Can't Poach Off Of A Weak Serve? No Excuses.

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I think I learned something tonight.

    In ladies combo, it is quite common for 3.5/4.0 players to have weak serves. Sometimes *very* weak serves. Like, so weak you start wondering if they have abandoned their racket and are tossing the ball over the net with their non-dominant hand. When my partner has a weak serve, I used to believe it makes it more difficult for me to poach. I was OK with this, figuring the problem wasn't my poaching skill but was instead my partner's slow serve.

    Tonight I played a social match with a 4.0 partner -- I subbed in on short notice to be their fourth and didn't know this partner's game at all. She served first, and her serve was weak. Nothing on it, first or second. So of course I didn't try to poach the service return. I'm no fool, right?

    When it was my turn to serve, I hit a reasonable slice first serve. To my amazement, my partner flew across the net to poach. Alas, she left a little early and the returner steered it down the line for a winner. A couple of points later the same thing happened -- my partner took off a bit early and they went up the alley.

    On the changeover, I told my partner to keep up the aggressive poaching, but we should probably use signals so I'll be ready to reach those DTL returns and I will know where to place my serve. She was game and said both of us should use signals when we are at net.

    When my partner served again, I swallowed hard and reluctantly gave the signal to poach, and she hit her serve. I took off because I had to. Lo and behold, the ball came right to my racket for an easy FH volley winner. Again and again we used signaled poaches. If I stayed, I would do a little fake and the ball sometimes came right to me. Over two sets, I missed exactly *one* poach (just a hair wide). This despite the fact that my partner wasn't blasting her serve.

    That's it then. This little experiment proves that signaled poaches *can* work regardless of the strength of your partner's serve. It can take the opponents out of their comfort zone and lead to lots of errors. I think part of why it worked for us is that it took away that moment of hesitation when your instincts tell you not to fly across the net because the serve is so weak. I mean, it's just sitting there, and no one in their right mind would challenge the returner, right? Wrong!

    So can we all agree that the weakness of one's partner's serve is no excuse not to poach? How about it, men who play mixed doubles and say they can't do anything at net because their female partner has a weak serve? :)

    Cindy -- who is going to cause some team a lot of pain in her next match because of this experience
     
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  2. yonexxx

    yonexxx Rookie

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    this may have worked at a 3.5 womens match. no offense to women but say if it was 4.5-5.0 or higher mens or women i dont belive that it would have worked. if anything it seems they were suprised and didnt adapt to you poaching.
     
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  3. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    The hardest game for me in mixed is always my partner's service game. I am more likely to break the guy opponent's serve than have my partner hold serve. I don't trust using signal poaches in mixed because the few times I tried it, my partner (at the baseline) got burnt down the alley because they didn't do what they were supposed to.

    I think its very difficult to use opportunistic poaching though, which is why I have so much trouble. Alot of it is mental too. I have alot of confidence at the net when I know my partner is going to pressure the opponents' return, and not so much when the returner has plenty of time to do whatever they want with it.

    I played 8.0 against a 3.5W/4.5M a couple weeks ago, and the 4.5M never poached when I was returning and I'm not even a good returner. Its just that his partner's serve put no pressure on me and I had plenty of time to smack my forehands. Sometimes you just can't do a whole lot.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2009
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  4. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    I always think that it is better for me to try to poach off the weak serve to prevent the opponent from whaling returns (because I am pretty confident in my volleys)

    I find that when I am poaching a lot, even if I am getting passed a lot, the returners are still making a lot of errors because they are watching me and not the serve, particularly if I add a lot of fakes as well.

    I like hand signals. I also like to play that if the serve is down the middle, I am crossing over.
     
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  5. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    Hand signals are great and work well if you have a serve that can keep the person returning it on the baseline or you can handle the pace of the returns.

    I was in a tourney one time where our opponents serves were a little on the weak side and both my partner and I stepped well in during the service toss and attacked our returns. After a few service games his partner told him to net man to step back to the baseline before we killed him.

