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Blask
06-01-2009, 01:44 PM
Here's the situation that I sometimes find myself in playing doubles. I'm curious to what people do in this situation.

My partner is serving but does not serve and volley. The return of serve pins him back at the baseline so he cannot move toward the net. The opponents approach and so it's 2 vs 1 at the net. In this situation do I stay at the net but would be vulnerable to any ball hit at me or do I give up position and move back to be with my partner?

What I've been doing is trying to move back and then lobbing or try to hit a ball that we both can advance together on but I'm curious as to what is considered proper.

JavierLW
06-01-2009, 01:51 PM
Here's the situation that I sometimes find myself in playing doubles. I'm curious to what people do in this situation.

My partner is serving but does not serve and volley. The return of serve pins him back at the baseline so he cannot move toward the net. The opponents approach and so it's 2 vs 1 at the net. In this situation do I stay at the net but would be vulnerable to any ball hit at me or do I give up position and move back to be with my partner?

What I've been doing is trying to move back and then lobbing or try to hit a ball that we both can advance together on but I'm curious as to what is considered proper.

You cant stay all the way up in ideal volley position (5/8th of the way back in the box or closer) because you're leaving a huge gap behind you and you are too much of a target.

I think you have to backup at least to the service line, and you'll only get away with that if your partner is doing a good job from back there. (keep his shots aggressive enough or splitting the two players, or is a good lobber)
You're still a target from this position though but hopefully your partner can hit a good enough shot so your opponents dont get to tee off on the ball.

If your partner is setting those two guys up a lot though then you probably are forced to back all the way up to the baseline. (and you should probably wear a cup)

Heck though, if that happens a lot, you're going to be in for a long day up there unless your partner is SO good that he can overcome your opponent's volleys.

That's why learning how to serve and volley is probably nice for doubles. You can get away with not doing it maybe at 3.0 and 3.5, but once in while you'll get trapped back there when the returner is smart (and skilled) enough to come in.

Blask
06-01-2009, 02:00 PM
Thanks for the quick resoponse. We are 3.5 players and neither of us normally serve and volley. While we both are strong at the net, both of us are better when we take the return, hit it deep, and then approach. Normally the returner isn't coming to net that quickly so it works out fairly well, it's just those few times a match that we get stuck with two up and one back that I struggle with a decision. I try to get back to the baseline but retreating just never seems like a good decision.

Spokewench
06-01-2009, 02:17 PM
So, it takes you one more groundstroke from your partner. I say stay up, you may want to back up a bit in the service box, but unless they lob you, and your partner can't get (he should since he is already back); you should stay forward; let your partner try to hit a good shot to come forward or you should poach like crazy!

spoke

JavierLW
06-01-2009, 02:40 PM
Thanks for the quick resoponse. We are 3.5 players and neither of us normally serve and volley. While we both are strong at the net, both of us are better when we take the return, hit it deep, and then approach. Normally the returner isn't coming to net that quickly so it works out fairly well, it's just those few times a match that we get stuck with two up and one back that I struggle with a decision. I try to get back to the baseline but retreating just never seems like a good decision.

I play 3.5 as well, but take a lot of drills with 4.0, so I know what you mean.

I actually serve and volley myself (if I have a partner who covers enough space at the net so I dont have to cover the whole entire court), but I have teammates that dont.

I have one guy that I just picked up who I thought was going to be dominant at singles or doubles. He hits deadly accurate aggressive groundstrokes and in singles he's probably not beatable in 3.5, but in doubles I notice even this guy has problems when there are two people standing up there, because there is less room for him to hit the ball into.

And it still makes it hard for his partner because they have two people standing in front of him.

What I think can help and what I suggest is if that back player can at least primarily aim down the middle between the two players, that helps you out because you at least have a good idea of where the ball will be coming from.

If your partner is behind you and they are freelancing and constantly going for DTL, and lobs and right at players, you wont know where the ball is going to come from and you wont have time to react and you wont be standing in the right defensive spot (if you want to stay up there at all).

At least if it's driven down the middle, even if they get their racquets on it, they wont have as many angles to deal with which is nice. (and they have to move for the ball just like down the line)

JavierLW
06-01-2009, 02:43 PM
So, it takes you one more groundstroke from your partner. I say stay up, you may want to back up a bit in the service box, but unless they lob you, and your partner can't get (he should since he is already back); you should stay forward; let your partner try to hit a good shot to come forward or you should poach like crazy!

spoke

The problem is his partner has one more groundstroke against TWO net players. It's less likely he's going to get a weak shot then which will allow him to come up, and it's more likely that he'll find a hole somewhere to win the point upright, or his team will die trying....

