Is This How Higher-Level Folks Play The Net?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    This is my first year at 4.0, and I am noticing something about how ladies play the net.

    I had a very tough match last night. The other three ladies on the court were stronger than me, and they play 8.0 mixed, 9.0 mixed, 8.5 ladies combo. They win a lot, so they know what they are doing.

    The server's partner often lined up well off the net. Like, just in front of the service line. There were no attempts to poach service returns, even though everyone had good volleys. The net player just stood there and waited for a ball to come her way, and when one did she would crush it or do something smart with it.

    I don't get it. Why aren't these capable volleyers faking/poaching?

    The reason I ask is that, well . . . I don't much like it when my partner is a spectator at the net. I want her to be an unpredictable nuisance up there. I want her to help me hold. I don't want to be responsible for every ball except those I can get the opponents to pop up to her waiting racket.

    Is this typical? I feel like I am searching for partners who will be active at net, who will poach, but the higher I go the less I am seeing this. I have had two strong 4.0s tell me that poaching is not their game.

    I am starting to wonder if the game is played differently at the higher levels. Players are much more likely to S&V or follow their returns to net. The movement for that is forward. What I am not seeing is movement sideways in the form of poaching.
     
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  2. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    Your serve sucks so they don't want to get in the way of the return or get passed dtl. Serve better and you will see poaching.
     
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  3. samarai

    samarai Rookie

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    I agree, net play will sometimes be dictated by the serves you throw out there. Even in the men's game, I'm not gonna stand close to the net and get pummeled if you cant get a decent serve in with pace and spin.
     
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  4. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Professional

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    What I see on the men's side is that poaching is not a planned thing most of the time. But that said, there's a lot of active movement anticipating the weak ball and moving in to kill it off.

    For example, with some partners, when I'm serving well, I often don't hit a second ball. But at the same time, my partner and I aren't planning poaches. It's just that, based on my serve placement, they can anticipate when and where a weak or predictable return will go, so they're usually in position.

    If my serves aren't causing weak returns, then I'll have to hit more approach volleys myself. But, my partners are still cheating towards the middle most of the time just in case.

    It's always a shock whenever I play with a singles player who doesn't move.
     
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  5. floridatennisdude

    floridatennisdude Hall of Fame

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    When my partner is serving, I'll stand 2 steps in front of our service line. As I see the returner start to prepare for their swing, I take one big step forward and split step...so now I am a little more than half way between service line and net and ready to move into any volley I can play.

    I have no clue why your partners were so far back. Seems that they are just used to playing the first few shots cross court and are a little over patient. That's not a style I would want either. Especially if I were the weaker of the 4 on court. We're they mostly singles players?

    I also don't know of any advice out there that doesn't encourage aggressive attempts to get volleys on your side. No point in waiting for the action to come your way. You have to force the opponent into making mistakes that you can pounce on. Especially at higher levels.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
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  6. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    Well, well, well, better players play differently then lesser players--what a shocker! It's called percentage tennis. You may want to look back at my early posts to you Cindy, when I gave you the answers to your questions. Back then you derided them or totally ignored what I was telling you. Do a search, I'm not a public utility. I do appreciate that now, that you have become a 4.0, you've made a transformation in your vision/VISION of what the game can be.

    G'luck
     
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  7. Mike Y

    Mike Y Rookie

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    That seems unusual. Most higher level teams have very aggressive poachers at the net. I'm very aggressive at the net when my partner is serving. However, that may not be this particular team's game. Maybe the person at the net didn't trust her volleys. Maybe they were both primarily singles players and felt uncomfortable poaching. Was it only one of the partners doing this? Maybe that was the weaker partner who didn't want to get in the way of the stronger partner.

    Were the serves wide? On wide serves, I tend to be far less aggressive, I have to cover the alley shot. That's why I instruct my partners to serve down the middle most of the time, that way I can play way toward the middle of the court.

    But though this team was comfortable doing this, and winning, it is not optimal strategy. I would hit it at the net person's feet often if they were standing that far back.
     
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  8. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    Are you a fifty year old housewife club player?
     
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  9. Mike Y

    Mike Y Rookie

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    One other thing I should have added. For the higher levels, service returners absolutely can hit a down the line return, where the lower level probably cannot consistently. You can't just give the alley away at the higher levels. In fact, the down the line service return is one of my favorite shots.
     
