play, you can either enter a tournament and await competition, or, press "X" to activate the matchmaking option that will pair you up with someone else in any of the tournaments you are still eligible to participate in. Once again, you will not know who your competition is until the game is "saved" and their thumbnail image appears.  So, the level of your opponent's experience (and their level of sportsmanship) may vary from round to round and tournament to tournament.

You are eligible to compete in a tournament provided you have not already won it in the same season, or lost in a given round.  Should this happen, the tournament icon will become gray and inactive.  You will have to wait until a new season begins to have access to all of the tournaments again.  If you become ineligible to compete in all the tournaments (either through winning the event, or losing in any of the rounds), you will need to use the "Quick Match" option to gain additional XP/WT points until the season resets.

The Grand Slam events consist of three rounds.  The middle tier tournaments are comprised of two rounds.  The bottom row of tournaments are made up of one round: the final.  As one would expect, winning the Grand Slams provide the most awarded XP and WT points.

In order to "complete" a season and qualify for the appropriate Achievement, you will need to participate in ALL of the World Tour tournaments through to completion; whether you win or lose, all tournaments must be grayed out and inaccessible.  This can sometimes be challenging if you only have a few tournaments left to complete, and you are in the later rounds.  It's best to play these tournaments early and often once the leaderboard resets.  This will allow you ample time to complete any finals you still have pending.

It is also important to note that the player you enter in the World Tour Tournament mode is the player you will be "stuck" with until the season resets.  If you opt to change players at any point in a given season, all the results you recorded will effectively be deleted (i.e. they won't apply to your new character -- you'll have to start from the very beginning).  You will also be denied credit for completing a season.   That being said, if you finish a Tournament series early, you can play another with a new character.

 

H - Online Strategies

Index
Be Patient, Play Only When You Are Ready!
Strengths & Weaknesses
Service Positioning
Returning Serves
Battling the Power Game 1
Battling the Power Game 2
 

  

I - Cheesy Gameplay: Beware!

Index
Induced Lag
Wide-Angled Serving
Risk Shot Abuse
Risk Shot Return of Serves
Player Stacking (Level 100s and 90s)
"Handcuff" Return of Serve Glitch
Trigger Returns From Inside the Baseline
Risk Slice Abuse
 

I was hoping that I wouldnít have to create this section for at least a few months, but in a matter of weeks after TS3's release, complaints are flying all over the place on how certain people are playing.  Like that of TS1 and TS2, gamers were quick to find reality flaws in Top Spin 3 and exploit them.   From what I've read "around the Web" and through emails from gamers complaining about their opponents' styles, there seems to be five consistent issues regarding cheesy gameplay.

1) Players lining up wider than the default serving position in order to hit extreme wide-angled serves.
2) Players who rely on wide-angled serves almost exclusively on their service games
3) Players who abuse the risk shot with repeated use.
4) Players who forgo the stamina and volley skills, and utilize multiple 100 or 90+ level skills (typically power, forehand/backhand, speed or serve) that make it nearly impossible for a diversified player to compete against.
5) Players who manage to affect the quality of Xbox Live by inducing lag, primarily when their opponent is serving, but could include other time-sensitive parts of the game where it would negatively affect their opponent.

 

Dealing with players who induce lag:

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the term "Intentional Lag" (or what I refer to as ďconvenient lagĒ), let me elaborate:  Have you ever been in a game thatís running pretty smoothly, but as soon as you go to serve, lag starts to occur, thus throwing off your timing with your left or right analog stick movement?  But oddly enough, when your opponent serves, he doesnít experience that problem?

Or, when your opponent serves and you are about to receive the ball, lag hits again?  In this situation, your only choice is to get the ball back in play, and not hit the ball so close to the lines.  But as soon as you do hit the ball, the frame rate returns to normal and the point plays out.  Does this sound familiar?

When I first heard of this back in the days of the original Top Spin, I didnít necessarily pass it off as being a fluke (not much surprises me when it comes to certain types of players finding new ways to cheat) Ė but I didnít put much stock into it.  But after personally experiencing it numerous times over the years (typically against those found in the Top 500), hearing numerous accounts from other gamers, and reading stories where Xbox Live members were suspended after being caught cheating, it's a proven fact that this exists, and continues to be used, even in TS3.  

If this happens to you (and you are certain it's being done intentionally), be sure to report the offender by leaving feedback to Xbox Live Support. In TS1 and TS2, there were known issues of modem tampering Ė and it seems that some new methods of tampering are already taking place at this time.  It's absolutely pathetic that people in the gaming community would stoop to this level of dishonesty, but they do, and they need to be turned in.

As far as being able to compete against players who induce lag, use the safe shot "A" as much as possible and try to end points quickly.  

 

Dealing with players who hit serves way out wide from a doubles serving position:

I experienced a gamer a few weeks after Top Spin 3 was released who took approximately three to four steps wider from the default service position at the deuce court and could at will, serve 120+ mph serves so far out wide, that they disappeared in the direction of the flower box area for an ace every time (and I have a 16:9 TV).  In order to reach those serves, I would have to be past the doubles alley and a few steps in the court to cut the ball off, which resulted in a pathetic return if I could even manage to get my strings on the ball.  This is truly unsporting and also unrealistic tennis. Unlike the slow 72mph cheese serve out wide from TS2 where you could see it coming and at least react to it accordingly, this new tactic is fast enough that you have no time to change position, therefore you must commit to cutting it off before the ball is even tossed, thus leaving you exposed to a down the line service ace.    

Since my first encounter with this sort of cheesy gameplay, it seems like almost everyone is doing the same thing (though not quite as extreme), and hoping for similar results. Through trial and error, and intense frustration, I finally have some info which may help you out if you are facing a similar opponent.

** Please note that this is only for receiving the cheesy wide serve from the deuce court, serve speed around 120mph or greater, and a right-handed player is receiving the serve.  You should also have a service return skill of no less than 75.

1) The easiest option is to hit the ball down the line using "A" while pressing UP on the left analog stick.  This may do one or two things:  
   - It may be an outright winner depending on how far your opponent cheated to the left to hit his serve (and his speed rating).
   - If your opponent does get it, then he'll likely hit a weak return shot that you should be able to chase down with little difficulty.  

2) Slice the serve return either down the line or cross-court.  Try both ways, and see how your opponent reacts.  The slow ball speed may buy you time to return to the     center of the baseline to receive the next shot.  You may have to hit a second slice if you are caught on the run.  Just pay close attention to how your opponent reacts,     and if he is able to still be on offense despite your service return.

3)
Pro Tactic: The most effective (yet most skill-based) shot is using the "A" button with the "Left Trigger."  What you need to do is this:
    - Line up your player to where the wide serves are going each time, or one step inside from where the ball typically goes.  The point is for you to barely move (i.e. no     more than a step to the right) to receive the serve.
   - Have the "Left Trigger" pulled in completely and the "A" button depressed as you await the serve.  As the ball is served up, you should only have to move a little bit to     reach the ball.
   - As you are about to make contact with the ball, quickly flick the analog stick to the left and release the "A" button (don't hold the stick to the left though!).  You may     need some timing practice on this, but the result you are looking for is that your return will go DEEP cross-court and land at the server's feet.  The result you are looking     for is added time to cover the open court.  In some instances, this type of shot will cause your opponent to stumble backwards resulting in a very weak shot that may or     may not make it over the net.   I can do this with about 50% effectiveness if the serve is predictable, but the incoming serves have to be fast (approximately 125mph),     and you have to be in good position (but not necessarily perfect).  Again, there is no need to lean on the stick to make it work; just a quick left motion with it as you are     striking.  When the stick reaches its maximum position to the left of the controller, let it spring back to its neutral position and get ready to attack the next shot.  
   - You can also experiment using "X" which slows the ball down considerably, and provides roughly the same outcome.


Dealing with players who abuse the risk shot
Playing those who abuse the risk shot can be a very unsatisfying experience, especially if they are using a stacked player with 90+ levels of power and groundstrokes.  In the original Top Spin, countering risk shots was challenging, but definitely possible if you were skilled enough and covered the court well.   TS3 provides a new challenge primarily due to the fact that with stacked players in the right skill areas, a cheesy gamer can blast 120+ mph forehands and backhands.  If you have a diversified character, you will likely not stand a chance.  

From my experience with TS3, the only way to successfully defend against a risk shot abuser is to have a player in your arsenal that can "repel firepower of that magnitude" (a favorite Admiral Ackbar quote).  You will need at least 80 level groundstrokes and 100 power, or have a stacked player of your own with 90+ groundstrokes and a high power rating.  This way, you can trade shots back and forth.  

When playing a risk shot abuser, you will want to consider four things:

1) Always move your serve around so that it does not become predictable.  Try incorporating spin on your risk serves too.   If you insist on hitting the same type of serve to the same location in the service box, your opponent will risk shot your serve right down the line each and every time.

2) Keep your opponent on the run.  If they can't set themselves, it will be more challenging for them to pull off a successful risk shot.  You may have to keep the ball going to each corner, even though your opponent is getting to them.  At the very least, it will keep them from hitting a risk shot and it will drain their stamina.  You may even get them to hit an unforced error too!

3)  Vary the depths of your ground strokes if you can.  If your shots are all landing in the same horizontal zones each and every time, your opponent will know when he needs to release his button to time his shot just right.

4) Use powered slice ("X") if you know you can't set up in time for an effective safe shot "A".  Slice will not win you points, but it will give you a very quick breather to hopefully recover.  Push forward on the left analog stick when you press "X" for extra flight time.  It is wise not to make repeated use of "X" during a rally, because it will essentially prolong a point that you will not win, and drain your stamina in the meantime.


Dealing with players who risk shot their return of serve
One of the most annoying things you can experience in any of the Top Spin games is when your opponent takes your serve and risk shots it back to you.  Most often than not, it's for an outright winner down the sideline.  If this happens to you, there are a few things you can do in Top Spin 3 to disuade your opponent from doing this, or, perhaps win you a few easy points as a result of their "unforced error."

1)  Most guys who risk shot their return of serves do so where the ball travels in a straight line from where they are taking your serve.  Picture them as Point "A", and a straight line from them to the baseline near you would be Point "B".   Most risk shot abusers do this because it is the highest percentage shot they have (hitting it straight across).  Knowing this, I would recommend you take a little pace off your serve so that it takes a split second longer to reach them.  This will allow you sufficient time to cover the open court.  From there, you should be able to take the risk shot and put the ball back into play to start a rally.  If you have ample power and groundstroke abilities, you can safely use "A" to counter the risk shot.  Otherwise, I'd recommend using a powered slice "X" cross-court to begin the rally.

2)  Assuming the scenario in my previous example holds true (returner risk shots the ball straight across), you can mess up their timing and ball positioning by hitting risk serves with opposite spin.  For example, most people expect a serve coming from a righty to either be flat, or have spin that carries the ball out wide.  If you are facing a risk shot abuser, put reverse spin on the ball using the left stick (clockwise motion) to make the ball kick to the right when serving to the deuce court.  The sudden mis-direction of the ball after it bounces will cause your opponent to move his stick suddenly for adjustment to the new trajectory, often resulting in him hitting the ball wide.  

3)  Press UP on the left stick as you are serving.  The added depth and speed may screw up the timing of your opponent's trigger use, thus resulting in his risk shot going long, into the net, or being mis-hit, all of which give you an easy point on your serve.

I should add that an unpredictable serve is your best weapon against people who risk shot their returns.  Keep them guessing, and keep their characters off balance when they return your serve.


Dealing with players who stack their players (multiple 100s and 90s)

While this isn't entirely new to the Top Spin series (it was seen a bit in TS2), it is most effective in Top Spin 3.  Gamers are stacking their custom players in key skill areas such as power, forehand and backhand, and foregoing any sort of point investment in the areas of stamina, volley, and sometimes serve or return of serve.  Why do they do this?  There are a few reasons:

1) Stamina is not much of a factor in TS3, therefore points expected to be invested there can be spent elsewhere.
2) Why risk going to the net when you can blast the ball from the baseline with 100 power and 90+ level groundstrokes?
3) A diversified player will not stand a chance against a stacked player with regard to exchanging groundstrokes from the baseline.
4) A net player will not stand a chance against a stacked player as they can easily be passed, or hit with the ball.
5) A gamer can forgo any real point investment with "serve" if they have 100 power and a 90+ forehand.  Their serves will be fast, but they won't have much control over them.
6) Many stackers don't invest much in return of serve, opting to use valuable points towards power or groundstrokes.  To compensate for the lack of their return of serve skill, they use risk shots.
7) One of the most challenging stacker-types to play are those with 90+ power and groundstrokes who serve wide all the time.  Provided they have enough speed to cover down the line returns, they can pretty much dictate the points on all their service games.

When you see that you will be competing against a gamer who has two or more skills highlighted in red, immediately note what they are, and look for areas that are white (typically stamina, volley, and something else).  The "something else" is what you will need to try and exploit.  If it's speed, then focus on getting your opponent off balance with an unpredictable serve, and then making them sprint to the opposite side of the court once you hit their return.  Incorporate top spin both deep and shallow, and do not allow them any time to camp out and prepare for a monster hit.  Alot of your opponent's power will be neutralized if they have to hit while on the run.  It's when they can set up for their next shot do they become lethal.

If you see it's their return of serve that's weak, then you may want to hit some serves out wide and down the middle and look for where they are hitting their returns (most will be down the nearest sideline, especially when serving from the deuce side).  Take their weak return of serve and use top spin into the open court.

The effectiveness of your serve will be instrumental in the success you have against cheesy gamers who stack their custom players.  Always keep them guessing, and be mentally aware of where they hit their shots to, and where they go into position immediately following their return of serve.  Use this knowledge to your advantage.  Most people follow a very specific pattern of gameplay.  The winner of a match is usually the person who can figure out the other's gameplan first!  Well, this is at least true in the cases where sim-tennis is being played.

If you find that you are playing against an unacceptable number of cheesy gamers who stack their players, then I would recommend creating an additional character of your own that can match them power for power, stroke for stroke.  I have a few character models in
Section T that you can pattern yours after.  They aren't as diversified as I'd like them to be, however they remain reasonably competitive against stacked players without crossing the line of being cheesy themselves.

One final tactic you can try is this:  If you can hit a decent approach shot that puts your opponent on the run parallel to the baseline, get right around the service line and try to intercept your opponent's shot and counter it with a drop shot "Y."  He'll hear the audio cue and his first thought will be that you hit a slice, NOT a drop shot.  He'll likely try to back-track across the baseline to get what he thought was a shot to the other corner, and you'll get the point.  If he's quick to react appropriately, he'll be pushing up on his left stick to reach the ball, and any shot he hits (if he can even get to it) will be either into the net, long, or something you can easily put away.  Just remember this:  when you hit a drop shot, it's always best to run in right behind it towards the net!


Dealing with players who use the L-Trigger and "A" as a return of serve to exploit the "handcuff glitch"
The "handcuff glitch" is a term I came up with where your opponent returns your serve using LT+A+UP that puts the ball right back at your feet, but despite your timing with face buttons or the left analog stick, your character will be paralyzed (handcuffed) and unable to respond.  This is a VERY CHEAP way of playing Top Spin 3, and so far, I've only played one guy who did this, but he did it effectively and won a LOT of un-earned points.  It was outright cheating.  The ONLY way I found to counter this tactic is this: As soon as you serve, pull back on your analog stick and get your player behind the baseline (about a full step).  Quickly tap "X" for slice as the ball is bouncing (some times you may need to rapid fire "X").  If you try using "A" or "B", they may not respond, or, your shots will be pathetically weak.  

In my experience specifically, I was serving from the singles serving area and close to the center hash-mark.  My opponent would consistently return the ball using LT+A to jam my player.  The only success I had was trying to risk serve with various spins to keep him off balance, but expecting him to get everything back (and deep).  I forced him to a third set tie-break where he unfortunately succeeded in getting the one point difference he needed through cheating (i.e. the "handcuff glitch").  I fended off about a half-dozen, but all it takes is one to work to change momentum in a tie-breaker.


Dealing with players who use trigger returns from inside the baseline on return of serves
At the time of my writing this (8/08), I have only played one guy who did this (he was ranked around 83), but it may become more common as time passes.  For me, it didn't take very long to figure out that in addition to my aforementioned opponent having a stacked player, his "gimmick" of returning serves with triggers from well inside the baseline likely contributed to his high ranking.  

What this particular gamer did on my service games was move his player about two full steps inside the baseline, and any time I served, he'd used what appeared to be a risk-slice right back at me.  If he pulled it off successfully, his shot would cause me to either float up a very weak ball that landed short, or, my character would miss it all together (similar to the "handcuff glitch," but not quite).   All it took was a few times of him doing this before I figured out what to do:

If you are faced with a similar situation, press UP on your left analog stick when you risk serve.  More specifically, press UP on the left stick as your character is halfway through is service motion, and hold it there until you make contact with the ball.  This may require a little bit of practice to prevent your serves from going long.  What you are trying to accomplish is having your serve land deep in the service box around your server's maximum speed.  The depth of your serve will make it difficult for the return guy to effectively hit the ball with a trigger from inside the baseline.  More often than not, he will hit it right into the net.  For my right handed player, I had near 90% success doing this from the ad-court.  On the deuce side, it worked about 70% of the time, with more success coming from deeper placed serves.  In my particular case, my opponent somehow got accustomed to my deep serving to the deuce side, and started winning some points.  So what I did was put risk serves with SPIN deep into the service box, and this kept him off balance (not knowing which way the ball was going to spin to since I mixed it up) thus resulting in him hitting more errors.  This ultimately led to his losing the match.