    So in mixed or regular doubles... if the serve is weak enough for you to step up to the service line and take free swings at it, no number of hand signals are going to help you. It is not going to matter if you hit it at the net man/woman or not... I doubt they will be able to handle the pace of the return especially if you aim for right hip/shoulder for a righty or left hip/shoulder for a lefty.

    If you are dealing with a team using hand signals... as returner just commit to your return and if you are still having problems with the net man/woman lob over their backhand.
     
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  6. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    I'd expect a 4.0 partner to have a serve with a little something on it. Maybe not on 2nd serve, but I would on 1st serve.

    I agree, it's better to poach alot and try to get in their head than just stand there and let them pick their spots. Sometimes you'll get burned but it's still worth it. I know returning, I'd always prefer to have the opponents stand like statues than distract me by moving around. Tennis is a zero-sum-game, so it's a good tactic.
     
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  7. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    I have to agree with Yonexx. I think this was a function of the level of the players a bit. I know that in mixed I will try to poach the womens return very often when my partner is serving but only every once in a while on the guys return. Playing 8.0 and 8.5 most of the guys are capable of hitting just about any shot they wish of of my partners serve. She has a decent first and a somewhat wimpy second neither of which have any spin to them so 4.0 and 4.5 guys regularly punish the return. We have even tried playing some "I" formation but the guys returning simply have too many options and my partner is not fast enough to cover the court from the baseline.
    With the woman returning I can get to most of their returns pretty easily and when they lob I can usually get an overhead to put away.

    When playing mens dubs I find it much easier to poach off of my partners serve as long as I'm playing with a partner that has a decent serve. It does not have to have the most pace but if it has some good spin that usually makes it more difficult for the returner to have their way with the return.
    Bottom line in doubles is that it is the job of the server to set up their partner.
     
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  8. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I'm not sure I'm willing to let 4.0+ guys off quite so easily.

    If you're a 4.0 guy, you should have 4.0 volleys. That means you should be able to poach off of your partner's weak serve.

    I mean, you're at the net anyway, right? This means you think there is some advantage to being there rather than playing two back. Well, if you're up there, they could crush the return right at you. I think you are actually in a stronger position if you are poaching, faking and moving rather than sitting there hoping that your partner will hit a good ball off of the return.

    If your partner has a creampuff, distraction is the best defense. Might as well use it.

    As far as the idea that your female partner is too slow to cross behind you . . . maybe. But again, if she is that slow, she won't do much better with a sharply angled crosscourt return when the opponent has all day to set up without fear that the net man will do anything.

    Plus, don't forget that 50% of the returns will be struck by the opposing female. Why stand still when she's hitting?
     
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  9. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Two quick questions about signaled poaches.

    1. Do you signal on the second serve? If so, do you go?

    2. We also did some Australian. I have never done signaled poaches in that formation. Where should the serve be, and how on earth can I possibly reach a shot aimed down the far alley?
     
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  10. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    You are absolutely right on the fact that if you are 4.0+ then your volley skills should match the rest of your game. For me personally I have to admit that the volley is the weakest part of my game so I am at a bit of a disadvantage in that area. As for my partner's lack of footspeed. She is tall and lean but also 56 and not the fastest around. I love her to death and we have played together for about 3 years but next year we will not be, as our games have developed at different rates so we will need to find other partners to play with.

    I have signaled and gone on second serves before for sure. I don't do it as often but it's a good play to keep the returning team off balance.

    For Australian you don't really have to signal poaches in this formation but you do need to let your partner know which way you are going to move on the serve so that they know what side of the court to cover. Serves in this formation should usually be up the middle as it gives the returner less opportunity to hit a good return straight up the line which is where the serving team is most vulnerable.
     