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  10. Tennis Truth

    Tennis Truth Rookie

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    Wow, great response. Can't see any possible reason why anyone would ever ignore your advice. It is not like you are unnecessarily rude, unpleasant, or egotistical in your responses.
     
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  11. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    Quickness/mobility may be an issue too. When I poach (or fake poach), I'm either trying to get the returner to change his shot or hit into coverage. A well executed poach takes timing, can't go too early, can't be too late. As players get older they can still retain great strokes/ball skills but maybe not the mobility to get all the way across on the poach. At 4.0/4.5 you'll see good enough returns where they can exploit that. So if you don't move very quickly it's often better to stay home and look to jump on a the return down the middle than to fully commit to a poach and not be able to cover a wider return.
     
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  12. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    I think that people are missing the difference between mens and women's tennis. I mean look at womens doubles on the WTA Tour- teams can be very successful just by grinding it out from the baseline.

    I do think that there is a dividing line by age in the womens game at the 4.0 level. I think there are a lot of older players who have developed great hands to get there. There are younger women who have mostly developed great ground strokes to get there. And the 4.0 level is the meeting point. So you will see lots of younger girls who want to bash from teh baseline and who will even get irritated if their net player takes a ball that is "theirs". Then you have a different group of players who may not ever hit through a ball because they are just trying to get the point alive until they can get to the net.

    There are some "hands" players that have just lost that step and someone with big ground strokes with just torch them. There are some ground strokers who don't have the versitility and will be eaten alive by good hands players who can set up a wall.

    Personally I am a fan of putting similar styles together as a captain. I think that hands players should play with other hadns players. Put baseliners together who can protect each other when they are at the net. When you put a hands player with a baseliner I think it often just leads to frustration on both.

    Not all players fall into either category- Cindy sounds like someone who enjoys the net but also can hit a nice deep topspin shot.
     
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  13. tennis tom

    tennis tom Hall of Fame

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    Hey, I'm with you, Mr. Sphinx, I don't get it either! You get what you pay for in this life--steal the fire. You must be telling the "truth" since you ARE "tennis truth". Actually, if you got to know me t.truth--you would dislike me EVEN more!

    Please put me on your ignore list, I would hate to think you ever got a point from anything you may have learned from me.

    Cheers and hit a lot of holes in one today.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
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  14. rufus_smith

    rufus_smith Professional

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    2nd post nailed it. In women's games, generally the typical serve return is twice as good as the typical serve. The server's partner is often better off taking a defensive position.
     
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  15. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Just to be clear . . . it wasn't my partner being afraid of my "weak" serves. The opponents were playing the net from close to the service line and not moving much. Like, one of the opponents had a huge serve which I would think would create lots of poaching opportunities. Yet her partner played the whole match shaded toward the alley.

    Spot, when I captain, I look for pairing where I have two "forward movers" or two "lateral movers."

    An example: I play with a lady who is a "forward mover." She comes to the net on every serve and every return. She doesn't want me to take any ball I can reach. Instead, she wants me to . . . well, stay out of her way. I shouldn't poach with my BH. I should remember she is coming to net and so should let middle balls through. That sort of thing.

    Then when I am serving, she is just kind of hanging around. She doesn't try to make anything happen at the net. So I am on my own; if I don't win the points on my serve, we're losing that game.

    Yet if I pair her with another "forward mover," they will win. I, on the other hand, do better with a "lateral mover," someone who is very active at net.
     
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  16. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    I believe you over think all this.
     
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  17. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Good captains think their line-ups through carefully and notice things.
     
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  18. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    If you don't think about what styles work best playing together than either you were a lousy captain or you haven't ever been a captain.

    And Particularly in women's doubles these sorts of things are tremendously important.
     
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  19. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    Were they much better than your team - if I am playing inferior competition, I don't poach much because I am playing not to lose.
     
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  20. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    I guess since I'm not a female and I'm not a 4.0 I don't know how important it is. It just seems too overly complicated. When I play doubles I just adapt to what my partner does.
     
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  21. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    I think less than 25% of 4.0 women are "aggressive" at the net meaning moving to a good position based on the quality of their partner's shot. Basically, anticipating a weak return and moving to an offensive position as the opponent returns the shot. The classic aggressive move is to take 1-2 steps in and toward the center if you partner hits an offensive shot. I think about 75% of 4.0 men are "aggressive" at the net in their anticipation.

    I play on a mixed team and several of the women are 4.5 level. They are all fairly aggressive at least about positioning but still they only poach when the opponent floats one.
     
