Can FTTM Peacefully Coexist with PIFHP?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Jun 21, 2012.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I am on some new teams this year, so I am playing with some new partners. All nice women, good players, yada yada.

    What I am finding, however, is that these partners are firm believers in "Forehand Takes The Middle" (FTTM). I, on the other hand, am a "Player In Front Has Priority" (PIFHP) disciple.

    This is causing me all manner of problems.

    I play deuce court most of the time. Because of this, I feel confident hitting shots that are often required from the deuce court. These shots include the BH volley and BH overhead. I feel I can poach with my BH volley as competently as I can with my FH volley.

    Unfortunately, my partners tend to scold me when I take a BH volley, especially if I miss. I will hear things like "That's my FH, so that's my ball" or "Let that one through; it's your BH" or "My pro says FTTM."

    Equally unsettling is how my partners at net will allow a middle ball to zing by their ear lobe but not play it because it is their BH volley (say, when I serve from the ad side). This leaves me with responsibility for the wide angled ball, the ear lobe ball that I must take as a low FH volley from a deep position, and lobs over their head -- all against a returner who is grooved because the net player hasn't so much as twitched to hit a BH volley poach.

    I am at wits end with this. Yeah, I guess I can just stand there at net on the deuce side, playing only balls that go to my body or my alley. It is frustrating because it seems there are many returners with weak BH returns who hide on the ad side, and I can do a lot of damage with a BH volley poach on their flimsy returns.

    This is 4.0 doubles, fer cryin' out loud. How come the default isn't an expectation that people can hit a BH volley?
     
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  2. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Well I am in the third camp- Cross court takes the middle. And to me this is the single biggest thing I use to match up partners- whether they move at the net the same way. People who believe that the forehand takes the middle I almost always put with a partner who wants to stay back where it isn't as much of an issue.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012
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  3. Mike Y

    Mike Y Rookie

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    I think if you can get a racket on the ball, you take it. Don't know why your partners would scold you for being a net person who takes the ball, that is what you are supposed to do. Hell, against good doubles teams, if you "let that one through", then both players on the other team will come to the net, and your partner will have to pass/lob from the baseline against two people at the net, and when that happens, you've basically already lost the point.
     
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  4. J_R_B

    J_R_B Hall of Fame

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    I'm in your camp. The player in front has the best chance to put it away, and if s/he doesn't because it's on his/her backhamd, then they need to hit it anyway to practice and get better because the people on top of the net need to be able to put away balls on both wings to become a more complete player. A lot of times, people will actually apologize to their partner for making an error stretching for a volley at the net. I always tell them no problem, go for it if you think you can make it. That's what you're there for.

    Also, in warmups, I always try to really hit backhand overheads when someone hits one to my backhand just in case I need to take a swat at one sometime. So last weekend, I was taking overheads in warmups and the guy blocked one back up to my BH side and I crushed it in the court like a regular FH overhead, which is rare of course - most are mishit or back in the fence. anyway, the guy was looking at me like, really, you have THAT shot?!? I think I only saw one or two lobs all match.
     
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  5. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    The only time I tell a partner to "let that one go through" is when they try to volley a dipping shot up the middle (to their backhand) that is already below the net and which they try to dig out from their shoelaces. I'd be perfectly happy to hit that short ball with my forehand.

    Otherwise, if the player closer to the net thinks they have a play on the ball, they should take it. With confidence. If they miss, I'll say "nice try - that was the right play".
     
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  6. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    For me, if I think I can reach it comfortably (i.e., I have a good angle on it), I take it. If I have to really stretch (i.e., can't play a good shot), I leave it for my partner, who should be in a better position.

    Your partners need to learn how to hit backhands and stop taking their coaches so literally.
     
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  7. J_R_B

    J_R_B Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, obviously, that's the judgment that you have to try to make as the close person. The question is whether, if a ball turns out to be a little more of a stretch than your partner thought it would be when he went for it, would you admonish him for trying and making an error? I would not.
     
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  8. floydcouncil

    floydcouncil Semi-Pro

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    I would go and find different players who don't scold you at the 4.0 level.
     