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  11. MNPlayer

    MNPlayer Semi-Pro

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    When my partner has a very weak serve (generally mixed doubles), I find it quite difficult to poach successfully against halfway decent returners. I still try to move around a lot and do what I can but usually I end up playing "pickle in the middle", in which I am the pickle. This generally continues after the return and can be quite frustrating. It is easy to "underplay" or "overplay" in this situation. The opponents just have so much time, they can almost always hit "around" me somehow. Then the trick is to use my positioning to force them to hit shots my partner can handle, not neccessarily to poach.
     
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  12. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    I am considered a very good volleyer but when faced with someone standing 10 feet from you choosing his shots it doesn't really matter how good a volleyer you are in will be in a defensive posture.

    Personally when dealing with active net players... it is much easier to just concentrate on the return and play the precentages (don't worry about the net person). If the player has a weak serve it is easy enough to step up and hold the shot on your racket, if they move go down the line... if not it is too late for them to poach anyway. Being that close you do not need to generate power you are just trying to get the ball away from the net person, then either get it deep or at the feet of the on-rushing net person and have them pop it up so you can put the ball away.

    As for signals... I used to use one finger for poach on first serve, two fingers for a poach on second serves, a closed fist on both serves... and an open hand if I was going to stay.

    Depending on how good my partner was I would also would signal where I wanted the serve, finger out to the side for a wide serve, thumb up to jam the returner, and finger down to serve up the middle. In this case I would signal each time if I was going to poach with an open or closed fist.

    Doing all of this allowed me to know where to expect the serve giving me a much better idea of angles the returner had available to him/her.

    One added point... even though I am a good net player I find the key is not how often you poach but to poach effectively. I opponents feel that I poach all the time when in fact I probably poach less than once a service game. But I will do it is usually on a big point (I want to take control of the point)... especially when the pressure is on the returner to win a point. An example would be when we have ad point and the returner has to hit a return off the first serve off this backhand... I will either start the point in an australian position straddling the center line or I will poach making them hit a backhand down the line. Or you can just go to the australian formation on key points... (straddle the center line), this offers a different look and makes your opponent have to deal with something new under pressure. I like to do it on match point.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2009
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  13. magmasilk

    magmasilk New User

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    Its not the quality of the serve but the quality of the return that is the issue on poaching. In general, quality of serve and return are usually negatively corrolated but not all the time.

    I guess it just depends on how well the opponent is hitting the cream puff. But if you are getting killed on the return it doesn't hurt to see if poaching helps.
     
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  14. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Here's the deal...

    ...if you go all the way back to Cindy's original post, I think she's discovered something that one of my coaches told me, which is you should be poaching or faking a poach on every point...they key point is that you either need to use signals or talk to you partner before the point. You want a poach to be a surprise to the other team, not to your side.

    A strong serve is obviously a good thing...but what is a strong serve? A strong serve, I submit, is one that elicits a predictable return. As in, I'm serving in the deuce court, I notice that when I serve out wide, it elicits a helium ball return right to my partner at net, so I tell you I'm going to serve out wide and to stay and fake a poach, and lo and behold, the return comes right to my partner, who volleys it away for a winner. In the ad court, however, I notice that every time I serve out wide, I get a strong, heavy topspin return cross court. I'm tired of hitting low first volleys off my shoe tops, so on the next play, I tell you I'm going to serve out side in the ad court and you're going to poach...and lo and behold, once again, the ball comes right into your backhand volley...point our side.

    In a similar thread, Cindy and I were discussing similar tactics, where the discussion was that a lot of 3.5 level players always return cross court in doubles...regardless of how weak or strong a serve they are facing. Great, that's an obvious opportunity to do some poaching. Somebody else in this thread talked about successful poaching being dependent on the quality/variety of the return...exactly! So you can take a strategy that says for the first return game against each server on the opposing team, we're just going to fake a poach while we observe the pattern, or not, of returns coming back at us...and from that, we'll figure out a when to poach/when to fake strategy, and we're off to the races...
     
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  15. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    One last point, there is nothing wrong with poaching as the receiving team either... if you see your partner put the ball on the servers shoe tops.. and you anticipate a volley weak return... POACH!!! and punish the net person. Nothing better than making a teams partner pay for their mistake.
     
