Originally Posted by travlerajm
As someone who enjoys making life difficult for gals trying to hit returns past me, I'll let you in on a little secret: Guys like me like take away the easy shot and give you the hard shots. Your advice to crowd the service line was the right advice - if she doesn't do that she has no prayer to get it past me. But if she crowds the line, she has options.
To get it past me, she doesn't have to hit it super hard, but it has to be accurate.
Option 1. If you're going to get it past me cross-court, it's got to be a really sharp angle cross court (one that lands in the doubles alley inside the service line). If you aim for the typical deeper crosscourt return that you use with the lady friends, that's an easy poach winner for me (it crosses too close to the center of the court, which is my territory to defend). Again, if you don't have a lot of pace, you MUST crowd the service line to have a chance to execute this shot against me, otherwise I have time to cross and still reach it.
Option 2. Keep me honest. You've got to make me think about staying. Use the down the line alley at least once per game against an active netman. Believe it or not, a soft shot can work great here, because higher over the net is the optimum trajectory (aim 8 feet or so over the net). It's a lower trajectory than you would hit a lob, but the extra height means I have to be completely underneath it to reach it (I can't reach sideways), effectively meaning I have to move about 4 extra feet to my left to reach it than if the shot was hit with only 3 feet of net clearance. The same principle works for passing shots in singles too.
Option 3. Keep me honest with the lob. Active poachers like to cheat close to the net if you let us. Lob once a game to keep me honest. Even you miss your lob target and get it pounded, it will make me think about it and reduce my range a little. Don't be afraid to try it again.
As a 4.5 guy, when I'm returning in the same situation against an active netman, I can usually watch the netguy out of the corner of my eye and be patient, wait for him to make a move, then guide it past him. As a 4.0 gal, that may be trickier, but you might try practicing the hold-and-poke strategy, because it's not as hard as to get the hang of it as you might think. I see a lot of 4.0 guys who take the opposite approach and overhit trying to bang it past me in this situation - the hold-and-poke strategy is the percentage play - there's always somewhere I can't quite cover.
By "poke" I refer to any type of compact groundstroke.