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Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 06:13 AM
When I play doubles, I usually wind up serving first (or second, if our opponents serve first). This is for various reasons. Two partners showed up rusty and wanted me to serve first. Another has a weak serve. Another feels she needs time to "warm up" before serving.

In the past, this has not been a problem. Lately, though, I have had all kinds of problems holding serve in doubles early in the match. I think two things are happening.

I think I am serving with a bit less pace and more spin than in the past. There is nothing to be done for this right now, although I have been working on it. When I meet women who are flummoxed by spin, I usually do well, so it's not the end of the world.

The real source of the problem is that I simply don't know my opponents well enough at the beginning of the match to know what will work best against them. So I stand back there preparing to serve, and I have no plan. Should I S&V? Should I stay back? Should I come in on my second shot instead of S&V? Should I aim to the BH, or should I just go down the middle? Should I ask partners who are weak volleyers to be conservative and not try to take difficult balls, or should we plan a poach? On my second ball, what should I do if the returner has come to net -- lob or drive?

So a typical service game might be . . . I serve up the middle and come in. Returner cracks a return at my shoes, which I miss. Love-15.

Next serve is up the middle, and I stay back, still stung by my missed volley. Returner hits a floater. My partner dumps it into the net.

Next serve is up the middle. I stay back and rally with deuce court player for a few shots. I miss first.

Next serve is out wide. I come in. Returner lobs my partner, and I can't run down the lob. Game over.

As the match goes on, I tend to figure these things out and get a sense for my opponents' weaknesses and strengths, but early on is difficult. What kind of plan do you have when you serve early in a match?

drakulie
05-08-2009, 06:24 AM
What kind of plan do you have when you serve early in a match?

Same as I have late in the match>>>> don't double fault, get my first serve in.

Good luck.

Xisbum
05-08-2009, 06:47 AM
I hate serving first and go to great lengths to avoid it. Would much rather serve 3rd or 4th - even in singles. ;-)

raiden031
05-08-2009, 06:55 AM
Hard to say because every service game is different. There is not a lot of room for error in doubles, you (and your partner) just have to do a couple things well:

1) Get your first serves in
2) Do not botch easy poaches/volleys

Over the winter my serve has really hit a low and I have the same problem. I am serving at 10% first serves. This puts so much pressure on my 2nd serve that I'm also double-faulting more. And playing against better returners, I'm starting to see more of the return hitting my shoe as I'm S&Ving, and so I'm missing more of those. And of course I'm still being partnered with 3.5s even in 4.0 matches, so I'm seeing alot of the botched poaches also.

But I'm also getting broke routinely in singles as well because I'm missing first serves and double-faulting. So the last few weeks I started taking my hopper out to work on serves and I'm starting to see a slight improvement, but still frustrating as hell that my serve went from being a weapon to a liability for no apparent reason. I'm having alot of 'yips' moments with my serve toss as well and then hitting the frame.

charliefedererer
05-08-2009, 06:59 AM
Are you doing a dynamic warmup before the hitting warmup begins?
Are you getting enough practice serves?
Do you arrive at the court with a fixed game plan in mind as to how you are going to use your first six serves to hit wide to either side and to the body so you'll have all these options for the match, and be able to keep your opponent guessing?
Do you have the attitude that start of the match is all about execution of a game plan, and not trying to figure one out as you go along?

Fedace
05-08-2009, 07:12 AM
Make sure you warm up your shoulders like Pete Sampras before the match starts. and in the first game, go for the body serve and jam the returner. and get your 1st serve in. this tend to force a weaker return in the 1st game. and put balls in Play and make your opponent play and make them hit winners. Let them know only way they can win points against you is if they hit a Clean winner. this puts tremendous pressure on your opponent..

eagle
05-08-2009, 07:18 AM
I think you have the right idea.

Body serves. It doesn't give the returner a lot of angles to hit.

Also in doubles, you'd want to control the net. So, don't stay back especially if you are serving.

With both of you at net playing the person at the baseline, you have a better chance of winning the point.

r,
eagle

Fedace
05-08-2009, 07:20 AM
I think you have the right idea.

Body serves. It doesn't give the returner a lot of angles to hit.

Also in doubles, you'd want to control the net. So, don't stay back

You have know one thing. even if the return is hit at 100mph, you still have to volley the ball in doubles and put it in play. You have NO excuse for missing volleys in doubles cause you don't get stretched out too often. Say to yourself,,,, "I have NO reason to miss volleys in doubles EVER."..

JRstriker12
05-08-2009, 07:24 AM
The real source of the problem is that I simply don't know my opponents well enough at the beginning of the match to know what will work best against them.

I bet you do know Cindy - are you watching how they react in the warm-up?

While you many not know 100% what will work best, you should at least have an idea of where their weaknesses are at the end of the warm up. Go to that weakness first.

Also - you should know your strenghts and go into the game with your own game plan based on your strengths. So if you are not sure, use your game plan as the starting point. If your are a strong S&V player. If you like the baseline - serve, try to move them around and stay back until you get a chance to come in.

Racer41c
05-08-2009, 07:27 AM
So here's how it goes for us. I'll have all the same problems your describing, only it can happen at any time. For example, last night I held about 75% of my serves, I was serving pretty well. My last 2 service games we won at 40-15 and lost 0-40. I actually served better in the 0-40 and we made better shots overall and we didn't make a single UE. The other team returned well, made better shots and constructed points a bit better.

So how do you start off a match? I would recommend asking your partner how you want to start off. "Easing into the match" isn't going to be real effective, essentially no plan. Just a few simple questions to get an idea of what to expect. It really helps if your concentrating on serving and playing and not wondering what your partner is or isn't going to do.

Lastly, serve with confidence. If you go tenative, the returner can go aggressive and your playing defense.

eagle
05-08-2009, 07:40 AM
Forgot to mention earlier that you need to have a plan every time. Communicate with your partner. Before each play, serving or returning, you guys need to know what you guys are going to do. Use signals or huddle together.

Also, the NET PLAYER has to be very active. If you play one up, one back, the net player had better be aggressive and ready to put away points that come within his/her wingspan.

I still recommend that you guys always always work towards taking over the net. "Easier pickins" at the net.

r,
eagle

Jim A
05-08-2009, 07:53 AM
I try and serve a bucket of balls before the warmup, even if its by my house a couple hours beforehand so I feel good about it heading into the match.

when i warmup onsite I just go for placement and about 75-80% to start, making sure I can hit my spots or come close

I'm not the greatest volleyer from the service line so I'll often approach on my own terms, typically after their return and try to get a bit closer to the net or get an easier 1st volley..

I try to give some different looks as well..on the deuce side I'll go body, short & wide, towards the T, and the ad its backhand backhand down the T (usually just miss) & in the body to get a reference for later..

of course the answer to all of this is if you win the spin is to have your opponent serve first :)

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 08:15 AM
Over the winter my serve has really hit a low and I have the same problem. I am serving at 10% first serves. This puts so much pressure on my 2nd serve that I'm also double-faulting more. And playing against better returners, I'm starting to see more of the return hitting my shoe as I'm S&Ving, and so I'm missing more of those. And of course I'm still being partnered with 3.5s even in 4.0 matches, so I'm seeing alot of the botched poaches also.

But I'm also getting broke routinely in singles as well because I'm missing first serves and double-faulting. So the last few weeks I started taking my hopper out to work on serves and I'm starting to see a slight improvement, but still frustrating as hell that my serve went from being a weapon to a liability for no apparent reason. I'm having alot of 'yips' moments with my serve toss as well and then hitting the frame.

: offers Raiden a warm mug of cocoa:

Dude, this just doesn't sound right to me at all. I remember your serve. You didn't double-fault, and the thing was a rocket. I can only assume you have improved since then. I can't believe there is anything wrong with your serve.

It sounds like a loss of confidence, with a side order of uncertainty because of the double-bump. Smart money says it will pass. Hang in there, Bucko!! :)

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 08:22 AM
Are you doing a dynamic warmup before the hitting warmup begins?
Are you getting enough practice serves?

Nope. We get a 10-minute warm-up, so 3-4 minutes of serves at most. The private clubs will not allow us to warm up on site, and it is rare that we have the ability to warm up outside at a nearby public court. Nope, we play our matches cold.

Do you arrive at the court with a fixed game plan in mind as to how you are going to use your first six serves to hit wide to either side and to the body so you'll have all these options for the match, and be able to keep your opponent guessing?

Nope. I figure I have to see them hit before I can decide what serves make sense.

Do you have the attitude that start of the match is all about execution of a game plan, and not trying to figure one out as you go along?

Uh-uh. I find that certain game plans fail miserably against certain players. For instance, I might decide I will S&V. I hit the first serve well and out wide, and it goes in. I am in business. The return is a lob over my partner's head. She makes no move to play the ball, so I reverse direction and try to hit a running BH up the line, or a running BH lob. I miss. Point to opponent.

The next time I serve to this opponent, what do I do? Come in again? Stay back? Well, we can't abandon the game plan because we lose one point, can we? So I serve to the BH and come in. Whoops, another lob. Same result. So coming in with a game plan and sticking to it for even one service game is enough to get us behind in the match. Before you know it, my opponents are cheerfully serving at 1-0.

