The Frozen Partner

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

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I have two doubles partners (both good players I enjoy playing with) who both seem to have the same issue: They freeze.

    It happened just today. I was playing with a lady against the pro and another lady. At the end of one of the games (when she had not had a play on several balls that were rightfully hers), my partner asked the pro what she can do to be more "ready." As I understand her question, her problem is that she feels like by the time she figures out which of her two opponents is going to hit the ball and what they are going to do with it, the shot is already past her.

    A different partner has this same issue, and it is driving her nuts. Say I am serving or receiving, and she is at net. I follow one of my shots in. Say a lob goes over her head. She won't say anything or make any sort of move. Say a lob goes over my head and I call for a switch. She won't run it down or make any move. She says everything happens so fast that she feels she can't catch up.

    Both of these ladies have asked the pro to help them "defrost," if you will. I have heard him give the following answers at different times:

    (1) Split-step and be mentally ready to play whatever ball comes.

    (2) Watch your opponents when both are at net. Whichever one is looking like they're about to do something is the one who is about to do something. Then ignore the other one and focus on the one who is about to do something.

    (3) Be aware of what is going on with your partner rather than look ahead all the time. He compared it to driving. You have three mirrors, yet you never stare into your mirrors. You instead spend most of your time looking ahead of you. In tennis, you have three players. You never stare at any one player, but you take quick glances at all three, including your partner, to gather information.

    That sounds good, but the problems still persist.

    Here's my question: What else would help thaw these two partners so they learn to react to what is happening around them? Is it just a matter of having slow reactions to things in general, such that it is a problem without a solution?
     
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  2. cak

    cak Professional

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    I think some people just have faster reaction times than others. And then there is the daydreaming factor.
     
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  3. Swissv2

    Swissv2 Hall of Fame

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    frozen partners may/may not taste good with cherry/grape/or lemon flavoring.

    I would recommend you have them eat hot pockets before the match to warm up :p
     
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  4. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Ha!! That would probably have the opposite effect. :)

    I feel that way in mixed sometimes. Everything does seem to be happening very quickly at times.

    Man, I think these two ladies are going to pull their hair out in clumps soon. We keep playing at a higher and higher level, which only makes them feel worse . . . .
     
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  5. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    I doubt they'd want to do it, but try some called poaches. You don't even need to worry about hand signals, you can do it verbally to avoid confusion.

    Call the occasional poach when serving and I'd do it once in a while behind returns too. The goal wouldn't necessarily be to win the point - just to force them to move. Making it predetermined (called) should take some of the thinking out of the equation.
     
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  6. volleyman

    volleyman Semi-Pro

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    Well, one thing is that even when you don't have a play on the ball in doubles, you should always be moving and keep your feet moving, especially if you're the net person.

    So, let's construct a mythical point here. Let's say you're returning serve, and your partner is at net.

    Her first job is to call that back line. If the ball is in, she only watches it long enough to determine how far out of the court the serve is pulling you. For argument's sake, we'll say it's not wide enough to require immediate adjustment.

    From there, she turns her attention to the net person and adjusts her position depending on what the opposing net person (OPN) is doing. If the OPN is lunging towards the sideline, your partner moves towards the center to cut off the angle. If the OPN is going after a volley in the center, a split step is in order. If the OPN looks like they are taking the volley below the top of the net, a step forward to position herself for the drop shot, or to be in position to poach a weak reply is the play.

    If the OPN is preparing to hit an overhead, a couple of quick steps back and then a split step to prepare to return the shot would be good.

    If the ball goes past the OPN, your partner should take a step or two into the service box and position herself to cover most of the the down the line and some of the opposing baseline player's (OBN) crosscourt return. She split step as the OBN swings at the ball. (Note that I feel it's OK to leave your opponent a small opening down the line until they prove they can consistently hit it.)

    Assuming the ball is cross court out of her reach, she glance over to check on you, and then repositions herself back towards the service line, to guard against the OPN. If you're pulled way wide, she also needs to move to cover the center. Then she keys off the OPN, repositions, and if the ball gets past them, the OBN, and repositions, as before.

