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iankogan
01-13-2010, 02:02 PM
I'm currently playing in a club doubles league (non-USTA). The format is a bit unusual: there are 12 payers and every week you get to play with a different partner. The league is supposed to be 3.5-4.0 level. I'm a computer-rated 3.5.

We played the first round of matches past Monday. My partner-for-the-day was a strong 4.0; the opponents were a 4.0 woman (subbing for a guy who did not show up) and a 3.0 guy. We won easily, 6:0, 6:2. After the 'official' match was over (which took all of 45 min) we changed partners and played another set. The lady and I won against the 4.0-3.0 team, 7:5. While that 'unofficial' set could have gone either way, the determining factor that evening clearly was the weekest player on the court, the 3.0 guy.

Here comes the rub: that 3.0 guy will be my partner in the next round. I'm new to this league and never played against our next week's opponents nor seen them play. One of them is rated 3.0, somewhat misteriously since tennislink shows he played a lot of league/tournament tennis last season with an overall winning record, including some 3.5 dubs/mixed wins. There is no record on the other guy; I'll have to assume he's a solid 3.5, which may or may not be the case.

A potentially complicating factor is that I'm more of a singles player. Poaching is not my strength, and my volleying in general is no better than par-3.5. I do have an effective serve and good forehand; my one-handed backhand is OK but certainly not a weapon. As for my partner-to-be, from what I've seen the other day: his serve is quite consistent but has little pace; forehand and backhand are what you'd expect at 3.0, i.e. little pace/control and easy to force an error off; volleys are probably the best part of his game, he was effective putting away sitters the other night but could not handle harder-hit passing shots.

Given all this info (and there might have been a bit of info overload, sorry) what would be a viable game plan for our team? Basically I'm looking for advice on doubles formations/tactics that would take the presure off my partner and shift it my way.

86golf
01-13-2010, 02:15 PM
You might want to consider playing 2-back until you can find an oppt. for you both to get to net. The I formation is another tactic that you can use but it might be hard to pull off with a new partner. I'll use both of these tactics if I feel that our opponents are slightly better than the good guys. By playing 2 back, you take some pressure of your 3.0 partner having to hit a solid x-court return.

iankogan
01-13-2010, 03:30 PM
You might want to consider playing 2-back until you can find an oppt. for you both to get to net. The I formation is another tactic that you can use but it might be hard to pull off with a new partner. I'll use both of these tactics if I feel that our opponents are slightly better than the good guys. By playing 2 back, you take some pressure of your 3.0 partner having to hit a solid x-court return.

Thanks for the reply 86golf. I never gave much thought to dubs strategies before; until last year I hardly ever played doubles in competition. Once I started though I realized just how much of a different animal this is. Finally I'm at a point now where I feel motivated to improve in doubles, and I'm finding that there are a lot more variables involved compared to a singles game. As for your specific suggestion: I'm assuming you mean playing 2 back when our opponents are serving and my partner is receiving? I see how this would make sense. I could take the ad court (which I prefer in doubles anyway, and would certainly opt for with a weaker partner) and after my partner returns he'd only be responsible for the forehand side of the duece court. I'd take anything that comes to his backhand (and anything that comes to the ad side of the court of course). As a bonus, I get to hit a lot more forehands! Brilliant! I'll certainly make this part of the gameplan in 'my partner is returning serve' scenario.

This leaves three other scenarios to consider. Thinking aloud here:
First, me serving. This one is a no-brainer. My serve is reliable and big enough to make agressive returns difficult, even for an average 4.0 level player. So on my serve my partner should certainly be up at the net looking to put away any floaters.
Second, me receiving. This depends a lot on the quality of opponents' serves which is an unknown at this point. If it turns out that their serves will allow me to consistently hit agressive returns, my partner should be at the net. If they are able to pressure my returns he'd stay back and we'd play 3/4 - 1/4 court game, same as on my partner's return.
Finally, my partner serving. As I said he has a reliable serve but its pace/spin won't trouble any decent 3.5 player. That probably means 2 back for us again, unless it turns out that his serves are not that easy for our opponents after all, in which case I can take position at the net.

How is this for a game plan, doubles experts? What am I missing?

