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View Full Version : "Almost Aced" in Doubles: How to Position


Cindysphinx
05-06-2007, 05:10 AM
I was playing a 3.5 ladies doubles match yesterday. I was receiving on the ad court. One of our opponents had a good serve. Nice spin, and she was able to place it at the T with some pace, so it curved away from me toward the deuce court.

When things were going well, I narrowly avoided the ace by flying to my right as fast as I could and managed a good cross-court return back to her with pace. So far, so good.

The problem was that this left me way out of position, almost in an I formation with my partner. By the time I stopped my momentum and started to recover back to the ad court, the opponent was cracking a shot into the open court. Point lost.

I didn't know what to do about this. I don't know how to slice a return off of such a serve. Lobbing would have been a rather low-percentage bet for me.

Should I have called a switch play (thereby asking my partner at net to run over to the ad court) so I could continue to the deuce court? Or is the correct thing to do just to get my butt back over to the ad court?

ps60
05-06-2007, 06:17 AM
Should I have called a switch play (thereby asking my partner at net to run over to the ad court) so I could continue to the deuce court?


Good thought, but she can give a very soft dink behind your partner's feet.

Anyway, her big serve gives her team an adv.

Try lobbing (defensive) cross court, way up high, to buy some time. (best if she is not good at very high balls)

MordredSJT
05-06-2007, 06:25 AM
Cindy,

You titled this how to position, and didn't say anything about positioning on the return. Where was the server standing? Where were you setting up to receive? When you were flying to your right were you moving parallel to the baseline or on an angle forward towards the net? Did you adjust your position towards the center and make your opponent prove she could beat you with a serve out wide?

Cindysphinx
05-06-2007, 07:26 AM
Cindy,

You titled this how to position, and didn't say anything about positioning on the return. Where was the server standing? Where were you setting up to receive? When you were flying to your right were you moving parallel to the baseline or on an angle forward towards the net? Did you adjust your position towards the center and make your opponent prove she could beat you with a serve out wide?

Server was standing in the middle of the area between the center hash and doubles alley. This did not vary.

I was setting up in my usual position, kind of catticorner(sp?) to hers. I usually take a neutral position, halfway toward alley and center line. I don't like to leave the backhand too open because I hit a 2HBH, and I feel more agile getting over to tough balls with my forehand.

When I was lunging for these serves, it looked pretty much the way it looks when a pro gets aced: they fling themselves toward the ball and try to get a racquet on it. Moving forward, moving laterally? Who the heck knows? It was all a blur, I assure you. I suspect I was doing something right, as I was getting a nice groundstroke and not a miss or pop-up.

Now. After a while, I did wise up and cheat more toward the center. The server responded to this by trying even harder to ace me up the middle, which caused her to miss. This caused the problem to go away, as she didn't have much of a serve out wide to keep me honest. Thanks goodness.

But the situation could be different next time, as I might run into someone who can beat me out wide too. (It darn sure happens in mixed).

metsjets
05-06-2007, 08:16 AM
i usually never slice a return in doubles (though on the forehand side i can get away with it a few times). try to slide to the ball instead of running through it. if absolutely nothing works, try throwing up a lob.

Bagumbawalla
05-06-2007, 10:01 AM
A guy I often practice with has this same shot (only faster, I suspect). It is a difficult shot to slice off ones forehand side. I usually hit it back deep to the opposite (server's) corner with medium/low topspin. This way you avoid the net person/cut off potential angles/make the opponet hit up (if coming in) or pick the ball off his/her feet (if staying back)/and give yourself some time to reposition yourself.

You can also hit a hard/dipping topspin drive right down the middle (chancy unless you keep it low) or a nice lob/flick over the net person's head (a very nice shot if you can do it).

Good luck,

B

MordredSJT
05-06-2007, 10:11 AM
Now. After a while, I did wise up and cheat more toward the center. The server responded to this by trying even harder to ace me up the middle, which caused her to miss. This caused the problem to go away, as she didn't have much of a serve out wide to keep me honest. Thanks goodness.

But the situation could be different next time, as I might run into someone who can beat me out wide too. (It darn sure happens in mixed).