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  9. esgee48

    esgee48 Hall of Fame

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    I'm with KyleB. High shots down the middle are opportunities for put away shots. So the person closest to the net, if they can hit it, should. If it is a low shoetop return, let it go for the person coming in since it will land short.
     
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  10. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    I believe in CCTM as well. Cross court player has more time to react and step into the ball and thus has a better chance of making an aggressive volley. This assumes that the players are in good position to start with.

    One exception to CCTM is on an easy floater...then it doesn't matter who takes it, as long as the ball gets put away.

    Another exception is a planned poach.
     
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  11. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

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    i generally agree with the philosophy, if you can get a racket on the ball, go for it. But if you have to stretch like crazy, and your partner can hit an easy shot, then your partner should have the ball.
     
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  12. cmartin

    cmartin New User

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    CCTM is certainly the way to go at 4.5 and above. The exception is when the ball is a sitter and the DL person is at the net and can put the ball away. If the ball is not put away it leaves the other team in a positional advantage. The other exception is if both are back , there is plenty of time for either to hit the ball and the DL person has a much better groundstroke.
     
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  13. Xisbum

    Xisbum Semi-Pro

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    Ha. Sometimes you just can't win. Last week in a dubs clinic, we were drilling on slice backhand approaches followed by an aggressive first volley. I was on backhand side (forehand in middle), the one who had to hit the slice BH approach. I happened to hit a decent one, followed it in and put away the soft sitter over the middle. I was closest to the ball AND I had the forehand. Instructor praised the sequence as exactly what he was trying to teach.

    My partner in this particular drill then whispered in my ear "Next time call it." :shock:

    Sometimes, you just can't win.
     
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  14. tennisjon

    tennisjon Semi-Pro

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    I think it depends on the situation. If its a difficult ball, leave it for your partner if they have a big forehand. If its within your range of ability and you can get it at net, its your shot. Just you taking the aggressive shot puts more pressure on your opponents to hit riskier shots.

    For me, my best shot (compared to anyone I have ever played with) is a backhand overhead. Now, most people would think you are crazy to take a backhand overhead over a forehand overhead, but 1. I don't get nervous on the backhand overhead and 2. I usually put it away or at least put it in a very difficult spot. If I play with a person who knows my game, they never question me taking that shot. A new person will say that's my forehand overhead. Normally, I would agree, but since I make 80-90% of these, I take them.
     
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  15. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    I'm of the camp that you work in dubs to take a more aggressive stance in the court, i.e. past the service line. If the person in front wants to take a ball and has a good shot at it; go for it! I will NEVER ever criticize a person for this maneuver because this is what wins Dubs tennis matches.

    However, if I am the net person and I have a poor chance of hitting a good shot on a ball hit very low and very hard, I will defer that ball to my partner who is back or who is approaching. They have a better shot at it and hopefully can improve our position better than I can by hitting a poor poach.

    Sometimes, I find that it takes a bit a patience before you can always take that ball and make it an offensive shot instead of a defensive shot. But, I do believe that finding the opportunity to take that shot is what wins a dubs match!

    Cindy: I am hearing your pain, however. I play with a few 4.0 women who are really happy staying back and want to hit groundies all day long. Part of it is that they are getting a little older and don't move as well as they did in the past. For some reason, these are the same women who think you should always take the middle with the forehand? I have never gotten that idea.
     
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  16. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I need to have a little meeting with the CCTM crowd. :)

    I think we all agree that the net player shouldn't take balls they can't hit well because they are too low, too far away, whatever.

    But CCTM is kind of meaningless. Obviously, the net player has the alley and should also position in front of the ball (pinching the middle when the ball is in the middle). But the net player also has the crosscourt if it is a ball they can reach and play offensively.

    How can you tell what CC balls the net player can/should reach? Some people say that if the CC ball passes over any portion of the net player's service box, that is poachable and is her ball to take. I have also heard it phrased that the net player can/should try to play balls that cross at the net strap or closer. And of course the net player should be ready to pounce on CC balls where the opponent is very deep in the court or is otherwise in trouble.

    What I am getting at is there are so many instances where the net player *should* take a crosscourt ball that CCTM doesn't really accomplish anything in terms of giving guidance on who should take that middle ball when both players could reach it.