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  16. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    Most of the guys on our team use the same set of signals, so that when we change partners we're all on the same page. We signal ONCE before the first serve.
    1 means I'm poaching on the first serve (only).
    2 means I'm poaching on the second serve (only).
    3 means I'm poaching on BOTH the first and second serve.
    0 means I'm not poaching.

    We sometimes line up Australian if an opponent has a killer cross-court return. We use the same signals. (But we don't poach AS OFTEN when playing Australian but we will occasionally.)
     
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  17. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Played again today, this time in clinic with four and a pro. Again, partner has a weak serve. Just lofts it into the middle of the box, near the service line.

    One opponent has really solid groundstrokes -- lots of pace and spin, and she punishes weak serves. We were working on a different skill in clinic today, so I did not propose signaled poaches. Instead, I told my partner I would poach if the serve was up the middle.

    I missed every single poach.

    The problem was that I had too much to think about. "Was the serve up the middle?" "Was the returner going to burn me down the line?" "Oooh, that crosscourt ball is kind of high; maybe I should let it go through to my partner." I was late on every poach, which is why I missed.

    Had those been signaled poaches, I could have committed and hit my volleys with authority.
     
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  18. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    I don't think there is one generalized answer.

    It depends on how weak your partner's serve is relative to how good of a returner your opponent is.

    I do think that even with a weak serving partner, poaching can be effective, especially when using signals. It definitely puts more pressure on the returner. And if they are just a mediocre returner (relative to the level), then this is a good strategy.

    But the flip side is that if the opponent is a good returner, you're going to get beaten on almost every point.

    So it becomes one of those strategy decisions that you really have to make based on how you're playing, how your opponents are playing, and how both sides are adjusting to each other.
     
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  19. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    1. Well, I don't signal poach often, I opportunity poach often, but I generally don't poach off of second serves, especially called poaches since the ability to wait on a slower serve until the netman commits then hit the ball behind him or the other way is quite easy for a returner. However, in your experience since you have success with first serves that are second serve speed, why not?

    2. The Australian lends itself to poaching more than regular formation, in my experience, but if you signal poach it leaves the baseline player covering a lot of ground and the netman responsible for the opposite alley. I have had much better luck opportunity poaching off of the Aussie, especially since it is difficult for the returner to hit behind the netman and if the netman lets the return through, and stays, they are still in the Aussie formation (because they didn't switch).
     
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  20. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    The first hurdle for using signalled poaches is having a partner that doesn't get flustered by the extra thinking and can still get their serves into the box.

    Once you pass that hurdle, I like the idea of signalling every time. It let's your opponents know that you are at least trying to follow a strategy. Even if you signal "stay" 95% of the time because you fear the returner, I think you are in better shape than if you abandon the signals.
     
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  21. JavierLW

    JavierLW Hall of Fame

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    That's actually the hurdle I couldnt get past a couple seasons ago, and I think you're right that it's probably the only one.

    When I serve I like to be in a rhythm. If we do signal, it has to be part of the rhythm or routine and the more I do it the more it seems to be "normal" to me and it doesnt screw up my serve.

    Like the usual thing where the net guy holds up the signal back there, waits for the server to see it and hears him say "OK", and then the serve is free to go with their serve.

    But over a year ago, I had a guy as a partner for much of the year that couldnt do that.

    When he was serving Id hold the signal out for him (I do this right away so he doesnt have to wait for me), and sometimes he'd forget to check the signal and served anyway. (which meant I wasnt ready at the net)

    But the worst was when I was serving.

    I would get ready to serve and I would look for it and he was taking FOREVER to even stand to where he normally plays the box from. Then he'd even move his arm REALLY slowly to give the signal as if he was hiding it from me (Im not sure who else he was being "sneaky" about not seeing it right away), so Id wait what seemed like forever until I could say "OK".