If by chance your opponent does get the ball back to you, make sure you are stepping back behind the baseline immediately after your serve.  This will give you a bit of a cushion because his bounce will land deep.  Use "A" and press UP and to one of the corners with your left stick.  Since he'll already be a few steps inside his baseline, a deep shot with "A" may result in him hitting a weak ball that you can step up to and hopefully put away for a winner.   You can also use "B" (top spin) to pull him to the open court if you have enough time (and space) to hit it effectively.  Just be sure to always step back behind the baseline after serving just in case he returns the ball over the net.   Acting on this advice is key to the effectiveness of your next shot if you need to hit one.

If you end up having similar experiences to what I described in the second paragraph above, your opponents will likely continue to try and try to get those cheap returns to work despite losing points repeatedly. Your serve will look the same to them, and they won't be able to figure out why their return isn't working!   In my experiences across all three Top Spins, when a gamer has a "gimmick" that they rely on (usually a cheap one), they will stick with it to the end because that's the only way they know how to win matches.  If you can quickly figure out how to either neutralize their cheesy tactic, or effectively counter it, the overall advantage immediately becomes yours.


Dealing with players who use lobs as their service returns
I had played a cheesy gamer who not only had a stacked player (100 power, 93+ ground strokes), but also served out wide on every serve, and used risk shots too.  His only weakness was his return of serve which I knew was my only chance at keeping the match close and hope for a win in a tie-break.  I was able to bring the first set into a tie-break but then he switched up his tactics when returning my serve.  He knew that his level 55 return of serve was no good, and that he couldn't win points on my service games playing fair and square, so he began to lob his returns (not sure if he used either of the triggers) so that they'd bounce just in side the baseline causing my player to either freeze (i.e. become unresponsive), or stumble backwards resulting in a weak groundstroke that he could put away with his unbalanced power.  When he saw that he got that crucial point he needed in the tie-breaker, for the rest of the match, all his returns were lobs, most of which rendered my character completely ineffective.   He won the tie-breaker by three points, but the second set became a complete joke as he was popping up lobs on every service game I had.   I finally had to compensate by serving the ball, and then literally pulling my guy back about three feet behind the baseline before the return lob's first bounce - and then start the point from there.  Because of my player's animation, there was no way that I could get underneath the ball and hit an overhead smash.  This is quite unfortunate because in TS1 and TS2, this could sometimes be accomplished depending on the depth of the lob.

If you face a dirt-bag gamer like this, be sure to first try varying the depth and spins of your serves.  If those don't throw off your opponent, then it's best to serve right at him.  Be sure to quickly reposition your character well behind the baseline so that you can hit a powerful shot off his lob return.  Hopefully, you won't play someone like this. It was clear to me that this guy didn't have any natural skill at Top Spin, and the only way he could remain competitive was by stacking his player, serving wide, and then resorting to more cheesy gameplay to pull out a win.


Dealing with players who use risk slices
There is no mistaking a risk slice coming at you.  The ball's speed is very misleading and hit hardly bounces, making it increasingly difficult to hit effectively unless you are inside the baseline.  Those who abuse the risk slice typically stack their players with red-level power, forehands and backhands.  Their strategy is to keep pushing you back behind the baseline so that they can hit a risk slice; landing around the service line with very little bounce.  If you are late in reacting, your player may stumble or whiff on your attempt to get it back.

The ONLY way to effectively combat this sort of gameplay is to stand your ground the best you can, being only a step or two behind the baseline.  If your opponent has already hit a few risk slices, they will not doubt continue to do so throughout the rest of the match.  Just be alert to the sound and "look" of the ball when a risk slice is hit, and be prepared to run to the ball immediately as you power up your shot (I'd recommend "A").  If you time it just right, you should be able to hit a counter shot with decent power.  If you are a bit late, you may only get the ball back in play which unfortunately, is just setting up your opponent to unleash a powerful groundstroke winner.

 

J - Sim-Tennis For Dummies:

Please donít take offense to this chapter title, as this section is not intended for the recreational gamer or true tennis enthusiast.  This section is meant for those who don't have a clue how proper tennis should be played, stoop to low standards of gameplay with TS3, and yet are critical of others for how they play.  Thanks to TennisLegendonDVD for supplying the video examples below.

The Lob, When to use:

Video Example 1 (Connors vs. Haarhuis, 1991)   

When NOT to use:

 

The Drop Shot, When to use:

Video Example 1 (Agassi vs Kafelnikov, 95 Australian Open)

When NOT to use:

 

Risk Shot, When to use:

When NOT to use:

 

Slice Serve, When to use:

When Not to use:

 

Serving from the Doubles Area in Singles Match Play, When to Use:

When Not to Use:  

 

Stacking Players:

When Not to Use:  

The items mentioned above are part of the code that I, and other sim-gamers play by.  There may be exceptions to a few of the listed items when dealing with cheesy gameplay, but in a straight-sim match, the above statements should hold true.

 


K
- Xbox Live!/Top Spin 3 Server Updates, Patches, and DLC

7/15/08 - World Tour Leaderboard and Tournament Brackets were re-set.
7/31/08 - World Tour Leaderboard and Tournament Brackets were re-set
8/15/08 - World Tour Leaderboard and Tournament Brackets were re-set
8/29/08 - World Tour Leaderboard and Tournament Brackets were re-set

(9/08 Note: Leaderboard resets will no longer be posted.  I will only post patch and DLC information should they become available, though it looks like PAM Dev/2K Sports have already abandoned this game).

 

 

L - FAQs

FAQ:  In Career Mode, do you update your player after every match, or every tournament?  Which is best to do?
In most cases, I updated my player after every round.  There is no penalty in doing so, and it only improves your player which may be needed for a tougher, later round opponent.  

There have been a few times where I was confident my player was good enough to win an event (in the Juniors), so I banked my XP for later use.  At the Pro Level though, I updated my player(s) after every round.  While I was confident I could win with what I had to start a given tournament, I didn't want to take any sort of risk and let there be a setback to my custom-player's progress by losing a tournament.  The CPU has been known to "cheat" from time to time, so I didn't want my guy to contend with bogus A.I. in addition to possibly be under-skilled. Strange things happen sometimes, and all it takes are a few bad points to shift the momentum of an entire match.

 

FAQ:  Why does it seem that everyone online is using [100 level] power, groundstrokes, serves [....] and basically nothing for stamina and volleys?

While this problem is discussed throughout my Guide, specifically the online sections and my
suggestions to improve the game, I can summarize my answer in three points:

1) Stamina isn't nearly much of a factor as it should be (and claimed to be), and in most instances power-mongers can get away without having it if they can end points very quickly (i.e. no extended rallies).  Guys with 100 power and groundstrokes expect to end points in 2-3 shots when serving, and probably 2-4 shots when receiving. Some will incorporate a cheesy serve throwing you way wide so that if you do hit a weak return, they only need one more shot to end the point.  If stamina was configured correctly, a higher level of stamina would be required in order to have a high power rating, and the ability to hit risk shots successfully.

Additionally, stamina takes it's biggest hit when you use the LB and RB buttons to "sprint."  Many TS3 gamers are opting to forgo XP in stamina in favor of utilizing a 100 level speed rating.  My theory is that the high speed rating offsets some of the drain to stamina.  But regardless, having low stamina does not affect shot making as much as it should.

2) I'd be willing to bet that 95% of the gamers on Top Spin 3 don't volley much at all.  It's much easier for most people to win points from the baseline.  I had only encountered a half dozen volleyers in Top Spin 1 over the course of nearly one thousand online matches, and none in Top Spin 2.  I faced my first serve and volleyer in years in less than a month of owning Top Spin 3.  It was pretty exciting, though I think that guy is a dying breed.  If everyone had a well-rounded player in terms of skill sets, then the serve and volley style would be practical and also very challenging to opponents.  But against those with 100 power/groundstrokes, coupled with risk shots - - being a net aggressor is like setting yourself up to be target practice.  It's almost not worth it unless you play in a sim-league that requires balanced characters to be used. It's unfortunate that to be really competitive in TS3 (as of the time of my writing: 7/18/08), one must conform to what everyone else seems to be doing.

3)  I've found that some cheesers are forgoing any real investment of points in their serve skill too.  The consequences of doing this can be offset a bit by adding a very high number of points to both power and forehand.  By doing this, 30 level serves can still exceed speeds of 124 mph.  The only drawback is that it is very difficult to serve down the middle or out wide with such a low skill rating.  Everything pretty much has to go right to the center of the service box.

FAQ:  Do you have a list of cheesy gamers to avoid?

No, I do not.  I don't feel it's my place to publicize my opinions on who plays fair and who doesn't.  I believe it is up to each gamer to accurately and fairly rate their opponent using the Xbox Live feedback system.  That being said, there was a very good list of cheesy gamers that was out during the time of Top Spin 1, and the link to it can still be found in my Original Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guide  (though, it doesn't appear to have been updated in quite some time).  I believe the list was compiled from numerous experiences and gamer feedback, and pretty thorough too.  Back in those days, you could choose who you wanted to play and who you wanted to avoid, so that list was pretty helpful to sim-gamers.

As a side note, I also don't have a list to share of "good gamers" either.  I did that early on with my first
Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guide, but decided to delete it after re-playing the same guys I once praised (six+ months prior), only to observe that they had fallen to the "Dark Side."  People change, and I didn't want to post any misleading information if I couldn't verify to still be accurate.  

 
FAQ:  Why is it that my opponent can hit a fairly weak return of serve, yet I can't put the ball away to the open court?
In most cases, your player will step into the court after his service animation is completed.  This puts you closer to the returned ball, creating an unfavorable position to hit an offensive shot.  Different service animations will place you in different areas of the court after you strike the ball on your serve.  If you observe that your player is stepping well past the baseline (like two steps into the court), make a conscious effort to pull him back behind the baseline as soon as you can.  This should allow you to take the ball at the height of its bounce and drill it to anywhere you want on the court.  Your player should not be inside the white baseline after serving to hit an effective shot.  

The above is the most common reason for this issue.  Other reasons could be that a gamer is incorporating use of the "L trigger" with a face button on his returns, or that he is pressing "up" on his return of serve to make his shots deeper and flight times longer.

 

M -Top Spin 3 Game Review

Graphics:  The graphics in Top Spin 3 are what I pretty much expected for Top Spin 2.  It's a shame that we had to wait so long.   Here, the images are quite sharp, and character animation is very fluid. If you have an HDTV, you will truly appreciate the details of each player and the textured court surfaces.  I am particularly fond of the visible fatigue players exhibit throughout the duration of a match;  Players will sweat around their upper back and chest, their arm pits and faces...and some players' cheeks will get flushed as well.  As I said in my review for TS2, sometimes it's the "little things" that make a big difference in a game, and this is one of those little things that add a tremendous amount of realism to the game.  That being said, PAM Dev did go a little too far with the grass and clay stains on player's shorts on those respective surfaces.  Not only are the stain patterns identical each and every time, but there is no explanation as to how they got there.  Grass stains shouldn't appear on shorts unless a player has fallen (and even then, it might be only a small stain).  By the end of a match on clay, a player's butt looks like he sat on the terre battu.  

Stadium and back-court renderings are pleasing to the eye, as are the improved crowd shots.  The moving clouds casting shadows on court surfaces are an incredibly realistic element added for TS2, and very welcome indeed.  

With regard to the crowd though, again, it would be nice to see more realistic reactions from the spectators; perhaps have some people stand up and cheer after a particularly exciting point, or at the conclusion of the match.  While the audience looks better, they are still robotic in nature.   This is one area of improvement I would like to see if there is a Top Spin 4;  more crowd interaction.

Another "extra" item I would like to see is ball-kids in motion.  Sure, TS3 is fine without them, but why not make the effort to really bring about that element of real-life tennis?

Score: 9.0
Pros: Much improved over TS3, and quite simply the best visuals to date in any tennis game (and better on Xbox 360 than PS3).
Cons: Robotic movements from crowd


Sound:
  What is there to say about sound in tennis?  There aren't many areas to improve upon: the ball bouncing, the ball being struck with different swing-types, crowd and environmental noise, lines-people and umpires making call-outs and sneaker squeaking.......wait, sneaker squeaking - - - that seems a bit absent in this game, at least to the degree that it should be on certain court surfaces.  

One of the major criticisms I have had with sound in the Top Spin series, including TS3, is the pre-canned cheers and applause from the spectators.  It just seems so non-interactive.  Now, you could argue that when a player makes a good get on a tough shot, the crowd woos, but it's all the same after a while - and some incredible shots render the crowd completely silent - - so there is a great deal of inconsistency there.  I would like to see more crowd sounds; maybe they favor one player over another and individual audience members will shout out some encouragement to them, or they'll scream out a player's name; maybe you become a fan favorite as you improve on the pro-circuit; maybe they give a standing ovation after a long and exciting rally, or after a player wins a major tournament; MAYBE they whistle on a close line call called out.  There are so many areas to improve on with regard to crowd noises.  

Once nice touch I should acknowledge is the airplane sounds at Flushing Meadows.  I had a smile on my face the first time I heard that.

Score: 7.0
Pros: Standard sounds of tennis done well, but there are many opportunities for improvement.
Cons: Nothing outstanding.   I really should give this a 6.5 only because there hasn't been any significant advances in this area.  A more interactive crowd would boost this to a 9.0.
 

Playability Offline:  It goes without saying that PAM Dev re-worked the gaming mechanics for TS3 from the ground up.   From the many TS gamers I've spoken with, this was not necessarily a welcome change.  For me personally, I initially despised the control scheme early on, but by the time I was halfway through the Junior Circuit, I finally got the hang of the controls, and by the time I was playing in the Pro Circuit, I was pretty comfortable with most of them (effective serving still posed a challenge for me).  For many people, including veteran Top Spin enthusiasts, this game will provide quite a learning curve.  For those who like a challenge, they will likely embrace the change.  For the die-hards of the first two Top Spin games, TS3's Career Mode will likely be played through only once.

One of the primary complaints I have with the control scheme in TS3 was also a part of TS2, and that has to do with the zones near the sidelines that "Safe Shots" can't reach.  In order to hit a line shot, you must utilize the "L Trigger" along with a face button.  The same applies to serves as well.   I feel it would have been best to let the left analog stick determine the proximity of shots near lines - - where gamers would have to exercise caution when leaning on the stick to hit a shot to the wide-points of the court.  We'd see a lot more caution in online competition, and a lot more unforced errors from people who try too hard to paint lines with the ball every time.

Create-a-Player Mode is okay, but not as spectacular as it's billed to be.  Base player models need a LOT of work in order to get certain face shapes, and could require up to an hour or more if you are wanting to get a specific look.  More than half of the available haircuts are completely ridiculous and not worth even having, and there is an obvious lack of company branded head and eyewear.  Setting a player's eyes can be difficult with many of the default settings, making custom-characters look freakish.

The major tennis manufacturer's are well represented, but the available styles and equipment to choose from are outdated by several seasons.  Since everything is essentially out of style in TS3, it would have at least been thoughtful to include some of the more notable retro-wear from the 80s and 90s by Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Diadora.  

With regard to CPU A.I., I have grown increasingly weary of having my player orchestrate what appears to be a blowout, only to have completely ridiculous events transpire when I am about to close out a match.  A few examples include double faults  (despite the ball being struck perfectly), mis-hit returns, mis-hit groundstrokes, unresponsiveness to face buttons which allow my CPU opponent's shots to go by, etc.   This happens on a fairly consistent basis usually when I am one game away from winning a match. In speaking with some other people, they have experienced the very same thing.   This is not acceptable A.I. for the price paid on this game.  CPU players should become more intelligent as a game progresses in difficulty, not so where your player becomes incompetent and unresponsive at almost the same time in every match.

Another issue I have with offline mode (and this affects online mode as well) is the fact that when you are net, some incoming shots (usually from opponents way deep in the back court) have you salivating at the opportunity to put the ball away, only for it to float over your head with no reaction from your player despite perfect timing on the button push.  The incoming shot doesn't look like a lob, but a normal shot, and it's very misleading as to the trajectory of the ball.  In viewing replays, it has appeared that my player should have been able to reach the ball and hit it with an outstretched high-volley type motion.

Career Mode takes a considerably larger time investment in order to develop and make your custom-player worthy for online play.  In TS2, you could feasibly have a custom player maxed out in about 5 hours on the default difficulty setting.  In TS3, you are looking at somewhere between 10-12 hours per custom player.  For me personally, that is way too long, and I began to lose interest in offline mode, especially when I started to create new custom players with different skill sets.  I typically make about four guys per game, which was about a 20 hour investment in TS2.  In Top Spin 3, that same effort would translate to about 40 hours (unless I ran characters 2-4 through Career Mode on "easy" to shave some time).