Jim A
05-08-2009, 08:23 AM
that's so odd because it was Raiden's note on turning his palm down on his serve that has helped mine so much since then!

LeeD
05-08-2009, 08:23 AM
For my doubles teams, the first server depends who's looking into the sun and who can handle, which amongst us is ready to hit 3 balls INTO the correct court, who is actually warmed up both physically and mentally, and who knows where the opponent's backhand really is......
Best thing to start a match is to make the other team hit at least 3 balls, you NOT making any mistakes.
Personally, I'm terrible at getting my game going, so I usually ask my partner to serve first, even if they're a full level lower. Some people just can walk onto a court and hit some good shots right off the bat. Let those types serve first.

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 08:26 AM
that's so odd because it was Raiden's note on turning his palm down on his serve that has helped mine so much since then!

I know!! Raiden has a great serve. It's shaking my faith in tennis to hear even Raiden is struggling to hold. If it can happen to him, what hope is there for me?

I think I have an idea for Raiden, though. A long time ago, we had a thread on how often people have to catch their toss. Raiden said he rarely catches a toss.

Maybe that's it, Raiden. Maybe some Toss Discipline is in order to get you through this little valley? Just decide you're not going to hit any toss that isn't exactly where you want it?

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 08:31 AM
For my doubles teams, the first server depends who's looking into the sun and who can handle, which amongst us is ready to hit 3 balls INTO the correct court, who is actually warmed up both physically and mentally, and who knows where the opponent's backhand really is......
Best thing to start a match is to make the other team hit at least 3 balls, you NOT making any mistakes.
Personally, I'm terrible at getting my game going, so I usually ask my partner to serve first, even if they're a full level lower. Some people just can walk onto a court and hit some good shots right off the bat. Let those types serve first.

You know, there's kind of an unspoken code in doubles, at least with the people I play with: The Most Senior Player serves first. That would be the person who isn't shaking like a leaf because she was only bumped up to 3.5 this season. Since this is my second season at 3.5, the first server is me.

The other part of the Unspoken Code is that The Younger Player serves first. Even though I am 47, I get nailed under this one too.

What would make sense, frankly, is for my partners to serve first because I play the net better and am more comfortable there. Our opponents are going to be tight and nervous also and may float a few. If I play my cards right at net, I can get some easy poaches and really get into their heads. I just can't get my partners to deviate from The Unspoken Code, however.

Nellie
05-08-2009, 08:31 AM
I don't think that you are far off. At the beginning of matches, I like to keep it simple. I serve down the middle, have my partner guard the lines so I can used to his/her movement, and I come in on the serve to, a point slightly behind the service line. There is no magic about this position, except that I can get there without rushing, so that I am relaxed and set up for a volley/half volley, or can retreat for a deep lob over my partner. I start serving only second serves so that every first goes in, if possible. That way, I have less stress and I can focus on the point and get the serve going better later in the match.

Also keep in the mind, that on many doubles matches, the first several games are a feeling out process with breaks of serves by both teams.

Dishiki
05-08-2009, 08:39 AM
Defer serving, even if you win the spin. You get your feet wet, into the match, and get to see how your opponents hit, and if you break then it takes pressure off on your serve. If you don't break, you are no worse off than the beginning of the match i.e. on serve.

MNPlayer
05-08-2009, 08:45 AM
I know!! Raiden has a great serve. It's shaking my faith in tennis to hear even Raiden is struggling to hold. If it can happen to him, what hope is there for me?

I think I have an idea for Raiden, though. A long time ago, we had a thread on how often people have to catch their toss. Raiden said he rarely catches a toss.

Maybe that's it, Raiden. Maybe some Toss Discipline is in order to get you through this little valley? Just decide you're not going to hit any toss that isn't exactly where you want it?

And then he started playing 4.0... No seriously, my good serve at 3.5 is below average at 4.0. It all depends on the returner.

Agree on the toss discipline. Sometimes I think practicing the toss is more important than the swing. I know for me, if I put the toss in the right spot, I'll usually hit a good serve.

One time I was practicing serving and could not get it right. So I just practiced tossing for about 10 minutes. After that, my serve was awesome (for that day anyway...).

eagle
05-08-2009, 09:16 AM
Cindy,

Sounds like you are playing singles .... with you hustling to the ball each time. :)

Why isn't your partner doing more? Since you are serving and moving towards the net after your serve, then you really don't have time to react to a lob. So, your partner who is at net should be shuttling back if she sees the receiver is going to lob the ball. She has more time to react. If you notice that your opponent is simply lobbing the ball all the time, then you and your partner should be alert to this.

r,
eagle

spot
05-08-2009, 09:19 AM
Up until maybe the 4.5 level the default plan for serving should be to hit the backhand. Make someone show that they can do something with the ball on their backhand side until you worry about anything else. After that adjust accordingly. Forget about serving up the middle or changing it up or any of that crap. Pound the backhand until they give you a reason to change.

Topaz
05-08-2009, 09:24 AM
Also - you should know your strenghts and go into the game with your own game plan based on your strengths. So if you are not sure, use your game plan as the starting point. If your are a strong S&V player. If you like the baseline - serve, try to move them around and stay back until you get a chance to come in.

Exactly what I was going to say...JR! Cindy, play *your* strengths if you don't yet have the opponents' weaknesses figure out.


Why isn't your partner doing more? Since you are serving and moving towards the net after your serve, then you really don't have time to react to a lob. So, your partner who is at net should be shuttling back if she sees the receiver is going to lob the ball. She has more time to react. If you notice that your opponent is simply lobbing the ball all the time, then you and your partner should be alert to this.

r,
eagle

While I agree that Cindy's partner may have to do more, I really disagree with the strategy you've presented here.

If Cindy is serving, her partner is at the net. If Cindy comes in, she should not come in all the way even with her partner (who is already at the net). It is Cindy's responsibility to get the lob if it goes over her partner...she is in *much* better positioning for it (provided she hasn't gone too far in).

When at the net, her partner is responsible for her alley and the middle shots...Cindy's job is to cover the lob and the wide angle (in her direction).

This is best executed when the serve is down the 'T', which takes away the wide angle return from the returner, and more often than not sets up the net person for a play at the ball.

Xisbum
05-08-2009, 09:30 AM
Defer serving, even if you win the spin. You get your feet wet, into the match, and get to see how your opponents hit, and if you break then it takes pressure off on your serve. If you don't break, you are no worse off than the beginning of the match i.e. on serve.

Excellent advice; and don't be discouraged by losing a serve every now and then, especially if you get an early break.

MNPlayer
05-08-2009, 09:39 AM
Up until maybe the 4.5 level the default plan for serving should be to hit the backhand. Make someone show that they can do something with the ball on their backhand side until you worry about anything else. After that adjust accordingly. Forget about serving up the middle or changing it up or any of that crap. Pound the backhand until they give you a reason to change.

Agree, but sometimes the returner will start to cheat over really hard. In that case I'll go for the middle just to keep them honest.

raiden031
05-08-2009, 10:04 AM
: offers Raiden a warm mug of cocoa:

Dude, this just doesn't sound right to me at all. I remember your serve. You didn't double-fault, and the thing was a rocket. I can only assume you have improved since then. I can't believe there is anything wrong with your serve.

It sounds like a loss of confidence, with a side order of uncertainty because of the double-bump. Smart money says it will pass. Hang in there, Bucko!! :)

I think the problem is I started fiddling with my serve grip and motion during the winter during block times while I was playing sets without actually ever spending time with a hopper. So that lack of repetitions left my serve in an unstable state that also carried over into usta matches.

I know!! Raiden has a great serve. It's shaking my faith in tennis to hear even Raiden is struggling to hold. If it can happen to him, what hope is there for me?

I think I have an idea for Raiden, though. A long time ago, we had a thread on how often people have to catch their toss. Raiden said he rarely catches a toss.

Maybe that's it, Raiden. Maybe some Toss Discipline is in order to get you through this little valley? Just decide you're not going to hit any toss that isn't exactly where you want it?


My toss used to be better, but now that I'm always thinking about my serve mechanics, I think I am getting screwed up on my toss as well. Thats why I'm putting in this effort to practicing serves lately to stabilize it again.

tfm1973
05-08-2009, 10:05 AM
i agree with spot's assessment and strategy. +1. pound their backhand. i think i hit 90% of my serves in singles and doubles to the backhand side. it's the weaker wing for 90% of the people you face. and i like the idea that you keep doing it until they give you a reason to stop going to that well.

as for raiden's yips. makes sense to me. raiden's serve at 3.0 was probably near unreturnable. and at 3.5 it probably earned him a lot of free points. and now at 4.0 it's probably not causing too much havoc. so all the free points he got at 3.0 and 3.5 on serve made it very easy to hold. less free points at 4.0 means he now has to work harder to hold. that 10% first serve percentage is likely him trying to compensate by going for too much which consequently puts an awful lot of pressure on his second serve.

raiden031
05-08-2009, 10:10 AM
You know, there's kind of an unspoken code in doubles, at least with the people I play with: The Most Senior Player serves first. That would be the person who isn't shaking like a leaf because she was only bumped up to 3.5 this season. Since this is my second season at 3.5, the first server is me.

