Doubles return of serve (avoiding the net player)

HuusHould

Professional
Even in mixed doubles where the lady has quite a slow serve, but mixes it up well, I find if there's a reasonably athletic guy at the net who reads the play well and is a competent volleyer, you can still have your return game badly impaired with missed/poached returns. Sometimes I'll even nail a cross court forehand 8 inches over the net (exactly how intended) and it gets nonchalantly volleyed away. One that gets me a bit is when the lady hits a serve down the T to the deuce court at around 90kph max and you run around it and the net player poaches (knowing that with all your momentum going left, it would take a great deal of skill to sideline him with an off fh).
Also when I telegraph ( up in the court positioning/deliberate prep) that Im going to chip and charge and the slice shot gets poached happens a bit.

I was wondering what options people advocate for keeping the ball away from the net player?

Also where could/should my mixed partner stand in order to make the poached service return putaway a bit less routine?
 

HuusHould

Professional
Im thinking everything from an impromptu SABR drive right through to faking chip charge, then retreating and waiting/watching for the net player to commit and passing with heavy top- I guess from the deuce court the lob wide to the ad forces the net player to move in the opposite direction to where they would if they were poaching, which opens up more court for a routine return x court subsequently). Even lobbing x court is an option. But in some mixed matches theres an almost 100% correlation between avoiding/not avoiding the netman with the return of serve and winning/losing the point.
 
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HuusHould

Professional
One trick Ive noticed net players using is positioning quite wide (almost near the singles line) making me think they're innocently going to stay out of it, then leaving early and poaching. I guess if a net players positioning wide its a good time to go down their line, as theyre likely not going to stay there and will have too much momentum toward the centre of the court to cover a decent shot dtl!?
 

Goof

Semi-Pro
My recommendation: go watch some high level rec tennis (4.5+) and see what they do. I've long been a middle-to-high-level 4.5 singles player but played about an average 4.0 level of doubles and would often (even with a partner better than me) lose in doubles to two 4.0s who I would destroy in singles. Part of my problem was that I tried to hit all my returns crosscourt and avoid the net player, which made me predictable and put the net player in the driver's seat each point that I returned. It wasn't until I was watching some Open division doubles that I realized how wrong of an approach I was using; they were hitting well over 50% of their returns right at the net person! Every last one of them in the Open division. I started doing the same, and my returning in doubles has improved ten-fold. I almost never give them sitters/easy volleys any more; go hard and low down the line and they might hit a decent shot, but not a point-ender. And if they happen to be poaching when you do it, you usually get an easy sitter as they have to change direction just to get their racquet on your return.
 

Dragy

Legend
You need to have a basic CC return in your toolbox, which might get poached if netman commits to poaching fully, or if you hit a weaker ball, but not if he moves only seeing your shot.
- You put it farther than center strap.
- You hit it rather early, don’t fall back.
- You hit it with a decent drive shot or hard blocky slice, not a floater of any kind.

If you do this it will be high percentage for you unless opponent blatantly moves to cover. Trust it.
If you have issues with directing it sharp enough, there’s a trick of facing more diagonally when you receive - not directly the server. The ball will come a tad from your side (right for deuce court), but you’ll be well aligned to hit it CC, or I/O with your righty’s BH.
All other options work if your basic return is there. Some have more success with lob returns as a basic option, though it depends on opponent’s OH skill.
As for your partner, make her start at the service line or farther back and move in as she sees your return is going to pass the netman.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
Pop a couple returns down the line early on so that this poacher knows that jumping across the middle will be expensive.

Also lob some returns straight ahead - behind this poacher - to steal his initiative. Remember to lob beyond the service line and move in with your partner as soon as you hit that shot.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
If you're getting really weak and slow serves, you should be able to hit offensive or even topspin lobs.

Remember the Pythagorean Theorem too. You can hit a high return down the middle. It just has to be higher than the reach of the poacher.

The soft, slow lob can work well too if it creates uncertainty as to who should run it down on the other side.

If it's really slow, consider a soft, slow slice into the opposite alley.

Watch Hingis playing doubles.
 
Even in mixed doubles where the lady has quite a slow serve, but mixes it up well, I find if there's a reasonably athletic guy at the net who reads the play well and is a competent volleyer, you can still have your return game badly impaired with missed/poached returns. Sometimes I'll even nail a cross court forehand 8 inches over the net (exactly how intended) and it gets nonchalantly volleyed away. One that gets me a bit is when the lady hits a serve down the T to the deuce court at around 90kph max and you run around it and the net player poaches (knowing that with all your momentum going left, it would take a great deal of skill to sideline him with an off fh).
Also when I telegraph ( up in the court positioning/deliberate prep) that Im going to chip and charge and the slice shot gets poached happens a bit.