    Part of what is frustrating is that I prefer to play a staggered position at the net. Player in front of the ball plays closer to the net (say, middle of the box) and should look to cut off everything she can. Crosscourt partner should play at about the T, looking to play approach volleys that get past the partner and take any lobs out of the air.

    Well, FTTM is wholly incompatible with a staggered formation. Which is another reason I don't like FTTM.
     
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  17. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    I think what ball you take is really up in the air; it probably depends on your skill and level of competency at net. I don't think there is any fast rule about where it is in relation to the center strap.

    Here's how I look at it, if I feel I can poach, I do. If the ball is at the baseline very deep, but also wide, it is my job to cover the alley. I need to be able to reach the outside line when I take a step with the edge of my racquet if that ball is wide. The cross court ball is then my partners, whether the partners is up or back. In the case of up, she should be around the T or closer to me to take the cross court shot. If they hit a great angle, then I say great shot and go about my business. In this scenario, Forehands do not rule; because if the net person is wide in the ad side, it is the person who is back's responsibility to take the cross court and if they are a righty, then it is their back hand that will usually take that shot (especially when they are coming up).

    Staggered is the way to go. It can obviously change who has the more aggressive and who has the less aggressive position, but if you do not stagger they WILL lob you and you WILL NOT get to the ball most of the time.

    I have to agree, I do not understand why anyone would say forehands rule in the middle. Who are these pros anway?
     
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  18. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I think FTTM pros probably got weary of beginning players botching BH volleys and complaining about it. They probably also got tired of beginning players letting balls go unplayed. They probably also were working with beginning players who will not come to net, ever.

    I guess if you are always one up, one back and no one can hit a BH volley, FTTM can work.

    Trouble is, these beginners grow up to be my partner at 4.0. They stopped taking clinics long ago because, hey, they know how to play. Then we have a problem when I S&V to the ad court and they won't hit a BH volley.

    There is one opponent in our league who straight up will not hit a BH volley. The way to beat her is aim every ball to her BH side. She will let it go through to her partner, who might or might not be in position to hit a good shot.
     
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  19. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

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    I personally subscribe to PIFHP.
     
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  20. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    1) Put the lefty in Deuce and have the righty play Ad
    2) PIFHP except for dipping crosscourt shots.
    3) When serving, you will occasionally have the netman w/ his BH to the middle. It is awkward to poach/hit an inside out BH volley, but I still feel it is higher percentage tennis than letting the ball go to the server who will either have to hit a volley from behind the service line or start a cross court rally.

    BTW, I'm curious as to how you "coach" or convince your team to follow strategy? I've learnt to not direct or offer unsolicited advice. I just try to be very encouraging whenever my netman moves even if they miss the ball.
     
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  21. doubleshack

    doubleshack New User

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    Cindysphinx, while I don't care for your acronym (PIFHP), I do like your playing style.

    I have no idea what the 'pros' would say, but for me, the person in front should take any shot they can get a racquet on.

    I don't care if you win the point or not. While I am interested in the current point, my real goal is to win more points. If you are active at the net and jumping on everything, then the returner will be thinking about you. Ok, maybe you poached on a shot I might have won with my forehand, so what, that is just 1 point. In the long run, the returner will be thinking about you poaching, and we will win more points because they are thinking about you instead of the return. If you let it go, then the returner has a large target area and they will start to unload and we will have to work harder.

    So yes, PIFHP....you go girl. And if your partner tells you to back off, acquiesce, be prepared to lose, and stop playing with that person.
     
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  22. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Hall of Fame

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    Definitely not. If my partner is aggressive at net and makes a few bad choices here or there, it's no biggie. It's only if he/she is constantly going for bad shots when I've got it covered that I might have a word. That's pretty rare though.
     
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  23. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Cindy- I'm assuming that most CCTTM people are like me where its about positioning and playing the percentages. If a shot is slow enough that the Net person covering the line can get to it then by all means go for it. But when I am lined up cross court I am severely pinching the middle and giving up the wicked Cross Court angle encouraging the other team to try and hit the low percentage shot. But by setting up this way then the CC person takes pretty much every single ball down the middle unless its the weakest of floaters or on a poach- then I'm certainly not going to complain if my partner gets to it first.
     