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  22. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Mmm, I don't know. I think the other three were stronger than me, so I guess if I do the math the opponents were the stronger team. Still we lost -5 and -5, so I doubt they felt they could take things for granted.

    I was thinking about it more, and I had an epiphany.

    Say you are used to having the server/receiver come to the net on everything. You are going to build a wall (or play staggered). That is the plan.

    Well, maybe the reason these three players don't poach much and position so deep in the box is that they are defending only the two shots the server will struggle to cover: DTL shot and lob.
     
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  23. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Judging by your signature you have your own way of tremendously overthinking things.

     
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  24. arche3

    arche3 Banned

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    Lol. Not. This is the 2nd racket I've ever used. In my life. Before that it was the ps85. I put it into the signature because that's what we do here. And it took me a long time to get it to feel the same as my old prostaffs. Thats how i know the specs. I made it match my old rackets. I pretty much only worry about when my strings about to break at this point.

    I still think if your on here complaining about holding serve in doubles it just means your serve is passable at best. The thought of losing my service in doubles never enters my mind. Can it happen of course but percentage wise it does not happen often.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
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  25. schmke

    schmke Professional

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    If you aren't signaling or talking prior to serves (which it sounds like you aren't) to indicate what the net person is going to do so the server can hit an appropriate serve and cover the other part of the court, you are effectively limited to opportunistic poaching. This is particularly true when a serve and volleyer, you don't want to leave an entire half of the court open with both at or approaching the net.

    The other thing I have observed that women are more likely to do than men is lob a return of serve which would explain not starting the point as close to the net.
     
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  26. tennismonkey

    tennismonkey Semi-Pro

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    as schmke and others have pointed out -- i think it's to help mitigate two shots that are really effective at up to about 4.5 level -- the lob and to a lesser extent the down the line return.

    i think that poaching isn't necessarily easy either.

    1 -- my partner hits a great serve and i see a weak floaty return and i take a step or two over and put it away -- yes this opportunistic poach (as someone else called it) is an easy putaway. works every time.

    2 -- on a planned poach. server says he's going down the T. i'm going to cross. i have to trust my partner is going to hit his mark. i have to trust that he's going to hit it with spin and/pace to cause a weak reply. because if it's not - i am committed to crossing and i may have to deal with a really difficult volley. and if i don't hit this volley well - we're now in a bad position.

    i think aggressive netplay is high risk/high reward. on the other hand it looks like your hitting partners prefer the motto "you are going to have to beat us - we are not going to beat ourselves and we are not going to expose ourselves".

    *lol. i said expose ourselves.*
     
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  27. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I played tons of hit and giggles tennis with 5.5 and better women...
    Women have slower serves and bigger groundies than most men.
    The bigger groundies equate to a faster moving ball, not more spin.
    Women aren't afraid or ashamed to lob returns.
    Most top level women still hit groundies better than their volleys.
    Winning is allowing your best shot to match up against the opponent's incoming shot.
    All that points to poaching only on slow high balls, and never reaching for a poach, since your backcourt partner can alway crush a hard, low return.
     
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  28. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Nah. You're talking about men's doubles, clearly. Women's doubles is different.

    I play with women with some weak serves, and they hold. They do need me to help them and be as active as I can, though.

    Just as in the pros, the returns in ladies 4.0 tennis are strong in comparison to the serves. You do not see women blasting aces or service winners. Still, I feel like I am not doing my job if I am so passive that the returners can sit back and comfortably tee off on my partner's serve, secure in the knowledge that I am a potted plant up there.
     
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  29. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I play 4.0 men's doubles a lot. If I get broken on my serve, 9 out of 10 times my partner missed at least 2 sitters and one tougher defensive volley.
    Of course, I can lose my serve all by myself by missing 3 easy volleys.
    When I play doubles WITH a 5.5 woman's player, I don't poach if she get's to hit a forehand, unless it's a high, slow sitter (which never happens, her serve is nothing).
    Let your teammate hit their best shot, that is a good strategy for winning.
     
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  30. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    That's interesting.

    If I get broken, there is a good chance my partner never touched a ball.

    I also have entire service games where I hold and my partner never touches a ball.
     
