Faced The I Formation Today

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, May 21, 2010.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I played doubles today. I personally got off to something of a slow start -- wasn't doing much damage on the return, my returns were somewhat cautious, and I missed more than I wanted. Still, my partner and I were winning.

    Imagine my surprise when my opponents suddenly lined up in I formation to serve to me in the first set. Not Australian, an actual I formation. So I had one lady with a very weak serve at the baseline, and her partner crouched down low at the net straddling the center line. I'm receiving in the ad court.

    Now, I've read about the I formation in "Art of Doubles," so my brain started firing to remember what it had said. Oh, yeah. Take a step back so you can process which way the net player is going. Consider blasting your return right up the middle, which is the one place you know neither of them will be.

    The net player made a signal, which her partner acknowledged. First serve was up the middle, but out. Second serve was in the middle of the box and slow. As it bounced, I saw the net player move over to the traditional net position in front of me. I also saw the server running toward me. I lobbed the net player and wandered into the net myself, while the server tried to apply the brakes and run down the lob. Point for us.

    After that, they did not line up I formation for the remainder of the match.

    That got me to wondering. Is the I formation of any use at all in league doubles? I never see it in mixed or ladies 3.5/4.0. What did these ladies do wrong that caused it to be so ineffective?
     
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  2. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Congratulations!
     
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  3. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    To my mind the power of the I formation has to do with adding another thing for the returner to think about, lowering the effectiveness of the return. However, this is usually in direct correlation to the effectiveness of the serve to cause outright winners or errors in the return (balls that the netman can volley with authority). To me the heirarchy on the returner would be: 1) the server is much, much better than the returner so plenty of aces, service winners and easily poached balls therefore no special formation needed. 2) the returner is on par with the server so some service winners, but some very well struck returns therefore think about called poaches or the Australian to give the returner another variable to consider and try to increase the service winner and poor return percentage. The I formation would be a special case in that if the serve is better than average (read: first serve) it can reap a better than average reward, though if it is poorer than average (second serve) the dangers are also magnified, hence your experience.
     
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  4. Puredrivetennis

    Puredrivetennis Rookie

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    Very cool to see for the first time! I-formation is always effective as long as the team is relatively coordinated together. From what I read, your opponents didnt anticipate a well struck lob. In university, we counteract a lob during our I's by moving forward second ball following serve.
     
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  5. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    To me the mistake was serving and volleying when they had a weak server and no ability to handle an overhead. If they stayed back and you had to lob back against a weak serve thats a total win for the serving team.
     
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  6. Ajtat411

    Ajtat411 Semi-Pro

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    We did practice drills with the I formation also and found that it does provide the other team with a different look. This is beneficial if you want to change gears when the other team is drilling cross court returns. You can essentially force the other team to hit down the line returns if the netman shifts cross court. This would be similar to the austrialian formation where netman is on the same side of server during serve. but with a more aggressive starting position.

    As far as how effective it is, it really depends on how well they move together and how good the return team is. It is really just throwing in something different but usually a good team can adjust to it.
     
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  7. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    We use Ausie a lot with generally good results. We rarely use the I. Ausie seems easier (but maybe that's just because we use it more). On the other hand, I was watching the men's 4.5 final at a tourney a couple weeks ago and one team use the I almost all the time.

    What did the ladies do wrong? They gave up after one failed attempt.
     
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  8. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    they did nothing wrong and you took one of the correct options:)
     
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  9. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    i formation is great if the team knows how to play it
     
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  10. JavierLW

    JavierLW Hall of Fame

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    I always just watch the server and a lot of times they move way earlier then the net player. So it's pretty easy to just get the ball back to the server and avoid the net player.

    Or the net player leaves too soon and moves full speed which allows me to return it right down the center. (it's especially good when both players are running away from the middle)

    I think it's something that takes some working on like anything else, people who just try it because they read it in a book seem to get it wrong.

    (the same with signaling or planned poaching, like my partner who leaves instantly and runs way too far)
     
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  11. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    I've had situations where you're not sure what your partner is doing, and your teams inadvertently winds up in the "I" formation. But we're in trouble when that happens. It's not something I'd try to do on purpose.
     
