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Cindysphinx
05-10-2009, 06:22 PM
We doubles players talk about poaching off of service returns quite a lot. I'm starting to wonder whether it is just talk.

In my last match, I kind of noticed that I hadn't done much poaching. Sure, I was picking off balls during rallies and handling any floaters in the appropriate way. But I wasn't doing much about service returns -- very little shooting across the net to pick off a service return.

I decided to Get Serious and see what happened. I'm not sure of the number, but I managed to pick off a few service returns in the second set. Maybe five? Of these, three were winners and two were returned. Not a huge number, I admit.

So. Not a lot of poaching off of returns is going on when I play. Yet much of what we discuss here presumes that the net player is picking off service returns. We say she should start the point close to the net, the better for putting away service returns. We say she should confer with the server about placement of the serve, the better to anticipate when a poach will be possible.

Yet at my level, there is so little poaching going on that I am starting to wonder whether it makes sense to do any of this strategizing. I mean, I just confessed that I'm not poaching much. Worse, I have partners I have played with for years who, so far as I can remember, have never once took off aggressively to try to poach a service return. So why keep positioning and communicating to plan for something that Ain't Gonna Happen?

I think it would be interesting to see exactly how many service return poaches us doubles players get in a typical match, with "poach" being defined as a ball you move to aggressively and offensively. I'm not talking about floaters that come right to your racket that any small child could put away.

I have a match tomorrow. I'll keep a mental tally of my poaches and report back. I'd be interested to hear how many service returns you other doubles players are poaching.

J011yroger
05-10-2009, 06:50 PM
Do you signal poaches or just opportunity poach?

Sometimes I just opportunity poach.

Other times I signal, poach/fake/stay.

My favorite is to have my partner serve (usually a 2nd) out wide, I fake early, and then volley through the hole when he tries to pass DTL.

Most times I poach he brings it down the T, most times when I fake, he goes wide.

J

Cindysphinx
05-10-2009, 06:52 PM
Nope, I don't signal poaches. I don't think we have enough serve placement for that just yet. So these will be opportunistic poaches.

I tried to do a lot of fakes the other night, especially on big points. I would wait for the sound of my partner serving the ball. I would dart toward the middle, then quickly recover. Only to see the ball not land in the service box. This little song and dance didn't seem to be bothering our opponents even a little bit. :(

maverick66
05-10-2009, 06:54 PM
you ever try going i formation? i watched my moms 3.5 team do it once and the other team fell completely appart as they didnt know where to put the return.

Swissv2
05-10-2009, 07:01 PM
So you are thinking of the poaching game, eh?

At your level of play "opportunity poaches" may happen just as often as planned poaches - as the serve&return can be unpredictable.

My best recommendation for you is to determine your poaching choice based on where your partner is able to hit the ball.

For example: If your partner happens to hit it down the middle or directly at the returner, you have a good opportunity to poach. Let your partner know that if she is able to hit down the middle well, then you will take the chance to poach.

Situation #2: If your partner happens to hit it out wide, you will stand your ground and cover the alley more often than not.

Good luck.

J011yroger
05-10-2009, 07:13 PM
Cindy, if you had to take a guess, what % of serves get put back into play by the returning team?

J

Steady Eddy
05-10-2009, 07:34 PM
I think the actual # of poaches in a set is quite small, as you say. But the effect can be large when compared to their number. By showing that sometimes you poach, your opponents get rattled and sometimes take their eye off the ball when hitting returns. The objective isn't so much to win points off of poaches, (though, you'll take them), but to get-in-the-head of the opposing team and make them less effective than they would be otherwise.

Swissv2
05-10-2009, 07:53 PM
I think the actual # of poaches in a set is quite small, as you say. But the effect can be large when compared to their number. By showing that sometimes you poach, your opponents get rattled and sometimes take their eye off the ball when hitting returns. The objective isn't so much to win points off of poaches, (though, you'll take them), but to get-in-the-head of the opposing team and make them less effective than they would be otherwise.

Playing the mental game has its benefits, but incorporating poaching when one needs to in ones game is the better strategy for any level of play.

As a person's double teams gets better, understanding when to properly poach becomes key to winning matches. At 3.0-4.0 levels, one cannot expect to get to a much higher level if one doesn't comprehend and is able to execute the fundamentals of poaching. At 4.5 levels and up, the added element of controlling the placement of a serve builds upon the fundamentals of poaching.