Well, as you are moving up levels you are going to have to come to grips with something here Cindy...you are going to get aced. You are going to hit a good approach and get passed. You are going to be in perfect position and still get lobbed over. You are going to do everything "right" and still lose some points. The higher the level of play you get to the more often this is going to happen. You're playing against better players.

Now, it is good that you changed your positioning and took away her advantage. And you are right, you will eventually run into someone who can vary their serve placement and spin more. This is why you need to start working on your return skills. Returning serve isn't just about hitting a shot...it's about footwork, timing, and anticipation. The ability to read a serve and react quickly is paramount. Considering that I have never seen you play, my first instinct is to tell you to keep working on your footwork. Make sure you're split step isn't late. Get some forward momentum going. Make sure that you aren't moving parallel to the baseline, go cut the angle off. Also, work on your visual skills. Where are your eyes when your opponent is serving? When they make contact? What are you focusing on? Try to pick up the ball a little sooner and look for cues as to where the ball is going. You'd be amazed what a few tenths of a second in reaction time can do for you.

LuckyR
05-06-2007, 10:23 AM
Cindy,

The area for improvement isn't in your positioning after your return. Rather in your position before the serve is struck. When receiving there is always the conundrum of whether to back up and get more time for your return, or crowd the serve (move in) and cut the width of the potential serve but also give yourself less time.

The correct answer depends on how often you are getting beat with the play you describe.

If she is nailing that serve time after time, you have to move in to cut the angle. By doing so you will not have to travel as far to hit the serve so it will be much easier to get back into position. Also if she is S&V you will catch her closer to no-man's-land, making her return of your return more likely to be of poor quality. The downside is that her serve will be travelling faster, relative to you.

On the other hand, if she rarely gets that serve in, dare her to hit it and eat up the second serve opportunities.

You know her best...

Cindysphinx
05-06-2007, 11:17 AM
OK. I understand, I think.

I was kind of wondering if there is such a thing as a switch play called because I have been pulled inside, and I'm getting the idea that the answer is "No." Which makes this a shot selection/execution problem and not a positioning problem.

Which means I have to have more weapons at my disposal to hit a more situation-appropriate, better quality return. And get my butt back over to my side and cover the cross-court reply.

Vision84
05-06-2007, 11:55 AM
I like it when someone goes wide on me so I can rip a return short and angled croscourt in the doubles alley or close to it. This opens the server up to hit wider but cuts off the crsscourt middle shot you were describing. Your partner at the net would be there to cut those off.

Bagumbawalla
05-06-2007, 05:39 PM
One thing I forgot to mention, earlier, is the mathmatics of the game.

The average service game lasts 5 to 6 strokes. The serve and return of serve (two strokes) are 1/3 of the total game points, and most of the rest should be volleys.

So when you practice-- practicing the serve and return of serve, should be at the top of your list of things to improve-- those two things, and the volley will include about 90% of typical doubles shots.

A few weeks ago, I got involved in a doubles match with there these two guys I never met before. While warming up, I realized that neither of them could hit a groundstroke to sustain a rally, or to save their lives (sigh, oh, well, I would know better next time).

But when it came time to play the match, they had their doubles game down pretty good. They almost never had to hit a groundstroke. They served and volleyed (very well), returned and lobbed (pretty well) and, in general, made us work for the match with their few, but effective, strokes.

I guess what I am suggesting is-- work on your return (and your serve). Those two thiings, alone, are a large part of the game. If your practice partner can't duplicate the serves from the baseline, have her/him step in and serve from closer up to get the same effect. Pactice returning to a specific placement point, just as you would do in doubles.

By the way, I can tell, just from the questions you are asking, that your game is improving and your court-sense is developing. Probably, it would help you to play with players another half step up.