I understand the scheduling and career flow that PAM Dev designed, but I think the omission of Career Mode Training was a mistake.  By having training sessions, one could improve their character during the time that a tournament was taking place.  You'd still get XP, but maybe invest only 10 or 20 minutes versus a full hour playing a tournament.

Venues:  Once again, I am disappointed with the lack of legit venues to play at.  Cincinnati makes a return after being absent in Top Spin 2, but still retains the same generic name, and not that of the title sponsor for the actual Masters Series event.  The court is quite unlike the Stadium Court in Cincinnati (Mason, OH) too.

Overall, TS3 misses the target in offline mode.  While I don't necessarily dislike the calendar format for TS3, a large part of professional tennis is practice, and LOTS of it, and this isn't experienced in TS3 (I exclude the "Top Spin School" because it is not part of Career Mode).  Top Spin 3 is being billed as a tennis sim, and yet some of the most obvious elements of real-life tennis are missing.  TS2 was more on the mark with this respect, and the fact that each season was considerably shorter with various options each month made it all the more enjoyable.

Tournament Mode:  Tournament mode is separate from Career Mode and enables you to participate in all the tournaments provided in the game using either a custom-player or an established pro (real life, or generic).  Other than earning an Achievement for completing this mode, I found no real incentive or attraction to playing this.


Score: 7.0
Pros: New control scheme will be a love/hate kind of thing for most gamers.  New build for Career Mode and character development adds a bit of "freshness" to the Top Spin franchise, despite the length of time it takes to complete.
Cons: Control mechanics not well-received by many gamers.  Limited placement of shots without triggers.  Responsiveness issues when playing net. Creating and maxing out a custom-character with 560 points takes 10-12 hours. Huge time investment is required to complete Career Mode when compared to TS1 and TS2.

 

Online Playability:  Gone is the user-friendly challenge screen where you can see who's online and worth challenging (or avoiding).  Now, you have two choices for ranked matches: play a "Quick Match," or enter ranked tournaments without knowing who's online and who your opponents will be until you join in (and if you back out, you lose, and cannot re-enter until the brackets are re-set).  Only in unranked online exhibition matches can you accept or decline a challenge without penalty.

While I understand and appreciate PAM Dev's approach here with the tournaments, I think it's fatally flawed with respect that you can't preview participants in a given event before jumping in,  nor can you opt to back out of a tournament (prior to choosing "Ready") without penalty.  There are hundreds if not thousands of cheesy gamers playing TS3 on Xbox Live, and why would I or any other sim-gamer want to join a tournament with known cheaters?  I don't think it makes any sense with the way the current system is operating.  Ideally, gamers should be able to see who's participating, or if they were to jump in, who'd they be up against.  I suppose one could argue that in real tennis, draws are made where no one knows who their opponent will be beforehand.  That's true, but then again, cheaters in REAL tennis get banned from the ATP or their respective organizations - so that's not a worry for them.  In Top Spin 3 land, that is a legitimate concern from sim-gamers.

Another issue I have a problem with regarding online play is the fact that stamina doesn't influence a player as much as it should.  Guys are still ripping risk shot after risk shot with no sign of fatigue, and jacked up power players are able to launch missile-like shots at will with no slowing down.   There needs to be a direct correlation between a person's risk shot use and energy drain.  In real life, a pro simply cannot sustain risk shot after risk shot.  Not only would they fatigue quickly, but their accuracy would diminish on each subsequent risk shot.  For however many sets a match is set up for, stamina should be adjusted accordingly by the software.  The same should apply for those who choose a 100 level power rating and high XP values assigned to groundstrokes.  If someone wants a 100 power rating, then there should be a minimum requirement for stamina - - say, 70 XP.  That way, a gamer could realistically sustain a power-based ground game, and during the creation process, it would also make a gamer think twice about stacking their player.  With choices, there are sometimes consequences, but in TS3, there are no overt drawbacks for those who choose to forego treating stamina with any degree of sincerity. In other words, what's going on is that there is no penalty for choosing 100 level power and very low stamina, and because of that, players are able to jack-up other aspects of their custom player, making them unrealistic - particularly for online gaming.  If Top Spin 3 is meant to be a sim-game, then it should PLAY like a sim.  A player cannot (and should not) have a power game (including frequent risk shots) without ADEQUATE stamina.

Another problem I have with online play is that cheesers are also lining up much wider to serve than what is considered the "norm" for singles match play.  As a direct result, unrealistic angles are being exploited, and consistently so.  I strongly believe that to improve the quality of online gaming, PAM Dev needs to restrict the service position to no wider than the default location for singles match play, and re-configure stamina to the point where it really is a factor in the game (and automatically scales itself for short matches or full length matches).

Finally, the online portion still lacks doubles play from remote consoles.  This is a huge omission to the game, and one I am deeply disappointed in.  The only consolation to this, for me, is the fact that I am finding online play to be just a bit slower than offline play (at no fault to my connection speed).  I am left to assume that the developer knew that doubles play would result in frequent game-debilitating lag.  Still though, the original Top Spin was released over five years ago.  One would think that PAM Dev would have had sufficient time to include this gaming mode since it has been a point of criticism by many gamers and accredited reviewers since TS2.

Score: 5.5
Pros: Inventive way for online gaming (i.e. tournaments) is a plus.  Leaderboard resets often.
Cons: Inability to preview contestants in a given tournament and penalties issued to those who drop out prior to accepting a match are drawbacks. Stamina is not a factor in online play, allowing gamers to create "monsters" on the court.  Still no online league play or doubles.  Cheesers are still able to take advantage of risk shots and serving out wide to unrealistic proportions.
 
 

Overall Conclusion: Top Spin 3 is better than Top Spin 2 with respect to improved graphics and to some degree, playability.  A few exploitations in Top Spin 2 are for the most part, history as well.  Despite those changes for the better, Career Mode in TS3 is still painfully long, and requires two to three times the amount of time to create a player so that he (or she) has all 560 points (i.e. Level 70).  Playing one time through to learn the game is tolerable, but to create additional players is nothing short of a chore, so much so that even the most die-hard Top Spin player will likely lose interest unless they play through again on "easy," or, utilize the XP distribution cheat.

I can certainly see this game drawing criticism with the newly designed control scheme, though I would advise that everyone to give the game a chance and not pass judgment too quickly.  By the Junior Circuit, the controls should be almost second nature to you.  That being said, the new controls are acceptable, but not stellar.  In my opinion, Top Spin 1, despite its reality flaws, still had the best controls.

Offline play is okay with the new tournament system, though the catalog of real-life pro players seems a bit light.  Granted, the talent level of tennis today is the most pathetic in decades (case in point: #4 Nikolay Davydenko.  He wouldn't have been in the Top 20 back in the mid-90s).  Seriously though, PAM Dev introduced four legends of the game in TS3 - - but why not more?  I had been asking for this since 2003 with the original Top Spin.  They included Becker, but not his early career nemesis Stefan Edberg?  Borg without Connors or MacEnroe?  Seles without Graf?  Where is Ivan Lendl??  I know that 2K Sports is likely to offer future downloads of more legendary players, but to pack-in only four, why bother?  

Online play is okay, though my biggest gripes have to do with the abuse of risk shots and maxed out power players with low stamina, people still exploiting the serves out wide, and the fact that in ranked matches you can't preview who you might be playing prior to any sort of obligation.  Had the stamina category been programmed to convey fatigue in a realistic manner (but scaled to accommodate the shorter 3 game per set matches), we'd see more realistic tennis (and custom-characters) online - thus enhancing the online experience tremendously.  By making stamina more of a factor, we'd see immediate improvement with regard to risk-shot abuse too.  It would force gamers to pick and choose when they would try for that shot, quite unlike today where some "skilled gamers" (and I use that term loosely) hit them frequently throughout a match.  The term "risk shot" - in its truest sense, is just that, a risk.  It's very low percentage shot typically hit when a player is in a dire situation.  However in Top Spin 3, it can be used with regularity, and a near-replacement for a standard groundstroke.  The best way to rectify this situation is to either adjust stamina so that risk shots drain a player's energy considerably, or remove the risk shot from the game altogether.

Another slight ding to what otherwise could have been a great online environment is the speed of the game.  Online is just a tick slower than offline mode, which can be detrimental to some who rely on a precision-based game.

Overall, Top Spin 3 is a step in the right direction after the disappointing Top Spin 2, though it still has quite a bit to improve upon to make it THE definitive tennis "sim" that PAM Dev and 2K Sports would like to think it is now.  Had PAM Dev rectified the stamina issue as I suggest in this Guide, as well as eliminating the serving exploit, I really believe the online playing field would be much more competitive, and more fun for everyone.

Overall Score: 7.5
Pros:  Better than Top Spin 2.  Has a "Fresh feel to it" with the new controls, improved graphics, custom-player progression, and online tournaments.
Cons:  Still falls short of the excellent Top Spin 1 experience.   The price for this game is a bit steep.  At best, Top Spin 3 should have probably been somewhere in the $39.99 to $49.99 range.  Still has some flaws that could translate to poor experiences online (i.e. stamina being a non-factor, exploitation of reality flaws continue). Poor line-up of legendary players.  No online doubles with four remote users.  Game has a few annoying glitches that should have been ironed out before it hit store shelves.


 

 N - Improvements Made Over Top Spin 2?

Below are some aspects of TS2 that I took issue with, and noted each of them in my last FAQ & Strategy Guide as opportunities for improvement.  Let's see whether or not they were acknowledged, and if so, improved upon.

Complaint with TS2

Addressed for TS3?

Verdict

Online league functionality must be incorporated to take this game/series to the next level.  

TS3 has a "World Tour" complete with tournaments, but custom events and league/season tracking is still not a part of the game.

Hopefully we'll see online league functionality in Top Spin 4.

The disconnection flaw and lag tricks NEED to be eliminated.  The disconnection cheat (where in many cases, those who disconnected from an online game would avoid earning a loss, and potentially rob their opponent of a win).

Games are now saved at the time players are synched up.  There is still an issue where gamers can intentionally induce lag though.

I am pleased to see that unsportsmanlike gamers finally get penalized for disconnecting early.  I am not sure this problem of intentionally induced lag can ever be corrected.

The ďAĒ button and risk serve should perform as they had in Top Spin 1 (i.e. more freedom to place shots at various locations on the court).

There seems to be more precision with ball delivery than TS2, though you must use the triggers to execute a serve more effectively.

Top Spin 1 still had the best serving in terms of ball placement.

 Online doubles (via four remote Xbox 360s/gamers)

Still not addressed.

I've been griping about this since Top Spin 1.  How many times do I need to bring this up?  How many gaming sites and magazines need to point this out before it is actually addressed and implemented into a Top Spin game??

Slice and topspin serves should have a different service meter to increase degree of difficulty in achieving extreme angles.

Despite not having a service meter, cheesers are still able to achieve ridiculous angles with their serving.

The abuse of extreme wide-angled serves are ruining the online gaming experience for TS3.

Expand the roster by including legendary tennis players such as Agassi, Edberg, Becker, Sampras, Rafter, Navratilova, Evert, Graf, Seles, etc. that can be unlocked.

Slightly improved.   There are now a few  great legends now available (including Boris Becker).

Three legends doesn't quite make it feel like an improvement, but instead more like an afterthough.

This was one of my first recommendations to Pam Dev back in TS1, and they've finally did it.  That being said, 2K Sports never followed through with the "tease" that additional downloadable content (i.e. more legendary players) would be available.

Prevent gamers from leaving feedback to a Gamer's Rep unless they actually played them.  The leaderboard standings allow easy access for loser-gamers to flame others for no reason.

This still seems like it can happen.

No comment.

Add degrees of difficulty to the game for online play (i.e. rookie, pro, legend) that reduce or exaggerate angles and various types of possible shots depending on the skill level selected.  Higher difficulty levels should play like real life tennis (more realistic than what Top Spin has offered online in the past).

Not implemented.

There should be online modes for "arcade tennis" and "sim-tennis."  Let the cheesy players thrive in the arcade mode while the rest of us sim-gamers can enjoy honest, sportsmanlike gaming in the "sim-tennis" mode.

The return of serve was very underrated in Top Spin (1 & 2) for reasons I can't explain.  As a result, the server is at an enormous advantage, especially in Top Spin 2 when people exploited the slow slice serve out wide. Please review my Top Spin 2 FAQ & Strategy Guide for a complete write-up on this glaring problem.

There is now a skill entitled "Return of Serve" that can be improved upon by adding XP.

Even with a 75 XP return rating, returns aren't always effective.  I will only be happy if a return of serve can be effective enough to deter people online from going for serves out wide all the time.

Eliminate the 72mph slice serve out wide exploit.

Improved, but now we have a 120 mph+ serve out wide exploitation problem

It's more difficult to predict the exact location of where your serve will be landing in TS3, but that's not to say that some online cheesers haven't practiced and practiced to where they can consistently land a serve on the outside line forcing you into the flower boxes.  This is already a problem people are complaining about (less than a month after the game's release), especially when this exploit is being done by guys who have unbalanced custom-players specifically designed to serve out wide, and blast away any sort of return you make.

Traction on clay needs to be made more realistic (i.e. more sliding, less instant grip).

Much improved, but still not quite there yet.

I think at this point I can say that I am reasonably pleased with how the game plays on clay, but I feel that there is still a bit more room for improvement.

The fact that a player (on occasion depending on the animation) can return a serve while running away from the ball (back turned to his opponent).

Corrected!

Players are now required to be in good position in order to hit an effective shot.  If a player is retreating while hitting a service return, their shot will likely hit the net, be shanked, or will be weak enough so that their opponent can hit a winner off of it.

The regularity in which a player can return overhead smashes.  In TS2, many times overhead smashes followed the same trajectory to which an opponent could get his racquet on the ball and hit it back.  The game should be set up to where if a player has time to "power up" - an overhead smash should bounce well over an opponent's head and into the stands, or, have so much velocity to where it lands deep in the backcourt, rendering it unreturnable.

Only slightly improved

I've been able to return overhead smashes on almost a regular basis.  When I execute them, the CPU has had a lower success rate, primarily because I thump them short so that they go over their head.  If you hit a deep overhead smash somewhere around your opponent, there is a good chance the ball will be becoming back if they choose the right groundstroke.

The inability in TS2 for a player (at the net) to chase down a floating shot or a weak lob that passes over (or around) them.  In most cases, a player gets "stuck" in his animated position and will not turn around to purse a ball that has passed by.

Corrected, but more vertical speed is needed.

With quick reflexes, reaction time and decent speed, it is possible to chase down a lob depending on how "powerful" it is.  (i.e. whether it was executed by tapping the "Y" button, or by a charged "Y")

There needs to be both an offensive lob and a defensive lob

Not implemented.

There is still no distinction between the two aforementioned lob-types, and what is available by pressing "Y" in Top Spin 3.  Tapping "Y" should be a high floating defensive lob, where holding "Y" should produce a top spin lob (a.k.a. aggressive lob).

 

 

 O - Suggestions for PAM Development & 2K Sports


  
      Improvements for online gaming:

P - Reality Flaws In TS3

 
 

Q - Wrap Up:

It's taken me just about a month and a half to write more than three times the content of my previous Guides, and I think this one turned out pretty well.  I'll continue to maintain this Top Spin 3 FAQ & Strategy Guide until June 23, 2009 (one year from TS's release), though, the bulk of my writing is pretty much finished.

To be honest, I am glad to have this done.  I look back and find it hard to believe the amount of time put into this, but the positive emails I get from visitors like you make it all worth it.  I am always happy to help another gamer, and the biggest reward is me hearing how one of my discoveries helped someone perform better in online or offline competition.  

The first Original
Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guide started off as merely being my first attempt at writing a gaming guide, but from the perspective of a gamer AND a tennis player.  What it manifested to be was something I had no intention of it becoming:  After growing increasingly frustrated with cheaters and cheesy gamers, and reading hundreds of posts by others echoing my very same feelings, the focus of my guides went towards a completely different direction.  It became almost like a crusade to put the competitive advantage back in the hands of sim-gamers.  And here we are six years later, and my third Top Spin-related guide has just been wrapped up as of August 4, 2008. 

When Top Spin 3 was announced back in 2007, I was cautiously optimistic about the game.  I loved Top Spin 1, but didn't care much for Top Spin 2.  Virtua Tennis 3 was a huge disappointment, and left me with the "itch" for some quality videogame tennis.  I had no idea if Top Spin 3 would be a remarkable improvement, or just another TS2 with slight improvements.  Granted, all of the preview videos shown for TS3 looked impressive, but as we all know, graphics aren't everything.

For me, Top Spin 3 was an improvement over TS2 in many ways, but that's not really saying very much.  With regard to TS3, the issue of "stamina" really, really frustrates me.  I really cannot understand how TS3 passed quality assurance with such a glaring oversight, knowing darn well that this reality flaw would be exploited in online competition. Additionally, the risk shot and abusive wide-serves still plague the series when they should have either been toned down, or removed all together. Had these three elements been modified in TS3, the game would have made a significant step closer to perfection.  