Cindysphinx
05-11-2009, 03:42 AM
you ever try going i formation? i watched my moms 3.5 team do it once and the other team fell completely appart as they didnt know where to put the return.

I tried the I formation exactly once, in a practice match.

I took up my position at the net and squatted down, listening for the sound of my partner striking the ball. Once I heard it, I lept to my feet.

Only I didn't leap. It would be more accurate to say "struggled" to my feet. The point was over before I got up.

I think I had best stick with your garden-variety formations . . .

Cindysphinx
05-11-2009, 04:11 AM
Cindy, if you had to take a guess, what % of serves get put back into play by the returning team?

J

Ho boy. That is a tough question. It varies a lot.

I tend to get more service returns in than my partners. This isn't because I am better. It is because I don't go for a winner on a service return, ever. I will miss. Why even try? Instead, I just try to hit the ball and come in. I find that most of the time any old service return will do. Even if it is short, I can still come in, and shorter returns seem to discourage the lob quite nicely while making the server move forward where she might not be comfortable.

Most of my partners are not coming in to net, no way, no how. They rely on their groundstrokes to win points, so they go for a lot on their service returns. So they miss more, but they also force more errors and floaters.

I figure if I miss a service return in ladies 3.5, I haven't done my job. Remember, I receive on the ad side, so we can't afford to have me coughing up game-ending points. Unless the server is really spanking the ball to my BH or doing something unusual with her serve, I would like to think I'm getting 85% or more of serves back.

This number goes waaaaay down if the server's partner is poaching actively. It has been over a year since I played a ladies match where the server's partner was actively poaching and making me miserable. This happens far more often in mixed.

In my clinic, the pro is teaching us to add variety to our return games. We are doing a drill where the receiver cannot hit the same return twice in a row. If you returned crosscourt, your next return needs to be a drop shot, lob, DTL or drive at the net player. So far, I haven't had the courage to implement any of this in a match, and 100% of my returns are crosscourt topspin shots.

If Topaz or other 3.5 ladies are out there, I'd be interested to hear what their experience is.

raiden031
05-11-2009, 04:26 AM
I think the Poach Count is dependent on a couple of factors outside of your ability to play the net, namely how you and your partner match up together and how your opponents play. Here are some things that matter:

1) The strength of your partner's serve
2) The strength of the opponents' returns
3) The perception of your opponents on who is weaker on your team (the target)

Over the past 2 years maybe, I've almost always found myself being either an equal partner or a stronger partner, but seldom the weaker partner. I always felt like my partners were hitting twice as many poaches and putaways at the net as me. I notice opponents tend to aim the ball to my partner or down the line when I am serving, whereas when my partner is serving they tend to aim for the cross-court return. People generally just avoid hitting the ball to me when they can. In addition, I was usually the harder-hitting partner who could generate more weak responses. So my partner would get easy sitters when at the net but I would have to deal with more offensive shots.

In a good service game when I'm at the net, I might hit 2-3 successful poaches, and if my partner serves 2-3 times that set, that would be 4-9 successful poaches per set.

larry10s
05-11-2009, 05:24 AM
So you are thinking of the poaching game, eh?

At your level of play "opportunity poaches" may happen just as often as planned poaches - as the serve&return can be unpredictable.

My best recommendation for you is to determine your poaching choice based on where your partner is able to hit the ball.

For example: If your partner happens to hit it down the middle or directly at the returner, you have a good opportunity to poach. Let your partner know that if she is able to hit down the middle well, then you will take the chance to poach.

Situation #2: If your partner happens to hit it out wide, you will stand your ground and cover the alley more often than not.

Good luck. agree with above

larry10s
05-11-2009, 05:27 AM
cindy it seems to me i see a recurring theme to many of your posts. your knowledge is greater than your skills and the people you play with. find people with your knowledge who want to try things or move up to where most people will do what you are looking for and you wont have to keep giving yourself fits. my .02 cents. you keep hoping the car would fly. it doesnt .

Cindysphinx
05-11-2009, 05:51 AM
Eh, I make my share of bone-headed errors too, Larry.

Like, I was doing a clinic last week. My partner was a leftie, and she was in the deuce court so we had FHs in the middle.

Lob goes up while we are both at net, toward the middle of the court. We both turn and run. I figure I'm going to have to get the ball because normally I play with righties who would have to hit their BH on a middle lob, so it is understood that I would have a better play on such a ball.