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  12. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    thats the i formation you land in by poor positioning during a point i think you mean. yes very bad.
    i formation to start the point when serving can be very strong
     
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  13. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    This is how I line up when I used the formation... and yes it does work well but you need to deliver a serve that is more effective than a puff ball in the middle of the service box. Also a lob deep into the back of the court over the on rushing server is effective in any formation.

    If you are watching the opponents rather than the ball, they are already benefitting from the formation. The idea is to hit a forceful serve into the opponents backhand in the ad court, and playing aussie takes away the crosscourt return. Obviously if you can hit a deep lob off the serve it is not going to be very effective. But what is if you can lob deep...?
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2010
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  14. BustedString

    BustedString Rookie

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    A lot of my game is based upon my return, it is my best shot. I see the I-formation a lot mid-match because teams recognize the strength of my return and employ strategies to counteract it. The truth is that it used to work really well because then I'd get out of sorts. I'm guessing what you did to make it ineffective for them is to keep your head down and focus on the ball when you are making contact. I try not to let it affect my strategy too much. I still want to rip cross-court. However, the times it freaked me out has caused me to take up private lessons to work on a down-the-line BH because I play ad and am a righty so that is a shot I need when I see the I-formation. Personally, I now take the I-formation as an affirmation that I'm returning awesome and it emboldens me to keep playing well, gives me confidence. Maybe it did that for you too?
     
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  15. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I don't know why they decided to use the I formation on me. My partner has a much better return. Maybe they figured that my returns were already shaky so this would make me fall completely apart?
     
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  16. Kunohara

    Kunohara Professional

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    When I play doubles with a friend of mine, we always do Australian, I, traditional. He's a very consistent server so we mix it up. After his first service game, usually the other team is utterly confused and more tentative on the return. But on my serve we line up traditional about 90% of the time, because my serve just doesn't have enough consistency and my seconds still don't have enough juice on them, so we have to rely on my ground game more to win the cross-court exchange and set up the easy put-away volley.

    Of course you can't pull it off with inconsistent serve or slow serving in the middle of the box.

    If that serve you lobbed over the net player had come with any real speed, you probably wouldn't have been able to lob it with ease, and their strategy might have worked.

    My 2 cents.
     
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  17. Turbo

    Turbo New User

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    I agree with most posters here. It doesn't work well if you have a weak server or a good returner. The idea is to confuse the other players and perhaps take away the shots they like to go for most. I think it's only effective for pretty good/fast volleyers.

    If it isn't executed well I feel like DTL winners are easier than normal. For example, in a mixed doubles match the guy was serving to me on the ad side and went down the middle. I returned it to the deuce corner for an outright winner. They did it 3 times in a row against me and I hit the same FH winner in the same spot every time! I knew the lady wasn't quick enough to cover DTL from an I formation, so in my mind it was easier for me to hit the winner than if they did the normal formation.
     
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  18. pyrokid

    pyrokid Hall of Fame

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    In substate finals I played a team that did a lot of I formation stuff.

    I just drove it DTL for 2 return winners in a row, then CC on the third, because that's when they catch on. (and it worked.)

    My partner preferred to blast it right up the middle. So the guy would always be moving away from it when he hit it.
     
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  19. Puredrivetennis

    Puredrivetennis Rookie

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    I formation is lethally effective if used by a good team
     
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  20. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Since I have a good strong kicking serve up the middle, I will have my netman move to the middle when serving to the deuce court. I will move toward the middle (and in a friendly match even tell the opponents where I will serve the ball - its pretty predictable anyway) and serve it down the middle. The returner has to hit a backhand from the middle of the court or even two feet to the ad side with a netman right in his face. There is no angle available for passes and it allows me to not have to hit a first volley (which is my weakness). If they lob, weak ones will be put away by the netman and since I have a lot of time my lack of movement doesn't come into play, and I can unload on a groundstroke on any deep lobs that happen to land in.
     
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  21. Austinthecity

    Austinthecity Rookie

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    I saw I-formation being used a lot at the NCAA tourney as well.
     
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  22. jc4.0

    jc4.0 Professional

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    Good change up

    I use the I if my opponents are dinking balls short or slicing short angles (on second serves - wouldn't be possible on my first) or my partner isn't able to serve-and-volley to cut these plays off. It's a great play if you can execute correctly, and a good weapon to have in your pocket for the change-up against certain teams...
     
