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View Full Version : How to get better at poaching and/or being the stronger partner?


Delano
02-06-2010, 09:06 AM
I'm playing down this season in doubles, which is turning out to be a real learning experience. In the past, I was always the weaker doubles player on my team, so I didn't do a whole lot of poaching - my partner was an excellent serve and volleyer, so as long as I covered my line, kept my returns cross court, and kicked a good serve to the backhand, we'd win. On my new team, I need to adjust to being the stronger partner. I can tell that there are shots that I should have intercepted and (especially) poached, but I just don't have the instincts for that yet. Anyone else been through this with some advice? People always talk about learning by playing up, but I think I can get a lot out of this season, because once I do develop these instincts/skills, I'll probably be a lot better even when I'm the weaker partner.

LeeD
02-06-2010, 09:16 AM
Communicate with partner as to acceptable level of success vs getting passed for a winner DTL.
When you poach, only poach on shots you can hit a forcing shot on, never poach if you only can pop up a sitter. Worst poach is taking away your backcourter's groundie by popping up a high soft sitter.
When you do a wide poach, your backcourter has to cover your now open alley.
When you go to poach, the lob over your vacant spot is covered by the backcourter. Lobs CC but over your head leave you in I formation...not good.
When you poach, always go for an open court, mostly between the two opposition players, low up the middle, just past service line, with some bite.
Don't poach if you can't hit a forcing shot...or winner.

86golf
02-06-2010, 09:58 AM
Well, typically it is the other way around. If you are the strong player on the court, you should be setting up your partner for poaches or easy pick offs at net.

Lee covered much of the poach do's/Don'ts just be sure you are on the same page with your partner. I've been rattled a bit when my partner opportunistically poached and I was coming in behind my serve. Not a good sitiuation especially if he left too early.

Be sure you are moving forward on your poaches more than laterally. You should be able to touch the center netstrap with your racquet after you hit your volley.

Cindysphinx
02-06-2010, 11:07 AM
To poach, you have to be in position to poach.

Make sure you are always in front of the ball. If the ball in opponents' court is in the middle, shift toward the middle. If ball is wide, shift wide. You will be surprised how many balls come within reach if you move toward the middle with the ball.

Second, do not be too far back in the box. If you are too far back, you won't be able to cut off angles and poach, even if you shifted properly. Get up there and do some damage.

Third, fake. Move. Be a nuisance. Don't let your opponents get in a groove and ignore you. Think about the best times to fake, when opponents are most nervous (e.g. break point).

Fourth, want the ball.

FuriousYellow
02-06-2010, 11:27 AM
This is a really good video explaining the angles the net person should be looking to poach and where to position yourself.

http://www.tennis-warehouse.com/Doubles_Tennis_Tactics_DVD/descpageKINETIC-DTTDVD.html

Jonny S&V
02-06-2010, 11:35 AM
Well, my partner's are typically consistent all-courters. I, on the other hand, am a go-for-broke S&Ver, so my partner typically takes the lobs and he poaches, while I take all the other volleys. Obviously communication and experience are the most important things in doubles, and the best way to figure these things out is to play more doubles.

LeeD
02-06-2010, 11:57 AM
Funny ding...
Like Jolly, I'm a go for broke big server and volleyer.
When I serve, at almost any level (up to 4.5), my netman get's 3 putaway tries out of 7 serves from me, if it goes that long. Putaway tries as in head high, slow moving, non directional sitters.
When my partner serves, usually 40 mph slower than me, I get, in 7 serves, exactly ONE bullet net skimmer DTL that's used to keep me from poaching. The rest are forcing topspin returners to my server.
Who hold serve more often?
Often, him. Most of my partners like to dink all 3 sitters to the opponents, so I lose those points and whatever else I get to hit.

larry10s
02-07-2010, 12:06 PM
have the mindset YOU WANT THE BALL. by looking for the ball you will be more active in poaching. its a mindset.. as the weaker partner your mind set was passive more dont scew up and let him hit the ball. now you must be the aggessor and WANT THE BALL because you are the better player.

LuckyR
02-07-2010, 01:33 PM
I'm playing down this season in doubles, which is turning out to be a real learning experience. In the past, I was always the weaker doubles player on my team, so I didn't do a whole lot of poaching - my partner was an excellent serve and volleyer, so as long as I covered my line, kept my returns cross court, and kicked a good serve to the backhand, we'd win. On my new team, I need to adjust to being the stronger partner. I can tell that there are shots that I should have intercepted and (especially) poached, but I just don't have the instincts for that yet. Anyone else been through this with some advice? People always talk about learning by playing up, but I think I can get a lot out of this season, because once I do develop these instincts/skills, I'll probably be a lot better even when I'm the weaker partner.

First of all, I would stop thinking stronger and weaker. I would think setter and spiker. If you are better at hitting penetrating serves and groundies, then you are the setter. If you have a very active net game, you could be the spiker.

For most, the biggest thing stopping a netman from being more active is the fear of either getting passed or messing up. Start by making a deal with yourself to get all easy returns. Once you have jumped that hurdle, then decide on certain situations where you will take two steps as if you are going to poach, but instead of taking off after you decide the return is poachable, take off before the ball is struck and continue if you can effectively poach and go back if it isn't.