The other part of the Unspoken Code is that The Younger Player serves first. Even though I am 47, I get nailed under this one too.

What would make sense, frankly, is for my partners to serve first because I play the net better and am more comfortable there. Our opponents are going to be tight and nervous also and may float a few. If I play my cards right at net, I can get some easy poaches and really get into their heads. I just can't get my partners to deviate from The Unspoken Code, however.

In doubles it is quite obvious who should serve first. It should be the person who you want to have more service games in the set. That is usually the stronger server. I've never seen a case where the weaker server holds easier than the stronger server. This is because even a strong volleyer can't do crap if their partner doesn't hold their own during the serve. In mixed I am always more likely to hold, despite my better volley skills. Same goes with a 4.0 doubles match I had last week where i was partnered with a 3.5 guy. The guy got broke every time whereas I held 3 out of 4 times (and yes I actually served well that day which is a rare occurence).

raiden031
05-08-2009, 10:11 AM
i agree with spot's assessment and strategy. +1. pound their backhand. i think i hit 90% of my serves in singles and doubles to the backhand side. it's the weaker wing for 90% of the people you face. and i like the idea that you keep doing it until they give you a reason to stop going to that well.

as for raiden's yips. makes sense to me. raiden's serve at 3.0 was probably near unreturnable. and at 3.5 it probably earned him a lot of free points. and now at 4.0 it's probably not causing too much havoc. so all the free points he got at 3.0 and 3.5 on serve made it very easy to hold. less free points at 4.0 means he now has to work harder to hold. that 10% first serve percentage is likely him trying to compensate by going for too much which consequently puts an awful lot of pressure on his second serve.

I don't think the problem is that the higher level players are having an easier time with my serve, its that the serve is less dependable at landing in the box and placed where I want it than it used to be. I definitely lost something on it. Also I want to add that I started noticing my serve problems in my 3.5 blocks against guys who I almost always used to hold against.

eagle
05-08-2009, 10:14 AM
Exactly what I was going to say...JR! Cindy, play *your* strengths if you don't yet have the opponents' weaknesses figure out.



While I agree that Cindy's partner may have to do more, I really disagree with the strategy you've presented here.

If Cindy is serving, her partner is at the net. If Cindy comes in, she should not come in all the way even with her partner (who is already at the net). It is Cindy's responsibility to get the lob if it goes over her partner...she is in *much* better positioning for it (provided she hasn't gone too far in).

When at the net, her partner is responsible for her alley and the middle shots...Cindy's job is to cover the lob and the wide angle (in her direction).

This is best executed when the serve is down the 'T', which takes away the wide angle return from the returner, and more often than not sets up the net person for a play at the ball.


Hi Topaz,

Different strokes for different folks. :)

Yes, Cindy can cover the lob especially if that is mostly the kind of return they are getting from her serves. Must be heaters. :)

I don't know how fast Cindy sprints to the net, but it sounds like she struggled to cover the lobs because her partner was a spectator growing roots at the net and forcing Cindy to reverse course and try to play defense. Poor Cindy.

If your play for that point is to serve and volley (again having a play agreed upon by both before every point), you cannot hesitate. Once you strike the ball, you speed towards the net. If she hits a heater and returner lobs it back, Cindy could still be on her way to the net. With her partner alertly knowing that the ball is going to be a lob, he/she can start moving back to cover it.

Admittedly, there's no cut and dry approach that will work 100%. I guess I forgot to add the YMMV to my previous post.

Cindy can take suggestions here and try to apply them on the court and hopefully some will stick and work for her.

I just hope she gets more help from her partner.

r,
eagle

Rule26
05-08-2009, 10:22 AM
Agree with preponderence of serves to the backhand and mixing up for opponents under 4.0 -> Much Depends on your doubles partner - some are more static than others. A good poacher for a partner motivates my serving game to really hit spots instead of trying to get creative with spin and power.

tfm1973
05-08-2009, 10:23 AM
I don't think the problem is that the higher level players are having an easier time with my serve, its that the serve is less dependable at landing in the box and placed where I want it than it used to be. I definitely lost something on it.

i think your problem is that you don't practice for 4 hours each day and do strength and weight conditioning for another 2 hours. and you failed to hire a nutritionist to optimize the perfect balance of carbs and proteins in your diet. :) lol. i got nuttin.

oh and if you're having problems with your serve. i'd like to challenge you right now. :twisted:

tfm1973
05-08-2009, 10:30 AM
Agree with preponderence of serves to the backhand and mixing up for opponents under 4.0 ->

i would argue it works even at the 7.0 level. you ever see nadal play federer? probably 90-95% of his serves are to the backhand. you think fed doesn't know it's going to the backhand? or that rafa doesn't know that federer knows that it's going to the backhand? doesn't matter because the moment you cheat over too much. . . BAM . . . ace to the open forehand side.

i've never played 5.0 dubs but even at the 4.0 and 4.5 level -- i still hit 90% of serves to the backhand side. it's not a secret. i only change it up when i start eating fuzz. or worse when my partner starts eating fuzz. :oops:

Dishiki
05-08-2009, 10:37 AM
Hi Topaz,

Different strokes for different folks. :)

Yes, Cindy can cover the lob especially if that is mostly the kind of return they are getting from her serves. Must be heaters. :)

I don't know how fast Cindy sprints to the net, but it sounds like she struggled to cover the lobs because her partner was a spectator growing roots at the net and forcing Cindy to reverse course and try to play defense. Poor Cindy.

If your play for that point is to serve and volley (again having a play agreed upon by both before every point), you cannot hesitate. Once you strike the ball, you speed towards the net. If she hits a heater and returner lobs it back, Cindy could still be on her way to the net. With her partner alertly knowing that the ball is going to be a lob, he/she can start moving back to cover it.

Admittedly, there's no cut and dry approach that will work 100%. I guess I forgot to add the YMMV to my previous post.

Cindy can take suggestions here and try to apply them on the court and hopefully some will stick and work for her.

I just hope she gets more help from her partner.

r,
eagle

The server is responsible for the lob. If they are serving and volleying they should not close more than a foot past the service line, so that they can cover the lob. There is absolutely no way the net person can cover an effective lob from where they are starting.

Spokewench
05-08-2009, 11:23 AM
If I do not know my opponents and they are right handed, and I serve first (which for some reason, I usually do); then I serve down the tee, down the middle as much as possible. The percentage shot coming back to my team should be easier to return because the percentage shot will be into the middle our my court. This way, we do not have to hit angles. Sometimes, I S&V, if I hit a harder serve; if I flub and hit a not so hot serve, I will stay back.

This is the type of serving I do if I do not know my opponents, or have not figured out their weaknesses yet.

If they are lefties, I may serve wide to the deuce court to see how they return from the backhand side, but I still will probably default to the down the tee serve, just because then I won't get an angle back.

I will toss in other serves to keep the other team thinking; but most of the time, I'm aiming for down the tee in dubs.

spoke

LeeD
05-08-2009, 11:44 AM
Raiden...
Personally, after 30 years of doubles, I find the stronger server or the better player does NOT necessarily hold serve more often than the weaker player.
My partners never hit a solid deep ball when they get a high forehand volley at the net. They have no overheads, no low volleys, can't poach on even service line depth overhead TO them, and generally are useless.
Me, on the other hand, can help them hold serve by always poaching deep down the center, big overhead back to within 8' of the baseline (I"m old, so can't get all the way back), can cover more than my half of the court with GOOD DEEP shots, and constantly fake and move around while at net.
So my serve gets broken because my partner can't put a way a lob that lands middle of service line right at him........:):):)
However, when my partner doublefaults 5 times, he gets broken regardless of what I do....:shock:

LuckyR
05-08-2009, 01:36 PM
When I play doubles, I usually wind up serving first (or second, if our opponents serve first). This is for various reasons. Two partners showed up rusty and wanted me to serve first. Another has a weak serve. Another feels she needs time to "warm up" before serving.

In the past, this has not been a problem. Lately, though, I have had all kinds of problems holding serve in doubles early in the match. I think two things are happening.

The real source of the problem is that I simply don't know my opponents well enough at the beginning of the match to know what will work best against them. So I stand back there preparing to serve, and I have no plan. Should I S&V? Should I stay back? Should I come in on my second shot instead of S&V? Should I aim to the BH, or should I just go down the middle? Should I ask partners who are weak volleyers to be conservative and not try to take difficult balls, or should we plan a poach? On my second ball, what should I do if the returner has come to net -- lob or drive?

As the match goes on, I tend to figure these things out and get a sense for my opponents' weaknesses and strengths, but early on is difficult. What kind of plan do you have when you serve early in a match?


Cindy- A couple of things. Serving first because your partner takes longer than you do to warm up, is completely reasonable. Defering the serve to the other team won't solve this issue as you need a few service games to read you opposition anyway.

