Cover the middle/give up the alley in dubs

MisterP

Hall of Fame
I have a regular hitting partner who goes absolutely bonkers anytime someone beats him down the line in dubs. His girlfriend is the same way when they play mixed together. I have tried to explain that the middle of the court is the percentage play, and that hanging out near the alley gives your opponent the easiest shot they can hit. Obviously there is a time to shift and cover that part of the court if the ball is hit wide, but that is the exception. He keeps telling me that "good" players exploit the down the line shot if you don't cover it.

I think this is bollocks.

Tell me why I'm wrong.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
I’m just saying all things being equal, a down the line ball is a more difficult shot to execute. The net is higher and there is far, far less court to hit into. Up the middle the net is lower and if you miss wide you’re still in the court somewhere.

I do know a guy who hits down the line a lot and I have to respect it somewhat more than I do with other players. But I’m also ok with him roping winners past me because half of them are in the net or long.
 

GeoffHYL

Professional
I know the commonly held idea here is that consistent DTL winners are reserved for ATP pros, but I swear I have met some geezers that can consistently nail the ball along the alley if they see me cheating to the middle.
Played an opponent this morning who will hit his forehand DTL if he sees you shading to the middle, and he hits it in about 80% of the time. It all depends on the opponent.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
People seem to overestimate the power of second serves. There isn't a second serve I've faced at 3.0-4.0 levels that can't be accurately taken down the line, especially on my FH wing. Give up the alley on the second serve at your peril.

Now off first serves, yeah, guarding the alley is low percentage. Let them try changing direction on a hard outside ball.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
I agree that it's a little dependent on the specific situation, but I agree that the down the line shot is generally a lower percentage option with the shorter court and higher net compared with hitting through the middle.

But you have a partner out there - the two of you should (ideally) be positioning yourselves to block your opponent's best options. If you don't want to get burned by a shot down the alley, you can set up close enough to the alley to be able to get to that ball with your well-positioned partner blocking off the middle. But don't camp in the alley or else you're leaving your partner with too much real estate to cover without you.

The winner that's ripped through the middle carries a sort of shared blame if neither of us can get it, but a winner down the line beats only one player on a doubles team. That's probably why some players can't stand when they get burned down the alley.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
Where you stand in doubles isn't where you stay. If the ball goes DTL move over and get it. Read the returner. See where he looks, notice how he's set up.

Be ready to move when you're at the net in doubles. Don't stand there flat-footed.
 

Fintft

Legend
I know the commonly held idea here is that consistent DTL winners are reserved for ATP pros, but I swear I have met some geezers that can consistently nail the ball along the alley if they see me cheating to the middle.

That is the case as well at the clubs I'm playing and to compound the matter, if you poach or use a different formation almost never would your partner switch in time with you and cover the DTL passing shot. Even when you agreed to do that play.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
That is the case as well at the clubs I'm playing and to compound the matter, if you poach or use a different formation almost never would your partner switch in time with you and cover the DTL passing shot. Even when you agreed to do that play.
I tried that once. I told my partner I was going to poach, so to cover my side. The returner went DTL, and my partner was just standing from where he served. He didn't get the concept at all.

Lotta club players think of doubles as "my side, your side", and don't want to be bothered to help out on the other side, and don't like it if you come on to "their" side either.
 

Off The Wall

Semi-Pro
I know the commonly held idea here is that consistent DTL winners are reserved for ATP pros, but I swear I have met some geezers that can consistently nail the ball along the alley if they see me cheating to the middle.
Those are players you bait. You make a show of moving toward the middle, figuring they will go dtl. As they swing, you slide over for the volley. If you guessed wrong, the ball goes to your partner. No harm; no foul.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
I have a regular hitting partner who goes absolutely bonkers anytime someone beats him down the line in dubs. His girlfriend is the same way when they play mixed together. I have tried to explain that the middle of the court is the percentage play, and that hanging out near the alley gives your opponent the easiest shot they can hit. Obviously there is a time to shift and cover that part of the court if the ball is hit wide, but that is the exception. He keeps telling me that "good" players exploit the down the line shot if you don't cover it.