One of the other areas of TS3 that sort of bothers me are the pre-defined "landing zones" where balls make their initial bounce.  Instead of having infinite possibilities with a variety of shot making, all balls bounce in pre-determined zones.  Don't believe me?  Have you ever hit a shot on the run that you think may clear the net, but it instead hits just below the net tape?   That area of the net (stretching across the length of the net) is the only zone a ball can hit in that particular shot.  It won't nick the net cord, it won't land in the middle or bottom of the net - - it will ALWAYS make contact with the net just below the net tape.  There are also parts of the court surface that balls must bounce on too.  I could go on an on with other things to nit-pick, but much of this is already covered in my review of the game and throughout this FAQ & Strategy Guide. Still though, with all the advertising and marketing hype that went into this game, and with it being billed as a "Tennis Sim," it's pretty disappointing. Don't get me wrong, it's a solid tennis title, but it is quite clearly NOT a tennis sim by any stretch.  Gamers actually have to make an effort to have it resemble a real life tennis experience.

With regard to replay value, I'll likely play this online a lot more than I did with Top Spin 2, but not nearly as much as Top Spin 1.  A large part of this decision comes from the fact that nearly 40% of TS3 gamers are cheesy (un-sim) gamers.  So for every two or three games I play online, one is bound to be an unsportsmanlike gamer.  I don't want to waste my time playing against people who try to exploit reality flaws to win games. I love tennis, have been playing it for the better part of my life, and I simply cannot resort to lower standards of gameplay, even in a videogame.  

I really hope that PAM Dev and 2K Sports take my suggestions to heart, and incorporate my noted fixes for Top Spin 4.  I think a large part of the diminished fan-base of Top Spin is a direct result of the poor online experiences people have.  I've received countless e-mail complaints from gamers about their online experiences, and it's pretty sad.  These gamers (of all ages, and from all over the world) WANT to enjoy the game, but they are having a difficult time due to the behaviors of the non-sim TS gaming population.  It's really unfortunate, but something we all (that is, the sim-gaming community) have to deal with.

That all being said, I would once again like to thank each and every one of you for visiting/reading/studying my Top Spin 3 FAQ & Strategy Guide, and for the emails you've sent.  I am pretty approachable so if you have any questions, no matter how big or small about Top Spin 3, feel free to ask.  I'll do my best to respond in a reasonably timely manner.

As a final note, and something I've not mentioned in any of my other Guides ---> if a rep from PAM Dev or 2K Sports would like some valuable input towards a future project involving the Top Spin franchise, I'd be more than willing to assist, as I am certain I could help put together a better overall product.  There, that's my shameless self-plug.


 

R - Miscellaneous Links:

**Tennis-Related Links**

ATP Tennis: The official site for men's tennis.  Features profiles, schedules, results, etc.

Tennis Warehouse: One of the best places to buy the latest and greatest in tennis attire and equipment.  I buy my tennis clothing from here.  Consumer reviews can be helpful if you are ever indecisive on purchasing anything from racquets, to strings, to tennis shoes, etc.  Reasonable shipping rates are a plus too!

Mid-West Sports Supply:  It's ironic that I purchased my first Donnay Pro-One back in 1990 through Mid-West when I lived on the East Coast, and now I live within reasonable driving distance from them.  Excellent service for mail orders, though I choose to buy my equipment and supplies directly from their store to save on shipping.

Fran Johnson's Nevada Bobs: Back when I lived in the East Coast during the early-to-mid 90s, this was the place I visited several times a month in hopes of scoring the latest and greatest Agassi/Nike Challenge Court items.  A professional and helpful staff made this place a great place to shop and/or ask questions.  They also have an excellent selection for golf equipment too.  I miss shopping here.

Tennis Legend On DVD: Are you a fan of Andre Agassi?  Do you wish you could see (or see again) some of his classic matches dating back to early in his career?  If so, this is the Website to visit.  Likely featuring one of the largest 1st generation Agassi libraries in the world, Tennis Legend offers classic Agassi matches at very reasonable prices, and typically of better quality than most of what you'd find elsewhere with VHS to DVD transfers.  From 2002-2006, many of the matches are in digital quality. Agassi-related clothing and equipment can be found here from time to time as well.  The newly revised site (2008) now includes Agassi-related news, detailed match history and yearly summaries and more!

Sports Tutor:  The Tennis Tutor is my ball machine of choice due to its portability, ease of use, and performance.  I received exceptional customer service when debating whether or not to purchase a Tennis Tutor, and ultimately which model to choose.  After owning one since 2003, I have no regrets.

 

**Gaming-Related Links**

1Up:   Run by Ziff Davis, publisher of a multitude of gaming and PC magazines.  EGM (the best console gaming magazine in my opinion) is a part of 1Up.com.

2KSports:
 The publisher of Top Spin 2

EB Games/Gamestop: One of the better gaming retail outlets.  Often publishes updated release schedules and announcements for pre-orders.

Gamespot: Another one of the better gaming websites, and features HD video content. 

IGN: A very good source for gaming news, previews, and reviews.  Their coverage of gaming news tends to be more comprehensive than most others. 

TheXBFL:  One of the longest running (if not the longest) online sim-football leagues on Xbox Live!  The XBFL serves as the "home" for the Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guides.  Formerly a strong supporter of 2K Football, the XBFL has announced this year (2008) that they will be adopting the Madden series in addition to 2K Sports' football offering.  The league's focus is primarily on quality sim-gaming, sportsmanlike competition, and a community-based environment made up of passionate football fans. 

Xbox Live!: Check out game-specific forums and learn what other people are saying about your favorite (or not-so-favorite) games.  You will need to log-in with a .Net username and password to gain access to the forum area.

XMG 360: Formerly XMG (Xbox Mature Gamers). I was introduced to this exclusive group of gamers back in 2003 during my initial writing of The Original Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guide (TS1).  XMG features an excellent community of informed gamers who share tips, reviews, and general gaming news (amongst other things).   They also set up weekly events and tournaments spanning all genres of gaming.  XMG 360 is the ideal place to join for those who are tired of all the nonsense and immaturity found on Xbox Live. 


**Miscellaneous Links**

 SecretIdentityPodcast.com:  There are undoubtedly hundreds of podcasts discussing the world of comics, movies, TV, and games - - but none can compare to the wealth of information that Secret Identity provides on a weekly basis.  Join Matman and Brian twice a week as they discuss and share their opinions on the latest comic releases, movie and TV news, RPGs, and videogames.  They have an impressive network of contacts in the industry, which translates to timely and accurate information. Additionally, they have an excellent community found on their message boards.  Do you have a love for the aforementioned subjects but are tired of all the flaming and immature behavior found on other boards?  If so, then look no further than Secret Identity!  Their podcast can be downloaded directly from their Website, or through I-Tunes.

 
 

S - The Author (and acknowledgements):

Acknowledgements: Once again, I would like to thank Rammer of XMG360 for his keen observations, proof-reading, and valuable feedback.  His contributions are most appreciated!   I would also like to thank Hugo Vibes for informing me of the single greatest Top Spin trick I've experienced in any of the three games thus far.  Hopefully, his information will help keep people interested in Top Spin 3 for a very long time (see Shortcuts in Section C.).  Thanks to Pat  for info on the PS3 version, and his picture of the XP cheat.
 

The Author:

Mr Fett

Tennis resume:

- Tennis Schooling: Nick Bolletieiri Tennis Academy & private instruction
- High school varsity tennis team captain
- Tennis teacher (adults & children)
- Worked for Volvo International Tennis Tournament in New Haven, CT ('94 & '95)
- NCAA tennis career shortened by ACL tear
- Last USTA rating: 5.0 (mid-90s)
- Team stringer
- USTA member
- Brushes with tennis fame:  Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter, Luke and Murphy Jensen, Martina Hingis
- Tennis Apparel of choice: Nike
- Tennis Racquet of Choice:  Prince "Classic" Graphite (OS) with Luxilon Big Banger ALU (68lbs).
- Favorite Pros: Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter

Top Spin 1 and 2 Online Record (cumulative):*

Custom Characters:
Total W/L:  970-92
Win Percentage: .948

Top Spin 1 and 2 Online Achievements:

- Top 50 Ranking (when leaderboard exceeded 80,000 players)+
- Top 100 Ranking (when leaderboard exceeded 80,000 players)
+
- Career win percentage greater than 94%
- Defeated two former #1 players (at a time when they were not ranked #1)
#
- Won 3 out of 4 matches against top 10 players (when membership exceeded 80,000, all four were cheesy players)
#
- Highest ranked player played and defeated was #6
#
- Achieved over 50 "perfect matches" (aka "golden matches") without yielding a single point in best of three set matches with three games per set.
#
- Longest win streak: 77 matches (including numerous wins over top 250 ranked players when membership exceeded 80,000)
#
- Losses to Cheesy Gamers: 80.  Losses to Sim-Gamers: 12  (losses to sim-gamers on clay (TS1): 5)

* Does not reflect results from league activity, only online "pick-up" matches both ranked and un-ranked played through "Quick Match" or "Opti-Match" lobbies.  League play results: 22-0 and five titles for TS2.
+ Top Spin 1 Statistic, 80,000 players.  Similar achievements made with Top Spin 2, though overall membership was considerably lower (approx. <40,000).
# Top Spin 1 Statistic Only, Membership was at or near 80,000 gamers.

 
Top Spin 3 Online Record

Custom Characters:
Total W/L: 115-24
Win Percentage: .827
Titles: 23
Mr Fett: 10-3
(retired)
Mr Fett v3: 11-2
Mr Fett v5: 8-0
Andre Agassi: 59-17
A. Agassi: 10-1
(retired)
Misc: 7-0

Record against diversified players: 75-4
Record against sim-gamers: 73-1
Record against cheesers**: 42-23
Golden Matches: 8
Top 15 Ranking***

* note, my record reflects wins and losses through matches actually played.  I do not count "wins" from when my opponents disconnected prior to a match being played, nor will count any losses from where I backed out of a match prior to it being "accepted" by both parties (which happened once in error,  a few times to avoid repeated play against cheesy gamers , and when delays in connecting prior to starting a match indicated the potential for severe lag).

** cheesy gamers as defined by generally accepted definition: those who rely on extreme angled serves from a wider than default positioning, rely on repeated use of the risk shot, regularly execute lobs and drop shots as standard ground strokes, stack their players with multiple (i.e. 3+) 90+ level attributes, and of course,  those who intentionally induce lag during a game in an effort to negatively affect their opponents game play.

*** not much of an accomplishment when compared to TS1 and TS2 where the leaderboards were rarely reset and the overall gaming community exceeded 40,000 (TS2) and 80,000 (TS1).


 
T - My Custom Player Roster

 

Record

Forehand

Backhand

Serve

Return

Volley

Power

Speed

Stamina

Comments

Mr Fett
(version 1)
(retired)

10-3

70

70

70

75

70

75

75

55

Very competitive against well-rounded players, though completely ineffective against players using 90 and 100 level power games and 90+ FH/BH.

Please note that this character was used when TS3 was relatively new to the marketplace, and not everyone was utilizing stacked power players at the time (though quite a few did).  I highly doubt this character would stand a chance with the way most of the competition plays (as of the summer of 2008).

Andre Agassi
(same attributes as Mr Fett v3 minus the 85 BH and 80 FH)

 59-17

85

80

70

80

30

100

75

40

These ratings are not accurate to Andre's real life persona, but considering the limitation of what's available in terms of XP allowed, and how the majority of gamers are favoring unbalanced power games, I felt this set up would be fairly competitive.

Like Pete Sampras in TS1, if Andre becomes available in TS3 as a download, he should have a higher XP value than the other pro players found in the game (except for maybe Pete Sampras if he's available too).

If you are a very skilled TS3 player, you will find that this model can compete very well with cheesers who use 100 level power and 90 forehand and backhands.

Be warned though that this skill spread can be overwhelmed by those using 100 power and 94+ level groundstrokes.

A. Agassi
(retired) 

10-1

83

82

70

80

30

95

80

40

My second version of Andre with a minor tweak to improve his speed, and a near irrelevant improvement to his backhand.

Despite only having 5 less points in power, he can be overwhelmed against opponents with 100 level power and 90 level groundstrokes (with or without risk shots).

Mr Fett V5

8-0

90

85

70

75

30

100

80

30

This is a "test character" to see just how influential stamina actually is.

His only real test was an online contest where the match was a six-game, best of five set match - - and Mr Fett v5 passed with flying colors against a risk-shot abuser. My only regret was that his service return was not as good as my other players'.  If only I had five more points to assign there!

 

U - Gamer Log

My Gamer Log is nothing more than a journal of my progress through offline and online gameplay; just random thoughts and observations - - nothing more, nothing less. The running time I kept track of includes time spent in Top Spin School classes, Exhibition Matches, Character Creation, the shopping centers, and time in Career Mode playing matches.  Career Mode times are tracked separately in Section C.
 

 

2/24/09:  Update

This will be my final post to this Top Spin 3 Guide.  I played TS3 this past weekend for the first time since my last post, about five months ago.  I played two online games: one against a guy (or gal) who appeared to be a complete newbie, and another player who was no doubt a seasoned veteran.  Against the newbie, I recorded my 7th "Golden Match" by not yielding a single point in a best of three set match (three games per set).  

Against the veteran player, he had a best of five set (six games per set) match set up and to my initial surprise, had a very well rounded character with very good diversity for his player's attributes.  That being said, once the game got underway, I was pretty disappointed with his overall gameplay as he relied heavily on risk shots throughout the entire match.  I would venture a guess and say that he executed over 180 risk shots, maybe more.  In our very first game of the first set, he went up early 40-15 (I was caught off guard by his risk shots), but I made a few adjustments on my return of serve and won the next four points in a row to break him. We both held serve for the rest of the set.  I won 6-4, only giving up six points on my service games.  

For some reason, he could not get a good read on my serves and could never effectively return them which put me at an advantage nearly every time I got a look at his service return.  In the second set, he started resorting to more cheesy tactics by serving out wide on every attempt, and then risk shotting the ball to the opposite and open corner.  It was my goal a this stage in our match to simply get that second ball back effectively and start a rally.  I knew I had him once we'd start hitting the ball back and forth from the baseline.  On his second service game of the second set, I changed up my returns a little bit more due to predictability (he was anticipating well). This adjustment threw him off and I broke him in his second service game.  Two service games later, I broke him again by changing up my returns which caused him to error on his risk shot attempts, or at least reduce the likelihood of an effective shot off my return if he did in fact get to it.  All throughout the second set, his serves were to the wide corners of the service box.  I won the second set 6-3 without giving up any more than two points in any of my second set service games.

The third set was pretty much a blowout.  He tried mixing up placement of  his second shot (after his serve) a bit which helped him win his only game, but I had him on the run and guessing for most of the third set.  I didn't care for his gameplay at all between the risk shots and the consistant serves out wide, but to cap off this experience, he displayed an incredible amount of poor sportsmanship when I was two points from winning the match.  He dropped out when I was leading 6-4, 6-3, 5-1; 30-0.  I have no respect at all for people who do that.  That just shows no class at all.   Even when I play the cheesiest of gamers, I stay through 'till the end.  If I am not going to win, at least I can stick around and observe as much as possible so that if I have the same experience again, I will be a more knowledgeable player.  

The aforementioned guy relied on his risk shot early on and when that didn't work, he went for the cheesy serving in addition to the risk shot, and when that didn't work either, he began trying to risk-return my serves which is incredibly cheap.  When he couldn't succeed doing that and I was about to win, he quit.  The guy gets an "F" for overall gameplay and sportsmanship. He was just one more example of why I haven't played this game in five months.  

Top Spin 3 can be a fun game, but only with the "right kind of people."  I've had a handful of really fun matches against sim-gamers in the past, and I wish all of my experiences could be like that.  From my experience this past weekend, and from the feedback gamers still send me about their experiences - - sim-gaming with Top Spin 3 is a rarity, and my frustrations are shared by a large part of the gaming community.  Hopefully, if a TS4 comes out some day, many of the criticisms I have with TS3 will be addressed so that sim-gaming will be a common occurrence on Xbox Live.  At the very least, 2K should have an Arcade Mode (where anything goes - - just the way cheesy gamers like it) and a Simulation Mode, where custom players are balanced, risk shots don't exist, and exploits such as consistently serving out wide all the time are rarities.  I would also like to see better support too.  2K teased us last summer with the idea of additional downloadable content (i.e. pro player packs featuring more legendary pro's).  As far as I know, that plan never came to fruition.  It seems that 2K Sports' only interests are their MLB and NBA franchises - - not their football or tennis games which essentially get ignored once they hit store shelves.


Anyway...

Once again, thanks to all of you who have written in about how this guide has helped you improve, and perhaps some day I will see you on the other side of the net over XBL.