My take is a couple of things: first, relax. It sounds like breaks happen all of the time in your matches as serves are not a big weapon. If your serve is not a weapon, it is either a liability if you are DFing all over the place (which doesn't sound like your situation) or it is a neutral mechanism to start points. Secondly, I have had good luck coming up with a "pattern" of first and second serve types and placements that I feel is optimal given many factors: warming up my shoulder, suprising the returner, ad vs deuce side as to spin and BH vs FH. Of course I sometimes deviate from this preset pattern for various reasons. But there are many 3 set doubles matches where I serve the pattern the whole way through and still suprise the deuce court returner with a slicing body serve on first serve of the third point (even though I have used that exact serve every single service game). Given that returners don't generally pay attention to the location of missed forst serves and that you are only serving in doubles once every 4th game 99% of returners never detect that I am using a pattern.

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 02:03 PM
The server is responsible for the lob. If they are serving and volleying they should not close more than a foot past the service line, so that they can cover the lob. There is absolutely no way the net person can cover an effective lob from where they are starting.

I tend to stop at the service line, even if I could get closer. 'Cause of this whole lob problem.

Here's what I think, which is the Art of Doubles way of handling lobs.

If the lob goes over my partner's head, it is her ball. If my partner sees that we have opponents who lob, she should start off the net a bit and anticipate the lob. It is not against the rules for the net player to see a lob, take a few side-shuffles back, and hit their overhead. Especially when I warned her before the point that I am coming to net so I will not be back there to help with any lobs.

I keep having this conversation with partners:

Cindy: "OK, I'm going to serve up the middle and come in to net. So be ready for the lob, because I won't be back there."

Partner: "OK. So if a lob goes over my head, I'll call a switch and you can go get it because it's on the diagonal for you."

Cindy: "No, be ready to hit your overhead. She's going to lob us all day unless we make her pay with our overheads."

Partner: "OK. So if a lob goes over my head, I'll call a switch and you can go get it because it's on the diagonal for you."

Cindy: "Um, OK. Maybe instead of starting right on top of the net, shade back a bit and that will give you a head start. And pay attention to her racket, 'cause that will give you some warning. But I know you have a good overhead, let's use it!"

Partner: "OK. So if a lob goes over my head, I'll call a switch and you can go get it because it's on the diagonal for you."

* * * * * * *

My partner's weakest overhead is many times better than my strongest running BH drive down the line. She should try to hit that overhead.

I think it is asking a lot for me as the server to be responsible for the serve, handle the wide return, handle middle returns, handle all low and hard returns that are too hot to poach, *and* handle any lobs going over my partner's head that could be played as overheads.

And the only thing partner is supposed to do is protect the alley? No wonder I can't hold.

Cindy -- who has deemed herself incompatible with one partner because she hugged the net and considered 0% of lobs to be her responsibility

Topaz
05-08-2009, 02:29 PM
I tend to stop at the service line, even if I could get closer. 'Cause of this whole lob problem.

Here's what I think, which is the Art of Doubles way of handling lobs.

If the lob goes over my partner's head, it is her ball. If my partner sees that we have opponents who lob, she should start off the net a bit and anticipate the lob. It is not against the rules for the net player to see a lob, take a few side-shuffles back, and hit their overhead. Especially when I warned her before the point that I am coming to net so I will not be back there to help with any lobs.


Not if she is already at the net!

You are the one who has the better play...it is going over her head. As a good net person, she should be up, closer to the net, and ready to volley. Also, she is in front...you can see her, but she can not see you.

By all means, if it is a short lob, then she can step back and hit her overhead. However, since you are the one not yet at net...you have the better play at the ball.

Her job = protect the alley and *anything* that comes to the middle. If you put your serve at the T, she should be volleying in the middle. The idea here is, if you put a serve at the 'T', the net person is essentially giving up the alley...because that is going to be one h*ll of a return for the receiver to hit. Very low percentage, and if they try it, they will most likely miss it. More likely, the receiver will hit toward the middle (then the net player gets it) or lob (your ball) or try wide to the server.

As you come in, you should not try to close too close to the net...don't go passed your partner, or neither of you will be able to get the lob.

Now, if you're starting off with your net person further back, of course, this won't work...but I thought we were assuming a net player *at* the net, ready to volley. Lobs should not be her responsibility.

My .02! :) YMMV.

Dishiki
05-08-2009, 02:34 PM
I think it is asking a lot for me as the server to be responsible for the serve, handle the wide return, handle middle returns, handle all low and hard returns that are too hot to poach, *and* handle any lobs going over my partner's head that could be played as overheads.

And the only thing partner is supposed to do is protect the alley? No wonder I can't hold.


I agree, you are not responsible for all of those things, and your partner is responsible for a great many more. If you serve up the middle, your partner should be taking anything in the middle, unless it is low and away. She should give her alley away. If the opponent can hit a winner from the middle down her alley, good for her, it's a low percentage shot. Secondly, you aren't covering a wide shot if you serve down the middle. You are cutting off the return at the service line. And you should be cutting off the lob. Your partner is thinking or should be thinking "serve down the middle, move my butt and cut off the return." They are going to be in no position to handle a lob, because they should be angling either towards the net or laterally across. If you encounter someone who is killing you with lobs, have your partner start in the same spot, but then once the serve is hit, drop to the service line. You essentially switch the balance of the net in that instance; you've become the "terminator" and she the set up person.

From reading alot of your posts, I think part of your problem is partnerships. You seem to have a lot of players that can do only what they can do, and will NEVER try to adapt. If you can't adapt you will lose. I am constantly shifting strategies during a match, and my partners are always open to trying something new.

I'll also go back to deferring serve. I know you still have to read the players and how they return, but it gets your blood flowing and relaxes you. You have no pressure that first return of service game. If you break great, if not who cares. Plus, you will most likely get to see how the server hits some groundstrokes, which will give you a clue as to what you can exploit when they return.

Dishiki
05-08-2009, 02:35 PM
Topaz, you beat me to the punch, and I agree with everything you said.

Topaz
05-08-2009, 02:36 PM
I agree, you are not responsible for all of those things, and your partner is responsible for a great many more. If you serve up the middle, your partner should be taking anything in the middle, unless it is low and away. She should give her alley away. If the opponent can hit a winner from the middle down her alley, good for her, it's a low percentage shot. Secondly, you aren't covering a wide shot if you serve down the middle. You are cutting off the return at the service line. And you should be cutting off the lob. Your partner is thinking or should be thinking "serve down the middle, move my butt and cut off the return." They are going to be in no position to handle a lob, because they should be angling either towards the net or laterally across. If you encounter someone who is killing you with lobs, have your partner start in the same spot, but then once the serve is hit, drop to the service line. You essentially switch the balance of the net in that instance; you've become the "terminator" and she the set up person.
.

Yes, yes, yes...this is what I was trying to say...only you've done a much better job with it!

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 02:40 PM
Topaz, in my experience it is impossible to maintain control of the net -- which is the advantage I am seeking by S&V -- unless my partner is willing to hit her overhead.

Yes, some lobs are deep and too high to reach. Not as many as my partners seem to think. I mean, they have to try to reach these balls in singles. Yet in doubles, there is way too much abdication of responsibility for lobs and unwillingness to back up, IMHO.

The other thing is that I think a lot of ladies start too close to the net. This is because they are not comfortable volleying from the middle of the box.

If you are playing lob queens -- if you are seeing lob returns -- the server's partner *has* to adjust. It is reasonable when your partner is serving to start at the middle of the box or even farther back. You can from that position creep forward as the returner is hitting, or just split-step and step into your volley, or maintain that deeper position to better attack the lob.

I think the servers' partners get into a mind-set that their only job is to poach (and few do even that!). They have an additional responsibility, IMHO. They have to help punish and discourage the lob, and that requires anticipating overheads. If I see myself getting lobbed, the first thing I do is start away from the net, looking to hit an overhead. If the returner tries to put it at my feet, then I will simply have to play a more defensive volley.

Xisbum
05-08-2009, 03:16 PM
For what it's worth, this is what one local teaching pro says about positioning in doubles:

Wonder why the SCWDC Rating Team has not moved you up although you make great shots? Good chance that your court positioning (or lack thereof) is a factor. Though you make a few great volleys, you are being lobbed over or passed and your team is losing more points because of you than you are winning.
*If many of the points your team plays end up with your partner covering a lob over your head, you are at fault.

* The key rule in court positioning: You are responsible for every shot which comes to your half of the court! Your half of the court is divided lengthwise by the center strap of the net back to the hash mark on the baseline. If you're at net and think you just have to yell, "Yours" or "Switch" and it's your partner's problem, you are wrong. Sure, even top teams are lobbed over once in a while, but not often.

At net, position yourself so you are seldom passed or lobbed over.
- Where to stand at net. Stand no closer than halfway between the net and the service line, plus one step back unless you are tall or a great jumper. Sure, when you stand close to net, it is easier to make volleys. But, meanwhile, your opponents can easily lob over you and put your team in a tough defensive position.
- Stand a little back from the middle of the court and move forward to make a point-ending volley. If your volley is not a winner, get back!
- Most people can make volleys when they are standing close to net. We look for people who can hit low volleys - they are the ones who move up.

Stand in the middle of the service box. In addition to standing more than halfway between the net and the service line, you should stand halfway between the singles sideline and the center service line. Sure, you might get passed down the line once in a while, but you are protecting the most vulnerable part of your team's court -- the middle. Remember than the net is at its lowest at the center strap - 3 feet. Most teams hit a majority of their shots down the middle, so you should protect it.

I think the second * is most germane to this discussion.