    (and sometimes he'd forget to signal, so I had to ask "signal???", and that's if I didnt just give up and serve anyway)

    It just really broke up the rhythm and ruined any momentum we might have.

    We went thru an entire season like this. I tryed nicely to explain to him several times that he would be helping out a lot if he just got it out earlier, but he's the sort of guy who just doesnt change his habits very well so it didnt take.

    Finally near the end of the season we were playing a huge match against the first place team where we really could use a win to still have a chance at first, and I got fed up with it after the first set, and told him I dont want to do signallying anymore.

    I started serving great all the sudden. But then he came up with this: "let's just pretend to signal".

    I said okay without thinking, and sure enough that didnt help much because the whole part of it that screwed it up was having to wait around forever before I could say "OK".

    So I just started serving anyway when I felt like it. If he complained I just told him that "hey, that happens to be when I want the signal by....". (we were after all pretending anyway)

    Im sure this is a small point but if a team is doing this, I think it's far better when the server doesnt have to WAIT for his partner. Let the server serve at their own pace.

    Which can be easily done by making sure you have that signal out right away. Maybe they are back there fetching stray balls, or counting hairs on the ball to figure out the one with the most spin potential or whatever, but who cares??? Just have it out there for when they are ready....

    Just my two cents. :)
     
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  22. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, exactly! You totally proved my point, probably without knowing that you did. :)

    I have frequently heard the objection to Australian or signaling that "it will mess up my serve." Yes, maybe so.

    But that just shows how much *any* change in tactics or formation can rattle a player. If signaling or Aussie formation can cause my own partner to get the yips, imagine what it will do to an opponent?

    That tears it. I have been way too predictable in my doubles, and I hereby resolve to do better. Any partner who is unwilling to mix in some Australian or learn signaled poaches is probably not the right partner for The New Me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2009
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  23. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    I used to play with a guy who insisted on signaling to tell me where to serve. Based on that he'd either poach or he wouldn't - but not a signaled poach, a spontaneous poach. Man, did I hate that! Back then I could "usually" hit within 5 feet or so of whatever spot I was aiming at when I wasn't under pressure, but under the pressure of a tight match and then the added pressure of "calling my shots", and my serves were all over the place. I'll say this. He was a great poacher and had excellent hands and touch volley's - and we usually won together but it was hell on my nerves.

    He'd call for a "down the T" shot andy my serve would go wide, the return would float a little bit and he'd dart over there and hit this little drop volley that would die about 2 feet from the net. Then he'd give me a look like "What the hell?".
     
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  24. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Okay, fine...

    ...go back to your original post, which was about how poaching is okay, even on a weak serve. Well...yes, and no. In this clinic, you said, "No signals...but I'll go for a poach if and when the serve happens to go up the middle." Which means you're in no more of a position to figure out what the right thing to do is than your opponents. That's not something I, or you, would do in a match. You did it in a clinic to work on your poaching skills, which is fine. But since you couldn't depend on your partner to do something predictable with the serve...guess what? You were at a disadvantage on the poach for all the reasons you just cited.

    Go back and take a look at what I said, above. Good poaching strategy doesn't depend on your partner having a good serve...but it sure helps. Poaching is a real come-to-Jesus move. Once you've decided to poach, there's no thinking involved. Watch the ball, hit it hard, and don't think, right? Moving to a poach kind of implies that your partner knows you're going to poach and is going to cover the hole you're leaving...so that you can move with all possible dispatch to the, um, poach. Otherwise, why bother?

    So this is less of a discussion about poaching and more of a discussion about partnership in doubles. I have no doubt that you understand poaching and how it can be effective, and how to successfully implement it in a doubles partnership, at whatever level. Your challenge now is to find a partner that you can, um, partner with...
     
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  25. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Hmmmm. Maybe we need to take a step backward.

    Signaled poaching I understand. You signal go, and you go no matter what.