For those of you who have inquired as to whether or not I will be publishing a Virtua Tennis 4 Guide this year (2009), my answer is regretfully "no."  At least I have no intention to.  I was really displeased with Virtua Tennis 3 (you can see my review at this site) and the Walkthrough I produced for it was incredibly detailed and time consuming.  I simply don't have the time to commit to something like that again, especially for a game I wasn't very fond of to begin with.  Now, if reviews for VT4 are stellar, I'll certainly buy it - though it may be for the Wii since it will take advantage of the new motion control add-on for the Wii-Mote.  

While I have no intention to write a Superguide for VT4 at this time, I could change my mind - - especially now after hearing that Stefan Edberg will be in the game.  I am planning to do one for EA Sports' new tennis title when that comes out.

Take care, happy gaming, and thanks for all your support!

- Mr Fett

 

9/11/08:  Update

I played a few games the other night, all of which were against terrible cheesers except for one.   Three of the people had stacked players with 100 power and 95 forehands and backhands (one hit risk shots too), and another who had a diversified player, but 90% of his groundstrokes were risk shots, including return of serves.  In my opinion, guys who hit risk shots on return of serves are among the lowest class of Top Spin gamers.  He also hit all his serves to the ad-court out wide, and most of his deuce serves out wide.  That was his gimmick: serve out wide all the time, and then risk shot your return to the open court.   I estimate that he hit over 50 risk shots in our match.

The unfortuante thing about playing him is that three times in the match, the game would glitch and my character would literally disappear from the court, leaving me with little to no indication as to where he was.  Surprisingly, I was able to guess correctly on quite a few occassions, and still hit the ball despite being invisible.  Unfortunately, that glitch occurred for the third and final time in the third set tie-breaker when I was up a mini-break.  I ended up losing the super tie-break by two points.  Had that glitch not happened, there is no doubt I would have won.  I was pretty ticked to say the least.  

One of the other cheesers I played (100 power, 95 FH & BH) would often execute risk slices which were almost impossible to hit effectively unless I was inside the baseline. A friend of mine who is a PS3 user informed me shortly after TS3's release that people were already doing that on PSN.  I just started noticing it in early August on Xbox Live, and out of the 60+ cheesers I've played so far, only about a half-dozen have abused that shot.  I finally added some comments on that in
Section I.

Something was definitely going on with Xbox Live last night - - there was noticeable delays in the time between button pressing and execution on the screen, not only with TS3, but Madden 2009 as well.  In TS3, several times my players pulled their racquet back as I was holding down a button, but when I released it, they would hesitate before finally swinging.  In Madden, calling fair catches on punt returns and executing quick passes were dangerous because of the lag between my action and reaction on the screen. If I was smart, I would have just logged off and tried again another time instead of being frustrated.

With the level of cheesy gameplay that is going on with TS3, I am going to finish up my goals of getting my Agassi  character 75 wins, Mr Fett V3  25 wins, and Mr Fett V5 20 wins. After that, I'll likely call it a season with TS3 and either sell the game, or just leave it stacked with the other games I don't play very much.  I have little time to play games nowadays and when I do play, I look to quality experiences (which is why I participate in a well established gaming group and sim-football league).  What TS3 has turned into is not real tennis........not even remotely close, and I have no desire to stoop to the levels that others have because to me, that wouldn't be very much fun either.

 

9/8/08:  Update

Not much to report as of late other than the fact that I changed the titles of my Top Spin Guides (and Virtua Tennis 3 Guide) to something more appropriate.  

I played a few more games of TS3 over the weekend, most of which were against cheesers, though I did play and defeat the highest ranked person I've come across to date: #17.  It helps quite a bit when they don't use a stacked player.  Other than the frequency of his wide serves on both ends which was total crap, it was a pretty "fun" match when we actually got into rallies.  It's too bad he had to rely on the gimmick of serving wide all the time.

 

9/4/08:  Update

Well, it was a only a matter of time - and I knew it would be soon since I hadn't picked up TS3 in a while due to all my time being spent on Madden 09 - -  but I finally lost to a sim-gamer.  Despite being out powered (he had two red-level skills, power and forehand, to my one - power), the match was very tight.  I took an early lead in the third set super-tie breaker, but gave that up almost immediately. I pulled ahead again around the mid-point of the final tie-breaker, but my character began acting erratically once again, and in similar fashion to what I described in earlier entries below.   He took advantage of those few miscues and went on to win 10-7.  It was a great match though.  He didn't serve cheesy, and I think he only attempted two risk shots (I could be wrong) - - and they were performed in a true "risk-type" situations. He served and volleyed at one crucial point in the game which he benefitted from.  I tip my hat to him for taking that risk!  Wow!  Overall, it was an outstanding match, and I hope to play him again some time soon.

My second match of the night was against another sim-gamer (wow, two in a row! what's going on here??), who had his own version of Rafa.  Despite the score being 3-0, 3-0 in my favor, most of the individual points in each game had rallies exceeding 10 passes over the net.  In a few games, we had rallies in excess of 15 to 20 times over the net.  Again, another fun game.   These two matches from last night are what EVERY game should be like; sim-tennis, extended rallies in some cases, and fair gameplay.  It was probably my best night of Top Spin 3 since the game came out with regard to the quality of gameplay that I experienced.

On a final note, the number of cheesy TS3 gamers I've played now surpasses the number of sim/fair-TS3 gamers.  Out of 115 matches, I've played 59 cheesers and 56 sim-gamers.  That's saying aboutroughly 51% of the TS3 gaming community is made up of cheesy gamers, which is absolutely pathetic.  It will be interesting to see if that number increases or decreases over the next year.

 

8/27/08:  Update

Normally, I wouldn't post a cheesy gamer's gamertag (as stated in one of the FAQ's above), but I recently played a person who needs to be mentioned, and avoided by fellow Top Spin gamers who either play sim-tennis, or, who don't want to have their Gamer Rep affected by a poor loser.  

For starters, this individual utilizes a stacked player with three (or four) 90+ skills, and will continue to use a wide-angled serve untill he realizes it's lost its effectiveness (his serve is only in the 50s or 60s).  At times, he'll also use risk shots, especially on service returns.   So, what makes him different than most other gamers who play that way?  Well, he'll leave you negative feedback if he loses.

My match with Virucaco started off in a slug-fest despite my character only having one red-level skill and him having several in addition to a significant overall power advantage.  I held serve with ease (as I utilized a few of my strategies listed in this guide), and he struggled due to his low serve rating, but he held his first two service games.  I finally broke him at 2-2 in the first set and held my service game to close the set.  Starting the second set on my serve, he attempted four risk returns in a row, all of which I believe were unsuccessful.  We both went back and forth holding games in the second set, and I blew my opportunities when he was serving at 2-3, 0-30. We went into a tie-break which I took an early lead in.  At 5-3 and serving, he hit two successful risk shots (service returns) for clean winners to tie it up, and he eventually went on to beat me 8-6 with another risk shot or two.  I knew I shouldn't have tried to put spin on my risk serves - - they slow down by about 20mph making it easier to tee off on.  At the time, I thought mixing up my serves would be a smart thing to do to keep the ball away from him, but I was wrong.  I should have stuck with what worked throughout the first set and most of the second.  In the third set tie-break, I kept my serves deep which had him hitting his risk shots long giving me easy points. I also got an ace on a risk spin serve out wide from the ad-court (I was lucky on that one!).  I went up 7-2 very quickly before my character started mis-hitting balls (which he tends to do when matches are close to the end and I am ahead in the score).  My opponent's risk shots were starting to land too, which had me concerned because even if I got the ball back, it would be a weaker than normal shot - - and with his stacked player, I'd be on the defense for the remainder of the rally.  I ended up winning the third set with a score of 10-6 or something like that.  Based on a gut feeling, I went to my rep screen to see if he was going to be a poor loser and ding my feedback rating (I sometimes have a feeling about who is and who isn't). Well, wouldn't you know it, the loser filed a bogus feedback report by saying that I was "unsportsmanlike."  

So, let's see here:  He had mutliple skills between 90-100 which makes him cheesy to begin with, he used the risk shot quite a bit throughout the match (and on service returns) which is unsporting, and he was hitting his serves out wide 75% + of the time until he started getting beat down the line with my returns................and *I* am "unsporting" because I beat him with an underpowered player, served a lot smarter than he did, and had a better baseline game than him?!?!?   Whatever!   Avoid playing this guy if you can.  He wouldn't have been half the competitor he was if his player wasn't stacked and he played a reasonably straight-up game, but it wouldn't matter anyway I suppose because he's a poor loser, and I don't wish to waste my time with people like him.

 

8/18/08:  Update

I played a few games this past weekend, two of which were against two of the biggest cheesers I've faced since TS3 was released.  It actually takes an effort for me to play Top Spin 3 anymore because of the level of unsportsmanlike gaming that takes place online.   Of my last 10 or so matches, only one or two were against sim-gamers. I'll be putting a few new characters together to try a few things, but my time with TS3 is about over - - maybe one or two more months of playing.  I need to focus my attention on Madden 2009 now.

 

8/14/08:  Update

It seems that during the past few weeks, the number of stacked players online have increased exponentially.  I am willing to go on record and suggest that over 60% of all online gamers have stacked players, and nearly 45% of the TS3 gaming community resort to some sort of unsportsmanlike gaming (wide angled serve all the time, drop shots all the time, excessive risk shots, etc.).  I fully expect this number to increase over the next few months, which will make this game probably the worse Top Spin to date in terms of a quality online experience.   I've lost count of the number of people I've played who had four 100-level skills (power, forehand, backhand and either serve or speed).  That kind of stacking enables even the most average player to hold a significant advantage over their competition, no matter how good their opponent is.  I would equate a 4x100 player to that of Virtua Tennis' King or Duke against any of the in-game VT3  pro players (or even custom players).  It's pathetic, unrealistic, and ruins the game.

I am also seeing a new trend where gamers are forgoing any stamina, volley, and return of serve to stack their other skills with 90+ points.  To make up for their lack of power and ability in the RoS category, cheesy gamers will risk shot their returns (usually with 90+ power and 90+ ground strokes).

Earlier on in my ownership of Top Spin 3, I projected that I would play this game much more than I did with TS2 - - - that may not hold true now.  With Madden '09 now out along with a few other games of interest on the horizon, TS3 won't see very much action in the near future.  I'd like to get 250 games in (a small number compared to those who play about 20 a day), but it will take some time to reach that personal milestone.  I think right now my focus will be acquiring the final few achievements I need to get 1000 points.  One of them will require me playing 50 games online with a female character.  I may have another family member work on that for me.

 

8/4/08:  Update

My FAQ & Strategy Guide for Top Spin 3 is now complete.  I've done this in record time (about a month less than TS2) despite it having about three to four times the content when compared to any of my three previous works. While I consider this project "finished," I will continue to maintain it over the next 10 months.  If I find any new strategies against cheesy gamers, or receive common questions from gamers, I'll post them here in the appropriate sections.  At some point, I would also like to post some appearance settings for other former pro players too.  Now that I won't be spending so much time writing this Guide, I'll be able to sit back and enjoy Top Spin 3 and a few other games I've been neglecting over the past few months.  So, you will likely notice that my Gamer Log will be updated much less frequently, but I'll try to check in at least once a month.

I played about 10 or so matches yesterday, many of which were against sim-gamers which was a lot of fun, however, in the evening hours, I played against three guys (two I played twice each) who had multiple 90-100 level attributes.  The first guy played a sim-game in the first set despite his player being stacked with three 90 level attributes.  I think he won the first set in a tie-break, but in the second set, he resorted to the cheesy serve out wide the entire time (probably to secure his win).  He had a 90+ forehand and backhand and 100 power.  The second guy (multiple 90s and one 100) quit after I was beating him in our first matchup, and I had the unfortunate experience of playing him again - this time he used a new, more powerful character.  He resorted to the wide-angled serve and risk shots throughout the match.  He won that one something like 4-3, 3-1.  The third guy is one I played twice as well, and he had 90+ levels in five skill categories, one 50 level, and two 30s.  I tried my first Agassi character and matched him in power, but it became ridiculous in dealing with the running no-swing glitch and my opponent's overwhelming shots.  Add some wide serves and a few risk shots into the mix, it became a very frustrating match. I lost the first set in a tie-break, the second set wasn't as close as I lost all interest in playing, but didn't want to disconnect out of poor sportsmanship.

I ended up playing the same guy again after I switched characters (which was a dumb thing to do since I was in the finals of a few tournaments and my ranking was fairly high) - this time with my yet untested "A. Agassi" character.  He was noticeably different, and several times, couldn't handle of the other guy's power.  I found this odd since I only dropped five points in power, and my backhand was actually a little higher in point value too.  I ended up losing this match 4-3, 3-1.  I ended up seeing this guy two more times online (I think he must have been the only guy online in Tournament Mode at the time!), but I backed out prior to his connecting.  Playing against guys who stack their players and use wide-serves/risk shots is not my idea of a quality Top Spin 3 experience, and I refuse to stoop to that level of gameplay.

I played one more match with "A. Agassi" and won it very handily, nearly earning my fifth "golden match."  Still though, he doesn't seem as strong as the first one......and I am apprehensive about using my original Agassi character because he's becoming less and less reliable with running forehands (and not swinging) and getting jammed when taking return of serves off the backhand side.  I ended up backing out of Tournament Mode and switched characters once more, effectively erasing all of my progress.

 

7/31/08:  Update #2


I'll have the "Create Andre" grid completed by this coming Saturday, and I will have the "Wrap-Up" section completed by August 9th.  From there, this FAQ & Strategy Guide will be completed.  Similar to my previous guides, I'll continue to respond to emails and post any additional findings that I think might be helpful to gamers.  With the two previous Top Spin games, I've left their respective Guides open to revision for about a year after each release.  I feel that in 12 months time, anything that's worthy of knowing will have been discovered within that time frame.

Once I begin to actually have "fun time" with Top Spin 3, I may create some veteran pro's and post their appearance settings here too.

 

7/31/08:  Update

I am almost at the end of my project with this FAQ & Strategy Guide.  I will have completed it in record time despite it being two to three times the size of my first Top Spin Guide.  When all is said and done, this effort will have exceeded 70 printed pages.   Thanks so much for all of your encouragement, notes of appreciation, and valuable feedback.  To be quite honest, I will be glad to wrap this up so that I can enjoy some other games (including just playing Top Spin 3 without taking notes all the time).

I'll have the "Create Andre" grid completed by this coming Saturday, and I will have the "Wrap-Up" section completed by August 9th.  From there, this FAQ & Strategy Guide will be completed.  Similar to my previous guides, I'll continue to respond to emails and post any additional findings that I think might be helpful to gamers.  With the two previous Top Spin games, I've left their respective Guides open to revision for about a year after each release.  I feel that in 12 months time, anything that's worthy of knowing will have been discovered within that time frame.

Once I begin to actually have "fun time" with Top Spin 3, I may create some veteran pro's and post their appearance settings here too.

 

7/30/08:  Update

I finally wrapped up the offline Career Mode portion of this FAQ & Strategy Guide.  I just need to go back and add the running totals of my time spent.  I also added some new content to the Online Gaming sections as well.

I played seven matches last night, four of which were against very cheesy gamers (three of which were stacked with multiple 90+ attributes).  I went the distance with the cheesy gamers, two being decided in tie-breaks, one of which went three sets.  I lost 7-5 in each tie-break, and 10-8 in the super-tie break.  One of the guys utilized a 100 power, 97 forehand, 97 backhand, and 100 speed.  He had a 30 at volley, 30 at serve, and some really low stamina.  What I did learn from this game was that even with a 30 serve, the 100 power and 97 forehand enabled him to hit serves in excess of 120mph.  Granted, he couldn't place them out wide like so many other cheesers do, but his firepower from the baseline more than made up for it -- especially with his risk shots.  I went into a super-tie breaker with this particular gamer.  The next cheeser I played against had a relatively diversified character, though he utilized the wide-angled serve on every service attempt but two, and hit quite a few risk shots. Our match lasted about 30 minutes, to which he wrote a "great game" comment afterwards.  I wanted to reply, "Really?  Great game?  I managed to play a complete sim-game and brought you to tie-breaks despite your unsportsmanlike play........."   

Anyway, the third guy I played was once again stacked with 100 power, 90+ groundstrokes, and 80s at serve and something else.  He lacked stamina, volley, and believe it or not, speed.  Despite his poor speed rating, he was able to chase everything down which had me scratching my head in disbelief.  He beat me in two tie-breaks and like the other two before him, hit wide-angled serves almost exclusively, and countless risk shots (including return of serves).