Now another teaching pro might say something entirely different, but thought I'd throw this hat into the ring to see what happens. :-)

Topaz
05-08-2009, 03:28 PM
^^^That's from the ski club emails, right? Personally, I've seen some really ridiculous stuff come in some of those emails.

Again, I've been taught (=beaten into my brain) that the net person is in charge. In fact, when I play with a new partner, I tell them...if you go, I'll cover. I can see them, they can't see me. It is easier for me to move up and over, then for them to move back.

I want them tight on the net, ready to volley, and covering that middle and the high percentage shot. If I'm *already* at the baseline (serving) then the lob over their head is really my shot. I don't think my partner, who is at the net, should have to backpedal and hit what will be a very weak shot, when I can simply scoot over and hit a stronger shot. By not coming all the way in and even with my partner (think kind of a staggered position between the two of us), we can cover just about anything. However, if I come barreling in after my serve, and expect my partner to move back...we've totally given up the offensive position that you get when you serve and have the advantage of putting the first ball of the point into the court.

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 03:29 PM
That teaching pro is correct, IMHO.

I swear, there are a lot of people who are terrified of hitting an overhead. Just the other night, I was doing a S&V from the ad court. Return is a high ball over my partner's head. I was on my way in, so was able to play it as a high FH volley. My biggest problem was that my partner was completely in my way. On account of how the ball was so low and I was so close to her when I volleyed it that I cannot see how it didn't occur to her to just hit her overhead.

Here's what Art of Doubles (1st ed) says about this issue:

"If you are the server's partner, you must remember that your server is coming to the net fully focused on his job, expecting to have to play a wide volley or back you up if a ball returned up the middle is unpoachable. . . . . If, as the net player, you expect your partner to cover those volleys *and* be responsible for all service return lobs, then the question is: What are *you* doing out there?"

These growing pains are, I think, the remnants of 2.5-3.5 doubles play. At those levels, the switch play is the default. Lob? No problem, just sidle on over to the other half of the court and see if your partner can run it down. Heck, you don't even have to say "Switch." Your partner is glued to the baseline, so she knows to start running as soon as the ball is struck.

I'm playing 4.0 now, and that attitude is getting me -- getting *us* -- killed. I *have* to be able to S&V sometimes. These 4.0 women do to me exactly what I do to people when I return: Smack it and come to net. If I don't S&V, then I am under immediate pressure. Not to mention that I need to S&V to ward off sharp angles and drop shots, because I will never reach the best of these without a S&V head start.

So I do want the S&V option open to me. If my partner expects me to get every lob that is thrown up -- if she is no threat with her overhead -- I have no choice but to stay back. That's a problem.

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 03:43 PM
I am playing a 4.0 match tonight. I am going to keep a mental tally of how many lobs go over my partner's head and how many poaches she makes. I will report back. Stay tuned . . . .

Cindy -- thinking this exercise might help her keep her mind off of the score :(

Xisbum
05-08-2009, 03:45 PM
That teaching pro is correct, IMHO.

I swear, there are a lot of people who are terrified of hitting an overhead. Just the other night, I was doing a S&V from the ad court. Return is a high ball over my partner's head. I was on my way in, so was able to play it as a high FH volley. My biggest problem was that my partner was completely in my way. On account of how the ball was so low and I was so close to her when I volleyed it that I cannot see how it didn't occur to her to just hit her overhead.

Here's what Art of Doubles (1st ed) says about this issue:

"If you are the server's partner, you must remember that your server is coming to the net fully focused on his job, expecting to have to play a wide volley or back you up if a ball returned up the middle is unpoachable. . . . . If, as the net player, you expect your partner to cover those volleys *and* be responsible for all service return lobs, then the question is: What are *you* doing out there?"

These growing pains are, I think, the remnants of 2.5-3.5 doubles play. At those levels, the switch play is the default. Lob? No problem, just sidle on over to the other half of the court and see if your partner can run it down. Heck, you don't even have to say "Switch." Your partner is glued to the baseline, so she knows to start running as soon as the ball is struck.

I'm playing 4.0 now, and that attitude is getting me -- getting *us* -- killed. I *have* to be able to S&V sometimes. These 4.0 women do to me exactly what I do to people when I return: Smack it and come to net. If I don't S&V, then I am under immediate pressure. Not to mention that I need to S&V to ward off sharp angles and drop shots, because I will never reach the best of these without a S&V head start.

So I do want the S&V option open to me. If my partner expects me to get every lob that is thrown up -- if she is no threat with her overhead -- I have no choice but to stay back. That's a problem.

I've heard this same thing - cover your half of the court - from teaching pros in every clinic and lesson I've ever taken in Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and here. Since I've always been more comfortable as a singles baseline player, it's been really hard for me to accept this doubles concept - but I think it's the difference between 3.0-3.5 and 4.0 and above doubles play. You can get away with "switch" and baseline play in 3.0 and in many 3.5 matches, but never in 4.0.

As you say, it gets you killed.

But then again what do I know? :)

Topaz
05-08-2009, 03:51 PM
Let me be clear, I never meant for the server to stay back at the baseline. Merely to not come crashing all the way in, even with the net person, so that they are able to cover the lob that goes over their partner's head. I also never said that the net person shouldn't hit an overhead. My comments were about positioning, and what type of ball each person should be looking to cover. It won't work, however, unless you place the serve at the 'T'. You also need a brave net player...not someone who won't commit and be afraid. (<---that would be me btw!)

The court can be divided more than one way, and which way you should pay attention to changes not just within the match, but also within the point sometimes.

This was taught to me by a pro who spent a significant time at Bollitieri's, so I'm pretty sure it is legit, and not for 'lower level' play.

Xis, I'm pretty sure I've seen the pros 'switch'...not sure what you mean by saying that higher lever players don't do it?

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 04:02 PM
Topaz, I take a clinic with a pro and three 3.5 women. We work on volleys and approach volleys, among other things. And then at the end of each lesson, we play a few games of No Bounce Doubles.

No Bounce Doubles (in case anyone doesn't know) is when you play doubles, but the only time the ball can bounce is when the serve hits the court. If it bounces after that in your court, you lose the point.

In No Bounce Doubles, the server must S&V, obviously. This exercise has shown me that switch plays do not work at all when the server must S&V. Even if the server stops before reaching the service line (as I do -- I'm not fast enough to come closer anyway), she simply will not catch up with a good lob. The only one with a play on that ball is the server's partner.

As a result, what I am seeing from all of us students in the clinic is that the server's partners are easing off of the net some and are taking their lob responsibilities more seriously. So why shouldn't they do the same thing in a match?

I'd far prefer my partner to hit a weak, defensive overhead rather than have me turn and run down a lob that went behind her. 'Cause you know what these crafty 4.0 women do when they see my ponytail bobbing as I try to run to the baseline to reach the lob? They come to net.

And they hit their overhead off of my defensive lob. Point over.

Kaptain Karl
05-08-2009, 04:07 PM
Wow! Three pages already....

I tell my HS Boys, "In Dubs the Server doesn't (usually) win or lose the game; the Net Player does."

So ... what's wrong with your Partners?







(You did note the "usually," right?) If your Partner knows where you are serving and you are hitting your spots ... and your serve is consistently being broken, your Partner isn't doing her job.

- KK

sureshs
05-08-2009, 04:32 PM
What kind of plan do you have when you serve early in a match?

Same as I have late in the match>>>> don't double fault, get my first serve in.


Drakulie is on a roll today :-)

Xisbum
05-08-2009, 04:46 PM
Xis, I'm pretty sure I've seen the pros 'switch'...not sure what you mean by saying that higher lever players don't do it?

As I said, what the heck do I know? But any switches you see in the pros and at higher levels of NTRP play are on predetermined plays - the team sets it up during their little "talk" between points or the net person signals the server that he will poach.

But, hey, I didn't to any fancy school, so what the heck do I know?

:)

cak
05-08-2009, 04:50 PM
If my partner is hitting serves that are being consistently lobbed over my head or dropped short on her side I will back up a few feet to cover the lob. My partner has already ceded the offensive position with the serve they can return however they want, so why make it worse by making her cover the whole court.

Now, in the situation where my partner likes to serve and volley on every serve, I'm thinking poaching would be stupid unless it's a true floater. If I cut her off on the poach and they make a lucky stab on something I didn't put away most of our court is open, as we are tangled together at the net. This is where communication is key.

Xisbum
05-08-2009, 05:19 PM
My, oh my, how do things get so testy sometimes? CAK, you are probably right on the money; sometimes you gotta play it by ear. ;-)

Steady Eddy
05-08-2009, 05:54 PM
Serving in doubles is like pitching in baseball. If a pitcher has a good infield, she doesn't have to go for strkeouts, she can let them hit the ball because the infield can be depended on to get the out. What if the infield sucks? Then the pitcher has to do it all herself, and must try to strikeout each batter.