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  31. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Difference is, when I play doubles, I'm usually the stronger on my team, so they try to hit to my netman as often as possible. I used to play A/Open, and pretty successfully, if better than 50% winning can be considered that.
    And as stronger, I'll usually play with the weakest of the foursome, to make an even match.
    Avoiding me is the best ploy for my opponent's to win. That, or drop shotting and then lobbing me.
     
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  32. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Cindy... as a total tangent this just goes back to my theory that women should be primarily playing the Australian Formation at least through the 3.5 level and many should still be playing it at the 4.0 level. If someone's serve does not generate any weak returns then your net player is far better off taking away the crosscourt return in my opinion. That makes the returner hit over the higher part of the net to the shorter court and takes away the angle of return. The primary advantage of the "standard" formation is that the net person is there to put away returns- if the returners are grooved in cross court then take that shot away!
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
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  33. NTRPolice

    NTRPolice Semi-Pro

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    I think it does have to do with your serve a lot. The better my partner serves, the better my net play becomes. I actually have an easier time playing 8.0 doubles than I do 6.0 because in 6.0 I dont have much freedom to move at the net without leaving an easy winner possibility off an easy serve. When we play 7.5-8.0 doubles im a lot more active at the net.

    When you watch "high level" doubles they're often calling plays too. This makes poaching look deceptively easy. When its predetermined where the serve is going to go and where the net player is going to move its really easy to poach. Combine that with a high quality serve and the pressure of being the returner its easy to look like the Bryan brothers.

    My strategy has been, so far, to give them about 1 ft. of the alley so that if they want to go there, they have to make a good shot. Hard, low, fast, 1 ft. margin of error, or I get a racket on it, or it goes wide.

    Being in this position also allows me to take balls in the middle that are lazily returned.

    Being in this position doesnt leave too many vulnerabilities without them having to risk something and I can also take a stab at balls in the middle.
     
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  34. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    EVERY 4.0 I play doubles with hits better DTL shots than CC's.
    Why you ask, because you don't know.
    Because every 4.0 warms up hitting straight back to hit hitting partner.
    This fallacy of saying CC is easier than DTL is pure fallacy. We all practice hitting DTL more often than CC.
     
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  35. NTRPolice

    NTRPolice Semi-Pro

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    What? lol.

    Serve coming at an angle. Return hit back at same angle.
    Straight line.

    Serve coming at an angle. Return DTL.
    Not straight line.

    Practice warm up rally.
    Straight line.
     
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  36. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    When you warmup, your TARGET is always in the back of your mind.
    That target stays there even when you're playing doubles.
    When going DTL, I notice rallies last much longer than CC rallies. CC, you can hit wide pretty easily, resulting in OUT calls.
    DTL, you know the netperson is lurking dead center, but you have a whole half court to lazily rally.
    If you mean the very FIRST redirection, I still find DTL easy, because you're just aiming for the alley side of the netperson, a huge target.
     
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  37. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    You are nuts. I'll personally take hitting over the lower part of the court and having an extra 3.5 feet or so of court to work with by going crosscourt. I have no problem going DTL but there is simply no question that cross court is the easier shot just due to geometry.
     
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  38. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I think you guys read and believe the books too often, and forget to learn from the tennis courts with your own play.
    I did not advocate going DTL on every ball, just that it is no harder than going CC past the netperson lurking 3' on his side of the alley.
    Even on shots from the center of the baseline, it's easy to hit topspin short angle dipping DTL shots, just as easy as CC shots. Most players at the 4.0 level I play go DTL to test the netperson, and to keep him in his position, away from poaching, at least once every 4 returns or shots.
    Remember, a return of serve is not a full groundstroke swing. And once the rally starts, the netpeeps on BOTH sides are trying to cheat over to the middle to poach.
    Oh, that's 4.0 men's doubles with guys who actually CAN volley.
     
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  39. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Seriously? If someone goes Australian while serving to you. You think that you return a bigger ball having to hit over the higher part of the net and having 3 feet less of court to work with?
     
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  40. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Funny you mention that....
    Both the best player on our courts and I get to face Aussie a lot.
    Both of us have no problems returning DTL.
    Not saying we hit BIGGER returns, just that Aussie seems to take the netman out of the equation when the returns are targeted DTL.
    CC returns often involve the netman trying to poach.
     
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  41. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    So many weird experiences.

    NTRP police thinks it is easier to poach at 6.0 mixed than 8.0 mixed. Wow, not my experience at all. The ball is going much slower at 6.0 mixed, plus most returners stand way back and cannot hit on the rise or use spin to dip the ball. I just don't agree that it is so terribly hard to poach off of slow-ish serves (defined at sub-110 mph :) ).