86golf
01-13-2010, 05:01 PM
Bingo. I think you are on it. But with any strategy, you must be willing to bail out at anytime and implement plan B. As you have described, I think the initial game plan fits for purpose. Just be sure your weaker partner is comfortable on the duece side. I play ad side almost exclusively even if I'm the weaker player bc I return better from that side. Also, when your weaker partner is serving, consider running the I formation some. If your opponents recognize he is the weak link, they will be drilling him and you've already said you weren't too comfortable poaching...especially off a weak serve. The I formation will make your opponents think twice about which direction to return. Another tactic I've used is to start in the 2 back formation when weak partner is serving and right as he contacts the ball, rush to the service line (either side). This can really throw your returning opponents off.

iankogan
01-14-2010, 06:52 AM
Bingo. I think you are on it. But with any strategy, you must be willing to bail out at anytime and implement plan B. As you have described, I think the initial game plan fits for purpose. Just be sure your weaker partner is comfortable on the duece side. I play ad side almost exclusively even if I'm the weaker player bc I return better from that side. Also, when your weaker partner is serving, consider running the I formation some. If your opponents recognize he is the weak link, they will be drilling him and you've already said you weren't too comfortable poaching...especially off a weak serve. The I formation will make your opponents think twice about which direction to return. Another tactic I've used is to start in the 2 back formation when weak partner is serving and right as he contacts the ball, rush to the service line (either side). This can really throw your returning opponents off.

Thanks again 86golf. I realize that there is a big difference between planning and implementation, and that any game plan is subject to adjustments on the fly. And I haven't yet had my partner to sign off on this. He might after all prefer to keep 'playing as usual'. Worst case scenario, we fall back on the 'standard' doubles formation/strategies.

Also, I noticed a chink in the armor, something that you addressed in your last post. When my partner is serving, to the ad court specifically, we are both out of 3/4-1/4 court position that I described previously. One way to counter this problem, as you suggested, is to start 2 back and rush the net, both of us, once he hits the serve. Another way might be by employing the 'new I-formation'. This is something that was described in the last issue of Tennis magazine: when my partner serves to the ad court, I stand behind him and slightly to the right (apparently this is legal; he'd position himself close to the center of the court, i.e. the 'normal' singles serve position). Once he hits his serve, he moves to the right taking his normal 1/4 court position on the baseline (deuce side). I move to the left taking my 3/4 court position on the ad side. So in the end, regardless of the side of the court my partner is serving to, we will always start a point on his serve playing 2 back 3/4 ad court (me) - 1/4 deuce court (him).

Assuming he's OK with the plan and we are able to execute it in a match, I am curious about how it will feel in play, specifically will it really result in shifting the game disproportionally my way while 'shielding' my partner. Well, we'll see next Monday.

Kostas
01-14-2010, 07:16 AM
I don't understand the logic behind suggesting two-back here.

You said your soon-to-be partner was decent at putting balls away at the net and you have a good serve. He should be at the net for your serve.

How does this work?
By playing 2 back, you take some pressure of your 3.0 partner having to hit a solid x-court return.

?

If you're a decent 3.5 player, even if your partner has a weak serve why would you open up the whole court for the returner? I would stay at the net until the opponents show you that they are willing to crush the ball at you at the net often and are also competent enough to do so.

Otherwise you're giving up too much of an advantage in doubles for the sake of what?

OP - don't overthink the strategy just because you saw the guy play once.

Just go play the match and attack the weaker player on the other team. A successful execution of this strategy is usually enough to win doubles matches at this level.

If that doesn't work just try making some smaller adjustments throughout the match.

Going to two-back should be your last resort IMO.

Edit: Also OP - try not to be a court commando by ordering him all around the court on every point and changing strategies every game. I know you want to win but he's likely just a new player and overloading him likely won't make him play any better. It'll probably just make the whole experience less enjoyable for both of you.

raiden031
01-14-2010, 08:14 AM
My philosophy has always been when you play in a mis-matched doubles pair that you must strategize in a way such that you minimize the errors of the weaker player. So that begins with you letting your partner choose which side they want to return from. If they are good at the net and suck at the baseline, you definitely want them at the net as much as possible. So instead of dictating what your partner should do, let them choose the most comfortable strategy for them, and you figure out how you should play your own game to complement them.

iankogan
01-14-2010, 12:14 PM
Kostas and raiden, thank you for joining the discussion. I really appreciate your input. I'm going to address some of the points you make but first I'd like to clarify where I'm coming from. Unlike the 'regular' USTA league play and to an even greater extent USTA tournaments play, this particular league is not really about competion for me. First and foremost, it's an opportunity to play some tennis during the winter (not a given here in Colorado), socialize, and have fun. Second, I see it as a 'lab' to work on my doubles game, specifically strategy and tactics. If my original post came through as 'I must win that match at any cost', let me just say that this is not the case at all. I really care very little whether we win or lose come next Monday. What I'm interested in is trying to figure out a strategy that would maximize our chances to win. To that end I feel that, simply stated, it would be smart to try to 'shift' most of the action my way, and I'm looking for a strategy that would achieve this goal.