    Repeat continuously until the point ends. You should always be moving in doubles, even on points where you never hit the ball.

    I think if they get into the cycle of constant movement and adjustment, they'll become more aggressive and effective at the net. Once you allow yourself to take root in the court, it can be really tough to overcome the mental and physical inertia and get moving. If you keep moving though, it becomes so much easier to pick off that lazy crosscourt return.
     
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  7. Tarboro

    Tarboro Rookie

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    More than anything else (even at 4.0/4.5 sometimes) movement at net is predicated on aggression and a commitment to make something happen regardless of where the ball ends up. If you're reasonably fit and can get a jump on the returner (which is a learned skill and not so hard when the burden of having to decide whether or not to poach is removed) you should be able to get to all but the hardest-hit crosscourt shots in doubles, especially at the 3.5-4.0 level where too many returns are just rolled back crosscourt in an effort to stay away from the net player.

    The biggest obstacle to being aggressive at net is uncertainty. Almost anyone can tell when they should have gone after a ball - your partners probably feel like if they were certain beforehand that they should go after a ball, they'd poach whenever they got that feeling. In reality, most 3.5 or 4.0 doubles teams could safely poach about 75% of the time.
     
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  8. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    I think this problem has two parts. First, people learn where to stand for doubles, so they just want to stay there. They think, "Maybe I'll make mistakes but at least I'm standing in the right place!" They don't get, it's just where you start from, not where you should be. In baseball a centerfielder stands in the middle of centerfield. He doesn't stay there, it's just a good place to start from. They don't get that. Second, they think that a person shouldn't go for a ball unless they're certain they can get it. Sorry, but there's not much that is certain in tennis. They're afraid of angering their partner, so they freeze. They got to loosen up, take some chances. Sometimes they'll interfere with a shot that their partner could have had. It's ok. That's not going to happen every time.
     
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  9. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I suppose my experience is a bit different. My guess is that a split step will not help these folks. Their problem is likely mental, not physical. Many rec doubles players have a fear of hitting a ball that is not "theirs". That is, they reach out, flub the shot, then look over their shoulder at their partner who is set and ready to hit a classic groundstroke is about 4 steps behind them and they feel guilty for taking "their partner's" shot.

    They essentially stand at the net, frozen, watching strokes go by that are clearly out of their reach, getting a little bit hypnotized by it all, when suddenly a ball comes right at them, it is clearly their shot but they are at least half a step late and barely get it over, instead of punishing it.

    The alternative is that in the midst of their daze a stroke goes by that they could have reached for a good poach if they would have jumped on it, but instead they let it go by, luckily their partner returns it easily. Afterwards they kick themselves that they should have taken that one (to be fair we all fall into this category on occasion).

    The solution is to make a decision (with the support of their partner) that they are going to get every ball they can and their partner won't feel poorly about it if they flub the shot or just tip the shot, or even if they can't actually reach the ball, it is a learning experience. Once players get a feel for which balls are "theirs" and the effectiveness of the poach compared to a routine groundstroke, then they are on the path to stop being frozen.
     
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  10. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    when playing doubles the saying to remember is .....expect it and want it..... you have to expect every ball is coming your way and want to poach hit every bball
     
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  11. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I think the "wanting" part is key, as you and Lucky say. I play the net better when I tell myself every ball is mine. I have no partner. This is just like a drill class where I am supposed to get every ball.

    It's hard to tell yourself that when you are having an off day at the net, though . . . .
     
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  12. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    While I think that a couple of the above posts are somewhat pessimistic, I do believe that motion in doubles is both an attitude and a learned practice.

    For example, in your situation of the partner that fails to switch to cover the lob, I imagine that her problem was that she never moved during the lob because it was directed to you. All of the sudden, you call for help and she is already out of the point because she is not ready to move since she is standing around waiting for you to hit the ball. Instead, as soon as she saw the ball go up, she should be at least dropping back to the service line (assuming she was up at the net) and shifted left or right, depending on the angle of the lob. If she was being more active, she would be closer to the action and ready to move for the switch.