OrangePower
02-07-2010, 06:14 PM
have the mindset YOU WANT THE BALL. by looking for the ball you will be more active in poaching. its a mindset.. as the weaker partner your mind set was passive more dont scew up and let him hit the ball. now you must be the aggessor and WANT THE BALL because you are the better player.

YES! That's exactly it. All the other advice is situational and something that maybe you can improve over time, but the single biggest thing you can do now is adopt the mindset Larry is talking about. And it's not just the poaching that will get better - you will also be putting more volleys away for clean winners rather than giving the opponents a 2nd chance.

I speak from personal experience - I'm primarily a singles player and the hardest thing for me in doubles has been adopting that aggressive attitude at net. As a result, I can let too many balls go down the middle, find myself backing up from the net rather than keeping my weight forward, etc. But my volley is actually pretty good (when I'm properly positioned to hit it), so it's all mindset. The cure is to keep focused and hungry for the next ball.

spaceman_spiff
02-08-2010, 02:05 AM
Am I the only one who thinks you guys are overthinking this way too much?

The best poachers I play with simply watch the opponent to see if they can guess what he's going to do with the ball. If I hit a shot that makes them stretch or puts them on the defensive (they have to stretch for a slice backhand, pick up a ball off their feet, etc.), or if they just get really predictable, my partner moves to the most obvious place for the shot to go. If I don't hit a good enough shot and they can't guess what the opponent is going to do, they stay put.

I try to do the same, but I'm a bit conservative at times.

It's all about putting yourself in your opponent's shoes and moving where you think he/she will hit the ball. Simples.

Cindysphinx
02-08-2010, 06:24 AM
The best poachers I play with simply watch the opponent to see if they can guess what he's going to do with the ball.

IMHO, this is what an average poacher does, not what the best poachers do.

As you say, anticipation is important in poaching. It is important, but not sufficient. If you simply wait for the most obvious situations to poach, you won't poach much. And if you don't position well, you will miss more poaches than you could if you positioned better.

The best poachers, IMHO, anticipate but are also in position to do some damage by faking, by being in position, and by deciding to take some risks when the returner isn't giving off obvious cues that a poachable ball is coming.

YMMV, of course.

goran_ace
02-08-2010, 07:01 AM
There are two kinds of poaching. One is merely picking off a shot that wasn't intended for you. Then there is poaching in the sense of a planned 'switch' in formation by the serving team.

A good returner (or having a weak serving partner) can make the first type of poaching ineffective. The returner can choose where he wants to put the ball before the point begins so he can let the serve come to him and its all a matter of timing the return. If you have a team that calls for a lot of poaches (and fake poaches), the returner now has to read your formation/coverage or make a guess. Any hesitation takes away options and can neutralize a strong returner. On this type of poach, if you leave your starting spot after the returner makes contact then you're too late. The key to good 'called' poaches is to sell out on the poach. Go all the way. Trust your opponent to cover the court you left open behind you.

spaceman_spiff
02-08-2010, 07:14 AM
The problem with planned poaches, at least against the guys I play, is that they are easy to miss even when you get it right.

For example, in my indoor (fast courts) match last night, I hit a flat serve, the returner did a full swinging flat forehand, which I returned likewise (very low-percentage stuff that point); then he did another full swinger, which I didn't manage to get back in court. The first three shots went back and forth so fast, neither net man looked like they even knew which side of the net the ball was on.

Now, if my partner had done a planned poach, the chances of him making that volley (or just avoiding getting pegged by the ball) would have been close to 0. I had a hard enough time reacting to the return, and I was at the baseline.

That said, there were plenty of serves that I hit with a better angle, and my partner was quick to anticipate the weak return and took off across the net before the shot (so he wasn't just reacting to a floater). I've played with him enough times to immediately move the instant I see him going.

tennytive
02-08-2010, 08:07 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2VwnBU1-iU

This may well be the best example of a good "poach" that I've ever seen. Stay with me on this.
:)

larry10s
02-08-2010, 08:42 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2VwnBU1-iU

This may well be the best example of a good "poach" that I've ever seen. Stay with me on this.
:)

just like a perfect poach. great timing:)

alan_kt_wong
02-08-2010, 08:58 AM
Funny thing...
Like Jolly, I'm a go for broke big server and volleyer.
When I serve, at almost any level (up to 4.5), my netman get's 3 putaway tries out of 7 serves from me, if it goes that long. Putaway tries as in head high, slow moving, non directional sitters.
When my partner serves, usually 40 mph slower than me, I get, in 7 serves, exactly ONE bullet net skimmer DTL that's used to keep me from poaching. The rest are forcing topspin returners to my server.
Who hold serve more often?
Often, him. Most of my partners like to dink all 3 sitters to the opponents, so I lose those points and whatever else I get to hit.