I recognize the fact that implemeting such a strategy would mean, if effect, relegating my partner to a 'lesser' role in the match. In no way, shape or form am I going to force this gameplan on my partner. I will describe the strategy to him prior to the match and will back off immediately if he objects. If he accepts however, I look forward to testing out this gameplan. And reporting the results on this thread.

The above I think addresses the point made by raiden, at least in part. I am indeed aiming to 'minimize the errors of the weaker player'. Raiden feels that it starts with letting the weaker partner choose the side. Fair enough, I'd agree with this in general. However my experience at 3.5 doubles, limited as it is, is that almost always my partner has no preference (I'd guess this indifference is far less common at the higher levels of play). In this particular case, I don't know whether my 3.0 partner has a side preference. However I feel that him playing the ad court would be a 'wrong' strategy: he'd be outgunned against a decent 3.5 no matter which side is relatively 'more comfortable' for him, and I'd lose the ability to cover for him with my weapon (the forehand) and would have my weeker side (the backhand) more exposed.

Kostas: The strategy on my serve IS for my partner to be at the net. 'Two back' only goes into effect when my partner is receiving, and possibly when he is serving (if our opponents are all over his serve, as was the case with my 4.0 partner and myself the other night). The reason my partner would not have to hit a solid x-court return if I stay back is that, even if he returns down-the line right at our opponent at the net, or hits a sitter, we'd have a better chance to deal with the opponent hitting an easy volley if I'm back. If I stay up in this situation, I'd better be ready to eat the felt sandwich :-) You make a valid point that our opponents next Monday would have to first demonstrate that they can crush my partner's serve. No reason for me to back off if they can't. I also agree that part of our strategy should be going after the weeker player on the opposing team. That is always (?) the case in doubles though (even if not always executed) and as such it is complementing the strategy we are discussing rather than contradicting it.

LuckyR
01-14-2010, 10:08 PM
The issue here is that many opponents will try to hit to the weaker player... because he is weaker. Since you know that ahead of time, use that knowledge by placing the weaker player in a part of the court where hitting the ball to him is a disadvantage for the other team, classically right on top of the net. True he will be vulnerable to lobs, but that is the price you pay for playing with a weaker player.

raiden031
01-15-2010, 06:39 AM
The above I think addresses the point made by raiden, at least in part. I am indeed aiming to 'minimize the errors of the weaker player'. Raiden feels that it starts with letting the weaker partner choose the side. Fair enough, I'd agree with this in general. However my experience at 3.5 doubles, limited as it is, is that almost always my partner has no preference (I'd guess this indifference is far less common at the higher levels of play). In this particular case, I don't know whether my 3.0 partner has a side preference. However I feel that him playing the ad court would be a 'wrong' strategy: he'd be outgunned against a decent 3.5 no matter which side is relatively 'more comfortable' for him, and I'd lose the ability to cover for him with my weapon (the forehand) and would have my weeker side (the backhand) more exposed.
.

Sure if your partner has no preference, then you pick the side you think is best. I've had numerous mixed partners who have better backhands than forehands and are good at the cross-court backhand on the ad side and they prefer the ad side for this reason. Since 80% of the balls will be hit to my partner during a rally, I'd rather they be using their best shot when stuck in a rally with the opponents.

In this situation, it makes little sense to maximize my strengths since my opponents are doing everything in their power to keep me out of the point anyways.

iankogan
01-15-2010, 06:50 AM
The issue here is that many opponents will try to hit to the weaker player... because he is weaker. Since you know that ahead of time, use that knowledge by placing the weaker player in a part of the court where hitting the ball to him is a disadvantage for the other team, classically right on top of the net. True he will be vulnerable to lobs, but that is the price you pay for playing with a weaker player.

Lucky, this makes sense, and net game is a (relative) strength of my partner. The issue is that obviously he can't be at the net at the START of the point when he's serving or receiving...

tennytive
01-15-2010, 06:59 AM
In this situation, it makes little sense to maximize my strengths since my opponents are doing everything in their power to keep me out of the point anyways.

This is the most relevant comment yet.

All the planning in the world can't help you a bit if your opponents are skilled and smart enough to play keep away.

I sometimes feel I could read the paper during points for all the good I'm doing out there. :rolleyes:

PushyPushster
01-15-2010, 07:28 AM
I would avoid any whacky formations like the "I" or Australian. That's hard enough to pull off when you've been playing with a regular doubles partner, much less someone totally new. In theory, the "I" formation may be a benefit, but in practice you probably won't be able to implement it effectively.

Also, I think two-back is a bad, bad formation at this level of doubles. It completely removes any pressure from your opponents. I hate the net, yet still stick it out when playing Dubs.

Good luck!

iankogan
01-15-2010, 09:11 AM
This is the most relevant comment yet.

All the planning in the world can't help you a bit if your opponents are skilled and smart enough to play keep away.