    When one moves to cover angles , according to the position of the partner and the ball, you naturally are engaged in the point and can better act when given an opportunity.
     
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  13. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    Some drills are great for these situations; i.e. like the lob situation and the switch situation you are talking about. You do drills where you practice these situations and then when they come in a game, you recognize what you need to do and it is easier to do.

    The biggest thing that I notice with women at the 3.5 level is that most of them will not call balls, i.e. talk, communicate with their partners. When I first started playing I was good at saying mine (cause I played in the outfield in softball, but I was bad at saying yours); now I try to make a habit of calling every ball either yours or mine when I am playing. This helps me and also helps my partner focus when they need to play a ball and may be sort of undecided.
     
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  14. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    You're right about the talking. I am trying to learn to say "mine" more often. (I have already mastered "You!"). :)

    We do this drill in clinic where two are at net and one is at the baseline, drilling feeds at the net players. The net players *must* call every ball. Saying "Mine" as soon as the ball leaves the opponent's racket gives you ownership of and responsibility for that ball, so you are more likely to attack it. It really does work.

    Lately, I have stopped saying "You" when a lob goes out of reach. Instead, I say "I don't have it!" This is so stupid, but I can't break the habit. It comes from some partners who really became upset if I said "You" on a lob, as they felt like it embarrassed them to be unable to run it down. I would like to change it to "Switch" but my brain (irrationally) reserves that for times when I need to cross to the other side.
     
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  15. Spokewench

    Spokewench Semi-Pro

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    I usually don't play with doubles partners that don't want me to talk. It has become a part of my game now; and it's almost impossible to stop!
     
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  16. jc4.0

    jc4.0 Professional

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    Lose The Fear

    The original advice of moving the feet and being always engaged and fully aware of what's going on during a point is best. I have a basic rule of "it's my ball until it isn't". That way I am always prepared to hit any shot that comes over the net, unless it clearly is out of my zone and is a better shot for my partner. I think the basic problem is some players are insecure, afraid they'll make a "bad shot" so won't go for the ball unless it comes right to them as an easy shot. You have to be willing to make mistakes and "go for it" because sometimes even if you don't make the best poach, it surprises the opposing team. Lose the fear. Be bold.
     
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  17. Solat

    Solat Professional

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    my sayings when it comes to teaching people in this situation are

    "be surprised when the ball DOESN'T come to you not when it does"
    "did you sign up to play tennis or just to watch your partner play from really close?"

    the other area to look at would be do they know the high percentage shot options? If you know where is smartest for your opponent to hit or you can put yourself in their shoes for the stroke you can aptly predict where to position yourself to cover the court the best. If they hit the low percentage shot then you have to give it to them.
     
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  18. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    I was watching a 3.5 ladies match last night as I waited for my own match and I was surprised with how still everyone was on the court - all four players setting up a particular position, sometimes at the baseline and sometimes up at the net, and then patting the ball back and forth over and over. But no one ever never moved from that intial position.

    I think the mindset was to get set and to hit the ball however possible, and movement was only a last resort. Also, the net players never flowed with ball (e.g., take two steps wide to shadow the ball when the shot is wide/ a step to the middle when the ball is in the middle) - so the net person is never in a position to poach without having to make a huge movement. If you are flowing with the ball, the poach is only a 1/2 step motion.

    I think it would help you friends a lot to not get set but to stay bouncing on your feet and to move around with the ball, because it seems like once she is set, she is not moving
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2009
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  19. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, that's exactly it, Nellie.

    Have you been watching the TV coverage of the Majors lately? They have this new gizmo where they take snapshots of the players during a point and then kind of superimpose them onto the image of the court. In this way, you can marvel at Federer's movement during a point.

    I know what this would look like if you used this device on the typical 3.5 ladies match. It would look like one snapshot!! :)

    I shouldn't be so hard on my 3.5 sisters, actually. I would guess men's 3.5 doubles is much the same. Not a whole lotta movement goin' on. . . .
     
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