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  24. J_R_B

    J_R_B Hall of Fame

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    I think there is a philosophical difference in positioning between you and Cindy. Cindy plays the "staggered" doubles formation (ala The Art of Doubles) where the crosscourt person is vertically several feet deeper than the DTL person (i.e. the DTL person is at least half way up the box whereas the CC person is close to the service line). This is done so that the CC person can take any lob (that the DTL person can't smash) out of the air anywhere on the court, but in this formation, you would always want the DTL person to take any volleys he/she can get to since they are in the attcking position whereas the CC person is in more of a defending position. If you play more of a level vertical positioning, then I think you want the CC person to take the middle volleys for the reasons you gave.
     
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  25. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Personally I think how close the CC person plays to the net should be directly correlated to how comfortable they are taking a few steps back to hit an overhead. I think that many players play too far back which makes them too much of a target. So for women's I think its natural for them to play with the CC person further back or even to go 1 up and 1 back. Then again when I face other teams who go 2-up my first move will always be the Cross Court topspin lob to see if they do have the ability to move back and attack that ball.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2012
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  26. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, you have identified a big part of the problem.

    I don't tell my partners what to do. I don't scold or correct them when they do something that I consider bad tactics. Most of the time, I can just deal with it or adjust my own play.

    My partners, however, will tell me that I shouldn't have taken a particular ball because FTTM. Most of the time I will nod and ignore this (and try to make sure I hit a good volley so they cannot complain). In a recent match, I actually argued the point. I said, "I think it works better if the player in front takes everything she can reach." The partner came back with, "The coach said FTTM." I then said, "Well, let's do this. Whoever wants a ball can call it."

    This did not work well. I am not used to calling balls, and neither is she. We just kind of got through the match and never really handled middle balls all that well.
     
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  27. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    So after you hit a backhand volley winner off a ball in the middle, tell your partner "sorry about that, I should have left it for you" and do exactly the same thing next time.
     
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  28. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, I do play the staggered doubles formation. This is described in Art of Doubles (2nd ed.) , but it is not described all that well. :) And the rest of the second edition contains a lot of errors and things with which I disagree.

    The biggest problem with staggered doubles formation is that no one understands it. The only partners I have who understand staggered net formation are the four women with whom I take a clinic where the pro teaches it.

    When I have a new partner, it all works fine when I am the deep player who is coming to net on the diagonal. She is instinctively mirroring the ball and is closer to net, and I don't come any closer to the service line and am ready to try to smash or volley balls that go over her head. So far, so good.

    The trouble starts if I hit a lob over the net player in front of me -- one of my go-to shots. My goal in doing this is to get the opponent running back to retrieve this ball with her BH. For staggered doubles, this means I should run straight ahead to the middle of the service box.

    My partner should then move toward the T because she is now defending the crosscourt. She should adjust backward also, no closer than the service line to cover the lob over my head. But if she hasn't learned staggered doubles (and isn't confident in her deep/defensive volley), she remains close to net so we have formed our wall too close to net. We get lobbed. Ugh.

    Then, out of fear of the lob, my partner gets reluctant to be closer to net, so we wind up with two people playing from the service line. Ugh.

    I wish more of my teammates understood staggered formation. It really does work great when both people get it.
     
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  29. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    Cindy, I absolutely believe and recommend the book "Art of Doubles." Unfortunately I tend to mix doubles partners based on availability. I do suggest it as a great read on strategy or a starting point.

    One time, I had a fellow guard his alley so well that they never hit the ball there. Unfortunately, he let several floaters go by the middle. I struggled to hold serve. On his serve, though it had less pace/spin, I aggressively poached and we held it pretty easily. They made several return errors as well trying to avoid the poach. Unfortunately, the thing that stuck in his head after the match was that they passed me twice in my alley...
     
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  30. SuzukiSS

    SuzukiSS New User

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    I was told to always be able to back up what I teach with tangible credible evidence which is why I always teach the staggered formation. I would challenge your partners as I do my students to show you any books or videos teaching other strategies at net? I really believe the problem is that people are taught to close in the net and they or many coaches do not understand the term! With this said, Cindy is handling the situation of having to play with partners who don't understand doubles net positioning admirably. One of my ladies actually gave out copies of The Art of Doubles as gifts.:)
     
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  31. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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  32. SuzukiSS

    SuzukiSS New User

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    The first book is the best as the strategies promoted have proved timeless so far. She seems to focus more on tactics in the second which are dated! Tennis is much more powerful today even at the recreational level than when the book was written. The staggered formation is very versatile!
     