I sometimes feel I could read the paper during points for all the good I'm doing out there. :rolleyes:

LOL. I know the feeling.

I'd think that the whole strategy as described above is aimed at making it more difficult for our opponents to keep the ball away from me? Even more specifically, do that while forcing the opponents to play more to my strengths than would have been the case with a 'standard' dubs strategy/formation?

BTW it might seem as if I asked for an advice having the strategy thought out in advance. It is not the case, I truly had no idea about the possible gameplan when I posted the original question. 86golf's reply got me thinking, and the strategy was developed on the fly and as a direct result of your input. The end product looks like a valid gameplan to me. Sure I might be over-thinking this but that was the point: to go through a mental exercise to develop specific strategy in advance, which is a first for me in doubles anyway... It might in the end become just that, a purely mental exercise. Hopefully it won't and I'll report back the results next week.

iankogan
01-15-2010, 10:01 AM
I would avoid any whacky formations like the "I" or Australian. That's hard enough to pull off when you've been playing with a regular doubles partner, much less someone totally new. In theory, the "I" formation may be a benefit, but in practice you probably won't be able to implement it effectively.

Also, I think two-back is a bad, bad formation at this level of doubles. It completely removes any pressure from your opponents. I hate the net, yet still stick it out when playing Dubs.

Good luck!

Pushster, the only thing non-whacky would be the 'standard' strategy, the doubles' missionary position :-) And that I believe would place us at a distinct disadvantage right from the start if my assumptions about our opponents' level are correct. Yeah the game plan might look whacky, especially if we do try something like the 'reverse I formation'. But all this is really just a way to START a point based on who's serving and who's receiving. As for not being able to implement in practice, it's very likely indeed. The way I see it though, this particular league is a perfect opportunity to try. As for removing any pressure from opponents if we play two back: I'd like to re-iterate that two back would only be played under specific scenarios. And if playing two back under these scenarios would, as I hope, allow me to hit more forehands than would have been the case otherwise, I'm certain that our opponents will very much feel the pressure (this sounds immodest I know but it is true.)

Cindysphinx
01-15-2010, 10:10 AM
However my experience at 3.5 doubles, limited as it is, is that almost always my partner has no preference (I'd guess this indifference is far less common at the higher levels of play). In this particular case, I don't know whether my 3.0 partner has a side preference. However I feel that him playing the ad court would be a 'wrong' strategy: he'd be outgunned against a decent 3.5 no matter which side is relatively 'more comfortable' for him, and I'd lose the ability to cover for him with my weapon (the forehand) and would have my weeker side (the backhand) more exposed.

I don't think I agree with this, actually.

I think at lower levels, players have strong receiving side preferences. They have certain weaknesses, and they have learned to hide them when receiving and rallying. If they have to play the other side, the weakness will be more exposed. As I play with stronger players, I find they often have no side preferences, as they have no or fewer weaknesses to hide.

As a 3.0 and 3.5 woman playing 7.0 mixed, I always played the ad side. My inside out FH and crosscourt BH were my strengths. Yes, it meant important points came to me. But it wouldn't have been helpful for me to be missing all of my returns on the deuce court; better to make some on the ad court.

Also, remember that if I am receiving in the ad court, the poacher is hitting a BH poach. Many players do not have strong BH volleys, so I felt more secure hitting my return without feeling I had to spank it hard to avoid a poach. Now that I play deuce court, I find I really need to be on my toes to avoid the poacher's FH volley.

JMHO, of course.

86golf
01-15-2010, 10:10 AM
I would avoid any whacky formations like the "I" or Australian. That's hard enough to pull off when you've been playing with a regular doubles partner, much less someone totally new. In theory, the "I" formation may be a benefit, but in practice you probably won't be able to implement it effectively.

Also, I think two-back is a bad, bad formation at this level of doubles. It completely removes any pressure from your opponents. I hate the net, yet still stick it out when playing Dubs.

Good luck!

I've played "I" formation with new partners successfully many times. If their opponents have an ability advantage on them, playing one up one back will send them to the wood shed. It really can disrupt a team and give you an advantage even if your opponents appear to be slightly better. Plus, you say you want to have fun and imo trying out new formations are more fun than standing at net when your partner is getting drilled.

iankogan
01-15-2010, 10:39 AM
I've played "I" formation with new partners successfully many times. If their opponents have an ability advantage on them, playing one up one back will send them to the wood shed. It really can disrupt a team and give you an advantage even if your opponents appear to be slightly better. Plus, you say you want to have fun and imo trying out new formations are more fun than standing at net when your partner is getting drilled.