I did manage to play three sim guys, one of which was a stacked player.  He played sim for a while but then started resorting to risk shots and wide serves, but it was too little, too late.  I think I won 3-1, 3-0.  The second guy earned me my third "golden match" without yielding a single point.  The third guy was my opponent in the French Open final.  He had 70s for every skill level, and to be honest, I was regretting the fact that I was stuck with my Andre character and not my original creation that would have matched up almost perfectly. The guy played a complete sim-game, and nearly blemished my perfect record against sportsmanlike players.  I won the first set tie-break, and closed out the win 4-2 in the second set after squandering four match points, three of which came at 3-2.  It was a very intense game, with so many break points blown on my part as well as the other guy's.  This was by far the most difficult match I've played (considering that he was playing a straight-up game, so if I lost, he really would have earned it, and I would have deserved the "L").  Most of his serves were put right down the middle of the service "T" which is a very smart tactic; it reduces the angle on returns, enabling him to reach almost anything that comes back over the net.  I can't remember his ranking, but it should have been a LOT higher than what it was.  He was definitely worthy of the Top 100, and if there was a separate "Sim Leaderboard" out there, he'd be in the Top 10 or 20.

It seems I got hosed on the "Grid Top Regular" Achievement.  I was in four finals (Aussie, French, Pac Life, and Rome) - - and I didn't get the Achievement Points for that accomplishment.  Maybe I have to be in four Grand Slam finals?

My Agassi character has been exhibiting inconsistent behavior as of late, and much more frequently than he did a week ago- - he almost always double faults on big points despite my perfect timing with the stick; he'll often serve and then get jammed on the return, thus hitting a very weak ball; he sometimes doesn't swing when I release a button (he just stands there with the racquet back in the ready position)....... it's very strange, and very annoying.  Since a lot of my games are going into tie-breakers with cheesers, all it takes is one glitch like this to end a game in my opponents' favor.   I'll likely delete him after I finish up this season of World Tour mode which effectively ends on July 31.  I am interested in checking out my other Agassi character.

 

7/26/08:  Update

I may not make my self-imposed deadline of having my Career Mode postings completed by Monday, but I'll still try.  Between the Star Wars midnight madness sales at Toys R Us, and the merchandise launches earlier this morning, I am running on 3 hours sleep, and I am attending a "seniors" tennis match this evening to see Luke Jensen, David Wheaton, Jimmy Arias and MaliVai Washington play.  So....this Guide may not see much work over the weekend.  I played two games this morning, one against a guy ranked in the 4000s and another in the 700s.  The 4000s guy was actually more competitive, but his consistency when serving really hurt his game.  He tried too hard to go down the line and out wide where he double faulted about a half-dozen times.  After winning 3-0 in the first set (we had some close games though), he went all risk in the first game of the second set before finally disconnecting.  I achieved my second "golden match" of Top Spin 3 against the 700 ranked guy.  For those of you not familiar with the term, a "golden match" is where you don't give up a single point in the entire match.  A "golden set" is where you don't give up a single point in a set.   I recorded over 50 golden matches on Xbox Live with Top Spin 1.  I've only gotten two so far with Top Spin 3, nearly three (I gave up only one point in another match when my character shoveled a ball wide for no reason whatsoever).

By the way, thanks to ALL of you who have written in with compliments about my FAQ & Strategy Guide.  I really do appreciate it, and it does provide me some motivation to keep going with it.  I love to hear stories how certain aspects of my Guide(s) have helped people, and I've met some really great players.   Perhaps I'll see some of you online soon!

 

7/25/08:  Update #2

Well if this isn't interesting, I don't know what is:  I was playing with my new Agassi character (version 2) offline and after winning his match, he blew a kiss to the crowd and did the four corner bow ritual made famous by the REAL Andre Agassi.  I have never seen this animation before!  Some of you may have already seen it, but out of all the matches I've played in Career Mode with two characters, I've never seen it before.  To say that I was surprised would be an understatement.   I should clarify this though before I get an email about it:  he bowed to three corners as the camera panned/cut away so I am only left to assume he gave thanks to the last corner as well.

Btw, I got to meet Marat Safin, Robby Ginepri, and Donald Young today.  :-)  I had seen Marat practice from only a few feet away a couple of years ago, but never had the opportunity to actually meet and talk to him.  Pretty cool.
 

7/25/08:  Update #1

I finally picked up a new controller, and it's nice to have a sense of assurance that it will work as expected.  I played six matches last night, 4 against relatively sim-gamers, and two against cheesers, one of which I lost in tiebreakers - partially due to bad lag, and the fact that my opponent's out-wide serve was not fast enough for my "counter-cheese tactic" to work.  

The most memorable match of the night was against the other cheeser (ranked 205 I think, and not as cheesy as everyone else I've played).  He was playing very sim-tennis for a while, but he started incorporating numerous risk shots on his return of serves and throughout rallies when the match started getting tight.  He wasn't too consistent with his risk shots, which made the contest manageable for me.  His biggest asset was the fact that he had 100 power and a 100 level serve.  We played at an indoor venue which didn't have a radar clock, but judging by the speed of the ball, I'd venture a guess and say that it was easily in the 150s.  The ball was traveling so fast, it had an enormous blur trailing behind it.  My character has an 80 for return of serve (100 power), and it took me an entire set to really get a handle on it since it was so fast; like nothing I had seen before.  He won the first set 3-1 because my character was failing to hit clean shots and numerous times, failed to swing when on the run despite perfect timing with my button press and release (more on this later).  In the second set, I was holding serve much easier which put pressure on him to perform.  I also started mixing up my returns with slices, safe shots, going cross-court, down the line, etc.  If I could get him in a rally, I knew I had the advantage. At times when he'd start to risk shot the ball, I would take a few steps further behind the baseline so that I could match his power with just the "A" button.  When it became a bit overwhelming to me, I would just slice the ball back time after time until he became impatient and eventually made an unforced error.  I won the second set either 3-1.  We went into a super tie-break which I won 10-4.  It was a pretty stressful match because his serve was just freakish, and I never knew when his risk shots were going to land in or out.  It's a darn good thing he didn't master that serve out wide, or the risk shot.  He'd be unstoppable. To his credit, he at least moved it around the box a little, though mostly out wide, but serving from the default position which is totally legit.

My other matches weren't as memorable, including the one I lost.  The guy just kept serving out wide at around 118mph, which is about five miles too slow to use my "L trigger" cross-court return.  The lag was pretty bad and affected me more than it did him, especially on my serve.  I went down in a tie-breaker.  The inability to swing glitch once again reared it's ugly head which cost me two points in the tie-breaker.

With regard to this issue, in one of my few sim-matches of the night, I encountered this "glitch" numerous times where I'd have the LB button depressed in a full sprint with my thumb on the "A" or "B" button, only to let it go and see that my player was still holding his racquet back and not swinging.  This was also happening to my opponent too where he was clearly in position to hit one of my shots on the run, but he too just ran by the ball with his racquet up.  I noticed this in a few of my previous matches over the past week or so, but never this frequently.  After seeing it happen to him too, it's obvious that it's not just happening to me.  This is an issue that really needs to be fixed.

I will hopefully find the time this weekend to conclude the Legend Circuit portion of this FAQ & Strategy Guide.  I've been so busy with other things including a few commissioned painting projects for movie props, and rehabilitating three tennis-related injuries (yes, three.  I am falling apart).  I am also currently involved in a project to get one of the tournaments found in TS3 accurately represented by the real-life title sponsor. I will hopefully be speaking with someone at 2K Sports next week, acting as a "broker" between the sponsor company and the developer.  They weren't even aware of Top Spin until I brought it to their attention.  Granted, the tournament owners would have to provide initial approval for the event/stadium court to appear, followed by the sponsor's permission for name-use and signage - - but I am not sure even the tournament owners were aware of Top Spin.  This should be interesting...

 

7/21/08:  Update

Good grief, can I not be matched up against cheesy gamers?  Out of the handful of matches I played this weekend, only two people weren't cheesy.  Everyone else relied on lining up wider than the default position to hit the extreme angled serve, or, used the cheese serve along with pelting risk shot after risk shot against me with their lop-sided 100 power/90+ groundstroke characters.  One guy ranked in the top 70 hit over 30 risk shots against me, and I lost in two tie-breaks only because my frickin' "B" button kept sticking - once costing me the first set when I tried to make an easy cross court put-away, and the second set too where it was releasing a half second after I let go of it, prompting my character to float the ball over the net time and time again.  Actually my "B" button cost me two matches this weekend: that one, and another where it cost me the first set, and a second set tie-break where it didn't respond on three points (once being on my service where I should have had a clean winner to the open court, but instead fluffed it, and two others on my opponent's serve, the worse of which allowed an ace by my opponent on match point because the button didn't even work).  So, needless to say, I'll be offline until I can replace it.  If you've been following these mini-journals, you may recall that I wore out my main controller a week after TS3 came out (all analog stick tension was lost), and have been stuck using this backup that I don't care much for.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I had the worse luck yesterday playing against a top 200 player:  I was leading in the first set tie-break when my controller stopped working. Apparently, the batteries died without any warning.  So, I had to run to get replacements.  Of course, my opponent took advantage of the opportunity in the first set tie-break by serving as fast as he could, and cycling through the cut scenes as fast as he could.  He won the first set - - no surprise.  In the second set, I gained a small lead when I lost power due to a thunderstorm that came out of nowhere.  I can't catch a break in this stupid game. I really can't.  If it's not cheesy players, then it's my stupid controller that doesn't work right - and if it's not that, I lose power.  <sigh>

The only good news to come out of this week is the fact that I think I FINALLY found a way to counter the cheesy wide serve to the forehand side (if you are a righty, and receiving in the deuce court).  For me, it has an 80% or better success rate with guys who hit the serve over 120mph (it works at around 118 too, but not so well at slower speeds).  If this sort of thing has been a struggle for you, check out my section on
Cheesy Gameplay.   Now, I need to work on something from the backhand side.  I have something in mind, but need to get a new controller before testing it out.   If I can nail that down too, it will eliminate the service problem for the most part.  

 

7/18/08:  Update

I posted a little bit of information in my Guide regarding a massive shortcut to maxing out your player to Level 70.   I was apprehensive about doing so after speaking with my informant and another friend, but finally concluded that it would be for the greater good to make the information available through my Top Spin 3 FAQ & Strategy Guide.  After all, this may be a limited time only kind of deal before it ceases to work.

Some of the apprehension came from the fact that if PAM Dev is made aware of this "loophole," they may plug it with a mandatory patch.  Additionally, I didn't want to be "that guy" who made the post that got the attention of PAM Dev or 2K Sports and ruined it for everyone else.  This Guide is getting quite a bit of visitor traffic, with new visitors every day - word is bound to spread.   That being said, it's probably only a matter of time before GameFAQs, IGN, or Gamespot have it posted - - and a shortcut like this should be here first.  Thanks to Hugo Vibes for the this awesome trick!  I can't tell you how much I appreciate the info!  If anyone is interested in learning this cheat while it still works, feel free to
email me.  Just be sure to let me know if you are using an Xbox 360 or PS3.

----------------

So, I re-created my custom Agassi last night and while he looked better in the close-up/Salon view than my previous attempt, he looked far worse in the thumbnail/Challenge Screen view as well as in the in-game cut scenes.  I think sometime next week I'll post both of my settings and let fans tweak them to suit their desires.

I brought Andre online (but in haste, I forgot to equip him with the Head Flexpoint Radical and Adidas socks!), and right out of the gate, my first four opponents had guys with 100 power and groundstrokes in the 100, 95, 90/85 and 90 ranges respectively.  The first guy I faced was ranked in the top 10.  He had 100 for power in all areas except for serve, volley, stamina, and speed.  I held my opening service game with relative ease, which was pleasing considering my frustrations with my first all court player who is incapable of returning any groundstrokes with 100 level power and anything higher than 90 for forehand and backhand.  Anyway, my opponent served, and to my surprise, I couldn't return anything.  "Virtual Andre" was just floating back returns that my opponent would crush for winners.  To add to my confusion, "Andre" has an 80 point service return skill, and my opponent was serving around 118mph.  My 75 rated return/power all-court player could handle serves up to 120mph, so why was "Andre" struggling?  I tried everything: moving back, stepping up to the line, forehand side, backhand side, slicing, top spin, safe shot.........I think I hit two or three crisp returns the entire match, and truthfully, that's the only thing that prevented me from having a shot at winning.  I was able to get a handful of games to 30-40 by sheer luck in sprinting to where he would hit his first ball after my pathetic returns.  When it came to rallies, I often had the upper hand despite his repeated use of the risk shot - - but my problem was trying to start a rally when he served.  He narrowly escaped going into a first set tiebreaker when I double-faulted for some crazy reason at 2-3, ad-out.  The second set was a throwaway because I was frustrated and too focused on just trying to figure out why I couldn't return serves with any sense of authority.

My second match was again against a multiple 100 level skill guy.  I once again held my serve with ease, and broke him at 15-40 with not difficulty at all.  I started to serve for the set and he disconnected.  How sportsmanlike <sigh>.  He was ranked in the top 1000, yet not very good.  I am assuming that he relies on overpowering most of his competition, without much thought on where to strategically place his shots.  The odd thing with this match is that he was hitting serves in the 139mph range and I was able to tee off on them with little difficulty.........yet "Andre" was completely incapable of hitting good returns off serves around 118mph with the guy one match earlier.  Does anyone have any theories on this?  
I'd be interested hearing any.

My third match was against another top ranked player who had 100 in serve and power, a high return rating, a 95 for his forehand, 95 for his backhand, and a minimum in stamina and other areas.  I held serve easily once again, and almost broke him on his first attempt, but he switched his service position to out wide and began hitting 124mph serves so far out wide, that they disappeared off my wide screen TV.  It resembled the exploit from TS2 with the slow wide serve, but this TS3 version had heat on it, and unless I committed to cutting it off, there was no way it could be reached.  Unfortunately, if I committed to that type of serve, it left most of the center wide open for a down the line attempt.  So, he racked up quite a few aces, and that cheesy serve was really the only reason he won.  It was his gimmick, and likely why he was ranked as high as he was (though, he did use a few risk shots).  The rest of his game wasn't impressive at all.  


My fifth and sixth matches were FINALLY made up of guys with well rounded characters.  The fourth guy quit after losing the first set and falling behind in the second, and my final match of the night was against a guy with an incomplete character, but who played a great game nonetheless.  I won the first set 3-1 and was up 2-0 in the second set when I made the mistake of being distracted with conversation (not with my opponent).  I underestimated my opponent thinking that he'd just roll over.......but he didn't (to his credit!), and brought me to a second set tie-breaker.  Momentum was definitely on his side, but "Andre" had just enough fuel left in the tanks to get the job done with a tie-break score of something like 7-3 or 7-4.  He was noticeably weakening at that point in the match.  It was a great game, and I hope I play the guy again when his character reaches level 70.  Some of the rallies had the ball traveling over the net a dozen times or more.  Some of his shots were outstanding, and I was able to pull off a few shots that put a smile on my face too.   I think our game last night was a snapshot of how Top Spin 3 should be played; sportsmanlike, sim-tennis, no exploitations - - just good, clean tennis.  This was the very first match I played thus far where I was like, "Wow, this was a lot of fun!"

 

7/17/08:  Update

I tried to get a few World Tour games in last night, but after five minutes of trying to find an opponent, I gave up.  I checked the leaderboard before logging off, and was disappointed to see someone I recognized from TS1 and TS2 holding a top position.  In my opinion, he is/was the single-most cheesy player I have ever experienced online when playing Top Spin.  In TS1, he took advantage of the death drop shot before it was fixed with a patch, he relied heavily on the risk shot, cheesy kicker serve; he'd lob or drop shot his service returns; if there was any way to be cheesy or cheat in the game, he'd exploit it - and often. He'd just work through a progression of cheesy tactics until he found one that worked against you, and then he'd do that repeatedly in an effort to win points.  I played him twice, and his gaming was about as despicable as it gets.  I can't imagine what he plays like now, and I don't really even care.  In my opinion, he was an embarrassment to the game and the stereotypical cheeser that sim-gamers (and new players) despise.  I would find it hard to believe that he plays an honest game these days.  His TS1 and TS2 records reflected wins by being cheap, not by his ability to play a sportsmanlike game.  In a straight-up game, he'd be average at best.

Good news for me: I created three new characters last night - all maxed out and ready to go.  How?  Well, I received an email from a fellow Top Spin gamer who I hadn't heard from in a few years, and he informed me of a still relatively uncirculated "cheat" that was surprisingly easy to execute.  I'll post more on this later.

Back to my updated roster: One of my custom-characters is Andre Agassi.  He looks pretty good from a profile and 3/4 view, but straight on, there is just something missing, and I think it's in the cheeks and eyes.  I'll tweak them a bit this evening and see how he turns out (I write down all my settings - so it shouldn't be too difficult to re-create from scratch).  If I am satisfied, I'll post a picture of him here.   The Agassi segment from my original TS1 Guide was insanely popular, though parts of it were removed over the course of time when I kept revising/truncating the page and moving it to different Web hosts, primarily around the time TS2 hit the market.

I am VERY disappointed to learn is that there is a limit to the amount of custom characters that can be made.  Only four can be created and saved.  I had seen the four blocks when I first started playing the game, but had always assumed there would be an option to scroll down to add more.  That's not the case.  As a result, I had to delete my #2 character that I was working through Career Mode on "Easy" - - and it really pained me to do that since I did a much better job on his face than my #1 guy. I had no other options though because I made a flaw in #2 by adding too much stamina, so he had to go.  So, now I have my #1 guy (the all-court player who can't compete against 100 level power guys), #3 guy who's an improvement over the #1 guy with regard to groundstrokes, a female player, and Andre.  If I can get Andre's face tweaked to near perfection by tonight, I'll try him out online.  One thing I've been noticing: the salon close-up views of my characters look quite a bit different from the thumbnail frontal shot seen in the Challenge Screens, as well as some of the in-match cut scenes.