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  33. spot

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    Cindy- maybe its been a long time since I've read the 2 editions but I thought that the Staggered net play was a 2nd edition thing in order to counteract the topspin crosscourt lob. I don't recall the first edition ever talking about the CC player playing significantly further back than the DTL player. Of course its been at least 4 years since I've read either book so maybe I've just gotten things crossed up in my mind.
     
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  34. stapletonj

    stapletonj Semi-Pro

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    IF you ain't clacking racquets every now and again on down the middle shots, you ain't doing it right!
     
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  35. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    Cindy, I believe I have the 2nd edition (on Kindle).

    I don't think she is quite as dogmatic as people seem to believe. I do think that she is right most of the time and suggests making adjustments based on the situation.

    I will also say that I typically hit only 5-6 groundstrokes in a doubles match. Even my return is a chip so I can see how she would say topspin isn't essential. Most of these groundies occur basically on a switch after a lob, and truthfully I probably could slice lob it back, but it's good to have options. Right now when I drill or practice, it's 80% baseline/20% net play; if I was only going to play doubles, it'd be flipped or even 90/10 for netplay.

    I think she is right especially about the cc-lob being devestating. If I see both opponents closed in at net, my goto shots are the cc-lob and the down the middle pass. Whether intentional or not though I notice smart teams begin to stagger their formation after the first time.

    I'm a 4.0 player and can't speak to other levels. I have watched some college tennis though since reading her book and was felt like the successful teams were using similar positions/tactics as she describes.
     
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  36. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    On this question of whether topspin is essential . . .

    Well, nothing is really essential except getting the ball over the net and into the proper court. :)

    But I would say that if you told me I had to pick between having only topspin or only slice in a doubles match, I would pick topspin every time. Slice is a nice tool to have.

    But relying only on slice is a tough way to earn a living, if you ask me. If you were to poll my 4.0 pals, I would bet most of them would tell you they dream of the ability to hit topspin well.

    So for Blaskower to list learning topspin as something not worth the bother . . . I dunno.

    I also do not think the lob is the most devastating shot in doubles. It is only devastating to players who cannot hit a volley unless they are draped on the net.
     
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  37. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    Ask your friends if they'd rather volley a heavy topspin shot or a heavily sliced ball? I've learned to be more patient when opponents give me that shot; it's not as easy as it looks. And for those who didn't follow their serve, which ball would you rather deal with? With all this said, I enjoy hitting forehands/backhand topspin shots and feel it's better to develop as a complete tennis player.

    I suppose a smash at your opponent's feet is probably the most intimidating shot, like a dunk in basketball. For me a lob is more of a strategic victory. It breaks up their formation. Forces them to move. Tests their confidence. I don't care how well your ladies volley if they aren't 6'4", I can lob them. The next time you practice opponents that aren't staggered, try a few lobs and see what it effects. I don't expect the lob to be an outright winner BTW, but it does open opportunities to poach or lanes to hit groundies if you choose.
     
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  38. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    No question, I would rather volley a heavily sliced shot than a heavy topspin ball. The chance that I would whiff the topspin ball is pretty high. With slice, the trajectory is more straight, so it is more easy to line it up and make decent contact.

    I need to go find my copy of AofD. I wonder if any of my opinions have changed.
     
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  39. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    I think that it would be pretty close to unanimous that people would rather face the sliced ball. If for no other reason than the topspin drives below net level even with pace and it makes the volley dramatically more difficult.
     
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  40. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    I guess we'd have to agree to disagree then. It may be that both of you are far better at dealing w/ slice shots than I and if your opponents are feasting on slice then giving them topspin is in order.

    I prefer volleying topspin drives in doubles. Even half volleys are a lot easier b/c the ball provides the energy. Picking up a sliced shot below my knees is tough (for me) especially if their netman is active. I don't think I've ever had to half volley a sliced shot fortunately...
     
    #40

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