A doubles server is different than one in singles. In singles you're going for some occasional 'free' points. In doubles you're not looking for the low percentage, unreturnable serve. You want one they can get to, but must handle ackwardly because of funny spin. You want them to spoon it up so your partner can jump on it. Some servers don't get it, even with a good partner at the net, they go for an ace on their first serve, then when it misses, just float one in, that the opponents can tee off on. Cindy, I think you know enough about doubles so that you wouldn't be doing that. I suspect that you've got partners who plant themselves up there and think it's all up to the server. They fail to get-in-the-head of the opponents and cause them to make mistakes. The opponents get to keep their eye on the ball because they know the net player is going to be predictable. To sum up; holding serve isn't the job of the server.

eagle
05-08-2009, 06:35 PM
Cindy,

I think you pretty know what you are supposed and want to do. :)

Good luck with the match and your partner.

Looks like you need a new one since you don't have one right now. :)

r,
eagle

Cindysphinx
05-08-2009, 09:19 PM
OK, I kept in mind the excellent advice in this thread. I held each time I served except once, when I made four gawdawful errors to lose my serve. So that is considerable improvement.

What I did was watch how they hit in the warm-up. One had Nadal-like topspin on her FH and could really smack the ball. The other was steady off of both sides but didn't really drive the ball.

Lucky me, they lined up with the one with the fierce FH on the deuce side. Whew! So I just sliced most serves to her BH up the middle. Jackpot. If I missed and she hit her FH, she missed sometimes because we were playing on clay and the slice was throwing her off. For the other one, I just served up the middle because there was no chance or reaching her BH anyway.

I did have one last service game at 2-4, when the entire team had finished their matches. It went on forever. For once in my sorry life, I strung together enough decent shots to survive. I held. I felt pretty good about it!!

Oh, and I said I would count the number of poaches my partner had and overheads.

Poaches (defined as offensively moving to pick off a service return, not just volleying an easy sitter that comes to your racket) = 0.

Overheads = 5, maybe. This is actual progress. My partner knows she needs to get these balls, because I was coming to net a lot. This time, she really tried, so two snaps up for her.

The problem we are having now is that she doesn't say anything when she sets up to hit these balls, so I never know whether she is going to bail out at the last second and say "Switch." This is a remnant from our days as 3.0, when switching was the default.

This actually happened once. I was coming in (and I will often say "I'm in!" so she knows I'm not back there). Ball goes up. It looks like a tough overhead, so I stop closing the net and stop in no-man's land, waiting to see what she is going to do. She raised her racket for an overhead and backpedaled. I was still on my side of the court, shuffling my feet and bouncing around. Then she shouted "Switch!" and ducked, and the ball went unplayed. She said my movement made her think I was going to hit the ball.

So yeah, we need to work on this because neither of us actually calls these lobs with authority, which causes mix-ups. We are going to try to set up some practice doubles where we will ask our opponents to lob a lot, and the person who is not being lobbed will *not* cross to cover the lob unless the person being lobbed asks for help.

AndrewD
05-09-2009, 01:02 AM
Karl,
I disagree . My opinion is that the game is won or lost by the server. They're the ones who determine where the serve goes, if it goes in, how fast it is and how deep it is. In 99% of cases, everything the net player does is entirely dependent on what the server has done first. Get passed down the line, 99% of the time it's because the serve didn't break/swing/slide enough or was just too short (especially on second serves). Get stung by a lob - 99% of the time its because the serve was too short and gave the receiver too much time. Miss an intercept - 75% of the time its because the serve didn't adequately set-up the net man or the net player has gone for a desperation cross (thanks to the server not hitting the right spots).

In my opinion, most games are lost in club level doubles because the server has no idea how to place the ball in order to give the netman an easy volley. Instead of setting his part for the volley he's serving like it was a singles match.

jayserinos99
05-09-2009, 02:00 AM
I tell my HS Boys, "In Dubs the Server doesn't (usually) win or lose the game; the Net Player does."

So ... what's wrong with your Partners?

(You did note the "usually," right?) If your Partner knows where you are serving and you are hitting your spots ... and your serve is consistently being broken, your Partner isn't doing her job.

- KK

Karl,
I disagree . My opinion is that the game is won or lost by the server. They're the ones who determine where the serve goes, if it goes in, how fast it is and how deep it is. In 99% of cases, everything the net player does is entirely dependent on what the server has done first. Get passed down the line, 99% of the time it's because the serve didn't break/swing/slide enough or was just too short (especially on second serves). Get stung by a lob - 99% of the time its because the serve was too short and gave the receiver too much time. Miss an intercept - 75% of the time its because the serve didn't adequately set-up the net man or the net player has gone for a desperation cross (thanks to the server not hitting the right spots).

In my opinion, most games are lost in club level doubles because the server has no idea how to place the ball in order to give the netman an easy volley. Instead of setting his part for the volley he's serving like it was a singles match.

I agree with both of you with some caveats. First, I agree with KK because when the server is serving, the job of their partner at the net is to be the 'tip of the spear' so to speak, to be aggressive and punish weak returns. If either I or my partner isn't holding serve fairly easy (even against pretty good returners) and if we're hitting our spots when we serve, I have to think the net person should be a bit more aggressive regardless of result. Second, I agree with Andrew because the server dictates how the point will start; the key being that it all depends on EXECUTION. Strategy can't be implemented if the players can't execute consistently.

120mphBodyServe
05-09-2009, 02:13 AM
I know this might sound unrealistic..
But you're not watching enough tapes of Sampras, Becker & Ivanisevic.
GO TO WORK.

raiden031
05-09-2009, 03:51 AM
Karl,
I disagree . My opinion is that the game is won or lost by the server. They're the ones who determine where the serve goes, if it goes in, how fast it is and how deep it is. In 99% of cases, everything the net player does is entirely dependent on what the server has done first. Get passed down the line, 99% of the time it's because the serve didn't break/swing/slide enough or was just too short (especially on second serves). Get stung by a lob - 99% of the time its because the serve was too short and gave the receiver too much time. Miss an intercept - 75% of the time its because the serve didn't adequately set-up the net man or the net player has gone for a desperation cross (thanks to the server not hitting the right spots).

In my opinion, most games are lost in club level doubles because the server has no idea how to place the ball in order to give the netman an easy volley. Instead of setting his part for the volley he's serving like it was a singles match.

Agreed. Obviously it is important that the net player can do their job, but if the server doesn't start the point intelligently, they are going to struggle.

raiden031
05-09-2009, 03:57 AM
On the topic of the net player getting lobbed on a service return, I don't think it is the net player's responsibility. It is unreasonable that someone who is in the middle to front third of the service box needs to run down a lob when the server who is between the baseline and serviceline is in much better position after they split step during the S&V.

Obviously it is a no-brainer that if the lob is short, then the net player should overhead it, but if the lob is unreachable, the server should take over. If the lob becomes a frequent return, then the net player should start playing deeper in the box to increase their ability to reach the ball, but again if the lobs are so good that they still go over, then the server should take them.

Cindysphinx
05-09-2009, 07:03 AM
No argument there, Raiden. If the lob is too good, the net player probably can't reach it. And the server probably can't reach it. Those are called winners.

I'm talking about the intermediate ball. The one that the aggressive net player could reach and would try to reach if she were playing singles.

Cindysphinx
05-09-2009, 07:07 AM
I disagree, AndrewD. In my experience, servers usually lose serve because their partners behave like potted plants.

This is because the serves I am seeing aren't nearly strong enough to push the receiver around like you describe. So the server has to make a heroic charge to the net, stay back and rally, and chase down lobs over the net player's head.

While the net player contributes nothing but the occasional error.

In our doubles clinic, our pro says that the two net players' jobs are to win the point. If the server's partmer is passive, the server will be broken, especially if the receiver's partner is doing her job.

Steve1954
05-09-2009, 07:15 AM
So, Cindy, you've answered your own question. If you're not holding serve, maybe your partner needs to play better.

Full disclosure, my partner and I lost our doubles game last Sunday. My partner was broken three times. I resolve to do better tomorrow.

raiden031
05-09-2009, 08:02 AM
No argument there, Raiden. If the lob is too good, the net player probably can't reach it. And the server probably can't reach it. Those are called winners.

I'm talking about the intermediate ball. The one that the aggressive net player could reach and would try to reach if she were playing singles.

I guess my whole point is that the net player should not be running down lobs on the return that they can't reach for an overhead because they are in no position to do so. There have been many times where I as the S&Ver run down lobs over my net player's head and successfully get to them because I was in better position and have the wheels to pull it off. Its not that hard to redirect your movement after you split step and notice the lob.

I disagree, AndrewD. In my experience, servers usually lose serve because their partners behave like potted plants.

This is because the serves I am seeing aren't nearly strong enough to push the receiver around like you describe. So the server has to make a heroic charge to the net, stay back and rally, and chase down lobs over the net player's head.


When I played 7.0 mixed a 3.0 partner, if I served well I almost always held serve even with a potted plant at the net, whereas it was nearly impossible for my partner to hold serve with me playing aggressively at the net. Thats why i think there is more weight in the server than the net player when it comes to holding serve, although both must do their jobs to hold routinely.

I think what you are describing only applies to seriously crap tennis. No offense to you because I know you are doing your best to play good tennis, but you can't help the way your partners play without doing whatever you can to get to a higher level where you are associated with better players.

How can one really debate effective doubles strategy when you have to deal with very deficient players. The problem is we have people who play at 4.0-4.5 debating strategy with people who play with 3.0-3.5 players whom sometimes don't even know how to hit an overhead. A 3.0-3.5 match will have very different dynamics than a 4.5 match.