86golf, I'm the OP, not PushyPushster as your response seems to imply... And I 100% agree with you on trying new formations and having fun.

athiker
01-15-2010, 11:32 AM
I would avoid the "new I" formation completely if I understand it correctly. Not only does it show a complete lack of faith in your partner, he can't be trusted to attempt a return of serve at all, you have this weak 3.0 serving and running across the court to his position. Even if he is okay at the net, how well is he going to hit on the run trying to get there across the court? I know if I was on the other team I'd be testing that thoroughly. Plus with this strategy you've basically told the other team this guy is terrible. I could maybe see trying this in a particular match situation w/ a regular partner who has trouble and you guys know each other inside and out and are both cool with it, but not some new guy.

Messing around with the regular "I" formation might not be a bad idea. Its basically pretty simple if you agree which way each will break after the serve. If you think you will be over matched then I would think your best strategy is to be aggressive, unpredictable and get in the opponents' head...so I would try it some and see how it goes. Lots of poach attempts, aggressively taking the net, etc. If they have better groundstrokes you are not going to beat them being conservative and trading forehands. With the regular "I" you can simply tell your partner you are working on learning doubles strategy and would like to try out a few things you've read about in the match. This formation doesn't have to mean one guy is particulary weak.

I would use the the two back formation when your weak partner is returning serve however...maybe sounds contradictory to what I wrote above...but this is much more common than the "new I formation" which I've never seen. We have used this and it can be quite effective to solve a weak return issue. You don't have to stand all the way back, just cheat back far enough to cover the "hole". Once the serve is handled both go to the net ASAP and be aggressive.

Deep balls, low balls, both should be coming in. Make them lob you, if they are good at it, then just come in to the service line or so, then it will be very tough to lob you. You will have to gauge how far in is safe based on your opponent. An occaisonal point loss on a lob isn't enough to change strategy IMHO...you will have to go for broke to be successful against a stronger opponent and since netplay is your partner's relative strength, try to spend as much time there as possible.

I'm surprised you want to play the ad court b/c your forehand is your weapon. Usually in my experience the better forehand plays the deuce court and the better backhand plays the ad court as groundstrokes are usually exchanged cross-court in doubles. Am I wrong on this?

Cindysphinx
01-15-2010, 11:37 AM
I think using Australian formation with a challenged partner is a wonderful idea. Even players who have never heard of it can execute it correctly at net, so long as I make clear that their sole job is to cut off the crosscourt return.

I formation, where someone is kneeling and then shoots one way or other once the serve is struck, requires a lot more skill and probably wouldn't work as well.

athiker
01-15-2010, 11:57 AM
I think using Australian formation with a challenged partner is a wonderful idea. Even players who have never heard of it can execute it correctly at net, so long as I make clear that their sole job is to cut off the crosscourt return.

I formation, where someone is kneeling and then shoots one way or other once the serve is struck, requires a lot more skill and probably wouldn't work as well.

Oops, thanks Cindy, I thought they were the same thing. Nice to learn something new. I've never tried the Australian formation.

Guess I'm not alone: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080820152137AAJU9AX

iankogan
01-15-2010, 01:05 PM
Cindy, while I have reservations about your choice of words ('challenged partner', LOL), using Australian formation on my serve, occasionally, seems like a great idea. I have not though of it. In fact I didn't know what it was exactly, which no doubt shows my level of (in)experience in doubles. As for I-formation, I've actually seen that employed by opponents a few times, and frankly it nearly made me laugh... seemed to confuse the serving team a whole lot more than us :-)

athiker, first I'd like to address your point re: "show a complete lack of faith in your partner". It's a delicate matter and I already described how I'm planning to approach it. I know this is becoming a fairly long thread and I possess not the gift of brevity :-) so I completely understand if you missed that part. As for the 'new I-formation' on my partner's serve to the ad court (which is the only time it would be used): no, I don't see my partner "serving and running across the court to his position". He'd just shift to the right AT THE BASELINE. Thus the receiver would be either hitting down-the line to him (which is a more difficult shot), or cross-court to me (something that I'm trying to entice them into in the first place). On to the next point: "If they have better groundstrokes you are not going to beat them being conservative and trading forehands." Again, at the danger of appearing immodest: I do not expect them to have better groundstrokes (well, better forehands to be specific) than me; I do expect them to have better groundstrokes than my partner (those I have seen. I don't want to seem harsh or judgemental, but my partner's game is what it is: low 3.0 level, except serve and volleys which I's say solid 3.0). Hence the entire strategy is for me to cover more of the court and try to 'pull the action' my way. Nor am I planning on trading forehands: this is a shot which I feel very comfortable hitting big, and nearly always do. Finally, you say "I'm surprised you want to play the ad court b/c your forehand is your weapon. Usually in my experience the better forehand plays the deuce court and the better backhand plays the ad court as groundstrokes are usually exchanged cross-court in doubles. Am I wrong on this?" I don't want to say you are wrong, but I do feel this is a common misconception. I actually get to hit relatively more backhands when I play duece court in doubles than when I play the ad court. I cannot quantify this observation but this is certainly how it feels. I think this is a combination of two factors: 1) enough balls are coming down the middle to force me hit backhands while playing the duece court and 2) when playing the ad court, I have an option of 'cheating' left/running around my backhand, thus leaving a pretty narrow window where I am forced to hit a backhand from the ad court. Most of my forehands form the ad court are inside-out (i.e. cross-court.)

