View Full Version : Drills to improve "keep away"
04-11-2008, 10:40 AM
I am working to transition from being a counterpunching 3.0/3.5 singles player to a solid 4.0 doubles and singles player. I just got bumped to 4.0, and I am finding that I have to add more penetration and placement to my groundstrokes and more attack in general to survive at this level.
In doubles, I sometimes struggle with keeping the ball away from the net player. I will hit two or three good, deep "keep away" shots and then end up looping one a bit short and BAM they put it away.
Are there some good drills to practice with two people that penalize you for hitting a poachable ball? I have been practicing rallying crosscourt with one other person, which is great for singles and I'm sure for doubles, but sometimes I think it still lets me be a bit lazy about keeping the ball away from a net player. I don't get that emphatic "you messed up" when I leave a ball short or in the middle too much. Any advice? I would like to find something I can do when just hitting with one other person.
04-11-2008, 12:25 PM
Grats on 4.0. You're starting to move into a world where you can rely on opponents to generally not make mistakes on the usual strokes, and start seeing weapons. I think your focus is good, start thinking about not letting them have easy points. Also consider though that the net man is attackable and not just avoidable. Heavy spin shot to their feet or low and away will often fluster many 4.0's at net. If and when they get it back, it should be a pretty easy shot. Depends on who is up there but always keep that option open and use it against your weaker net players.
About the keep away drill, I have worked with people on this, not with any tools though other then a pickup basket. We would place the pickup basket at the center line. Shots needed to be on 1 side of the basket or down the alley. Another drill was rallying in very specific places like cross to cross, line to line, etc. You should know when your shot is easily poachable. Just work in your rally's with that in mind. You hit a slow chest high ball down the middle, you know you made a mistake. Conversely work on deep or short shots with good angles. High levels of topspin will help you a lot. Either getting it low on the net players or deep kickers to the baseliner.
I guess you could do some elaborate cardboard, string, whatever obstacle but I don't think it's necessary. At 4.0 you know what's easily poachable and what is not. You probably get a feeling as they leave your racquet before they even get to the net. Something like cardboard isn't going to help *that* much anyways since a good volleyer will know what to move across. Putting fluff down the line may not be as effective as putting a low spinner down the middle.
04-11-2008, 02:15 PM
Good question. I am *constantly* working on this with my HS Teams. (Are you familiar with a Mtn Biking axiom, "Don't look at the obstacle you're trying to avoid ... or else you'll surely smack it 'dead center'?" In my experience the same principle applies in Receiving Serve in Doubles. If your "message" to yourself is, "Don't hit it to the Net Man" you will surely hit it right *at* the Net Man.)
So ... you need to "program" yourself to hit to a target, rather than trying to hit "away" from an obstacle.
a) Start with Mini-tennis ... but cross-court ONLY. Here's an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r12VBPj8WLI
You can create "progressions" with Mini-tennis, where you have the Easy / Moderate / Advanced Drill, too.
Easy - You and your drilling partner stand in the middle (side-to-side) of (say) your Deuce Courts (but only about six or seven feet from the Net) and gently / lightly work on consistently stroking the balls to each other. Go for 50 consecutive strokes with your drilling partner. Once you've got that....
Moderate - You both move back and toward your Singles Side Lines (but still inside the Service Boxes) and repeat. Go for 50 in-a-row. When you can do this well....
Advanced - Stand four or five feet behind your Service Lines (and next to your Singles Lines) and repeat. (You are working on "grooving" the cross-court shots with control....) By this point you should be able to replicate the guys in the YouTube clip, above. Meaning, you should be able to hit the balls with some fairly decent pace on them ... yet still maintain control.
b) Doubles Receiving Drill: Use some court markers to create "boxes" on your drilling parnter's side: From the Doubles Sideline the middle of the Service Boxes ... and from about twelve feet from the Net to about ten feet from the baseline (sort of "recreating" the Service Box, but shifting it toward the corner). Have your drilling partner serve 3 balls up the T ... then 3 "Jams" ... then 3 Wide to you. You must hit your Returns into the target box you created above. Receive the cycle twice (12 returns). Keep score:
Moderate - (No. There's no "Easy".) You get 1 point for the other guy's misses ... and so does he. First to 11 wins (win by 2).
Advanced - The Server gets 2 points for every miss of yours; you get 1 (one) point. Play to 11....
[Remember to change roles so he gets a chance to drill too. Or you'll be looking for more hitting partners really fast.]
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