She says, "I got it." I think, "OK, oh yeah right, that's her FH also."

But the ball started hooking more toward the ad court. I kept moving farther and farther into the ad court as she prepared to hit, trying to stay out of her way. This left the entire deuce court open. I didn't feel I should cut in front of her and go over her, as it would disrupt her hitting. I knew I couldn't cut around behind her to zip over and get to the deuce court. So I just stayed pinned there, leaving the entire deuce side wide open, figuring maybe I'd sprint over after she hit the ball.

I got chewed out for that one. Pro said (correctly) that had I stopped moving backward the instant she called the ball, I would have been able to switch in plenty of time.

It ain't gonna be easy to find knowledgeable people to partner with if my own brain is going to go to the Bahamas like that. . . .

Swissv2
05-11-2009, 06:11 AM
I got chewed out for that one. Pro said (correctly) that had I stopped moving backward the instant she called the ball, I would have been able to switch in plenty of time.

It ain't gonna be easy to find knowledgeable people to partner with if my own brain is going to go to the Bahamas like that. . . .

Sure your pro chewed you out, but you had your reasons. Call it a lesson learned and you as well as your partner know your options in the future. Don't kick yourself for getting the wrong answer. If we all beat ourselves up for "tactical errors" in which we learned there were "better solutions" for after we are done - then none of us would be 1. having any fun and 2. able to improve.

larry10s
05-11-2009, 06:32 AM
Eh, I make my share of bone-headed errors too, Larry.

Like, I was doing a clinic last week. My partner was a leftie, and she was in the deuce court so we had FHs in the middle.

Lob goes up while we are both at net, toward the middle of the court. We both turn and run. I figure I'm going to have to get the ball because normally I play with righties who would have to hit their BH on a middle lob, so it is understood that I would have a better play on such a ball.

She says, "I got it." I think, "OK, oh yeah right, that's her FH also."

But the ball started hooking more toward the ad court. I kept moving farther and farther into the ad court as she prepared to hit, trying to stay out of her way. This left the entire deuce court open. I didn't feel I should cut in front of her and go over her, as it would disrupt her hitting. I knew I couldn't cut around behind her to zip over and get to the deuce court. So I just stayed pinned there, leaving the entire deuce side wide open, figuring maybe I'd sprint over after she hit the ball.

I got chewed out for that one. Pro said (correctly) that had I stopped moving backward the instant she called the ball, I would have been able to switch in plenty of time.

It ain't gonna be easy to find knowledgeable people to partner with if my own brain is going to go to the Bahamas like that. . . .
i do stupid things also. so you learned a lesson. HOWEVER you played with someone who communicated with you (past gripe) second someone who had the footwork to follow the over head into the ad court and hit it. bet they have other skills too. SO you could do planned poaching and crossing etc. they probably do not stand like a tree at the net and probably (dont faint) they come to net. OMG fixes alot of gripes a partner like that. p.s. i prefer forehands in the middle when i play with a righty since you both get inside out forehand return of serves for down the t serves and cross court backhand returns for wide serves.

jmverdugo
05-11-2009, 06:32 AM
I think the actual # of poaches in a set is quite small, as you say. But the effect can be large when compared to their number. By showing that sometimes you poach, your opponents get rattled and sometimes take their eye off the ball when hitting returns. The objective isn't so much to win points off of poaches, (though, you'll take them), but to get-in-the-head of the opposing team and make them less effective than they would be otherwise.

I agree, poaching is not only to win the point but to make feel pressure on the returner, same reason why you cant be steady at the net, you always have to move like you are going to attack, you have to make the opponet to feel the pressure, you cant let them play comfortably. JMO.

bukaeast
05-11-2009, 06:57 AM
I tried the I formation exactly once, in a practice match.

I took up my position at the net and squatted down, listening for the sound of my partner striking the ball. Once I heard it, I lept to my feet.

Only I didn't leap. It would be more accurate to say "struggled" to my feet. The point was over before I got up . . .


Try the Aussie formation, where you line up directly in front of your server. At the serve you can either stay and cover the cross court or jump back and get all but the tightest DTL. Before you line up, let the server know whether you will stay or pull a switch. That way the server knows whether they will go left or right. It is pretty effective and you don't need to get low to start the point.

Even if it doesn't totally disrupt the opponants, they don't know whether you will go or stay. Effectively similar to poaching and not as "difficult" to implement.