    For an opportunistic poach, you size up the situation before you decide to go. Otherwise, it's no different from a signaled poach, right? Stay if the serve is wide, stay if the return is too high or too far wide, bail out at the last second and duck, if you choose.

    I always figured one big advantage of the signaled (or planned) poach is that all of that white noise is filtered out of your head. So you can poach with more confidence and purpose, and the only time your partner can roll her eyes is if you don't get over there fast enough.
     
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  26. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Ha! :)

    Ah, the partners who treat you like you're a short order cook.

    "OK, Cindy. Let's have a slice serve up the T to the backhand, and put something on it this time. The returner looked slow in the warm-up, so on your second shot, let's have a short BH slice drop volley into the near corner. Don't forget to follow it in. I'll be right here if you need me."

    Gah!
     
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  27. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    If what you are saying was true, then why is every male player I've been against from 3.5-4.5 unable to do crap at the net when their mixed partner is serving to me? Because they are prone to getting burnt down the alley or forced to volley from well below the net every single time. They are better off being more selective on the poaches.

    I think its alot easier to poach the opposing females returns because they are usually the lesser skilled player and don't hit as hard. But even so, I will end up poaching alot of their returns from below the net because the serve is too weak if I try to poach them.
     
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  28. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I will grant you that a lot of 3.5-4.0 guys (I don't know about 4.5) don't do much at net.

    However.

    I will be playing my next two mixed 7.0 matches with my Most Favorite Partner. Why is he Most Favorite?

    'Cause he gets after it when I am serving and he is at net. He is a nuisance. He has good hands. Opponents have to go through him to get to me. He doesn't just raise the white flag and wait for me to beat the 3.5/4.0 guy with my groundstrokes.

    I wouldn't say that male mixed players can't do crap at net when their female partner is serving to the other guy. Those with good volleys and good hands don't just concede half of the points when their female partner is serving and then expect to win the match.
     
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  29. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Its not conceding half the points unless their partner is unable to keep the ball in play after the serve. Its just waiting for a better, less risky time to poach a shot.
     
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  30. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    When I play mixed or even with a weaker partner it is seldom that I will take over a match on my own. I purposely force my partner to play shots... it is the only way you can improve. You are never going to improve if you are going to win on the coat tails of your partner. You may win, but you will never improve. Last weekend during a men's night I was invited to... we played rotating matches with multiple partners with a no-ad system. In each case I had my partner play the no-ad point, and in each case but one my partners came through with a big return giving us the opportunity to win the game.

    Note that each time the opposing teams ask us if we were sure we wanted my parther to return as it was a no-ad scoring system, and I assured them that we would be fine and that my partner had yet to lose a game point yet.

    Its great to have a partner that can dominate a match but I have enjoyed myself the most when all 4 players are competitive and you have to battle for every point, having it all come down to a few points at the end of the match.
     
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  31. Ken Honecker

    Ken Honecker Rookie

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    It's not poaching, the whole net is MINE!
     
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  32. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    Some interesting points made in this thread for sure. I have used signals pretty often with a couple of partners but numerous others that don't want to hassle with it and just want to do what they want. I find this difficult because they will often cut in front of me as I'm following a serve in to the net and then I'm forced to change directions to cover the other side of the court when I was not expecting to etc.

    I much prefer signaling but only signaling poach, stay or fake. Keep it simple. Also I don't want a partner to suggest where I should serve. My serve strategy is largely based on how the opponent is playing, what their weakness is and what serve has been most effective. Also I go by feel much of the time. I've had partners that often will want to tell me to serve up the middle if they are poaching etc.
    Seems to me that the best strategy is for the server to tell their partner before preparing to serve where they are serving for 1st and 1nd serves and possibly even what kind of serve they are going to hit (flat, slice, kicker etc). Then the net person can signal what they feel they are going to do based on the return that is anticipated. I would never suggest that the net person dictate to the server where to serve.
     
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  33. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, okay....