(the other guy is on defense, that much is certain....)

Spokewench
06-01-2009, 03:21 PM
Okay; so you both go back; now you are both really defensive; and they are both up; you are still not in a better position. You are totally defensive.

Your partner serves, the opponents return, he is still at baseline; he either hits a good drive right at the opponents feet as they come forward and you make it hard for them to get it back; or they pop it up and you can poach if you are at the net; or your partner lobs and when you throw up a good lob, your opponents become defensive, your partner moves up and you become offensive. There are a lot of scenarios; but you are trying to come forward in doubles to be offensive.

Blask
06-01-2009, 03:31 PM
My argument for being both back is that everything is in front of you and you have more reaction time to a good volley or even a drop volley. If I am left up at the next vs. 2 then I'm going to be trying to field a volley with barely enough time to react to make a stab at it.

Cindysphinx
06-01-2009, 03:38 PM
I drop back to the service line. I don't like to go deeper, for a few reasons.

First, the net players could pop up the ball if your partner really nails his groundstroke. You need to be close enough to have a play.

Second, you don't want to give up the drop volley completely. With both of you at the baseline, you'll never reach a drop volley or short angle.

I feel like going to the service line gives me a decent shot at volleying any ball the two net players may hit to me (compared to being in a bit closer), while not giving up the entire front of the court.

I feel your pain, though. It's hard to know what to do.

JavierLW
06-01-2009, 03:53 PM
My argument for being both back is that everything is in front of you and you have more reaction time to a good volley or even a drop volley. If I am left up at the next vs. 2 then I'm going to be trying to field a volley with barely enough time to react to make a stab at it.

Right, the point is you are on defense either way you look at it.

That's why I said it all depends on what sort of shots your partner is hitting and how confident you are that you'll get a chance.

If your partner is consistant and you know where that ball is coming from (because your partner is not freelancing) that might help as well in staying at least up around the service line.

If they are struggling though and you're seeing balls come at you from everywhere then you might as well be all the way back. At least you can defend easier from back there since you're stuck on defense anyway...

(better if your partner serves and volleys though and avoids that whole mess entirely, but it probably not that it's that easy....)

That's why I suggest this is one of those things you can talk about outside of the match because if you have a good idea about what sorts of shots your opponent is going to try it helps you stay up there.

I was stuck in this situation last year in a pretty close and tough doubles match for a local area tournament championship and my partner kept trying to lob these guys and unsuccessfully at that.

So I just wished to god's green earth that he'd just drive the ball between them, or at least keep the ball low, because trying to lob was not getting it done.

If you're up there and you constantly see your opponents looking skyward getting ready to kill a failed lob, you're going to wish you were on the baseline.....

spot
06-01-2009, 04:39 PM
If you feel that you are still an asset at the net by all means stay up. If your partner is able to attack enough from the baseline that you will still get a good ball at some point then by all means stay up there. If you are just a target up there and aren't able to help your partner out then you would be better served moving back.

skiracer55
06-01-2009, 05:53 PM
Here's the situation that I sometimes find myself in playing doubles. I'm curious to what people do in this situation.

My partner is serving but does not serve and volley. The return of serve pins him back at the baseline so he cannot move toward the net. The opponents approach and so it's 2 vs 1 at the net. In this situation do I stay at the net but would be vulnerable to any ball hit at me or do I give up position and move back to be with my partner?

What I've been doing is trying to move back and then lobbing or try to hit a ball that we both can advance together on but I'm curious as to what is considered proper.

...which there didn't used to be. Doubles the old way was always serve and volley, chip and charge, and now you see all kinds of stuff. The situation you're talking about is now fairly common, even on the WTA and even ATP. Meaning the server doesn't serve and volley. What's a poor netperson to do? I kind of think you have two choices:

- First, forget about starting at the net in this situation. If you're not going to take advantage of the fact that you have one person already at the net, it's better off to have both in the back court, then work it from there.

- Second, if you are going to start at the net and your partner isn't going to serve and volley, you and your partner need to have a fireside chat. What Dave Hodge told me when he was coaching a bunch of us and ran us through some doubles clinics is that the most important person on the court is the server's partner, and the server's partner should be poaching or faking a poach on every single point. Especially if your partner isn't serving and volleying, if you're not poaching or faking a poach, there's no point in starting at the net, because you know your opponents know you never move, so they'll hit the return away from you and gladly take over the net. Obviously, if you're gonna poach or fake a poach, you and your partner need signals or have to at least talk it over before each point.