Works even for an old spastic noobie.

Xisbum
05-11-2009, 07:19 AM
Do you signal poaches or just opportunity poach?

Sometimes I just opportunity poach.

Other times I signal, poach/fake/stay.

My favorite is to have my partner serve (usually a 2nd) out wide, I fake early, and then volley through the hole when he tries to pass DTL.

Most times I poach he brings it down the T, most times when I fake, he goes wide.

J
Hey, Jolly. I like what I read in most of your posts; you seem to know your tennis stuff. When do you make the real move to poach - (a) when you see the returner's racquet stop in its backswing or (b) when he/she actually starts the swing?

Back in the day, when I had 2 good legs, I always had good results moving at (a).

Cindysphinx
05-11-2009, 09:32 AM
I watch the receiver's head/eyes. I go when their head moves down.

Xisbum
05-11-2009, 10:55 AM
I watch the receiver's head/eyes. I go when their head moves down.
Can't the receiver still see you move with peripheral vision and, theoretically, have time to change his/her planned shot? I often catch early movers and have time to pull the return down the line, either backhand or forehand.

My thinking is that once the backswing stops and the racquet starts forward, the receiver is pretty much committed to the shot and can't afford to take his/her eye off the ball - at least at our level. Very top level 3.5s and above can probably change a shot once it's started, but you quickly pick up on who those are and adjust your poach accordingly.

Naturally, you have to consider the pace of the ball the receiver is tracking, too. If it's a slow one, you might stick with a fake or even a full step into the poach before jumping back into position.

Random thoughts on an interesting topic.

Cindysphinx
05-11-2009, 11:02 AM
Can't the receiver still see you move with peripheral vision and, theoretically, have time to change his/her planned shot? I often catch early movers and have time to pull the return down the line, either backhand or forehand.


Maybe they can see me.

Which means they are now no longer fully focused on watching the ball. A win-win for me!

If I wait until the racket is swinging, I find I often don't make it in time. Maybe I am just reacting so slowly that I *think* I am going when their head goes down but am actually going later?

Nellie
05-11-2009, 11:09 AM
I watch the receiver's head/eyes. I go when their head moves down.

If this is your cue to go, I think you are going too late and have no chance of getting the crosscourt ball.

You need to go when the ball bounces on the serve. Likewise, your partner needs to scoot to cover down the line. I think the emphasis on the poach is less on trickery and more on court coverage. If you go too late, the opponent can just hit her normal shot without worrying about the poach.

By the way, I think that poaching is like hitting returns down the line or lobbing. If you do it sometimes, even badly, the opponent has to respect that aspect of your game and consider it when returning. The last thing you want to do is to make the opponent comfortable in returning, especially when you have a weak serving partner. 5 poaches a set may do the job

Cindysphinx
05-11-2009, 11:48 AM
Nellie, I think there is a difference in the serves you and I are seeing.

There can be a big delay between the bounce of a 3.5 ladies' serve and the time the ball is struck. If you take off on the bounce, the receiver has plenty of time to pass you down the alley.

maverick66
05-11-2009, 12:07 PM
Cindy i dont think your confusing is coming with how to poach but when to poach. if your partner is a good server then yes by all means poach away. you should get a few good sitters for easy volleys. but if your partners serve isnt so great as you have said its not the poach will be used sparingly. its main use is to try and protect the weak serve. it will help you put something else in your opponents head hopefully forcing them to try and make returns there not capable of. with a weak server im only poaching 1 time a service game. i might fake a whole bunch but there serve isnt strong enough to force bad returns putting you in bad position when they hit there return.

Xisbum
05-11-2009, 12:11 PM
Maybe they can see me.

Which means they are now no longer fully focused on watching the ball. A win-win for me!

If I wait until the racket is swinging, I find I often don't make it in time. Maybe I am just reacting so slowly that I *think* I am going when their head goes down but am actually going later?

I did say this was my method when I had 2 good legs, and it worked pretty well. Now, I find myself often fearful of pushing off with my bad knee and, therefore, don't poach as much as I once did. :cry:



By the way, I think that poaching is like hitting returns down the line or lobbing. If you do it sometimes, even badly, the opponent has to respect that aspect of your game and consider it when returning. The last thing you want to do is to make the opponent comfortable in returning, especially when you have a weak serving partner. 5 poaches a set may do the job

I totally agree with this. It's like a great baseball pitcher; never show the same pitch in the same location at the same speed twice. Always keep the other side guessing - "What is that SOB going to do now?" :)

Nellie
05-11-2009, 12:24 PM
double post?!