    ...that's a very good point. If the opportunity presents itself, by all means, go for the poach and knock off a winner...a much better strategy than saying "Sure, it looks like a good deal, but I can't color outside the lines, because I didn't signal a poach...can I? Can I?" If I'm at the net, and my partner is in the back court, and a wounded duck approaches the net, I'm definitely going to yell "Mine!" and go for it, and so should you. I guess that's the #1 rule of tennis, which is "Things change...often quickly, so always be ready to take advantage of a situation that develops in your favor."

    So it sounds like in your clinic maybe you overestimated the opportunity and shanked a few. So what? I'd much rather have a partner who looks for opportunities and takes advantage of them, instead of blending into the nearest net post...
     
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  34. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, that was the interesting part.

    Because we were serving, the returners were tight. Their returns were more hesitant and floaty -- the perfect balls to take out of the air while coming to the net. That's what I was doing with great success when my partner didn't signal a poach. When she poached, I stayed back and because I had a mental head start, I was able to reach the DTL shots.

    At my level, many servers are somewhat indiscriminate with their placement (me too -- my serve often doesn't go where I want it to go unless I take a lot off of it). I'd rather signal poach and then be forced to deal with a good-quality wide serve than a push serve up the middle.

    The other surprising thing is that I had assumed the returners would be able to know whether there was a signaled poach happening based on whether the server crossed. This didn't seem to be a problem. I guess there just wasn't time to process all of that extra movement. From the returner's perspective, they were always seeing movement from the net person (a poach or a fake *and* movement from the deep person (a cross or S&V). No wonder the returners had so much trouble with all of that going on.
     
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  35. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Good points...


    ...in your last comment, you've gotten into a point I made elsewhere, which is that most of the top teams don't use signals, instead, they go back to the baseline and talk about what each thinks might be a good idea for the next point, then agree on a strategy, then go implement it. Re your example above, I agree that just totally winging it is usually not a great idea...although there is always a good case for "opportunistic" poaching, see Cindy's posting on this.

    Just signalling has, obviously, its downside. In the deuce court, I signal that I'm going to poach..and I hope you know that the returner in question has a weak backhand return against a kick down the middle, so I'm hoping this is what you'll feed to the returner...and maybe it'll go that way, and maybe it won't.

    On the other hand, if you have a discussion with your partner before the point, you can kind of clear up any misunderstandings before heading into the Danger Zone, as in the following sample (fictional, of course...) dialog:

    Net Person: "Okay, I want you to thump a heavy kicker right on the service line, because I'm going to poach, take the resultant Wounded Duck, and give the opposing Net Person a new navel."

    Server: "Are you on drugs? What match are you playing? I haven't gotten more than 30% of my first serves in, let alone 'right on the center service line,' for which I am Heartily Sorry, but do you seriously think I have any hope of burning a frozen rope down the center line on this serve? Here's my plan: I'm going to serve right down the middle of the box, maybe even underhanded, and you can do whatever you want...but my Strong Advice is to stand still and watch where the returner hammers the next shot!"

    Okay...it's a little heavy-handed, I agree, but you get the joke. Cindy and I had a discussion about Reality Sandwiches that is maybe a good pre-match exercise for doubles partnerships, especially for first time partnerships. In that calm arena, you can share valuable insights such as "Ya know...our serves both stink like 3 day old dead fish, and our groundstrokes ain't nothing to write home about, either...but we're both Volleying Fools! Additionally, I happen to know that these jamokes we're about to play haven't even seen a volley since the 1990 Wimbledon Men's Finals on TV, and never in real life...what say we spend lots of time at the net, poaching whenever it feels good, and see how that goes...wuddia say?"
     
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  36. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    I just find when I am playing with partners that do not signal (which is all the time now), is that every return is mine. I serve and volley on every ball in doubles, I just take the best line to the net I can and try and cover every ball until my partner actually hits it. If the ball goes down the line because my partner poached and it is beyond my reach, you just have to give kudo's to the returner.

    Afterall... even if the serving team does everything correctly... it is possible the returning team can win the point.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2009
    #36

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