I think this is bollocks.

Tell me why I'm wrong.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Watch doubles on youtube. You'll notice that poachers get burned a lot. But that doesn't make them afraid to keep doing it. And his partner never gives him the evil eye for doing it. They gain a lot from it too, so they're willing to take the occasional loss. In good doubles I notice lots of movement, fakes, and players running onto one another's "side". In bad doubles, two players rally while their partners just stand there.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
I know the commonly held idea here is that consistent DTL winners are reserved for ATP pros, but I swear I have met some geezers that can consistently nail the ball along the alley if they see me cheating to the middle.
That's because the balls they get are also from geezers, ie quite slow that can be redirected at will.

OP, your idea is correct. Tell the guy that you rather have him successfully poach or help win two middle balls along with 1 dtl loss than a perfect dtl coverage and all missed opportunities (or open) in the middle. If he doesn't understand that, he doesn't understand what percentage means.

You're not really playing doubles if you're standing still and guarding something. Opponents may test your guarding once or twice but no stupid opponents (or thieves) are gonna keep knocking on solid guarded door. The thing is, if you guard one side well you inevitably leave the other side completely open, which is the design of the court/game. Successful doubles means you know when you leave which one closed and which one open.

I used to suck at the net two years ago. Now it feels as easy as the baseline game for me. :) I could have progressed more and further but alot of time I need to take in consideration of my partners who are not used to all the tactics and techniques I considered advanced.
 

zaph

Professional
The one situation in which you always pass down the line is when you have a ball hog on the opposite team. Normally a guy, basically in love with himself, always blames his partner for any lost points and will always cross to get the ball.

These guys are a gift, because they can't resist crossing to take the ball off their partners racket, you will beat them with any shot into the alley the majority of the time.
 
I get what everyone is saying but how many people have you met that are blatantly just standing in the alley? The only real immobile players I come across are people that play doubles because they think it means they get to play tennis without the movement aspect.

Most of the people I play doubles with are somewhere in the middle. They move but it's in a way to guard either one of their weak shots (stay at baseline, guard their backhand, fear of lobs, etc.) or a perceived vulnerability such as the alley.

Either way, I agree that the best answer is that it's situational. There are definitely solid, proven principles to follow when playing but context seems to be key.
 

TennisCJC

Legend
it is your responsibility to cover the DTL shot (alley) if the opponent contact point is in front of you. your partner's responsibility is the middle and CC shot. Of course, if you are covering the DTL shot and opponents hit a week reply DTM or CC; then you should move diagonally across and pick it off.

So, how far do you move toward your alley to cover the DTL when you are responsible for that shot? the answer is it depends on location and quality of your team's shot, and tendencies of opponents. But, if you are at the net on the deuce court; your job is to cover the line. If your partner is at the net with you, they should move to the middle as soon as they see the direction of your team's shot because they have primary responsibility for the middle. Your net partner should be near the center service line BEFORE the opponents make contact.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I tried that once. I told my partner I was going to poach, so to cover my side. The returner went DTL, and my partner was just standing from where he served. He didn't get the concept at all.

Lotta club players think of doubles as "my side, your side", and don't want to be bothered to help out on the other side, and don't like it if you come on to "their" side either.
I have several partners like this. I always know where they are going to be: exactly where they last hit the ball.
With those sorts, giving any sort of planned play is just a recipe for a double fault. Having any idea in their head other than hitting the ball to the middle of the service box just screws them up.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
I have several partners like this. I always know where they are going to be: exactly where they last hit the ball.
With those sorts, giving any sort of planned play is just a recipe for a double fault. Having any idea in their head other than hitting the ball to the middle of the service box just screws them up.
Yeah. You shouldn't have to move in doubles!
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
People seem to overestimate the power of second serves. There isn't a second serve I've faced at 3.0-4.0 levels that can't be accurately taken down the line, especially on my FH wing. Give up the alley on the second serve at your peril.

