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View Full Version : Doubles advice with weak serving partner


Dishiki
02-13-2009, 01:10 PM
My friend and i have joined an area doubles league and we are having a ton of fun. Through three matches we are 3-0, two of them went to three sets. The first match that went to three sets my partner was only able to hold serve 2 out of 7 times. Last night we were 4-5 in the second and he lost serve to lose the set. In the third we were up 5-2 and he lost serve; fortunately , we broke right back to close out the match.

The strategy we've been employing the last two matches, which I think we should change is to defer to them and let them serve. If we break right off the bat, and we did both matches, my partner serves, because if he holds, we are in really good shape. If they hold I serve to get us back even. This strategy works well in the beginning of the set, but fails in the end because he is serving at critical times (to save a set or close it out). I think for our next match I should just serve first.

The real issue is with the serves themselves. They have decent pace, and some spin, but he has no idea where they are going. So I have trouble positioning myself and I feel like I don't get into the point until the third hit (serve, return, groundstroke). That puts tremendous pressure on him, but I feel like I am purely reacting and have no idea where his serve is.

Two thoughts on changing the strategy to get me into the points is to go Australian. This forces me to move in any direction, and might alleviate some of his pressure. The next option is to do planned poaches, but I'm not sure I like being so rigid. Aside from those two, and him practicing his serve so that he can be accurate, any advice? When he cranks his serve he is probably at about 25% but it is moving. Instead he hits about 75 mph would be my guess with a bit of spin, but again he has no idea of where it is going.

Any tips or advice would be appreciated.

Geezer Guy
02-13-2009, 01:24 PM
If you can be more active at net, it will help him hold serve. Even though you don't know where he's going to place the ball, as soon as his serve bounces position yourself directly in front of the ball. (If his serve is wide, shift slightly toward the alley. If his serve is to the T, shift to the middle. etc.) This will help you get to more balls. AND, go ahead and occasionally call some planned poaches. There's an old saying that when a doubles team drops serve is usually the net mans fault - but the server always gets blamed for it. While not always true, this is OFTEN the case.

As for who serves first, you should start in your teams strongest formation. Sounds like (for now) that's with you serving.

skiracer55
02-13-2009, 02:10 PM
...take up bowling. Just kidding! There is no easy answer, and I think you've heard most of the reasonable responses...

LeeD
02-13-2009, 02:16 PM
I'd second GeezerGuy, but then I AM an old Geezer Guy.
I have by far the best serve at the doubles courts. I get broken once in a while, usually when my netman halfheartedly poaches and dumps a sitter really high, and shorter than the service line. Usually like 3 times a game.
My partner normally hold serve, even thos he's ALWAYS the weakest of the foursome. I move around, have the best forehand poach, think strategy, and the best overhead.
He comes out looking good, I get my serves broken.
Tell your weak serving partner to step it up, or you'll drop hiim.

Rui
02-14-2009, 07:24 PM
You being more active at the net will help things.

Your partner and you don't need to know where his serve is going ahead of time. He hits his serve and you both react to it. Hopefully, he is coming in to volley. Otherwise, you're inviting the other team to move forward.

spot
02-15-2009, 06:56 AM
When your partner isn't generating any weak returns then Australian is by far the better formation. The benefit of the normal formation is that the net person is there to easily put away any weak returns. But in order to have that netperson there you are giving the opponent the highest percentage return available- crosscourt. If your partner isn't generating any weak returns then you are far better off taking away the high percentage crosscourt return. This makes the opponent hit over the higher part of the net, to the shorter part of the court, and they have no angle available to them.

fuzz nation
02-15-2009, 07:45 AM
In case you haven't looked around, there was a pretty heavy discussion on this dilemma maybe a month or two ago. If you can dig that thread up, you'll probably find one or two nuggets of helpful wisdom.

It's a good idea to at least try giving receiving opponents a different look, but if they can pick and choose what they want to do with their returns with little effort, you've got your hands full. At least Australian can force them to guess if they're not at all used to it. To avoid getting stuck in the one up/one back formation, you may want to stay back for a few of your partner's serves and wait until both of you can follow a short ball to net together. That way, the two of you can at least cover the width of the court effectively as a team. That's a huge priority in doubles.

Problem with the planned poach - if your partner can't place his serve well, he can leave the door open for the receiver to hit up the line behind you. Again, it throws a variable at your opponents to think about, but a planned poach can be a lot more successful when you can set it up with a well placed serve.

Geezer Guy
02-15-2009, 02:46 PM
1) Well, that info is months old. This rehash is new, fresh and exciting!
2) Agree.
3) With a predetermined poach, the server would be covering the line.

