Forehand Takes The Middle: RIP

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    We have got to take Forehand Takes The Middle out back and shoot it in the head. I don't know where this idea came from, but it is making me crazy.

    I play deuce court. I am perfectly happy to hit my BH volley. It is usually stronger than my FH volley.

    Yet I play with partners who practice FTTM and scold me after any missed BH volley. This is causing me all manner of headache.

    A ball comes up the middle and I take it, but I get scolded that it wasn't my ball because her FH was in the middle. So even though my partner was deeper in the court, I'm supposed to not poach.

    It's just a hot mess.

    FTTM leaves the middle too exposed because I am not taking balls I could reach with my BH.

    FTTM leaves the deep player covering the entire court except the alley I can cover with my FH. So my partner has responsibility for 80% of the court and I have 20%.

    FTTM sounds good when the net player is in the ad court (her FH is to the middle), but if she is trying to cover diagonal balls she is leaving her alley wide open, and a lot of players can take a FH DTL for a winner.

    FTTM is hard for the net player with a decent BH volley to implement. I don't know where my partner is, so I cannot judge when to let balls go through. Better, I think, is for me to take what I think I can take without regard to whose FH is in the middle.

    Don't get me started on the issues playing with lefties. It's enough to give you vertigo.

    Cindy -- who is more likely to feel like scolding partners who let balls go through that they should take
     
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  2. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    the one closer to the net has more angle and gets first dibs
    end of story

    when its a righty/ lefty combo i like forehands in the middle
     
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  3. bcart1991

    bcart1991 Semi-Pro

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    I never understood that strategy, either.

    The way I learned doubles (and it usually works) is that the "down the line" person covers the alley, and the "cross court" person covers the middle. If they can hit sharp angled winners all day, good for them, but that's the lowest percentage play, so give that one up.

    If my partner can react and move quickly enough to pick off a volley in the middle, more power to them.
     
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  4. esgee48

    esgee48 Hall of Fame

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    Agree with your sentiment. I also play the deuce side and my backhand side is my strength. The only issue I would have with your comment is that I would let low (net skimming) shots down the middle for my partner to handle. I would have difficulty putting such a volley away and it would be easy to my partner to handle. Anything above the waist going down the middle that I can reach is mine! :twisted:
     
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  5. bcart1991

    bcart1991 Semi-Pro

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    I'm a lefty and I hate forehands in the middle. Much more difficult for me to hit a backhand return and keep it away from the net man in the deuce court vs. either stroke in the ad court.
     
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  6. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    the cross court ball ( diagonal in your terms??)
    is usually the crosscourt(diagonal) persons resposibility
    unless the straight ahead person can get to it and do something offensive

    the alley left open by the crosscourt person is the sharp angle shot that is the lower percentage shot for the opponent to take and you want them to go for it by sqeezing the middle
    jmho


    i was posting when others made this point
     
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  7. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    most serves in doubles should be down the middle so you get a forehand
    a wide serve would give you a crosscourt backhand(lefty in the deuce court)
    should be easier than the inside out backhand(lefty in the ad court)


    if your inide out bh is better that your crosscourt bh thats unusual
     
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  8. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    When I am serving to a lefty in the deuce court, I prefer to go out wide. I am reaching their BH. They have to take that BH up the line (tough shot), or they have to take it crosscourt into my partner's FH poach.
     
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  9. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I think we are saying the same thing.

    Say I am serving in the deuce court, and my partner is right-handed. Serve goes out wide to returner's FH. My partner has to cover the alley (her BH), and I have to cover the middle.

    FTTM says my partner would take that ball with her FH, which is in the middle. I say that is wrong. It exposes the easy DTL winner. That crosscourt ball is my responsibility unless it is a floater or other easy ball my partner can put away.

    FTTM stinks.
     
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  10. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    As for the low, skimming shot . . . Yes and no.

    For me, it depends on the partner. Some people serve from a very wide position. In those cases, I will try to get the low, skimming ball because my partner will never reach it otherwise. Generally, I agree that anything below net level (which is my waist level) isn't a good candidate for a poach, but there are exceptions.
     
