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spaceman_spiff
02-03-2010, 02:04 AM
I had to play a mixed match last night with one of the weakest (psychologically) players I have ever known. The slightest thing will put her off, but it's not always the same thing, and it's sometimes something you would never expect. It's not that she has bad technique or can't handle pace; she just flips out for the strangest reasons.

Last night was windy and wet with dodgy bounces (terrible all-weather carpet court with dead spots and cracks on the lines). But that didn't put her off one bit. When the opposing man smashed a serve at her, she'd just step in and bash it back, no problem. She was hitting cleaner than me from the baseline as if it was another day in the park. And, she was serving pretty well despite the wind blowing the toss around.

But, whenever I'd hit a serve or groundstroke that caused the other pair to hit a weak floater to her, oh my God it's the scariest thing ever! I'd be moving to the net, expecting her to smash it, and she'd step out of the way and leave it, as if she was expecting me to be hanging around the center of the baseline all night.

She did that four or five times on balls that were a good 3-4 ft on her side. We're not talking about high lobs moving around in the wind, and she wasn't moving over to protect the line. She was in perfect position and consiously moving away from the ball to leave it despite it being nowhere near me. On some of them, the net man/woman had even turned away expecting the smash. And forget about moving across the net on an easy floater near the middle.

She said she couldn't hit forehands that night (except for the groundstrokes she was bashing a foot over the net all night long), as if she had no confidence. But, who needs confidence when you're 2 ft from the net and the ball is at the perfect height for a smash. You can hit straight down as hard as you can if you like.

Somehow, despite my struggles with the condition and her unwillingness to hit any volley above her shoulders, we still won two of our four sets.

End of rant.

Cindysphinx
02-03-2010, 05:06 AM
Pity the woman in mixed.

I just spent two hours executing a game plan for 7.0 mixed: Stay the heck out of my partner's way.

I took no overheads unless they were headed straight to my racket. I called switch plays and hid as close to the net as possible, one foot in the alley, while he broke our opponents down from the baseline. I would literally duck down as he was hitting if I thought there was a chance he wanted to hit where I was standing, and sometimes he did.

Someone watching would likely conclude that I don't know how to volley and have no overhead. Nope. It's just that we figured out what worked with these opponents, and having me hide was it.

spaceman_spiff
02-03-2010, 08:03 AM
That's the thing, these were easy floaters going right to her, not low shots she'd have to cross over to reach and not high lobs she'd have to back up for. Plus, she plays on the club's Women's A team, so it's not like she's a beginner or terribly weak. After all, she was bashing away from the baseline with no problems, and she often steps across and hits volleys in the women's matches.

Something just flipped in her head and made her really hesitant to hit any high volleys, no matter how close and/or easy they were. I just couldn't figure it out.

A couple of months ago, she gave up on a match before we had even left the parking lot (away match that we carpooled to). Something about the courts or one of the guys on the other team caused her to flip out. I felt sorry for her partner that day. He's a good player, but with her in that mental state, they didn't have a chance.

I was lucky it was only one shot that was affected. If it had been her entire game, I would have been eating bagels for dinner.

spaceman_spiff
02-03-2010, 08:29 AM
Pity the woman in mixed.

BTW, I don't agree with that strategy.

Even if my partner is weaker, my strategy is to hit shots (mainly serves and returns) that will set one of us up for an easy put-away, usually my partner: the one-two punch. That's because the easy high volley/smash or even stomach-level volley is much easier to pull off from right at the net than the low volley/groundstroke from midcourt.

So, no matter how weak my partner is (within reason), it's still a higher percentage play for me to just go for setup shots (one) rather than winners and him/her to put-away anything within reach (two).

If he/she just stands to the side and does nothing, then I have to either start going for winners from bad positions or keep hitting setup shots over and over until I'm the one being set up. Either way, that's a higher-pressure, lower-percentage strategy that will end up with me hitting a lot of UE's or my opponents poaching off my shots.

So, if I were your partner, though I wouldn't expect you to hit aces and passing shots left and right, I would try to set you up with plenty of put-aways, expecting you to go for any within reach. (Yes, there will be some where I have the better angle, like on high lobs, but you know what I mean.)

If you just stood on the side and watched, I'd say "Woman, get back over here and hit that ball!" (Ok, so I'd be more polite than that.)

Cindysphinx
02-03-2010, 09:24 AM
^Hey, we figured out what worked based on what worked.

Our previous match was different, and the next will be different still. The problem in the early going was that having me back was getting us killed (because I couldn't get it past the net man), and having me be aggressive at net wasn't working unless I was hitting absolutely perfect volleys -- something I don't always do.

My partner was having no trouble blasting this lady's moonballs, so why not just have him do that?

spaceman_spiff
02-04-2010, 12:49 AM
^Hey, we figured out what worked based on what worked.

Our previous match was different, and the next will be different still. The problem in the early going was that having me back was getting us killed (because I couldn't get it past the net man), and having me be aggressive at net wasn't working unless I was hitting absolutely perfect volleys -- something I don't always do.

My partner was having no trouble blasting this lady's moonballs, so why not just have him do that?

Yeah, if she's moonballing too far from you to have easy pickings, that makes sense. But, if she's hitting them a bit too close to the middle, there's no harm in you stepping over to give it a whack from time to time. That puts her under even more pressure: if she hits too close to you, it gets whacked; if she gets it past you, it still gets whacked. It's a lose/lose situation for her.

Looking for easy pickings when the other man is at the back can also take a little pressure off your partner if he is having a tougher time in those match-ups. The key is to get the level of aggression just right. If you get it wrong in that case, you end up with tough volleys that are easy to miss. But, if you cut off the occasional weak shot and bash it back (or hit a cheeky drop shot), it puts more pressure on the other man to get it right with every shot, as well as making your own partner have to hit one less winner.