iankogan
01-15-2010, 01:26 PM
To Cindy re: "I think at lower levels, players have strong receiving side preferences. They have certain weaknesses, and they have learned to hide them when receiving and rallying. If they have to play the other side, the weakness will be more exposed. As I play with stronger players, I find they often have no side preferences, as they have no or fewer weaknesses to hide."

I was only speaking from my own experience in doubles which is, as I said many times, limited. Almost invariably, when I ask which side my partner wants, I hear "it doesn't matter". In a few cases when I hear a more assertive response, it's usually "I want the forehand side" (meaning of course the deuce court). So lately I usually just say "I'd like to play the ad court if that is OK with you". I'm yet to hear a "No". In any case, I hope you see the bigger point I was making: if my partner were to play the ad court, we would have given up an advantage without really gaining anything?

athiker
01-15-2010, 07:39 PM
It sounds like you have thought through a lot of issues and I'm really curious how it works out. I had never heard of the "new I" formation so am particularly interested in that.

I had incorrectly assumed your 3.0 partner would be heading straight diagonally across court to the net since that was his relatively strong suit. I'm still not seeing a big advantage here if he stays at the baseline...unless he had a solid first serve with some heat, but you describe it as "quite consistent but has little pace". As your opponent, once I get a taste of your forehand, I'm taking the down the line shot to your partner every time. Its a harder shot, but not that hard on a low pace ball. Plus if successful, your partner now has the decision of hitting cross court to the opposing net guy, or himself having to make a shot down the line.

I guess you could mix it up some, lining up in the formation and sometimes swapping sides and sometimes not...so you would have some element of disguise. I'm just thinking out loud here b/c I've never seen it...so please let us know how it goes in practice. Good luck.

iankogan
01-15-2010, 08:12 PM
...I'm really curious how it works out. I had never heard of the "new I" formation so am particularly interested in that.
So am I :-)

...As your opponent, once I get a taste of your forehand, I'm taking the down the line shot to your partner every time. Its a harder shot, but not that hard on a low pace ball. Plus if successful, your partner now has the decision of hitting cross court to the opposing net guy, or himself having to make a shot down the line.
True. But probably still a better option on my partner's serve to the ad court than him staying back on the ad side or him rushing the net or me trying to poach off the return of his serve. Any thoughts on a better plan?

I guess you could mix it up some, lining up in the formation and sometimes swapping sides and sometimes not...so you would have some element of disguise.
Mixing things up could certainly help our cause, but I'm afraid of confusing my partner and myself...

I'm just thinking out loud here b/c I've never seen it...so please let us know how it goes in practice. Good luck.
Will do, and thank you!

PushyPushster
01-16-2010, 04:18 AM
Pushster, the only thing non-whacky would be the 'standard' strategy, the doubles' missionary position :-) And that I believe would place us at a distinct disadvantage right from the start if my assumptions about our opponents' level are correct. Yeah the game plan might look whacky, especially if we do try something like the 'reverse I formation'. But all this is really just a way to START a point based on who's serving and who's receiving. As for not being able to implement in practice, it's very likely indeed. The way I see it though, this particular league is a perfect opportunity to try.

Well, I wish you luck. I've never had success implementing the Australian formation even with a partner I play with quite frequently. It's because we don't practice much together - we just play league matches. Or maybe because I'm an idiot. That's a possibility too. Anyhow, it's gotten to the point where we use even the suggestion of Australian as a means to loosen up when we're behind in a game. Down 1-4 in a set ...

"Maybe it's time to switch to Australian?" (wide-eyed innocence)
"Yeah, right!" (chuckle)

I hope you have better success!

Cindysphinx
01-16-2010, 05:44 AM
Cindy, while I have reservations about your choice of words ('challenged partner', LOL), using Australian formation on my serve, occasionally, seems like a great idea. I have not though of it. In fact I didn't know what it was exactly, which no doubt shows my level of (in)experience in doubles. As for I-formation, I've actually seen that employed by opponents a few times, and frankly it nearly made me laugh... seemed to confuse the serving team a whole lot more than us :-)



There are a couple of things to watch out for with Australian if you've never used it before.