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  11. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    FUTM is just for basic 3.0 strategy.
    Any higher level, it's who can return the serves low and angled, away from the netperson, over and over again.
    You gotta start with a basic strategy, then modify as the need arises.
     
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  12. polski

    polski Semi-Pro

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    Crosscourt covers the middle is the higher percentage play.

    If there is a disparity in ability, then maybe the stronger player should try to cover more & thus take the middle.

    I don't think forehand or backhand should make the rule.
     
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  13. lostinamerica

    lostinamerica Semi-Pro

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    I find it has to do with the poach off the first volley. The net man after the return has greater reach on their forehand. The person closer to the net needs to take as many of those as possible. If the return is below the level of the net, the net person should squeeze the middle because the down the line volley off a below the net return is a low percentage play. The forehand in the middle gives the net person better reach.

    Unless one has a glaringly bad return from one side or the other, I am all for forehands up the middle.
     
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  14. jdubbs

    jdubbs Hall of Fame

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    Reason #1501 I hate doubles.
     
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  15. Off The Wall

    Off The Wall Semi-Pro

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    Simply inform your ignorant partners that at a hush-hush meeting of the USTA, USPTA, PTR and the NRA in Gary, Indiana, these honorable associations (among other things) established a new list of rules for tennis doubles. These rules are currently being distributed to media outlets around the world. (Hence, your advance knowledge.)

    Meeting info:
    The meeting was held, in part, to assess the virtues of a) lowering the net three inches to increase hacker tennis satisfaction. b) moving all subsequent meetings to Honolulu. And c) "forehand takes the middle" is now listed under the "Flagrant Stupidity" Section, Subsection 2: Doubles, These groups are now (or will be) threatening fines or expulsion from the aforementioned sanctioning bodies should any member advocate it. Should a former member not cease and desist from FTTM, the venerable NRA will be authorized to send a "black ops" squad to, from long distance, settle the matter once and for all.

    I'm sure your partner will want to up to date with the latest doubles rules.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2011
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  16. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    In general, you're right...

    ...there isn't anything holy about FTTM. I guess we should first ask ourselves if there's any good reason for coming up with a rule for "middle" balls. Personally, I think not. If you start coming up with rules and you get a hot ball down the middle, if you have to think for even a nanosecond "Now what the Sam Hill is the 'middle ball' rule?", you've probably already lost the point. "Whoever volunteers first" is my answer to who takes the middle ball.

    My take, if you have a partner who insists on FTTM and you don't like this arrangement...go find another partner. You're not gonna change her, and she's not gonna change you. You'll both be a lot happier with somebody else on the same side of the net...
     
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  17. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    One problem I see over forehand takes the middle is that it squeezes the forward person towards the center, so the NEXT opposition volley, the alley is wide open AND to the netperson's backhand, a sure winner.
     
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  18. GlennK

    GlennK Rookie

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    I have only used the FTTM rule when both partners are at the net. If my partner is in the back, and I can reach the middle ball with my backhand, I take it. If we are both up and can both reach the ball, then I will defer to their forehand. But it sounds like my backhand is weaker than yours as generally both my forehand and my parntner's forehands at the net are stronger than my bh.

    Glenn
     
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  19. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    If you're not going to force the issue with any shot, better to defer to your partner who's in position to hit the ball.
    Nothing worse that a backhand poacher who only can pop up a weak, short, high sitter.
    Conversely, if you can't hit DOWN on any volleys, you should just practice more before playing.
     
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  20. onehandbh

    onehandbh Hall of Fame

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    Excerpt from the book, Nobody Wants to Play Doubles with Me.

    ...Just yell, "I got it!", and charge the net. Make sure you get closer to the
    net than your doubles partner. If your partner doesn't back off, use your left
    arm to *stiff arm your partner out of the way. It is important that you hit the
    shot because, in your mind, you have better volleys.

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP7l7iava6s&feature=player_detailpage#t=15s
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2011
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  21. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Totally agree.

