"I need to play against better players to improve my game." I hear it in
lessons all the time. And there is some truth to it. Players that have
skills better than you can push you physically in ways that some other
practice partners can't. In addition, you will see shots that they hit that
you might consider developing or improving. One of the most important
aspects of only playing better players is that there is less pressure to win
or more importantly, no pressure to lose. Therefore the match lacks somewhat
in helping your mental game.
It is also important to play opponents that may not be as good as you. You
will probably have the comfort of trying shots that are new to you. You can
always work on a new game plan or strategy and play to a weaker player's
strengths to get added practice. Weaker players may also raise the level of
their game since they now have nothing to lose.
Supplementing your practice with opponent's that you are competitive with
will also greatly add to your game. Playing in matches that push you to your
limit both physically and mentally puts stress on you that you will need to
control in tournament match situations. Learning to control that stress and
recover from it will make you a stronger player.
It is very important to play against players of all abilities. Each type of
player can give you the opportunity to work on a different aspect of your
game. Try to play matches with players of a variety of abilities. If you
can't stand to play an aggressive player, add a serve and volley opponent to
your routine. Hate to play the lobber? You should practice against one a
little more so that you can be prepared in the tournament. Remember to
practice your weaknesses more than your strengths and vary your type of match
play and you will find your game growing.