The moving back thing after you don't get a ball and they come in is contraindicated. Either do something at the net, or start back on the baseline with your partner.

Nellie
06-01-2009, 06:44 PM
I drop back to the service line. I don't like to go deeper, for a few reasons.

First, the net players could pop up the ball if your partner really nails his groundstroke. You need to be close enough to have a play.

Second, you don't want to give up the drop volley completely. With both of you at the baseline, you'll never reach a drop volley or short angle.

I feel like going to the service line gives me a decent shot at volleying any ball the two net players may hit to me (compared to being in a bit closer), while not giving up the entire front of the court.

I feel your pain, though. It's hard to know what to do.


I agree entirely with every observation, and wanted to add also that you don't want to be stuck in no-mans land. If you are at the service line, the only shot you will be in trouble with is an overhead, so as long as your partner does not pop up the ball, you should be okay. Being at the service line gives you enough time on most volleys and minimizes shots at your feet if your partner is doing a good job of keeping the ball low.

subaru3169
06-01-2009, 11:58 PM
personally, i say stay at the net but back up a bit.. perhaps a couple steps in front of the service line.. if both of yous are at the baseline, you might get a dropshot.. happened to me just tonight.. depends on the situation though

skiracer55
06-02-2009, 10:48 AM
......in "There's a million ways." As I said, in the old days, and pretty much at all levels except the absolute beginner, everybody was at least trying to play serve and volley, chip and charge. Most of us can pretty well describe who needs to do what and when in that situation.

Today, it's a lot more complex because there are all kinds of formations and strategies that win matches, at all levels. IMHO, however, what you and your partner have to do is pick out a strategy that works for you...that maximizes your strengths, tries to deny the opposing team the opportunity to pick on your weaknesses, and, most important allows you to play as a team. This last bit is really important. When I watch a lot of doubles these days, and I don't mean to pick on anyone, but it tends to happen most below the 4.0 level, what I see are four people playing singles on a doubles court. To effectively play together as a team, you and your partner need to sit down and have a fireside chat about what you're going to do, because you each have to know what the other is going to do and you can't depend on ESP for that information. And I think what you'll find is that there are general principles you can follow, but no cookie cutter solutions. Here's an example:

- Team A has two strong servers. The elect, on both partner's serve, to serve and stay back with the other person at the net. This works really well for Team A, and they hold serve a lot. Why is this? Well, we said both players have strong serves...strong enough, it turns out, that at the level they are playing, the opposing team can only get back 40% of the returns, first or second serve, so the server gets a lot of cheap winners, and doesn't really have to expend the energy to serve and volley. And the second part of this scenario is that most of the 40% of the returns that do come back are wounded ducks, and the net person easily picks off most of these.

- Team B also does the serve and stay back with a net person strategy, but it's not nearly as effective. In fact, Team B rarely holds serve using this strategy. Why is this? Well, to start with, both players have just so-so serves, so the opposing team gets lots of returns back, and is able to tee off on second serves. And neither player on Team B has an outstanding volley, and neither one particularly likes playing the net. But Team B actually has very strong ground strokes, because they're both tough baseliners in singles. For Team B, therefore, my advice is the following:

- Serve, and both stay back. I'd say also return and both stay back.

- Get some heavy groundies going. See what works best, maybe if you hit heavy to the back player (they're playing an back returner/up net player formation), you'll get some easy errors or some short balls that you can either whale on or use to hit an approach and move in. Don't neglect the net person, however, because remember that you have good groundies, and if you can hit some heavy balls at the net person, you may get some volley errors, short balls, or even force the net person to retreat...leaving the net open to you, if you want it.

- The above might be plenty enough to win matches. If this is going well, however, you might want to experiment with having both of you move into net in situation where you get a short ball or drive one or both players on the opposing team behind the baseline. Yes, I know, playing net is not your forte, but what you're trying to do is come into net pretty much only when you know you've got an overwhelming advantage...and therefore you could probably hit the winning volley with a broom.