    In our match, I found myself catching balls a tad late and not being aggressive like I would like. I would hesitate and wonder if I should take that ball and where my partner was. Doesn't work.

    I think where we've left is that I will call "Mine" for any ball I want. I actually spent a clinic drill calling "Mine" for every ball hit right to me, just to get it to be a habit.

    We will be using this same approach to handling lobs over the net player, as we have different ideas about who should call a lob. She says the deep player should call it; I say net players have responsibility to call or to hit any lob going over their head.
     
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  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Either or never makes any sense.
    Have room so both players can call their overhead! Or their poaches.
    Sometimes, one or the other is tentative.
    Sometimes, one or the other is aggressive.
    Gotta allow for that.
    Doubles is a TEAM sport, not one leader and one follower.
     
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  23. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    That'll work...

    ..."mine" is pretty definitive, and a lot more Socially Acceptable than "Hey...WTF do you think you're doing? I've got it, so why don't you just go park yourself in the cheap seats?"
     
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  24. rfm29

    rfm29 Rookie

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    My usual doubles partner and I usual play "beat you to the ball". Basically, we both go after the ball with the attitude of, the ball is mine, and I will take it. Seems to work for us.
     
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  25. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, a few racket clashes are perfectly fine with me. Once I'm going for a ball, I don't pull my racket back just because I think my partner may also go for it. That's how you get unplayed balls up the middle.
     
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  26. jswinf

    jswinf Professional

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    Sounds good as long as one or both of you puts it away, you might not wind up in great position to cover a return.
     
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  27. rfm29

    rfm29 Rookie

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    Well, at the same time, once we see that one is definitely going to beat the other, we back off and let them take it. Sounds kinda complicated, but it does work, but you probably have to work well with your doubles partner.
     
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  28. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    I believe there is no right or wrong for middle balls. No, its my forehand, my backhand, that is all a bunch of hoo haa. The only sin is to let a middle ball get through the gap and be missed.
     
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  29. i3602u

    i3602u Rookie

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    Fh takes middle is kinda of a general rule because most people fh is stronger than bh but at higher levels just play!!
     
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  30. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    I can see the value of simple rule-of-thumb advice like FTTM for beginners. But really once you have some playing experience, it becomes instinctual for the partner with the better play on the ball to take the volley, regardless of FH or BH. I'm surprised that this would ever be an issue or topic of conversation for non-beginner players.
     
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  31. J_R_B

    J_R_B Hall of Fame

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    Learn to hit LH forehand volleys. Problem solved.
     
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  32. KFwinds

    KFwinds Professional

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    Are you a lefty? I am, and I can tell you that it's far easier to chip and charge a backhand return inside-out from the ad court (it's basically a straight-ahead shot) than it is to have to always reach wide for it in the deuce court. At the level I play (4.0) I will see serves out wide to my backhand all day if I return from the deuce court, creating easy pickings for my opponents at net. What you're saying is 100% backward from my experience. The only way this works is if your backhand stroke is as strong or better than your forehand, and you are able to set up and drive all of your backhand returns against big servers.

    Like Cindy, I don't mind hitting a backhand volley; it's actually as strong or stronger than my forehand volley (common with lefties). Because I return much better from the ad side, I will always play that way when playing with a right-handed player.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2011
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  33. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    That Gary, Indiana meeting post was funny.

    FTTM is never actually preached by any actual coaches I've ever seen. Maybe I'm fortunate.

    Hopefully, Cindy, it's just a low-level, self-taught kind of thing.

    Actually, I do remember a really weak (barely certified) pro who agreed with a hack captain who promoted it with her hacktastic team.

    So who's is it? Gotta just feel it and communicate. ANd move like you want it. And not be afraid to get lobbed. I love getting lobbed (I've loved overheads since birth and I've loved Bucharest Backfires and tweeners since the Nastase/Noah eras.
     