 

7/15/08:  Day 15 on TS3, Part 2

Scrolling through the top 100 this evening, I couldn't help but smirk at seeing some very familiar names from the earlier Top Spin games - particularly one guy who was suspended from Xbox Live back in 2003 for cheating on Top Spin 1 (he used two consoles and played against himself until he was #1 in the world out of about 80,000 people).  So, apparently he's back, along with a few other well known cheesers.  I played him a few times back in 2003 and was not impressed.  Over the course of time with TS1, he learned to implement some cheesy tactics (like the ultra-high, yet super unrealistic kicker serve), but still largely not a very good player.  I suspect that he'll wait for leaderboard resets take place each month or so, and then play a ton of games to get his name up in the Top 10 each time.

I'll be taking some time off from online play until I can get my #2 guy finished up.  I should have him done by Friday.  I am hoping his increased power level and groundstrokes will enable him to hit effective shots against the 100 level power guys.  I'll continue to use my all-court player, but probably not as much.  I'll likely retire him at or around the 20 match mark.  I have a few other character designs I have brewing at this time, and want to begin working on them as well.  I am hoping to have about four characters completed by the end of the summer (one being female).

 

7/15/08:  Day 15 on TS3

Knowing that the leaderboard would be re-set this evening, I tried to get at least one tournament completed (I was in several semifinals, and one final).  Unfortunately, by the time I completed my semifinal match at the Australian Open, the servers had reset and I didn't get credit for the win in terms of leaderboard points - - - though oddly enough, there were quite a few people who did - - approximately 20 or so had about 250 points already, and a few with about 50.    

My first match had a close first set that needed a tie-breaker to be decided, and I pretty much ran away with the second set.  It was a pretty good match, with my opponent having about four break-point chances against me in my second and third service games.  This was my third match where the first set went to a tie-breaker.

My second match, which was after the refreshed World Tour leaderboard, was pathetic.  I played a guy with 100 level power and 80 level in all areas except for volley (30) and stamina (30).  He blew me off the court as my guy couldn't hit a single effective shot against his countless risk shots (I lost track after 15) and his regular power shots.  Well, I take that back; I was able to sustain a rally a few times by slicing all the time, but all that did was prolong the point for no good reason.  Any time I tried to use "B," my guy would just float a weak shot.  If I used "A," the ball would come back twice as hard.  One thing I observed though (aside from his 60-70+% success rate with the risk shot) was that with 100 level power, and 80 level groundstrokes, the risk shot mirrors that of a 124+ mph serve.   Hello, PAM Dev?  Wasn't this brought to your attention back with Top Spin 1?  Why is this
reality flaw returning in Top Spin 3?   Because of this, I cannot and will not, refer to Top Spin 3 as a tennis sim.  If this flaw persists without any sort of patchwork to slow it down, Top Spin 3 will be only marginally better than the arcade tennis game known as Virtua Tennis.

My third and final match of the night was against a serve and volley guy!  What a rare treat!  We played a very tight first set which I won in a tie-breaker (what is it with me and 1st set tie-breakers?), but when I broke him early in the second set, he disconnected which sort of ticked me off because up until that point it was really a great match.  He was a very good net player, though I don't believe he had a gameplan outside of attacking the net on nearly every point.  Once I figured him out, he had nothing to fall back on.  My main problem early on was returning his serve effectively enough to keep him from hitting too good of an approach shot.  I tried down the lines for the first few games, then some sliced cross-court shots, but for the most part, he managed to get just about everything.  I'd get points here and there (and there were numerous times where I won the first two points on his serve, only for him to win the next four in a row), but never enough to break him.  His approach shots always had me on the run, rendering my lobs ineffective since they were easily smashed away for winners.   So, my brain finally started working in the tie-breaker where I figured out his pattern.  I began hitting down the line and using "LB" to cover the center of the baseline and powering up "Y" during my sprint.  I'd let off "LB" just as his approach shot was hit, planted my players feet, and then was able to execute perfect lobs over his head for winners.  After doing this successfully on his 3rd, 4th, and 5th service games in the tie-break, I also figured out that his wide serves were landing in the mid-to-upper 90s, and that I could use "B" to hit some tight angled returns.  So, on my first set point, I used a top spin return and caught him by surprise.  In the second set, I began to mix up my returns with slices, safe shots down the line, and cross court top spin shots.  If he did make I to net, I had the lob figured out and was able to pass him with ease.  It was pretty much over at that point, but still pretty unsportsmanlike for the disconnection.  I wish he had played through to the end.  As bad as my blowouts have been against those over-powered guys, I sucked it up and played through to the end.  It's the only honorable thing to do despite displaying a dishonorable performance.


7/15/08:  Reviews in General
I've been keeping up with reviews from established sites and gaming magazines and TS3 appears to be getting pretty favorable reviews.  Xbox Magazine of course gave it stellar marks (they always over-inflate their ratings), though I was surprised to see G4 bash it.  After reading the author's first paragraph though, I discredited the entire remaining portion of his so-called review.  If you haven't read it, it can be found HERE.   Note that he relates tennis to Pong.  Right there shows his ignorance, and de-values everything he says from that point on.  From a technical/game standpoint, Pong is strictly two dimensional with no variation.  Top Spin is three-dimensional with a wide range of locations to place the ball (air and ground), with varying speeds and spins, not to mention the fact that physical and limited environmental factors can influence the outcome of any given match. From a "real-life" objective standpoint, men's pro tennis is the second or third most physically demanding sport behind pro basketball and arguably boxing (this was determined in a legitimate study many years ago, and reported by Sports Illustrated).  Pong is...........well, Pong - - a game that may give you carpal tunnel syndrome at best.  To draw a comparison between the two is just plain foolish.  

For entertainment value, check out this YouTube video to see
Andy Roddick take on the bumper from Pong.

Mr. Semel's harsh criticisms of the game are largely unjustified (though I do wonder if his "missing shots" had to do with inability to play the game, or the second set screw-job A.I. that takes place almost regularly).  I was going to make a post myself, but saw that others were doing a fairly good job in grilling him.  It's a shame that an organization like G4 assigns a so-called reviewer with no knowledge of a subject, to review a game on that very theme.  Unfortunately for G4, a review like this makes me skeptical of their other reviews, and whether or not their review staff is actually qualified to post objective opinions and recommendations on subjects they may or may not have any knowledge of.


7/15/08:  Day 15 on TS3
I checked out the top 100 on the leaderboard to see if I recognized any names (names from when the previous two Top Spins were at their peak in popularity - first year from release).  I only recognized one name, a French guy, who was a notorious cheeser back in the days of Top Spin 1.  


7/14/08:  Day 14 on
TS3 (24.5 hours into game)
I searched around for another match this evening, and again, was waiting for quite some time before I gave up on trying to finish up the tournaments I was in (Final at Pacific Life Open, Semifinal at French Open, etc.).  Just before logging off, I gave one more try to the single match tournaments and happened to find someone there. Checking out his stats, I cringed to see that he was the second player in row to have 90+ power and 80+ groundstrokes.  The only difference with this guy was that his only weaknesses were stamina and volleying.  So, unlike the last guy I played, I couldn't really take advantage of his return of serve.

We played a very tight first set which was decided in my favor through a tie-breaker, and I rolled to a shut-out in the second.  He consistently relied on service returns down the sidelines which left him wide open to a cross-court shots from my guy provided he was in good position to hit them.  My opponent managed to win quite a few points off his return down the line (mostly in part due to the fact that my controls weren't responding correctly) which is I why I think he continued with that gameplan. Unfortunately for him, that's what led to his loss; He was becoming very predictable.  He hit about a dozen or so risk shots throughout the match, landing about 40% of them, a few being outright winners.

His regular groundstrokes were very heavy, but my all-court player did manage to return them effectively from the baseline.  That's interesting to know now:  my guy can handle 90 power and 85 groundstrokes, but not 100 power and 97 groundstrokes.  The fact that my opponent had "realistic speed" too made him a more believable player ...... well not really, since his custom-guy was based off a former ATP player who did not fit the specs his "virtual likeness" was given.  

Thankfully, I didn't encounter that serving "issue" from yesterday.  Throughout the match though, I couldn't stop thinking that the "flicker-glitch" would affect my serves on key points.



7/13/08:  Day 13 on
TS3 (23 hours into game)
I was away from the 360 for several days, and had the itch to finish up one of my two custom-characters and try him out online.  He's an all-court player which is highly competitive against the CPU players, and I figured would be at least the same against online competition featuring well-rounded players.  That being said, I did have some reservations because in TS2, all-court players typically struggled against online gamers using custom-players who were lopsided with one or two huge weapons.

My first experience with the World Tour last night was not a good one.  After searching for someone to play for several minutes, I decided to hang out in a tournament in hopes that someone would show up.  After becoming bored, I backed out of the Challenge Screen to the Exit Screen, and confirmed my wanting to leave.  To my surprise, a Save Window popped up and declared me the loser of the match.  I was dumbfounded.  Apparently, when I exited the Challenge Screen, I was still connected to the tournament, and someone jumped in at the last second without my knowing.  As a result, he got the win. What a joke.  If this PAM Dev's way of eliminating the disconnection exploits from TS1 and TS2, it's a pretty lousy one.  I don't think matches should be official (or even scored) if both parties don't accept the match.  If I were to lose to someone handily, and found them in another event a few minutes later, I may not want to play them again, and I should have that choice.  Why should I be penalized for not accepting that match?  If I were to see a cheesy gamer waiting to play and I got paired with them, I should have the option to drop out without penalty. So, needless to say, I was not a happy camper right out of the gates last night.

After searching around for several more minutes, I found someone at the French Open.  It was a guy ranked in the 3,000s which was probably a good thing for me, because I needed time to adjust to the difference in game speed when compared to offline.  For me, I find that offline is more......."fluid" ......for lack of a better word. Everything seems more smooth, and precise. Online however, there seems to be just a tiny bit of lag that slows everything down just a bit.  For many people, they may not even notice.  I do, though.  I won the match with little difficulty, 3-1, 3-0.

I hung around that tournament for a little while afterwards and no one showed, so I exited and found someone else at another tournament.  He served first to start the match, and I was immediately having horrible flashbacks of bad Top Spin 2: The guy's first serve was intended to land short in the service box and way out wide.  He tried this several times.  Fortunately for me, he missed it quite a bit, and his character was pretty well rounded (as opposed to having something like 100 power or groundstrokes to back up that angled serve).  I eventually won the first set 3-1 in a fairly competitive match, though the second set was more in my favor where I won that 3-1 as well, but it wasn't as close as the first.  After winning, I hung around at the tournament and no one showed, so I exited.

I tried the Matchmaking function and was paired in another event against the same guy I had just played.  He backed out and was given the loss, and me the win.  Again, I think this is terrible.  If he didn't want to play me again, he had the right to back out without penalty.  Conversely, I shouldn't be given the win for a match that was unplayed (i.e. not accepted by the both of us).

He sent me a pleasant IM regarding our first match, and why he backed out from playing the second.   He seemed like a pretty nice guy.

I used Matchmaking again to find what I was declaring my last game.  I won handily against my opponent (3-0, 3-0) in which many of the games were shutouts.  I chose to attack the net quite a bit in the match, and noticed that my guy's volleys weren't as effective online as they were offline.  I just couldn't seem to put them away like I could against the CPU (i.e. limited angle and power when online).  It took two to three volleys before I could finally put one away.  This may have been due to the subtle difference in game speed that I noticed.

After that match, I still felt that "itch" to play one more, and against my better judgment, sought out another opponent.  As soon as I saw my next opponent's stats, I knew I was in trouble: 100 for power, 100 for speed, 97 for both his backhand and forehand.  Looking over his stats, I saw that his return of serve was weak, and that I'd try to exploit that one weakness.

He served to start the match, and I was immediately overwhelmed by his power.  His groundstrokes were the equivalent of risk shots, and unless my guy was in the right place at the right time, I couldn't counter his baseline shots with any sense of authority.  Most of my replies were pathetic, weak floaters that he'd crush each and every time.  He won his service game with relative ease.  On my first service point, I took advantage of his weak service return (hard serve to the body using the right analog stick) and my second shot was a clear winner off his short ball.  At this point, I was thinking that we'd both likely hold serve and go into a tie-breaker.  But that didn't happen - - and what transpired REALLY ticked me off:

On the second point, with my first serve, the screen flickered just as my ball toss was in the air.  It messed up my timing and I faulted.  On the second serve (still using the right analog stick), this happened again.  Double fault.  On my next serve, the very same thing happened; and AGAIN on my second serve.  I was thinking, "WTF??" So, down 15-30, I serve up again, and wouldn't you know it, it happened AGAIN for my first serve.........and AGAIN on my second serve.  So, three double faults in a row due to this bogus screen flicker during my ball toss.  I was down 15-40 but miraculously, my next serve wasn't interrupted and I was able to serve a hard serve, and whack away his weak return.  30-40.  I tossed the ball up on break point and.......the screen flickered causing me to fault.  So, out of total frustration, I used a face button just to get my second serve in.  We ended up rallying for a bit before he eventually won the point and broke me.  He closed out the set on his serve.   In the second set, I started off serving and the flicker plagued me again.  I was down 0-30 before it returned to normal, and I got it back up to 30-30 where the flicker happened again thus screwing me up.  I managed to get it to deuce, but I didn't hit an effective shot off his weak return and he took advantage of that to put me at Ad-Out.  My guy faulted the first serve (into the net) and the second was a "lollipop serve" using a face button just to get it in.  He won that point with a baseline shot that literally went THROUGH my player when I was at the net, thus winning his second break.  The ball should have clearly been volleyed, though it passed through me as if I was a ghost.  He held serve, eventually routed me.  

I was quite a bit miffed as to what happened.  There is no doubt in my mind that had I not had been dealing with that service "glitch," I would have won my first two service games - - - and possibly forcing a first set tie-breaker.  Would I have won the match?  Probably not, but it would have at least been much more competitive.  I find it very strange that the lag only hit when my ball toss was in the air, and on key points to where it put him ahead in the score, and NOT when he had a comfortable lead in each game.  I am not making accusations, but I am just saying...........awfully strange.

The match also showed me what I feared with my all-court player: against other players with diverse attributes, he can be pretty competitive, but against someone with hard-core strengths, he just can't compete.  My opponent liked to hit two cross-court shots followed by a down the line shot.  Knowing that strategy, I still couldn't produce very many offensive shots, and slice was not at all effective in slowing him down (as it used to do in TS1 and TS2 against power hitters and risk shot users).  I just hope that TS3 doesn't become a game where the online community adopts 100 power/100 forehand backhand skills at the sake of everything else.  I find it more fun playing people who have a well-rounded game, not just firing missiles from the baseline.  But, the match gave me something to think about, and with my second guy who was planned to be a power hitter, I may have to make some minor adjustments to him in the event I play someone like that again.  I'll have my second guy completed by the end of this week.

 

7/8/08:  Day 12 on TS3 (19.5 hours into game)
I will be away from my Xbox 360 for several days, therefore there won't be any updates to this Website until early next week.  I hope by 7/16, I'll have another significant update ready to be posted: One that wraps up the entire Pro-Circuit, and another that finalizes (and fills) the gaps found in the Junior-Circuit postings.  I have a lot of stuff written down, and just need to find the time to sit down and transfer everything electronically.

I hope to include some photos for some of the strategies described above too.  This way, it may help with understanding my text-based descriptions on how to beat certain opponents.  I would like to do video, but honestly, I just don't have the time (and I don't get paid for doing this ;-).

 

7/6/08:  Day 11 on TS3 (18.5 hours into game)
I am working on two players at the same time, and noticed some similarities with opponents, but also some differences too, primarily my final round opponents.  Because of this, it's taking me twice as long to get one through to the end.  I think at this point, I am going to finish up the Legend Circuit with my second custom-player, and then go back and bring my all-court player to the end.  Hopefully, I'll be able to test these two online by the end of next week (I'll be away from my Xbox for about four days this week).  

It is my goal to have all the offline sections of this FAQ & Strategy Guide completed by July 18.  The online portions should be completed by the end of August.  From there I will wrap this all up by the first week of September, and then just make notations or additions when appropriate (i.e. new observations through experiences online, DLC information, FAQs, etc.).  

 

7/2/08:  Day 7 on TS3 (11.5 hours into game)
I played a bit of the Rome event, but figured it was time I went "back to school" - - Top Spin 3 school that is.  So, I fired up the school mode and went back to the challenges I hadn't yet completed.  I found that some of the risk-based challenges really tested my patience, especially when I was hitting targets but was either too early or too late with my swing to get credit.  Whatever!  A hit target is a hit target as long as the ball wasn't shanked or to where it had no power.  Anyway, I completed my "schooling," and I am quite thankful for that.  It took a lot longer than I thought it would.....and I can't believe I struggled with some of the exercises despite my performances both offline and online.  Hrmph! 