    Lee, a lot of players will hand you the match if you make them return up the line. There's court geometry, of course. But there is also the fact that they have to change direction of the ball. Add in that some ad players cannot take their BH up the line or take their rightie FH to the ad alley and there are a lot of free points to be had.

    edit: Also remember that experienced doubles players get a bazillion reps to hit crosscourt and only a few per match to hit DTL. By the time folks get to 4.0 and have been playing ten years, they can hit crosscourt all day long.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
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  42. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Dunno if things translate from mens 4.5 to womens 4.0, but...

    My serve is one of the stronger parts of my game. I don't like my partner to use planned poaches when I serve. I'd rather just follow my serve to the net. My partners are free to poach opportunistically, but don't have to be aggressive about it - I'd rather they leave it to me to finish it up rather than overextend to poach. The points I lose on my serve are those where the returner is able to hit a winning angle crosscourt, which my partner would not have been able to get to anyway even if poaching. Having my partner poach more aggressively I think will end up losing us more points in balance than it gains, because it gives returners more opportunity to win a point by going down the line.
     
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  43. Mike Y

    Mike Y Rookie

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    In no way is going down the line easier than a cross-court return. Higher net, smaller window, shorter court. I hate it when I crush a serve-return groundstroke perfectly down the line, only for it to go slightly long or wide. That's much less likely to happen going cross-court, and that doesn't even take into account the lower net cross-court. That's why even though it is a favorite shot of mine, I still do it rarely. Partners don't appreciate not getting a chance in a point because you decided to crush the serve return slightly long.
     
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  44. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    MikeY...
    I used to play A/Open tourneys in NorCal, have more wins than loses in that level. Also 2 Q's for the TransAm event, winning 5 matches, never qualifying..only the winner, and sometimes one other guy get's in.
    I'm now playing bad 4.0 because I haven't run two steps in the last 5 years.
    I can hit topspin both sides off moderate serves.
    You need to learn, when you go DTL, it's after you notice the opposing netperson start to cheat to the center, because he's looking to poach your shot. So, you don't aim for the alley! Instead, you aim AT his alley side hip pocket. Since he's right in front of you, it's a big clear target. You know, half the time, he will get a racket on it. So what do you do? You cheat to NML after your shot, knowing he's not ready to stick the volley.
    Now think about his! Even if you MISS your shot, you have achieved your goal. Now what was your goal? NOT to hit a winner, but to keep that netperson HONEST!
    Think about that. You don't have to win this point to achieve your goal!
     
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  45. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Thats a far different conversation. You said that you hit better shots DTL than you do CC and thats what I think is nuts. I mean going cross court is like being able to hit DTL but every shot that hits the tape counts and every ball thats 3 feet long also counts.

    That is just crazy talk.
     
    #45
  46. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    You cannot take the net person out of the equation, and isolate the shot for it's depth, placement, speed and spin alone.
    In doubles, every return is predicated on the netperson's involvement, or lack of.
    I return DTL as well as CC because the netman takes himself out of position when I go DTL, making my shot easy.
    Did you read the whole post? Even if I miss my DTL attempt, a achieve my goal of forcing the netperson to stay home.
    Forget isolating the quality of the DTL shot, thinking of the overall point of going DTL on occasion!:shock::shock::shock:
     
    #46
  47. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    This is a ridiculous statement. I can't believe you even want to try and defend it. You told us you think that every 4.0 player you know hits a BETTER ball DTL than cross court because they do it more often when practicing. Its just ridiculous.
     
    #47
  48. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Now you're just arguing a moot point.
    Maybe your 4.0 buds don't know when to go DTL, but it appears mine do. Nobody goes DTL blatantly without a reason. A successful DTL shot can be a loser, and it's still SUCCESSFUL!
    You are like nitpicker. You care about details and forget completely of the CONCEPT of why you hit DTL.
    So keep you shoes shined, lace up your shoelaces in perfect symmetry, and go about correcting the grammar, dotting the i's, and crossing the t's.
     
    #48
  49. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Nobody does this because the CC shot is an easier one to hit. Which I guess is true for pretty much everyone in the world except for you and every 4.0 player you know.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
    #49
  50. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    ye but... ye but...:):)
    Do you even know you sound like a 8 year old crying over spilled milk?
     
    #50

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