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  34. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    Hold on now...lets talk about that. First of all if she hits a ball in the alley closest to you she should be basically in your service box and you should be in the alley. Her alley at that point is a non issue if we are talking about a situation where she has just served and is coming in. Me and my wife will give each other all kinds of hell if the forehand doesn't take the middle. Part of the reason for that is if they start putting balls high on your backhand and you take them....chances are you aren't doing anything really meaningful with them. She should be able to direct her volley back again at the the person in the ad court's backhand(assuming they are right handed) as she is moving in closer...which ultimately forces them to try to lob or hit it right back to one of you in most cases which gets put away at that point. I really love to hit the ball short in the alley from the ad side back to the server's backhand and short. My wife covers the alley and I come all the way over into her service box. Most try to lob which is fine...but if you don't get it up and high enough chances are your partner or you are going to eat it and if you just return it through the middle I'm going to be right there for the forehand volley which is going to right back through the service box of the player that is now in the alley trying to get back as most teams don't cover the middle. We believe in covering each other. I don't play with any woman or man that sits camped out bent over watching me run like a horse. I think you need to rethink that. Forehand covering the middle is a good thing even when it's the woman hitting the volley. That space that is left open is a non issue. the middle of the court has basically moved at that point and if she is getting where she is suppose to be they will never be able to get passed her to get to that part of the court. She will be in the middle to cut it off.

     
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  35. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

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    my partner and i have discussed this before, and here is what we do. who ever is in position to hit the ball first, gets it. i have to trust that his bh is going to do the job, and i cant call him off.
    we dont get scold eachother of missed shots either, we all make errors, and doubles is a team sport.
     
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  36. Off The Wall

    Off The Wall Semi-Pro

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    You present a nice point model and how it could/should be constructed and played out. However, if BH takes the volley and aims between the opponents, the point is over. (Opponents in up&back position.)
     
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  37. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    We aren't going to do it on the court but at some point we will discuss that. You can't have 15 balls go between you and not at some point have a discussion as to who is taking those balls. Otherwise you will keep losing the same way.

     
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  38. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    That is true as well assuming that they can put the ball away. many can't. I guess I'm not totally against you hitting a backhand volley. I mean I don't want you letting balls go over your lsft shoulder just so I can hit a forehand volley but if you are reaching and not stepping and punching you are asking for trouble.

     
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  39. Off The Wall

    Off The Wall Semi-Pro

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    As you become more accomplished at doubles, you'll find the same problems as the OP. The solution will be as Larrysummers described.
     
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  40. athiker

    athiker Hall of Fame

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    Ditto, if you are going to take a backhand volley poach you need to make a strong shot the solid majority of the time or let it go. A lot of 3.5s I've seen and a decent chunk of 4.0s have more trouble with the bh volley...especially if its a bit on the high side...than the forehand volley. They end up flubbing it or hitting a weak shot back that is worse than letting the back person hit a solid ground stroke. Granted this can happen on the forehand side too!...I just see and do it more myself on the bh side.

    If the net player can pull off a nice bh volley poach with pace and placement on a pretty consistent basis then by all means they should step in and poach...from either side...whoever is closest. I just see a lot of...let's say...overconfidence in trying to make that backhand volley shot and failing at 3.5/4.0 level...again...especially on the high bh volleys. The whole point of poaching is to take the offensive...if the resulting shot doesn't do that then the net person should've let it pass.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2011
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  41. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    I think I'm a pretty "accomplished" doubles player and many of the partners that I've had that were higher levels say fttM. I've won a pretty good bit at mixed and men's with a host of different partners at 4.0 and 4.5. I'll go back and check out Larrysummer's comment though because I'm honestly opened to always learning something new. It's not like I've never taken a ball with my backhand through the middle but what I have done is tried to make sure it's a ball I can put away or at the very least put them on defense. I think reaching again just puts you in such bad trouble.

     
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  42. Darkhors

    Darkhors Rookie

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    I'm a lefty and I can say that my backhand is my bread and butter shot. Mainly because I'm right handed in most everything else I do, but that being said, I would MUCH rather play the deuce side and have to hit backhands crosscourt than try to hit them inside out on the AD side. I agree that chipping it back isn't super difficult, but when you're playing 4.5-5.0 like I am, you generally can't chip a return back fast enough so the net player is all over it.