I created a second player, and this time wrote down all my settings.  A friend of mine who I play quite often with joked back in the TS1 and TS2 days that I had a "clone army" of players since all of them looked identical to each other.  The only thing is that each one was considerably different in terms of strengths and weaknesses.  Well, if he's reading this (and you know who you are): be prepared!  A new wave of clones will soon be unleashed!  ;-)   Too bad I couldn't slap on some white armor and supply them with DC-15s.  Ha ha.  (some of you reading this may get my reference).  Seriously though, I think the look of my second guy is an improvement over my first. The eyes aren't so ........... freaky this time.

I unlocked three Achievements yesterday, and am on the verge of getting a few more.  My character is at the point where he can venture to the net every now and then which adds another dimension to the game for me.  I also toyed around with the camera views a bit and found that I cannot play in the zoom mode like I used to in Top Spin 1 and Top Spin 2.  I prefer either the default mode, or one of the TV modes which I can't recall the exact name.  It's not a zoom though.

Also, in speaking with my aforementioned friend last night via Xbox Live, he confirmed that he too was experiencing bogus CPU interference when he was trying to close out matches.  As I described in my 7/1/08 and 6/29/08 postings below, this sort of thing continues with me.  I've had double-faults come out of nowhere (when using the right stick) when serving for the match, I've had my player become unresponsive on service returns (where he'd just stand there like an idiot) when a break would get me a win, in baseline rallies that could lead to a match point, and where my custom guy will suddenly start spraying balls all over the place.  In some instances, instead of thumping a short ball to a WIDE-OPEN-COURT, my guy will just push it back into play despite being in perfect position.   This sort of thing doesn't happen ALL the time, but enough to where it is a nuisance, and to where I've almost come to expect it right around the time a deciding game is being played.   I'd expect this sort of nonsense from Sega or Nintendo - - but not 2K Sports...........well, I take that back.  They had a cheat built into their very first NFL 2K Football where if the CPU was behind, bogus things would happen to your disadvantage (e.g. I'd be winning a game by six points with 7 seconds to go, I'd kick the ball off after just scoring, and the KR on the other team returns it for 97 yards for a touchdown, and that team would win by 1 point with no time left).  But then again, Sega had their hands in that project.  Hmmm.  I don't know who to blame, but for now, I'll blame PAM Dev and 2K Sports.  I'll have to make some sort of note of warning in my Guide above, and suggestions on what to do if it happens to others.  Personally, I get into that 'self-destruct mode' where if the CPU makes my guy double-fault as I am trying to close out a match, I "dare" it to try it again by doing the exact same thing. It's almost like doubling down after losing a bet in hopes of getting your money back and breaking even. That behavior doesn't always help my situation (because the CPU can make my guy shank a ball in the very next rally).  I wouldn't want new Top Spin gamers to fall into that same pattern - but instead be able to identify when they are being screwed (as opposed to they themselves causing their player to mis-hit or whatever), and learn what they can do to get beyond that bogus programming issue without it costing them the match.  It's one thing to make a game smarter at higher levels of difficulty, it's another when your player gets dummied down.
 
 

7/1/08:  Day 6 on TS3 (9.5 hours into game)
I won both the Pac Life Open as well as the Sony Ericsson Open.  Federer brought me to a super-tie breaker which was bogus, because I was beating him handily in the second set when "weird things" began to happen with my character.  My guy started mis-hitting balls all over the place, and when Roger served, my character became unresponsive on two occasions - and then Roger risk shot a few winners and eventually claimed the second set.  Similar scenarios have happened several times in the past where I was about to close out an important match - - so I am now left to believe that this sort of crap is part of the game.

It's becoming more difficult to identify my CPU opponent's tendencies for my "How to beat" sections because my custom player is pretty powered up, and is beating CPU guys by simply running them all over the place.  When I am faced with a big challenge (like the first Australian Open), I am more focused on what I am doing, and how the A.I. is responding.  So, at some point I'll have to take an underpowered guy (like what I had at the first Aussie Open final), and run him through half the season.  That way, I'll have experienced playing against most of the guys that will be encountered throughout the Pro Tour - and in such a way where I can identify how they respond to certain actions on the court.
 

 

6/30/08:  Day 5 on TS3 (8 hours into game)
I finished up the Aussie Open by beating J. Estegas in the final (I hear that Nadal is the final round opponent on the PS3).  I found that there was really nothing particularly unique about his playing style; that simply moving him side to side often opened up a winning shot for me, or, provoked him to try risk shots which he often missed.

I started the Pacific Life Open and made it to the semi-finals where I had to save my progress and call it a night.  I took out S. Rabari (who was a virtual walkover) and David Nalbandian who was surprisingly easy to beat.  I think from this point on in the game, it will be smooth sailing.  All of my character's skills are now at least 60 with the exception of stamina (55).  

Tomorrow will be yet another significant update to this Guide.  Over the July 4th holiday weekend, I'll go back and fill in the gaps for the Challenger and Pro Circuits, as well as post my attributes for each event, and the time it took me to complete them.

 

6/29/08:  Day 4 on TS3 (7 hours into game)
I didn't have any game time on Saturday, but had the opportunity for a few hours on today.  I wrapped up all but the Australian Open final, and was pleased to see that the despite my deficiencies in terms of XP, I was able to "out smart" the A.I. competition.  Peck and Stochakov were tougher than Federer and Ancic which surprised me. Peck took me to three sets, I beat Stochakov in two tie-breakers (the breaker scores weren't even close though). One of the most frustrating issues I had with Peck was that my custom-player failed to respond to my controller inputs on 13 occasions (and almost always when he had an easy put away shot).  If it happened one or two times, I'd probably question myself, but 13?? - - and each one on key points (such as break points against my opponent)??  VERY HIGHLY SUSPECT!

I wore out my original Xbox 360 controller; the spring mechanism in the left analog stick gave out to where there is now no tension in it.  It was a launch-day controller packed in with the console so I suppose it lasted a reasonable amount of time.  I doubt it's covered under warranty.  My time with Top Spin 2 wore the rubber coating off the stick, and it seems that Top Spin 3 just finished it off.  I am using my backup now, but the "B" button sticks (and always has).  I should have returned it a few years ago when I first bought it.  I'll have to pick up another one soon.   Well, now that the Aussie Open is behind me, I'll start my second custom-character and fill in the gaps to my Guide above (Sections C, D & E).   Once I backtrack to take care of that, you should start seeing a lot more valuable content posted (similar to what I will be posting tomorrow which will be my first significant update detailing ways of winning at the first Australian Open).

I took a pro online on the 27th and had a good time.  I noticed a few instances of micro-lag, but nothing like what we all experienced with Virtua Tennis 3.  There was some degree of consistency with frame-rate problems during my character's service motion, too.  When the ball would make contact with the racquet strings, about three to four frames would be lost.  So, I'd see contact being made, and then the next thing I'd see would be the ball already well off the racquet and my service follow through about half way completed.  It was a bit disorienting because I had no idea if my serve was executed properly or not.  I am not sure what caused this because other aspects of the game were incredibly smooth.

 

6/26/08:  Day 3 on TS3 (5.5 hours into game)
I am now throttling the competition in the Junior Circuit, and am on the verge of being promoted to the next level.  I think one more tournament win should have me there. As of right now, I've spent about five hours with the game (including Tennis School, exhibition play, creating my character, and just poking around through the game to see what else it has to offer).

A few of my character's levels are in the 50s now, and I am thinking that once I reach 60 for everything, I'll create a plan as to where I will distribute my remaining XP points from future tournament victories.  I am going to try and base my existing custom character off of my most successful TS2 guy.

Having advanced the majority of my player's skill levels to the 40s and 50s, I am ending points much more quickly now, despite still being 10 or so total points below my Junior Circuit competitors.  I take back my comments earlier that the triggers are needed to shorten rallies.  With the skill set I have now, I am doing just fine setting up points and finishing many of them off with clean winners from the baseline using either "A" or "B."

Out of curiosity to see how much I've improved, I went back to the Exhibition Mode and played a match (something I hadn't done since my first hour of owning the game). Apparently, I've improved quite a bit since I bagled my pro opponent.  Back on June 24th when I first sat down with the game, and after taking a very brief 15 minute tutorial at the Tennis School, I was getting throttled by the pros in the Exhibition Mode.  Now, I am whupping them fairly handily on "normal" difficulty.  At this point, I am still only using face buttons and occasionally the LB button.

I played a game of Exhibition Doubles, and it's discouraging to see that partner A.I. has still not improved.   I chose Andy Roddick as my doubles partner, and he was dumb as rocks:  He let shots go by that he could have volleyed, he was frequently out of position and not covering angles, his shot selection was poor, he never made an effort to retrieve lobs that went over my head when I was at net, etc. etc. etc.

I have a ton of money in my TS3 bank, but don't really care for much of the clothing found in the brand-specific stores or through the Global Shop.  Adidas has some styles that resemble those worn in this year's Australian Open (2008), but Nike's catalog of clothing is pretty stale.  Heck, I can't even find where to buy a Nike hat at this point in the game.  I am hoping that new styles will be available later in career mode, though, I don't think that will be happening.  I believe what's there now is all that will be available.  I saw that an Achievement involved purchasing 300 items from the stores.  The one thing I am not sure of at this point is if the Achievements for specific career money milestones are for what is actually your bank (i.e. your balance), or, your gross career income (regardless of whether some of it has been spent or not). So, I'll likely hang on to my cash until I find out for sure how that Achievement gets awarded.  I think I have six Achievements now, and on the verge of getting two more. Unlike TS2, Top Spin 3 has a HUGE listing of Achievements - many of which are for low point values.  Several pertain to online play, one of which is of no value (seriously, it's 0 points) - - but you have to lose a match without winning a game in a 3 game set to get it.  How lame is that???

I am still taking notes on my path in Career Mode, and will be creating a new character over the weekend to confirm my initial observations.  I'll also be taking a stab at creating Patrick Rafter and see how he turns out.  I won't bother creating Agassi because he'll likely be available as an XBL Marketplace download (if 2KSports' online poll a few months ago was any indication).  The only drawback is that he'd likely not be useable in ranked matches (only unranked online exhibition matches).

I should begin posting the Walkthrough portion of this guide some time around mid-week next week.

 

6/25/08:  Day 2 on TS3 (4 hours into game)
I am now involved in the Juniors and it's taken me about four events to really get the hang of the basics  of this game.  I applied the first series of XP points to my groundstrokes (41 a piece) and also boosted my power to just over 40.  Once I accomplished that, I noticed a considerable improvement.  I next began to work on my return of serve and speed.  I boosted those to the mid-30s, added a few points to my serve, and a single point to my stamina.  I've been noticing that my player has a tendency to double fault quite a bit in pressure situations...which is having nothing to do with how I am using the right analog stick (i.e. I am consistent, my TS3 character is not).  So, on big points where I need to hit a second serve, I am using "X" or "B" to get the ball over the net.  I question whether or not this has to do with stamina (since there is no focus skill like there was in TS2).  I suppose time will tell.

One of my concerns at this point in the game is that in order to win points quickly, the triggers need to be used.  I've been opposed to using the risk shots since TS1 because they were grossly unrealistic (as I am a sim-gamer and tennis purist).  In TS3, they appear to be toned down considerably, which is good - - though I can foresee guys taking the time to master risk shots to the point where that's all they'll hit (which in real tennis, is physically impossible).  I am hoping that Stamina gets drained if risk shots are repeatedly hit, thus causing players to mis-hit the ball.  And the recovery should be very slow.  That's the only way this game will remain realistic. So, at this point, I am still not using the triggers -- just methodically setting up points where at times, the ball is crossing the net in excess of 20 times before a point is won.  Despite the points dragging on much longer than they probably should, it's interesting to see my custom player's shirt become soaked with sweat, and his face start to get a bit red. I need to start incorporating the bumper buttons (RB & LB) to automatically position my player.  Right now, I am doing everything manually which is probably making the matches more difficult than they should be.

I am also concerned about spin serves out wide.  On occasion, and on break points, the A.I. player will line up wide near the outside singles lines on either side of the court, and spin a serve way out wide.  This forces me way out of position to where its very difficult to get back in place to have a chance at another ball.  I am hoping that once I have better power, accuracy and speed, I'll be able to drill these shots down the line for clean winners.  I see that as being the only option to discourage this sort of tactic from happening online.  This type of serving was heavily abused online with TS2.  Some guys mastered it so well, you'd literally be running into the side-walls trying to chase down the serve.  

I've noticed some definite tendencies from some of the players in the Junior Circuit, and I'll begin to post a walkthrough early next week.  I have one character in career mode now, and will be starting a second one this weekend.  I'll use the second one to verify my experiences from first, and document my findings here.

I still find the absence of coaches and drills very strange, and quite a departure from the formula used by the two previous Top Spins (and Virtua Tennis 3).  I sort of miss the challenges that improve your custom player, but at this point, I suppose I am fine with the "grow through experience" format found in Top Spin 3.

I wish I could find sunglasses to purchase in the game.  I was unable to get the eyes right on my character no matter what adjustments I made - and by hiding them, I think he'd look a lot better.  As disappointed as I am, I look at some of the in-game "scrubs," and their eyes are even more freakish than mine.

I've gotten a few emails from fans of my Guides asking me for online matches.  Right now, my focus is on getting at least one character through Career Mode before I engage in any online ranked gameplay.  I'll be playing some unranked matches with friends, particularly one individual who helped me with key observations found in the TS2 guide.  I'm sure we will continue to have lots to talk about with regard to the changes found in this game.  Other than that, it'll probably be a few weeks before I start attacking the leaderboard.

 

6/24/08:  Initial Thoughts on TS3 (2 hours into game)
Wow, this game is entirely different - and to the point where it is outright frustrating to some degree.  In the immortal words of Jedi Master Yoda, "You must unlearn what you have learned."  Top Spin 3 is a completely tennis game than that of its predecessors, and to the Virtua Tennis series as well.  To be quite honest, and from a business standpoint, I am not so sure that this was a good idea on behalf of PAM Dev.  As I've mentioned a few times before, Top Spin 1 was a success due to the fact that it was priced right, and it had game controls which appealed to both the hard-core tennis fan, and the casual fan/casual gamer.  It was simple enough to be appealing to newbies, and deep enough to satisfy the most serious competitors.  Top Spin 2 was a step in the wrong direction which can be proven by the number of people playing it online.  At or around the six month mark of each game being released, TS1 had 80,000 people playing over Xbox Live, and TS2 had just over 40,000. When your audience gets cut in half, warning flags should pop up signaling that something isn't quite right.  Maybe that's why we are seeing a completely new build in Top Spin 3.   I don't know for sure, but that's a theory of mine.  This new build for Top Spin 3 is a HUGE gamble.  I think people are going to adopt the 'love it' or 'hate it' approach to this game.  I really do.  They will just need to be patient and not cast any judgments too early as it seems this game has much to offer.

I am very interested in seeing how Top Spin 3 will do in terms of sales.  Granted, 2K Sports has spent a lot more money in marketing this game than the other two, but with the all-new controls, fairly steep learning curve, AND a $59.99 price tag, I am not so sure the ads (and favorable reviews) can save this game to make it a main-stay in people's gaming libraries.  I have a feeling that many people will buy it initially, but the casual gamers will eventually give up at some point early on - leaving it to collect dust on their shelves, or where it will be traded in for something else (like
Bad Company which also just came out and is doing very well in terms of sales).  I dunno, I could be wrong, and I hope that I am.

If you just picked up the game and are reading this Guide, I cannot urge you enough - stay away from online competition until you adjust to the controls of this game.  I don't care how good you were in either of the first two Top Spin games, you will really need to sit down and invest some time learning the mechanics of TS3.  Start off by going to the Top Spin 3 school, and participating in all the drills.  Once you think you've gotten the hang of that, try a few exhibition matches on "normal" difficulty.  If you are one of the very few throttling the A.I. competition during your first 30 minutes of playing this game, then maybe you are good enough to be online right now.  For the rest of the TS3 gaming community (which I assume to be the majority), I'd suggest starting a career mode and playing through that first.  Career mode is much more gentle early on and helps you get a better understanding of how to play TS3.  I struggled considerably when playing exhibitions during my first 30 minutes of owning the game and eventually gave up.  I then created my custom player, and started a career.  I won my first few matches which were in a tie-break format, and then won the first Challenger event.  I felt that pieces of the game were finally falling into place for me (but still had a LONG way to go).  That being said, if I had continued playing exhibition matches, I'd likely still be banging my head into the wall out of frustration.

I am looking forward to playing through the next series of matches tomorrow evening and seeing if my gameplay has improved any.  As it stands now, I will be staying away from any online gameplay (except un-ranked exhibition matches with friends) until I complete my first career mode.  In the meantime, I am taking notes on everything I'm doing for later use in this FAQ & Strategy Guide.

 

 

 

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