Originally Posted by Cindysphinx
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?
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.