I hate playing with a doubles partner who refuse to go for the kill. My first reaction is to kill them. But I think I'll have to learn to calm them and switch to my Emperor Palpatine voice and tell them "I can feel your anger. Let your aggressive feelings flow through you. It gives you focus." :)

goran_ace
02-08-2010, 09:27 AM
The problem with planned poaches, at least against the guys I play, is that they are easy to miss even when you get it right.

For example, in my indoor (fast courts) match last night, I hit a flat serve, the returner did a full swinging flat forehand, which I returned likewise (very low-percentage stuff that point); then he did another full swinger, which I didn't manage to get back in court. The first three shots went back and forth so fast, neither net man looked like they even knew which side of the net the ball was on.

Now, if my partner had done a planned poach, the chances of him making that volley (or just avoiding getting pegged by the ball) would have been close to 0. I had a hard enough time reacting to the return, and I was at the baseline.

If you call a poach, maybe you still lose the point. Its just one point though. Sometimes your opponent just hits a better shot.

In terms of percentage tennis, a hard flat ball hit at the net man favors the net man (assuming all players are pretty close in ability and are above 3.5). If he tries to take it down the line behind you, it is a lower percentage shot to change the direction of the ball (instead of hitting it right back where it came from) and take it down the line where your partner is there in coverage and leaving his partner exposed. So in that isolated incident it may not have worked, but over the course of a match the strategy should pay off.

The thing is, if you poached there, from then on he will be looking out for the poach. You don't have to do it very point. You could poach early in the set/game and then use the fake liberally just to keep the returner guessing.

goran_ace
02-08-2010, 09:37 AM
I hate playing with a doubles partner who refuse to go for the kill. My first reaction is to kill them. But I think I'll have to learn to calm them and switch to my Emperor Palpatine voice and tell them "I can feel your anger. Let your aggressive feelings flow through you. It gives you focus." :)

As much as I hate when a partner doesn't put away the easy one and lets the opponents back into the point, I hate it even more when you hit a good serve and your partner misses the putaway. I've had that happen to me before at some bad times. Like serving at 4-4 in a set where nobody has broken yet, hitting three bombs, watching your partner miss three routine put away shots, and suddenly you are down triple break point late in the set.

precision2b
02-08-2010, 10:11 AM
To poach, you have to be in position to poach.

Make sure you are always in front of the ball. If the ball in opponents' court is in the middle, shift toward the middle. If ball is wide, shift wide. You will be surprised how many balls come within reach if you move toward the middle with the ball.

Second, do not be too far back in the box. If you are too far back, you won't be able to cut off angles and poach, even if you shifted properly. Get up there and do some damage.

Third, fake. Move. Be a nuisance. Don't let your opponents get in a groove and ignore you. Think about the best times to fake, when opponents are most nervous (e.g. break point).

Fourth, want the ball.

This is one thing that works well for me. I donít play a lot of dubís . I try to play 1 match a week of dubís. I go into the match with the mind set that I want the ball and that helps me to play attacking tennisÖ

Ripper014
02-08-2010, 10:18 AM
Poaching is an art form... you need to know when to poach and where to hit your volleys to put your opponent at their biggest disadvantage. You need to know when not to poach... and allow your partner to work work his way into a point.

I do not like to poach when we are down 15-40 or 0-40... late in a set or match, these are opportunities for the receiving teams to go for broke for DTL return winners with everything on the line. I would prefer to play out the point, looking for a better opportunity to close out a point. To throw the dice on one point seems foolhardy to me.

Being the stronger partner in a doubles team to means that you are expected to be the anchor for your team. In my case I naturally play as an aggressive attacking all-court game... but when saddled as the stronger partner I take on the position of being the steady player... to compensate for my partners errors. However when opportunities arise I will seize any offensive openings.

If both players are making EU's a match can end very quickly.

precision2b
02-08-2010, 10:18 AM
YES! That's exactly it. All the other advice is situational and something that maybe you can improve over time, but the single biggest thing you can do now is adopt the mindset Larry is talking about. And it's not just the poaching that will get better - you will also be putting more volleys away for clean winners rather than giving the opponents a 2nd chance.

I speak from personal experience - I'm primarily a singles player and the hardest thing for me in doubles has been adopting that aggressive attitude at net. As a result, I can let too many balls go down the middle, find myself backing up from the net rather than keeping my weight forward, etc. But my volley is actually pretty good (when I'm properly positioned to hit it), so it's all mindset. The cure is to keep focused and hungry for the next ball.

Same here OrangePower...

Ripper014
02-08-2010, 10:18 AM
This is one thing that works well for me. I donít play a lot of dubís . I try to play 1 match a week of dubís. I go into the match with the mind set that I want the ball and that helps me to play attacking tennisÖ

In doubles you should expect every ball is going to be coming your way.

precision2b
02-08-2010, 10:40 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2VwnBU1-iU

This may well be the best example of a good "poach" that I've ever seen. Stay with me on this.
:)

That was very funny...

In doubles you should expect every ball is going to be coming your way.

I agree....

KSJ1979
02-10-2010, 06:15 AM
watch tennis channel academy with Rennae Stubbs and the one with Wayne Bryan....breaks it down really well...