LeeD
02-16-2009, 11:12 AM
Even at my paltry level, I find the Aussie lineup useless in this situation.
Weak serves just generate strong and accurate returns, down the line, crosscourt, anywhere. Give them a few tries at Aussie, then when you go back to normal, the netman is target practice.
And KNOWING where your server is going is 60% of winning the point. If you'd rather play with a 40% chance, then go for it:shock:

LuckyR
02-17-2009, 09:48 AM
If you can be more active at net, it will help him hold serve. Even though you don't know where he's going to place the ball, as soon as his serve bounces position yourself directly in front of the ball. (If his serve is wide, shift slightly toward the alley. If his serve is to the T, shift to the middle. etc.) This will help you get to more balls. AND, go ahead and occasionally call some planned poaches. There's an old saying that when a doubles team drops serve is usually the net mans fault - but the server always gets blamed for it. While not always true, this is OFTEN the case.

As for who serves first, you should start in your teams strongest formation. Sounds like (for now) that's with you serving.

Great advice. I would have one little difference of opinion. That is I would be reticent to call poaches (poaches where you are going 100% of the time) when it is unknown where the serve is going to land. If the server goes wide when they want to go up the T, the return is likely to go into your alley and if you are poaching... well that would be a lost point. By the same token the advice to make decisions on poaching by watching where the serve lands is my standard MO, and I poach plenty.

Fedace
02-17-2009, 10:05 AM
Textbooks all say, if the serve goes wide, move up and to your left, and if middle, move straight up one step and if up the Tee, then move up and to the right. This is how all good netplayers move if they are not aware where his partner is serving.
and you can also tell your partner to practice his serves about 30 minutes once a week to work on placement.

LeeD
02-17-2009, 11:54 AM
Textbook is only a theoritical GUIDELINE aimed at you who don't know where to move and when.
Actual play, you gotta consider what the opponent DOES each and every point, and move accordingly.
For instance, that up the T serve, they pick up you move center and forward, they just lob DTL every time. Netman out of position, server left to cover.
Forget the textbook, and play tennis IF you know how to play doubles.

Sublime
02-17-2009, 12:09 PM
Throw in a fake poach every once and a while too. Start moving towards the middle just before the ball bounces.

Then quickly move into good position and expect an alley shot or a slightly weaker return as they adjust last second and tighten up. Works for me in mixed doubles when my partner is serving to the guy.

LeeD
02-17-2009, 12:24 PM
Fakes are an excellent ploy, especially in better doubles. Good post!

wihamilton
02-17-2009, 01:40 PM
My friend and i have joined an area doubles league and we are having a ton of fun. Through three matches we are 3-0, two of them went to three sets. The first match that went to three sets my partner was only able to hold serve 2 out of 7 times. Last night we were 4-5 in the second and he lost serve to lose the set. In the third we were up 5-2 and he lost serve; fortunately , we broke right back to close out the match.

The strategy we've been employing the last two matches, which I think we should change is to defer to them and let them serve. If we break right off the bat, and we did both matches, my partner serves, because if he holds, we are in really good shape. If they hold I serve to get us back even. This strategy works well in the beginning of the set, but fails in the end because he is serving at critical times (to save a set or close it out). I think for our next match I should just serve first.

The real issue is with the serves themselves. They have decent pace, and some spin, but he has no idea where they are going. So I have trouble positioning myself and I feel like I don't get into the point until the third hit (serve, return, groundstroke). That puts tremendous pressure on him, but I feel like I am purely reacting and have no idea where his serve is.

Two thoughts on changing the strategy to get me into the points is to go Australian. This forces me to move in any direction, and might alleviate some of his pressure. The next option is to do planned poaches, but I'm not sure I like being so rigid. Aside from those two, and him practicing his serve so that he can be accurate, any advice? When he cranks his serve he is probably at about 25% but it is moving. Instead he hits about 75 mph would be my guess with a bit of spin, but again he has no idea of where it is going.

Any tips or advice would be appreciated.

Well first I would encourage your partner to get 70%+ of his first serves in. Even if that means hitting a slightly more aggressive second serve. First serve % is really, really important in doubles. Probably more so than in singles.

I think Australian is a good option. If you position yourself on the center service line, for serves on the deuce court I would move to the right most of the time and for serves on the ad court I would move left most of the time. First, this means you only have to take several steps to put yourself in position to volley a cross court return. Second, it forces your opponent to change the direction of the tennis ball. That's not an easy thing to do off of a serve. Unless your opponent hits a great return, your partner will be in position to hit an aggressive approach shot / volley and that will put you firmly in control of the point.

As a larger point, a high first serve % and a lot of movement on your part at the net puts pressure on the returner. It forces them to think more than they'd like to. So make sure you put them in that uncomfortable position.