Now off first serves, yeah, guarding the alley is low percentage. Let them try changing direction on a hard outside ball.
My observation is that people overestimate the accuracy of their returns: they hit one winner and four errors and then only remember the winner.

I'll gladly give up the alley until the returner can prove he can consistently hit the DTL shot. Then I'll adjust.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
The concept is similar to the zone defense in basketball. You are more or less allowing the outside shots, that are low percentage, in exchange for preventing the easy lay-ups. When the opposition hits two long shots in a row, some people panic and think, "They can hit that every time!". But they can't.

Same in doubles, make them try the harder shots, not the easy ones.
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
I have a regular hitting partner who goes absolutely bonkers anytime someone beats him down the line in dubs. His girlfriend is the same way when they play mixed together. I have tried to explain that the middle of the court is the percentage play, and that hanging out near the alley gives your opponent the easiest shot they can hit. Obviously there is a time to shift and cover that part of the court if the ball is hit wide, but that is the exception. He keeps telling me that "good" players exploit the down the line shot if you don't cover it.

I think this is bollocks.

Tell me why I'm wrong.
you are perfectly right. hanging too close to alley gives your opponent EASY shots up the middle towards your Fool net partner. and then you have to come over to cover his shot in the middle, then you open up your side for your opponent's easy cross court pass. Then after you get passed clean cross court,,, Your Fool partner looks at you and say,,,,,,"What happened man ? that was just too good of cross court but you need to cover that"..................................ROTFL
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
you are perfectly right. hanging too close to alley gives your opponent EASY shots up the middle towards your Fool net partner. and then you have to come over to cover his shot in the middle, then you open up your side for your opponent's easy cross court pass. Then after you get passed clean cross court,,, Your Fool partner looks at you and say,,,,,,"What happened man ? that was just too good of cross court but you need to cover that"..................................ROTFL
Now if this is "drop in" tennis, where your partner is just some random person, don't say a thing. Never care about winning in those events anyhow, they are just too unpredictable. If you play tournaments, and this is your regular partner, then I'd find a new partner.
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
Now if this is "drop in" tennis, where your partner is just some random person, don't say a thing. Never care about winning in those events anyhow, they are just too unpredictable. If you play tournaments, and this is your regular partner, then I'd find a new partner.
I play in these Non USTA leagues in addition to USTA league matches. and it is in these non-usta league stuff which is much more casual,, I end up with these sucky guys that have no clue about doubles positioning.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
The concept is similar to the zone defense in basketball. You are more or less allowing the outside shots, that are low percentage, in exchange for preventing the easy lay-ups. When the opposition hits two long shots in a row, some people panic and think, "They can hit that every time!". But they can't.

Same in doubles, make them try the harder shots, not the easy ones.
That’s a great analogy.
 

nb1234

New User
This depends greatly on the ability of the server to consistently serve well towards the T. I don't mean with surgical precision or with exceptional power, but at least the quarter or third of the service line closest to the T. Returning serves from there (and especially so if the serve has even moderate pace and/or spin) AND then hitting the alleys is a very low percentage play.

OTOH, if the serve is weak, and especially if weak to the outside, then the returner may have a better-than-average look at the alley. My current instructor both played and coached D1 (Pac 12) doubles and demands all of his 4.0-4.5 players make serving towards the T, with the net player favoring/poaching the middle the absolute bread-and-butter play. If you get burnt to the alley once, ignore it. Burnt a second time? Ignore it. Burnt a third time? Go figure out how many points you won because you controlled the middle of the court. Chances are, you're still ahead. What usually happens is the other team figures that out, too, and either presses too hard and makes even more errors, or gets smart and starts returning low and wide to the server so they can have a fighting chance. Who should control the point in doubles? Not the server, not the returner, but the serving team's net player.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
This depends greatly on the ability of the server to consistently serve well towards the T. I don't mean with surgical precision or with exceptional power, but at least the quarter or third of the service line closest to the T. Returning serves from there (and especially so if the serve has even moderate pace and/or spin) AND then hitting the alleys is a very low percentage play.