My philosophy lately is that I worked too hard to be stuck playing tennis with people who don't know how to hit an overhead or poach a shot. If I get stuck with that type of partner than I have no expectations for holding serve, breaking serve, or winning the match. All strategy goes out the window.

Steady Eddy
05-09-2009, 08:18 AM
Karl,
I disagree . My opinion is that the game is won or lost by the server. They're the ones who determine where the serve goes, if it goes in, how fast it is and how deep it is. In 99% of cases, everything the net player does is entirely dependent on what the server has done first. Get passed down the line, 99% of the time it's because the serve didn't break/swing/slide enough or was just too short (especially on second serves). Get stung by a lob - 99% of the time its because the serve was too short and gave the receiver too much time. Miss an intercept - 75% of the time its because the serve didn't adequately set-up the net man or the net player has gone for a desperation cross (thanks to the server not hitting the right spots).

In my opinion, most games are lost in club level doubles because the server has no idea how to place the ball in order to give the netman an easy volley. Instead of setting his part for the volley he's serving like it was a singles match.Are you saying that last time you played, your partner never held serve? :)

You're right, though, in that many serve in doubles just like it's a singles match.

Cindysphinx
05-09-2009, 08:48 AM
Raiden, I am not talking about combo or mixed, where one player might be rated lower than the other.

Obviously, all bets are off when you as a 4.0 guy take the court with a 3.0 woman partner in mixed. In that case, you are supposed to hold with no assistance from your partner. All she is supposed to do is stand there and block balls back that come her way. When she is serving, your job is to play pretty much the whole court. The guys I see who are successful playing with 3.0 women are All Over The Place. They are a nuisance at net, never in the same spot twice. They get into your head and make you miss the woman's weak serve.

And of course, it isn't the end of the world if your partner doesn't hold, because you broke the other woman, right? :)

This not to say that what you feel isn't a legitimate frustration. I have had quite enough of 6.5 combo. I run myself ragged compensating for my partner's limitations, I don't ask that she adjust her game at all, and I find the endless 1-up, 1-back formation to be as dull as dishwater. I'd rather get smoked in 7.5 combo.

No, my remarks in this debate are about on-level, same-gender play. That is when traditional doubles concepts come into play. I mean, you don't see any chapters in doubles strategy books entitled "How To Play The Whole Court Because Your Partner Is Weak," right? No, these books seem to assume that partners are of comparable skill (and they seem to assume everyone has all the shots!).

It's the transition between what you describe as crap tennis to higher level tennis that is difficult, and is a transition we all have to make if we improve. At the lower level, it is so easy to get away with playing every point of a match exactly the same. I am finding that when you play better teams, you have to have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C if you are losing. And my partners are clinging to Plan A -- the way they always play -- like grim death.

I think that is what is frustrating me the most in making this transition. It is going to take time for anyone to adjust to a higher level and find additional gears -- ways to adapt what you're doing to what your opponets are doing if they are beating you.

Eh, I already have enough on my plate dealing with my own efforts to transition. I had no overhead put-aways yesterday (I was hitting defensive ones while we were two-up so my partner wouldn't have to try to run down the lob), and I had one horrific and important miss. I am going to go practice that shot, as I don't think I shuffled backward properly even once.

raiden031
05-09-2009, 09:04 AM
No, my remarks in this debate are about on-level, same-gender play. That is when traditional doubles concepts come into play. I mean, you don't see any chapters in doubles strategy books entitled "How To Play The Whole Court Because Your Partner Is Weak," right? No, these books seem to assume that partners are of comparable skill (and they seem to assume everyone has all the shots!).


The issue is that even with a same-level partner, you are still dealing with partners who don't even know how to hit basic strokes or refuse to hit them even when the opportunity is there. I think these books assume that both players are at least willing to hit with these strokes, even if they aren't necessarily a strength.


It's the transition between what you describe as crap tennis to higher level tennis that is difficult, and is a transition we all have to make if we improve. At the lower level, it is so easy to get away with playing every point of a match exactly the same. I am finding that when you play better teams, you have to have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C if you are losing. And my partners are clinging to Plan A -- the way they always play -- like grim death.


Even when I was just a 3.0, I never played crap tennis. I always played advanced tennis (at least to the best of my knowledge), even though my execution was terrible. Even when you can't execute consistently, by using the correct strategies, you will make things happen and open up opportunities, even if you can't capitalize on them because your skill is lacking.

But to me its a lost cause when you have a partner that ducks an overhead opportunity, leaving you to run back and hit a defensive lob (when the point should be over). Thats why I'd rather partner with my previous self (as I was as a 3.0) then partner with one of your partners who might be better than I was at winning, but doesn't even try to 'make things happen'.

I just lost patience with that kind of nonsense.

Cindysphinx
05-09-2009, 09:56 AM
The issue is that even with a same-level partner, you are still dealing with partners who don't even know how to hit basic strokes or refuse to hit them even when the opportunity is there. I think these books assume that both players are at least willing to hit with these strokes, even if they aren't necessarily a strength.

Yeah, but . . .

I do some things well, but I would be kidding myself to think that I have a complete game of well-honed strengths. All of us have our comfort zones. If someone's comfort zone does not include S&V, they aren't going to S&V, ever. If someone doesn't think they can volley unless they are three feet from the net, then they won't come in, ever.

I mean, I totally get what you are saying. My single biggest frustration with partners is that everyone at 3.5-4.0 should be programmed to follow good shots to the net. I mean, you hit a lob over two people at net and send one running to the back curtain, you simply must come in. I have partners who, again and again, do not follow great shots to the net and let our opponents off easy.

But I can't go so far as to say these ladies don't have "the basic shots." They do.

Bottom line, all of us want to play with a partner stronger than we are. There just aren't enough of them to go around.



Even when I was just a 3.0, I never played crap tennis.

Really? I did.

I always played advanced tennis (at least to the best of my knowledge), even though my execution was terrible. Even when you can't execute consistently, by using the correct strategies, you will make things happen and open up opportunities, even if you can't capitalize on them because your skill is lacking.

Oh, I *thought* I was playing advanced tennis to the best of my knowledge. I can now see that, at 3.0, I was not. Part of this was just that I was still in the learning process, and the mere fact that I read something about doubles strategy in a book did not mean I always positioned according to what I read.

An example: At 3.0, I positioned much too close to the net. It was not until fairly recently that I have learned that it is possible and desireable to play off the net a bit. You can cover more court that way, you have more reaction time, and you have room to step forward into volleys, which results in better volleys. So I would pound volleys from a tight position and think I was playing advanced tennis when in fact I was playing crap tennis.

But to me its a lost cause when you have a partner that ducks an overhead opportunity, leaving you to run back and hit a defensive lob (when the point should be over). Thats why I'd rather partner with my previous self (as I was as a 3.0) then partner with one of your partners who might be better than I was at winning, but doesn't even try to 'make things happen'.

I wouldn't want to play doubles with my 3.0 self. Ick.

I just lost patience with that kind of nonsense.

Me too.

I mean, I played five seasons of 6.5 combo (and a season of 5.5 combo) where I was almost always the stronger player on the court. I think it did my game a lot of good. It was invaluable for learning to poach. For learning how to adjust my game to my partner and my opponents. For learning how to be aggressive, at times playing the whole court. I could continue playing 6.5 combo, I suppose.

For me, it is simply time to move on. I only can be on so many teams. I need matches where my opponents hit hard, hit with topspin, don't cough up free points, punish my weak shots. I don't get that at 6.5 at all. I cough up something weak, and I get a gift from my opponent. I think I've learned all there is to learn at 6.5.

raiden031
05-09-2009, 10:04 AM
Oh, I *thought* I was playing advanced tennis to the best of my knowledge. I can now see that, at 3.0, I was not. Part of this was just that I was still in the learning process, and the mere fact that I read something about doubles strategy in a book did not mean I always positioned according to what I read.

An example: At 3.0, I positioned much too close to the net. It was not until fairly recently that I have learned that it is possible and desireable to play off the net a bit. You can cover more court that way, you have more reaction time, and you have room to step forward into volleys, which results in better volleys. So I would pound volleys from a tight position and think I was playing advanced tennis when in fact I was playing crap tennis.


There's alot of things I did wrong as well. But the key was I made an attempt to play using good strategy and made an effort to learn the game. I'm sure alot of your 3.5 teammates have been playing tennis competitively for years. There's no excuse not to be able to S&V or put away shots at the net. Doubles is an attacking game, and if you aren't attacking, then you're not playing the game right.

Cindysphinx
05-09-2009, 10:12 AM
Is there an excuse not to S&V or put away shots at the 3.5 level?

Yes.

I say that because hardly anyone at 3.5 can reliably hit an approach volley. Without that shot, you cannot S&V. Not to mention how *a lot* of male and female 3.5 players have no BH volley. So there is only a 30% chance at any given moment that they will get something they can hit -- a FH volley.

Me, I would far prefer a doubles partner with a solid net game to one who has her strengths in other areas. But there are a lot of 3.5 women who win plenty without any net game to speak of.