1. Make sure the net player lines up close to the net. If she doesn't, she isn't really cutting off the crosscourt return or accomplishing much of anything. If she lines up too deep, go move her up before you serve. Net player can poach returns as usual.

2. Server serves from close to the center hash, then moves over to cover the DTL. Server should serve to the middle.

3. Server should be ready to cover lobs over the net player.

Australian is also useful if either player on the serving team has a weak BH volley or BH groundstroke. When serving to ad court, server will cross and have a DTL rally with returner with her FH against opponent's BH. If net player has weak BH volley, you can put the FH volley in the middle by lining up Aussie in the ad court.

Joeyg
01-16-2010, 06:16 AM
Call in sick.

86golf
01-16-2010, 08:05 AM
86golf, I'm the OP, not PushyPushster as your response seems to imply... And I 100% agree with you on trying new formations and having fun.

Yes, sorry I should have used "OP" instead of "you" in my post.
Well, your head must be spinning with all these options and we all wait anxiously on the results. I hate to be presumptuous here, but have you established an over/under on the match for game wins? I guess success may be better gauged on how much your non-traditional formations alter your opponents' shots and if it creates more opportunities for you at net and if it keeps you in more games when returning.
Also, Australian and the traditional "I" can be very similar depending on how they are implemented and they really have the same purpose, to take away the middle of the court. I can't comment on this "new I" formation. I've never heard of it until I read that Tennis mag article.

iankogan
01-17-2010, 09:21 AM
...things to watch out for with Australian if you've never used it before....

Thanks for the info Cindy!

iankogan
01-17-2010, 09:23 AM
Call in sick.
Joeyg, how's weather in Sarcasm?

iankogan
01-17-2010, 09:36 AM
I guess success may be better gauged on how much your non-traditional formations alter your opponents' shots and if it creates more opportunities for you...
Ditto. In that light, it might be educational to start the match with 'standard' strategy and then, after say four games, switch to the one I described. Of course if we happen to be doing OK as is by the end of game 4 it might be difficult to make the case for changing anything. In any case I intend to try these 'non-traditional formations' at some point in the match, as long as my partner agrees of course.

LuckyR
01-18-2010, 11:47 AM
Lucky, this makes sense, and net game is a (relative) strength of my partner. The issue is that obviously he can't be at the net at the START of the point when he's serving or receiving...

Well, he should S&V, that is for sure. He can also chip and charge on his returns. No big deal...

iankogan
01-21-2010, 08:20 AM
Hi, OP here, thanks again to all who contributed to the discussion. My partner and I did play that match on Monday night. At the moment I don't have time to go into details as to what worked and what didn't in terms of strategy/formations, so for now just the end result: we won 2:6, 6:3, 7:5. More to follow, tomorrow most likely.

iankogan
01-22-2010, 09:07 AM
Ok, the post-match analysis... Water under the bridge at this point, but I did promise to report on the match and I feel that I owe the follow-up to everyone who contributed to this thread, dull as this report may be. So here goes.

Our opponents last Monday turned out to be a strong 3.0 player and an average 3.5. So there wasn't much of an imbalance after all as my partner was a weeker 3.0 and I'm a stronger 3.5 (these are my subjective ratings of course). Prior to the start of the match I described the strategy, as outlined in my previous posts in this thread, to my partner. He was very receptive, though he was at first surprised that I wanted to play the ad court. Not that he wanted to play the ad court himself; however for some reason he though that a stronger player would normally play the deuce court... no idea where he got this notion. Anyway, we agreed that we play the first four games in the 'standard' doubles formation and then try the strategy I suggested.

After four games the score was two and two, with myself and our 3.5 opponent holding serve and the 3.0 guys on each team broken. I proceded to serve in game five, with our team now in Australian doubles formation, and a few minutes and a couple of deuce points later we lost the game. Bummer, especially considering that in my first service game no more than two returns came back in play. Not sure what happened in game five; I did make one double-fault but otherwise was serving well. The returns were coming back in play this time though, and both my partner and I proceeded to commit a series of UEs. This continued to be the overall theme for the next three games as well. With my partner serving in game seven at 2:4 we unleashed the "new I formation"... on ourselves :-x I don't think we won a single point in that game but we did succeed at starting a friendly discussion of the proceedings, not only on our court but on the one next too it as well, where another league match was being played. The overall sentiment could be summarized as "this is f%#@d up!" I cannot agree more.