OTOH, if the serve is weak, and especially if weak to the outside, then the returner may have a better-than-average look at the alley. My current instructor both played and coached D1 (Pac 12) doubles and demands all of his 4.0-4.5 players make serving towards the T, with the net player favoring/poaching the middle the absolute bread-and-butter play. If you get burnt to the alley once, ignore it. Burnt a second time? Ignore it. Burnt a third time? Go figure out how many points you won because you controlled the middle of the court. Chances are, you're still ahead. What usually happens is the other team figures that out, too, and either presses too hard and makes even more errors, or gets smart and starts returning low and wide to the server so they can have a fighting chance. Who should control the point in doubles? Not the server, not the returner, but the serving team's net player.
Anytime there’s a wide ball you’re going to shift and cover the line including on serve. My partner wants me to cover the line on body and T serves which is dumb in my opinion.
 
D

Deleted member 23235

Guest
My observation is that people overestimate the accuracy of their returns: they hit one winner and four errors and then only remember the winner.

I'll gladly give up the alley until the returner can prove he can consistently hit the DTL shot. Then I'll adjust.
lol, and many folks don't know the difference between a winner they hit on purpose vs. one they shanked with their eyes closed.
 

Enga

Hall of Fame
You cover both if you can... just don't be one of those guys who hides by protecting the DTL, trying to avoid hitting any volleys at all.
 

LocNetMonster

Professional
I have a regular hitting partner who goes absolutely bonkers anytime someone beats him down the line in dubs.
I understand his frustration. I talking serve only here: He is getting beat DTL because the server, assuming it is you, is serving from somewhere near the alley on the deuce side a moderately paced ball out so it bounces out in the receiver's alley and into a strike zone that the returner can go either way. Mr. Bonkers has three choices: 1) Get his partner (you?) to move over and hit serves down the middle third of the court as @nb1234 instructor teaches; 2) move over and protect the alley to force the returner to hit back cross court; or 3) find a new partner who understands the physics, geometry and benefits of placing serves closer to the center of the court. Also as @nb1234 notes "... serving towards the T, with the net player favoring/poaching the middle the absolute bread-and-butter play." I've seen the same strategy in Big10 matches. The strategy/serve placement almost totally eliminates the DTL shot on return of serve, increases the number of poach opportunities for your partner, and if you are serve/volleyer you keep your opponents on the defensive on the next ball.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
I understand his frustration. I talking serve only here: He is getting beat DTL because the server, assuming it is you, is serving from somewhere near the alley on the deuce side a moderately paced ball out so it bounces out in the receiver's alley and into a strike zone that the returner can go either way. Mr. Bonkers has three choices: 1) Get his partner (you?) to move over and hit serves down the middle third of the court as @nb1234 instructor teaches; 2) move over and protect the alley to force the returner to hit back cross court; or 3) find a new partner who understands the physics, geometry and benefits of placing serves closer to the center of the court. Also as @nb1234 notes "... serving towards the T, with the net player favoring/poaching the middle the absolute bread-and-butter play." I've seen the same strategy in Big10 matches. The strategy/serve placement almost totally eliminates the DTL shot on return of serve, increases the number of poach opportunities for your partner, and if you are serve/volleyer you keep your opponents on the defensive on the next ball.
Again, it doesn’t matter what the shot is, we all have to follow the ball. If the receiver gets the ball in the alley or in a wide position that means we shift and cover the line. I get that.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about covering the line on a return that happens from the middle of the court. It makes no sense.
 

gallen1999

Rookie
I’m talking about covering the line on a return that happens from the middle of the court. It makes no sense.
Yes, if the ball is in the middle (ex: T serve) you should not cover the alley because it is extremely difficult for the opponent to hit past you.

I usually tell new doubles players to mirror the returner's position. Wide serve, you'd mirror the returner into the alley. T serve, you'd mirror the returner into the middle of the court.
 

LocNetMonster

Professional
That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about covering the line on a return that happens from the middle of the court. It makes no sense.
You are right, that makes no sense. Going down the alley from the middle of the court??? May be if the net man is playing back at the service line or the back line, but not if you are positioned at the net.
 
Top