Should these women learn to volley? Well, I think so. And they probably think I should learn a 1HBH slice. :)

Kaptain Karl
05-09-2009, 10:32 AM
It's my opinion that AndrewD and I are not really "at odds with each other" as much as we use different Doubles Systems. I'm not adamant that *everyone* play by my system. But I do think Cindy's thinking fits with my system very well.



My opinion is that the game is won or lost by the server. They're the ones who determine where the serve goes, if it goes in, how fast it is and how deep it is.You obviously don't use signals. (Which is fine. I have some playing partners who *detest* signaling for the Serve.) I prefer the Net Player to be like the Catcher in Baseball. The Net Player is the "Captain" for that game, calling the spots and the poaches (or no poach). Some teams' signals are so detailed, they even call *spins* on the serves, too. (Not me.)

My HS Boys learn and play by my system. And with them, I am rigid about it: Net Player makes the calls. If the Server isn't hitting his spots, it's his fault. (And a good Net Player figures this out and goes with "what's working" for the Server that match.) Of course, just like the Baseball analogy, the Server can say "No" and the Net Player should try a different signal. (After two "Noes" from the Server, just go talk to him and find out what he wants to do...!)

In 99% of cases, everything the net player does is entirely dependent on what the server has done first. Get passed down the line, 99% of the time it's because the serve didn't break/swing/slide enough or was just too short (especially on second serves). Get stung by a lob - 99% of the time its because the serve was too short and gave the receiver too much time. Miss an intercept - 75% of the time its because the serve didn't adequately set-up the net man or the net player has gone for a desperation cross (thanks to the server not hitting the right spots).And using signals solves a great deal of these problems, IMO.

In my opinion, most games are lost in club level doubles because the server has no idea how to place the ball in order to give the netman an easy volley. Instead of setting his part for the volley he's serving like it was a singles match.Most club players simply haven't had anyone hold them to higher expectations. I do.

Recently in our Drop-In Dubs I was partnered with a 9 year old boy who was as good as some of the weaker adults. I taught him my signals on a change-over and he looked at me like I was eating spiders(!). Because of his placement of his very soft serve, we won his Service games every time. Even *he* was amazed.... (I remember he missed his target one time.)


I agree with both of you with some caveats. First, I agree with KK because when the server is serving, the job of their partner at the net is to be the 'tip of the spear' so to speak, to be aggressive and punish weak returns. If either I or my partner isn't holding serve fairly easy (even against pretty good returners) and if we're hitting our spots when we serve, I have to think the net person should be a bit more aggressive regardless of result. Second, I agree with Andrew because the server dictates how the point will start; the key being that it all depends on EXECUTION. Strategy can't be implemented if the players can't execute consistently.Good clarification. I agree. Execution is kinda important....

- KK

raiden031
05-09-2009, 10:34 AM
Is there an excuse not to S&V or put away shots at the 3.5 level?

Yes.

I say that because hardly anyone at 3.5 can reliably hit an approach volley. Without that shot, you cannot S&V. Not to mention how *a lot* of male and female 3.5 players have no BH volley. So there is only a 30% chance at any given moment that they will get something they can hit -- a FH volley.

Me, I would far prefer a doubles partner with a solid net game to one who has her strengths in other areas. But there are a lot of 3.5 women who win plenty without any net game to speak of.

Should these women learn to volley? Well, I think so. And they probably think I should learn a 1HBH slice. :)

3.5 men's game isn't all that bad in my opinion. But I don't think there's any excuse for the 3.5 ladies game to be like this.

I might be unreasonable, but I think that any player by the time they are 3.5 should be able to hit any shot or execute any strategy with moderate success against other 3.5 players if they actually care about winning matches. There's a difference between having weaknesses and being completely deficient and just refusing to do things that are uncomfortable.

Cindysphinx
05-09-2009, 01:46 PM
3.5 men's game isn't all that bad in my opinion. But I don't think there's any excuse for the 3.5 ladies game to be like this.

I might be unreasonable, but I think that any player by the time they are 3.5 should be able to hit any shot or execute any strategy with moderate success against other 3.5 players if they actually care about winning matches. There's a difference between having weaknesses and being completely deficient and just refusing to do things that are uncomfortable.

No. Not even close.

A 3.5 has reached the point where she has Her Shots. The things She Loves To Do. It is a finite set of skills. Beyond that, the well is dry.

Here are descriptions of some of the stronger 3.5s on my 3.5 team, the ladies I feel comfortable playing with.

Player One: Huge first serve, weak push second serve. First serve percentage below 50%. Big FH, average BH. Pushes volleys, hides to avoid hitting a volley. Never, ever comes to net for any reason other than to retrieve a drop shot. Doesn't lob.

Player Two: Crazy fast around the court. Weak, floater serve. Cannot hit approach volley, but can punch volleys well at the net. Good placement with groundstrokes, but not much power.

Player Three: Weak serve, no transition game. Gets every ball back somehow. Hits flat off of both sides. Volleys poorly. Beats teams that play 1up, 1 back; gets destroyed if opponents take the net. Doesn't lob.

And there's me: Usually serves well due to placement and spin, but can't blast a flat serve when she needs one. FH sadly erratic, BH usually OK. Attacks net constantly, can volley from deep in the court. Can lob. Follows most every return to net. Will S&V and do pretty much anything to avoid being pinned at the baseline. Can't hit with slice or hit drop shots. Makes too many UEs on easy balls.

So. I think it is expecting *way* too much to say that a 3.5 woman should be able to execute any strategy. In fact, I could do a similar analysis with my three 3.5 male mixed partners. They don't have complete games either.

raiden031
05-09-2009, 01:55 PM
So. I think it is expecting *way* too much to say that a 3.5 woman should be able to execute any strategy. In fact, I could do a similar analysis with my three 3.5 male mixed partners. They don't have complete games either.

Hence the clause, "'if they care about winning matches". Alot of these players seem better suited for singles where you can just get the ball back and win on opponents' UEs.

AndrewD
05-09-2009, 03:01 PM
Are you saying that last time you played, your partner never held serve? :)

You're right, though, in that many serve in doubles just like it's a singles match.

Funny you should mention that, but it's almost true.

Fortunately, in club tennis, most players aren't very good so you can get away with serving as though its a singles match. Trouble comes when you run into guys who understand how doubles is supposed to be played. Actually, I think that's one of the reasons people (on this board and elsewhere) complain so much when they lose to guys who dink, chip and lob. People get frustrated because, when they serve to those guys as though it were a singles match, they don't return like its a singles match. They make their returns, place them deep and come in, put them at the server's feet or lob to put the server's team off balance. They don't hit it hard (couldn't find anywhere in the rule book that says you have to) but, in other words, they play doubles.

Carlito
05-13-2009, 07:59 AM
So a typical service game might be . . . I serve up the middle and come in. Returner cracks a return at my shoes, which I miss. Love-15.

Next serve is up the middle, and I stay back, still stung by my missed volley. Returner hits a floater. My partner dumps it into the net.

Next serve is up the middle. I stay back and rally with deuce court player for a few shots. I miss first.

Next serve is out wide. I come in. Returner lobs my partner, and I can't run down the lob. Game over.

Just a guess, but maybe you are just over thinking things. What ever shot you decide to take, you just have to make sure you make it. If I read the above correctly your team is making 3 unforced errors per game. That means you are giving away 75% of the game. Its as simple as not giving away free points.

120mphBodyServe
05-13-2009, 05:44 PM
Thanks for ignoring my post. :mad:
WORK ON YOUR SERVE!!!!!
GGRRR

Cindysphinx
05-13-2009, 05:49 PM
Uh oh. Did I miss something?

Come on, BodyServe. We're pals, remember?

Bah!!! :)

120mphBodyServe
05-13-2009, 05:56 PM
I know this might sound unrealistic..
But you're not watching enough tapes of Sampras, Becker & Ivanisevic.
GO TO WORK.

Yes Cindy you missed this.. Sure, we're pals...
I'm just annoyed...
If you want some kind of plan to get out of the 3.5 zone, then tell me.
I'm not going to type out paragraphs of info unless I KNOW I'm going to be heard....

Cindysphinx
05-13-2009, 06:04 PM
:: scrolls furiously through entire thread::

But . . . but . . .

You said go watch tapes of Sampras and others right? I saw that. I've done that, although not in direct response to your post.

I mean, this thread has gone on for five pages and has veered in several directions. I apologize if I didn't reply directly to you. I just didn't have anything to, you know, *say.*

120mphBodyServe
05-13-2009, 06:06 PM
You need to start taking elements of some of the best servers in the world, and start using them in your own service motion...
That's what I really should have said...
Are you reading any instructional books?

Cindysphinx
05-14-2009, 04:29 AM
Sort of. I have one instructional book that I've read. Most of the tweaking I'm doing these days is based on things a couple of old dudes have told me about my motion (toss more into the court, keep left arm up) and things I saw on video.

I mean, there are limits on how much I'm going to improve my serve. I'm relatively short and relatively old. I'd like to get my motion a bit more solid, but I don't think a weak serve is the main reason I'm not holding.

120mphBodyServe
05-14-2009, 05:10 AM
Sounds like you need some Co Enzyme Q10, and if you can get hold of it, and can afford it..
Human Growth Hormone....