Keep up the good work,

B

oldhacker
05-08-2007, 06:56 AM
Hi Cindy - my coach always tells me that if I am stretched out of position give the ball some air in order to give me a chance to recover before my opponent hits again. So in this case your "good cross-court return back to her with pace" may not be "So far, so good" if it means your opponent gets to hit the ball while you are either still moving to your right (big open space for her to hit into) or scrabbling back left (easy to hit behind you). At my level (about 4.0) I reckon the percentage play under those circumstances is a lobbed return to give me a chance to recover. Probably best to hit over the net player's head as chances are they will be moving to the centre looking to poach on a serve down the middle. Depending on the quality of the lob your net player may then need to move back sharpish so that you are 2 back looking to defend a smash. Although if the lob is good and deep and has your opponents under pressure you may want to go 2 up to add to the pressure.

I was playing a 3.5 ladies doubles match yesterday. I was receiving on the ad court. One of our opponents had a good serve. Nice spin, and she was able to place it at the T with some pace, so it curved away from me toward the deuce court.

When things were going well, I narrowly avoided the ace by flying to my right as fast as I could and managed a good cross-court return back to her with pace. So far, so good.

The problem was that this left me way out of position, almost in an I formation with my partner. By the time I stopped my momentum and started to recover back to the ad court, the opponent was cracking a shot into the open court. Point lost.

I didn't know what to do about this. I don't know how to slice a return off of such a serve. Lobbing would have been a rather low-percentage bet for me.

Should I have called a switch play (thereby asking my partner at net to run over to the ad court) so I could continue to the deuce court? Or is the correct thing to do just to get my butt back over to the ad court?

kevhen
05-08-2007, 08:15 AM
If the server is too good that you are ending up with weak replies, ask your partner to play two back so you are in a better defensive formation if you are starting on defense when returning serves.

Kaptain Karl
05-08-2007, 08:53 AM
Cindy - I think this is *indeed* a Return Positioning issue. If you are already moving IN as you return (which means you race on a diagonal to get that Serve) ... GOOD. If not, work on that.

But ... the Return Position is merely a "guideline". It appears you could either ...
... "cheat" a step (or step and one-half) toward the T, or ...
... Wait for her eyes to fix on her Toss and hop toward the T to be better positioned.

Either way, you are playing the percentages. If she notices and (hopefully) has a tougher time serving Wide on you, you'll still be okay. (She may get the occasional Ace out wide, but how many more time will she waste a First Serve trying to exploit your positioning?) The percentages are still in your favor.

I regularly play a Lefty whose Slice really bends off the court from the Ad side. I position for that (very consistent) wide Slice -- essentially "conceding" the T to him. This works in my favor because he WILL go for the T, but for some reason he cannot consistently get his serve IN on the T.

(Yes, once every three games he manages to pop an Ace in there, but every other time he misses with his First Serve ... giving me an opportunity on he 2nd Serve, which isn't nearly as tough to return.) I'm not ashamed to be aced with those percentages.

- KK

kevhen
05-08-2007, 08:59 AM
Yep, you have to find the right spot to stand for each server. If he goes wide consistently, you cheat a little bit that way and dare him to mix it up and go down the T. And vice versa. Everyone has patterns they like and you will need to adjust your stance to each server, moving in or backing up depending on pace and spin as well.

Last night I played doubles against guys who served wide on first serves, one had a lefty slice, and another had a weak second serve, so with the first guy who goes wide on both sides I was back at the baseline with one foot in the doubles alley, against the lefty slicer I was two steps inside the baseline with one foot in the doubles alley, and against the weak second server, I was two steps in, one step from the sideline. Otherwise I was mostly near the baseline corner. Plus you can cheat a little against some people who don't place their serves well enough if your backhand or forehand return is stronger. Tennis is all about adjustments and playing your opponent.

LuckyR
05-08-2007, 01:25 PM
If the server is too good that you are ending up with weak replies, ask your partner to play two back so you are in a better defensive formation if you are starting on defense when returning serves.


Having the netman playing back will not change the problem of following through over the midline and not getting back into position to cover your own side...

VGP
05-08-2007, 01:40 PM
How about stepping to the right as you are ready to return. Let her know you're expecting that one. Force her to hit flat ones or kickers to the backhand. Perhaps she's not as good at those serves.....

In this case, if you're not getting a clean shot on the return, or if she's eating up your cross-court return, lobbing is a good option.