J011yroger
05-11-2009, 01:53 PM
Hey, Jolly. I like what I read in most of your posts; you seem to know your tennis stuff. When do you make the real move to poach - (a) when you see the returner's racquet stop in its backswing or (b) when he/she actually starts the swing?

Back in the day, when I had 2 good legs, I always had good results moving at (a).

When I am at the net, I focus my eyes on the opposing service line, and as soon as I see where the ball lands my eyes jump to the returners racquet face. This is big for opportunity poaching, since I know to go to the T on middle serves, and watch the alley on wide ones.

I usually fake at the sound of impact from my partner, and go for real when the ball hits the box on their side.

But keep in mind, that this is based on how fast my partner is serving and how quickly I can cover a lot of net.

If I am playing with someone who has a slower serve I wait a bit longer, basically until the returner is juuuuust about commited. So if they see me go, and feel compelled to try to return DTL and completely botch the shot (Yea, we all know how well that works out when you change your mind at the last instant.) I am more than happy with that result.

Keep in mind that I am 6'3" all arms and legs with a huge wingspan, so I can cover a ton of net pretty quickly. (Weather of not I actually hit a quality volley is an entirely seperate adventure.)

J

Xisbum
05-11-2009, 02:52 PM
When I am at the net, I focus my eyes on the opposing service line, and as soon as I see where the ball lands my eyes jump to the returners racquet face. This is big for opportunity poaching, since I know to go to the T on middle serves, and watch the alley on wide ones.

I usually fake at the sound of impact from my partner, and go for real when the ball hits the box on their side.

But keep in mind, that this is based on how fast my partner is serving and how quickly I can cover a lot of net.

If I am playing with someone who has a slower serve I wait a bit longer, basically until the returner is juuuuust about commited. So if they see me go, and feel compelled to try to return DTL and completely botch the shot (Yea, we all know how well that works out when you change your mind at the last instant.) I am more than happy with that result.

Keep in mind that I am 6'3" all arms and legs with a huge wingspan, so I can cover a ton of net pretty quickly. (Weather of not I actually hit a quality volley is an entirely seperate adventure.)

J

That's okay; I never hold anyone's height against them. You can't help being tall and talented. :)

Good insight, though. I'll try that next dubs match. Gracias.

JohnnySpot
05-11-2009, 02:54 PM
I usually fake snap whip buggy shot once i hear the balls ping the 4th and 5th string of my partner's racquet, then hit the 8th string of my opponents racquet, blind shot behind the back flip and curl - just cause I gots the talents like JoyRogger.

J011yroger
05-11-2009, 06:49 PM
That's okay; I never hold anyone's height against them. You can't help being tall and talented. :)

Good insight, though. I'll try that next dubs match. Gracias.

Tall, sure. Talented, not so much.

I enjoy playing dubs, but my game really isn't built for it. But I do the best I can with what I have, and I put forth effort into improving it aswell.

I am getting better at it, and learning and having fun as I go.

I was pretty happy last Thur, we won 1&2, and I didn't miss a volley the entire match. I am sure this week I will miss more than enough to make up for it though. Karma is a bummer.

J

Cindysphinx
05-11-2009, 07:02 PM
OK, here's the poach count:

One successful FH poach.

One unsuccessful FH poach where I wound up totally out of position and came nowhere near reaching the ball.

Several fakes where the normally steady returner hit it wide.

Two returns on serves up the middle on deuce side where returner tried to take her FH into the alley and missed wide. (I am taking credit for these).

One attempted pass down the alley where I got a racket on it but missed the volley.

Honestly, I don't think I could have done much more. These ladies were really good at hitting returns well out of reach.

LuckyR
05-12-2009, 08:27 AM
Netmen usually fall into three functional groups in my experience. Those that never poach, those that will "poach" rarely or only on the most lame of returns and those who poach aggressively. The definition of the last group, IMO is a netman who makes the returner think before he sets up to return. In many ways getting into returner's head is more important than the winners that the poaches produce, since by getting into returner's head leads to service winners (usually more total points than the poaches produce).

A good self measure of poaching is how many times were you burned down the alley on poaches? I usually get one or two a match. Of course, when I am playing well (which I wished happened more consistantly) there are more that two missed alley shots or putaways when I don't poach.