So that's the kind of thinking that I recommend you and your partner do. I basically don't play a whole lot of doubles any more, but when I do, it's always with 3 other guys who only let the ball bounce on service returns. I like it that way...kind of like a knife fight in a phone booth. I had a partner a few years back who played doubles the way I do, serve and volley, chip and charge. We had both been playing tennis, and playing doubles, since God was in short pants, and got to the finals of a couple of big tournaments. So, naturally, we thought we knew everything there was to know about doubles. Then our coach, Dave Hodge, who played on the ATP tourn and is now one of the National Team coaches for Tennis Australia ran a doubles clinic for 4 of us, including me and my partner. What an education that turned out to be. I summarized all this in another post, but I'll repeat it here, FYI.

**********************************


In men's doubles at the 4.5 level and above, there's some givens or almost so:

- Serve and volley on both serves.

- Chip and charge whenever possible. Keep the return down, make the server stretch for the volley, try to get up to net with your partner ASAP. One up/one back is a clear invitation to the other team...want a point? Just hit through the diagonal!

- Court positioning/strategy is not necessarily what everybody thinks, and some of this came out in the preceding comments. As Dave Hodge, one of my coaches said, "In doubles, each person has a job", to whit:

- Server. Serving from way out near the singles lines is not really a good idea. You've just telegraphed that you're going wide on your serves...and if you're not, the serve in the duece court down the T is going to be a hazard, because it'll break into your opponent rather than tailing away. If you're serving from way out, you've also just left your partner with two unenviable choices: (1) Move over to cover the hole down the middle, and give up way too much space down the line, or (2) leave the hole down the middle open...and you can mail in the results of the match, see above. Serving from a little wider than your normal service position for doubles is fine...but if you can't hit a variety of serve directions/spins from there, go work on your serve, don't go stand way out somewhere.

If you're not going to serve and volley, serve, hit the first groundstroke, and move in. If you put it off any longer than that, your partner is stranded, the other team just took over the net, and you just lost. Obviously, a good forcing serve is essential...you'd better get in at least 70% of your first serves, or...you lose.

- Server's partner. Most important player on the court. On every point, the server's partner, who is at the net, should either be faking or poaching. This means you gotta communicate with your partner, either via a strategy discussion before the point or via signals. You make the "poach or not?" decision as a team before the point, so neither one of you gets surprised. So what if your partner has a 57 m.p.h helium ball for a serve? Well, you do a lot of faking, and resolve to work on the serve next week in practice. You're also governed by what your opponents do, however. If the other team returns a 57 m.p.h helium ball to the same spot every time...well, I'd think about poaching. Stand maybe a racket and half's length from the net, in the middle of the service box. Yeah, you'll give up a little of the line...but the middle of the service box is just your starting point. You're allowed to move, once the point starts, if you see the returner winding up for a bullet down the line. And you're never gonna be able to poach effectively if you stand over on the singles sideline.

- Returner. Okay, I'll say it: A doubles return is different than a singles return. Doubles is a different game than singles. All I ever play, any more, is singles, so if I wind up playing doubles, I know it's going to take me at least a set or two to get the movement, strokes, strategy and rhythm back on track.

In ATP tennis, most of the guys play Andy Roddick Smashball, where you hammer a serve, the returner tries to hit heavy crosscourt through the court, and then we settle down for some heavy-duty long range artillery with 100 m. p. h. backhands and forehands. There is a trickle down effect all the way to most public parks/NTRP/high school tennis: everybody bangs the big serve, the returner goes for a heavy topspin return, and you're off the the races. In doubles, get lots of returns back (there are two guys on the other side of the net, and they're supposed to win their serves), make the other team move and stretch, and keep the ball down. I love people who belt a return off my serve that ends up going a 100 m. p. h. three feet over the net. Response: angled volley at the net man's right hip, point over.

When you get a break in doubles, it's rarely at love. Usually, you get to 30-30, and scratch together a couple of winning points to get the break. Therefore, assuming you're both righties, who has the better backhand return in the ad court? Because at 30-40 or 40-30, you need to get the return back so you can break...and in high school tennis, the chances are you're going to see a wide serve out to the backhand. It's also a reason why if one of you has a streakier return, put that person in the duece court. If you get a winning return in the deuce court, Mr. Steady in the ad court can then finish off the job. The reverse strategy doesn't work as well.

- Returner's partner. The guy in the Danger Zone. If your partner hits a duck return, guess who's going to see the ball next? Answer: you, and the ball's going to be trying to dig you another navel. Returner's partner starts off on the service line, halfway between the center line and the singles sideline...and you're facing the server's partner...because if there's any trouble, that's where it's going to come initially. After the point gets started, follow the ball, and stay with your partner...