With the first set ending at 2:6 my partner and I switched gears again. For the rest of the match we were playing one forward - one back, with me coming to the net only off my own approach shot or on a short ball. While this strategy did not work for us at the end of the first set, I felt that our only hope was for me to find my game where I'm more comfortable, which is at the baseline. Our opponents got quite adept at going after my partner, and while he wasn't doing much damage at the net (just puffing up his volleys to the middle of the court for the most part), him trying to trade groundstrokes with our opponents was clearly a worse option. We decided that my partner would leave any balls coming down the middle to me, even if he had an easy volley. This was in fact a part of the original strategy, except now we'd stick to it regardless of who was serving/receiving, while putting the 'exotic' formations (Australian and the new-I) to rest through the remainder of the match. With more balls coming my way now I was finally able to find my groove on the forehand. It deserted me again for a few games in the middle of the third set, but in the end we prevailed 2:6, 6:3, 7:5.

The bottom line as I see it is this: while the formations we tried did not work, the problem was not with the strategy but with the execution. Perhaps my partner and I were distracted by the novelty of it, or perhaps it was just a coincidence and we lost focus in those particular games without any good reason. One thing for sure: both the Australian formation and especially the new I formation resulted, for me, in a very different 'view' of the court layout/geometry/players alignment. I look forward to trying these new (to me) things more in the future.

Cindysphinx
01-22-2010, 09:25 AM
Interesting. Thank you for the great summary.

I'm surprised that Aussie didn't cause some service return anxiety in your opponents. Did you feel like you had to take something off to cope with the demands of serving up the middle in Aussie, or did the new court view rattle you? How about your partner -- did he fall off the net too much playing Aussie?

I have found that the biggest challenge in Aussie for me (I am comfortable with it but many of my partners are not) is getting my partner to be close enough to net to cut off the crosscourt. Because they are not familiar with it, they tend to fade backward such that they aren't cutting off anything and are basically out of the point.

iankogan
01-22-2010, 10:59 AM
Did you feel like you had to take something off to cope with the demands of serving up the middle in Aussie, or did the new court view rattle you?
Cindy, it was neither. It felt very much like serving in singles.

How about your partner -- did he fall off the net too much playing Aussie?
No, he was very much there. And most of the returns were coming his way. He didn't do much with them unfortunately. I did no better though on the few balls that I got to play in that game.

I have found that the biggest challenge in Aussie for me (I am comfortable with it but many of my partners are not) is getting my partner to be close enough to net to cut off the crosscourt. Because they are not familiar with it, they tend to fade backward such that they aren't cutting off anything and are basically out of the point.
This makes sense. I can't comment really since that was the only game in the match where we played Aussie. The only game I ever played Aussie, period. My general observation at 3.5 level doubles however is that a player whose partner is serving tends to start the point TOO CLOSE to the net. Like 3 feet from the net, and sometimes even closer - which I think is not a good idea. I'm taking about the initial or 'reset' position; of course closing in and stepping into the volley is the right thing to do when the opportunity presents itself.

Joeyg
01-26-2010, 09:28 AM
Sorry, Ian. Just saw this. It has been raining in Sarcasm for over a week straight.

kylebarendrick
01-26-2010, 09:59 AM
Australian and I-formations can work really well - but rarely do if the first time you try them is in a real match.

They've worked best for me when I've played with a partner I know very well and when we signal on every serve. In that situation, he can line up wherever he wants (straight, aussie or I), signal his intentions, and I'll react accordingly. The other team never knows what is coming and since we've practiced it quite a bit, we don't freak ourselves out.

iankogan
01-27-2010, 11:38 AM
Sorry, Ian. Just saw this. It has been raining in Sarcasm for over a week straight.
No problem Joey. Hope the skies over Sarcasm are clearing and the irony is receeding.

iankogan
01-27-2010, 03:01 PM
Australian and I-formations can work really well - but rarely do if the first time you try them is in a real match.

They've worked best for me when I've played with a partner I know very well and when we signal on every serve. In that situation, he can line up wherever he wants (straight, aussie or I), signal his intentions, and I'll react accordingly. The other team never knows what is coming and since we've practiced it quite a bit, we don't freak ourselves out.

Kyle, I agree: practive makes perfect (or at least better), trite but true. I look forward to really starting to learn this whole doubles teamwork/communication thing... some day. For now, playing competitive doubles (USTA leagues/tourneys) in general and practicing with the same partner in particular are not in the cards for me. I'll admit though that switching my focus from singles to doubles becomes a more attractive proposition with every singles match, won or lost... particularly lost :-)

heninfan99
02-02-2010, 08:13 AM
If it's that important can't you guys practice your volleys on the weekends or something?

iankogan
02-02-2010, 10:30 AM
If it's that important can't you guys practice your volleys on the weekends or something?

This thread just won't die... Anyway, I like Henin too but I'm not getting your point heninfan99. What practicing volleys has to do with this discussion?