    Plus, it does give you forehands up the middle for volleys and groundstrokes, but we don't have a "rule" about who takes them. It's just easier to drive the ball down the middle of their court when both of you have forehands to work with. In doubles, you're going to see more serves down the T so that the returners are forced to play to the middle. This is why I like the deuce side.

    Lastly, I also prefer to be able to hit my forehand returns inside out because once I establish that pattern, I can start to mix it up with DTL shots to keep them honest.

    DH
     
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  43. andfor

    andfor Hall of Fame

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    I have not read any of the posts after this. Great advice from Larry and is also preached by many of the best doubles coaches. In two up at net doubles, should be end of story. One up one back, maybe there are exceptions, since I don't play that way and was never coached in one up one back I'm open to hear from the experts. If it's been addressed sorry for being lazy, and please point me to the posts.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2011
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  44. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    FTTM is a beginner strategy that has no place in advanced doubles. Not because there is anything inherantly wrong with it, per se, but because of reasons of optimal court coverage and the pace of the shots, it is the unusual situation where there is a shot where: 1) both players have a good play on the ball, 2) the players are equally close to the net (since the player who is closer to the net likely should play the ball if they have a good play on the ball). It just doesn't come up (except for lobs, when it is a perfectly fine strategy).

    Naturally many teams have a player who is "known" for being better at the net and their partner defers to them automatically and often this player will play on the ad side so they are hitting FHs. But these teams usually play this style even when the better volleyer is on the deuce side (and hitting BHs).
     
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  45. chatt_town

    chatt_town Hall of Fame

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    I agree with forehands in the middle. I generally have a field day with lefties on the ad and righties on the deuce. It takes all the guessing out. Just drive everything through the middle and make them beat you with their backhands. I even through lobs up through the middle. :) What I haven't ever figured out is lefties obsession with the ad side of the court. What's up with that?

     
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  46. KFwinds

    KFwinds Professional

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    That's great if that works for you, but I think you are an exception, especially if you have a strong backhand return and have the ability to consistently hit inside-out forehands. It also sounds like you probably see much better servers and poachers than I do at my level.

    Against most of the competition I face, there really isn't anyone that can serve consistently up the T. If they go there, I just chip and charge. If the net player even flinches, I'll redirect down the line. Works very well for us lowly 4.0's...
     
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  47. Darkhors

    Darkhors Rookie

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    If most of the serves you're facing are out wide, then I can understand that being on the left is good for you. But I think as you move up from 4.0 to 4.5, you're going to find that the players serves are much better and vary much more throughout the box. You pretty much have to be able to move your serve around at the 4.5 level other wise returners are going to just dial in your serve and punish it.

    Generally the obsession with the Ad side is more on serving because of the spin out wide. If I'm playing against someone that's a lefty and has a decent serve, I may play the AD side if my partner is a righty, just to negate the serve with my forehand. However, for returning it's also liked because you can run around the backhand on the serve to hit the forehand cross court.

    DH
     
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  48. KFwinds

    KFwinds Professional

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    DH,

    Thanks for your input; you've got me interested in learning to play the deuce side as a lefty. With the type of serving I face I've always been most comfortable returning from the ad side, but I can really see how it might not work as well against servers who can hit up the T consistently and against aggressive poachers with great anticipation at net. It's not that I don't see some decent serving at 4.0, but the players that can hit serves with pace usually don't have fantastic placement or there is good placement but average pace. I'll also admit that I've been playing a lot of 7.0 and 8.0 mixed dubs lately where there is some 3.0 and 3.5 serving going on...

    I have noticed that the Bryan Bros play their forehands to the middle; watched a bunch of vids on Youtube last night after I posted, and I see how that works against strong players. I will definitely have to work on my backhand return to make this work for me, but it seems as if it might be worthwhile in the long run.

    As for forehand/backhand volleys in the middle, it still doesn't make much difference to me and I agree with others that have stated that the person with the best play on the ball should take the shot - usually the player closest to the net, as it gives the opponent less time to react depending on their positioning. So yeah, RIP to FTTM :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2011
    #48

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