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  23. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    Bingo!

    Exactly... have to have a decent serve for any of the special double formations to be effective. Otherwise, returner can blast the ball to any location on the court... not to mention simply put up a nice, stress-free lob (as you did).

    The opposing team felt overwhelmed (i.e. losing) and were simply trying something different to probe the waters. They identified the weakest returner on your team and decided to give it a shot. They should have tried it more than once, however... as their one-time failure sends a strong message to their opponents.
     
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  24. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    I personally think it's relatively useless especially if your serve is average on it's best day. Those moves are made for two people with kick@$$ serves and the ball should mostly be served down the middle. I've never understood why people try to play I or Austrailian with second serves falling a foot over the net. I'll never forget my wife wanted to do this on this guy that was teeing off on forehands on her serve. I didn't want to because the guy was in such a rythm and the serves were so short that all he was going to do(which is what I would do) is attack the net person. So we split sets and as we are walking out for break one of my teamates came up with the same wonderful suggestion. So that really got my wife up and going again after I'd convinced her we didn't need to do it. so we go back out and on her first serve to him he hits me in the chest and the ball I swear bounces off my chest and out of the court and had to be retrieved 3 courts down. I've never figured out why anyone would teach people to play this way with a lolly pop serve. People can pick and choose where to go with a bull$hit serve. I always watch the server because they have to move first to get into position and I just go the way the server runs most of the time. It's much easier to catch them running than to hit to a spot where a person is already standing....or lob over the backhand of the net person, but my favorite is to go right back at the net person until they show me they can volley what I'm bringing just like that guy did me. Now for the record on the very next point his partner leaves up a lolly pop return and I hit and overhead and drill him right in the shoulder. I think as hard as I hit it he still got the best of that exchange. It did show me though that as long as you don't take one in the jewels or the face you'll be okay because I never hurt from it. :)
     
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  25. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    ^I think playing I formation with a poor serve isn't all that wise.

    The Australian, however, is very useful even with a weak serve. The reason is that many returners have grooved their crosscourt return but are less confident going down the line. So you can try Aussie on these returners without taking much risk, while forcing them to take more risk (unfamiliar return, changing direction of the ball, over higher part of net, court geometry).
     
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  26. rosenstar

    rosenstar Professional

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    The I formation is HIGHLY INEFFECTIVE unless the server has a huge serve, or the returner is a mental wreck. If the serve isn't big, the returner will (or at least should) rip the return right at the net player. If the net player has to move to the left or to the right, ripping the ball down the middle leaves the net player with no where to go.

    Another way to beat the I formation is to play two back. Doing this takes the net player's target away, and essentially removes him from the point (barring a weak return). It's very hard to put away a ball when there's two players on the baseline. This often cause frustration for the net player and forces him to attempt to hit a low percentage show in an effort to end the point.

    Anyways, no, you rarely see the I formation in advanced tennis. The only teams that do this are teams with a great server and a great net player. Without that combination, it is quite challenging to correctly execute.
     
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  27. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    I saw this yesterday in mixed. I don't usually face the I, due to the fact that I play on the ad side 90% of the time and have a strong up-the-line FH. Yesterday, however, I was playing duece side and was really finding my return game.

    The problem, as people have mentioned, was that the male server had a strong but VERY erratic first serve and a less-than-effective second serve, so I just shifted my target up the middle. I was trying to freeze the net person as much as possible, and it seemed to work.
     
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  28. WBF

    WBF Hall of Fame

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    The I-formation can be effective in various situations. Poor tennis - not shifting directions to get a lob when approaching, or not running back for a lob - speaks nothing of the I-formation.

    In general, it will be helpful with a quick, talented net player. A 'huge serve' is absolutely not necessary - perhaps a serve that is not easily attackable. An opponent without a good return would make it even better.
     
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  29. rosenstar

    rosenstar Professional

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    If the serve is the least bit attackable, the I-formation fails. If the opponent doesn't have a good return, there is really no need for the I-formation The worst the serve is, the better the net player must be. There's a reason this formation is almost never used in professional/college tennis. Aussie formation is much more effective, and much more common at higher levels.
     
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