I was wondering what options people advocate for keeping the ball away from the net player?

Also where could/should my mixed partner stand in order to make the poached service return putaway a bit less routine?
If what you're doing is not working, you need to think about what to change. Unfortunately, you're limiting your choices with the mentality "keeping the ball away from the net player":

- Go DTL occasionally; don't become predictable by always trying to go CC. Don't go for the low margin winner; just in the DTL direction to make the net man aware that you can hit it
- Lob, either over the net man if the woman is playing S&V [fairly rare] or CC if she's staying back. Often people forget about the vertical dimension of the game.
- Flatten out the return
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
If what you're doing is not working, you need to think about what to change. Unfortunately, you're limiting your choices with the mentality "keeping the ball away from the net player":

- Go DTL occasionally; don't become predictable by always trying to go CC. Don't go for the low margin winner; just in the DTL direction to make the net man aware that you can hit it
- Lob, either over the net man if the woman is playing S&V [fairly rare] or CC if she's staying back. Often people forget about the vertical dimension of the game.
- Flatten out the return
If we're talking 3.0 - 3.5, lob every single shot. I had a doubles partner once that did this and it was surprisingly effective. Of course nobody will call you up to play ...
 
Pop a couple returns down the line early on so that this poacher knows that jumping across the middle will be expensive.

Also lob some returns straight ahead - behind this poacher - to steal his initiative. Remember to lob beyond the service line and move in with your partner as soon as you hit that shot.
Er, uh, - automatically moving in behind a lob that is too short is problematic at best.
 

Wise one

Hall of Fame
That's great advice. She's a fantastic doubles player.

Also remember that if someone poaches your return on the ad court, they are going to lose the point 92.5% of the time, regardless of level.

So really, you only have to think about the deuce side.

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
Correct!
 
That's great advice. She's a fantastic doubles player.

Also remember that if someone poaches your return on the ad court, they are going to lose the point 92.5% of the time, regardless of level.

So really, you only have to think about the deuce side.

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
What if the net man is ambidextrous?
 

HuusHould

Professional
Part of my problem was that I tried to hit all my returns crosscourt and avoid the net player, which made me predictable and put the net player in the driver's seat each point that I returned. It wasn't until I was watching some Open division doubles that I realized how wrong of an approach I was using; they were hitting well over 50% of their returns right at the net person! Every last one of them in the Open division.
I'm just reading through the answers now and this is a recurring theme. I mean just because hes standing in a spot before the point starts doesnt mean hes going to be there after the return is struck. Its so blindingly obvious now its been pointed out to me that having your return cross the net at more or less the same spot everytime is playing into your opponents hands. I mean the only time it gives them trouble is when they overrun it (probably when Ive hit closer to the centre than intended) and the good ones are able to prop and get out of the way of the ball. Going at (where they are going to be) them or behind them more often is the take home message.
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
Er, uh, - automatically moving in behind a lob that is too short is problematic at best.
That's why I qualified that approach with placing the lob deep in the far court - beyond the service line. Too many lobs don't make it that far and turn into a free lunch for the net player. And I'd bet that a lot of players can feel whether or not they've hit a lob well the instant that they hit a ball. If it's weak off your racquet, that when you stay back and warn you partner. Once you know it's relatively deep, get a couple steps forward right away.
 

HuusHould

Professional
If you have issues with directing it sharp enough, there’s a trick of facing more diagonally when you receive - not directly the server. The ball will come a tad from your side (right for deuce court), but you’ll be well aligned to hit it CC, or I/O with your righty’s BH.
This makes sense, lining up neutral a bit left of the server from the deuce court and right of the server from the ad court. Will give it a try.
 
There are opponents still standing at the net when their partner hits 90 kph serves? You must not have weapons. Develop some.

I would suggest PoMo. But that is a recipe for broken wrists, racquets and friction burns that you will inflict on your opponents, if they don't heed your verbal warning and retreat to the baseline. Even if they do retreat there are no guarantees ...
 

HuusHould

Professional
You need to have a basic CC return in your toolbox, which might get poached if netman commits to poaching fully, or if you hit a weaker ball, but not if he moves only seeing your shot.
- You put it farther than center strap.
- You hit it rather early, don’t fall back.
- You hit it with a decent drive shot or hard blocky slice, not a floater of any kind.
Yeah I think the first thing I need to do is work on these to ensure the net player cant poach without taking a risk.

As for your partner, make her start at the service line or farther back and move in as she sees your return is going to pass the netman.
Yeah shes normally on the service line, so I think maybe further back, possibly in no man's land?
 

HuusHould

Professional
Pop a couple returns down the line early on so that this poacher knows that jumping across the middle will be expensive.
Yes, I feel like I pay for not doing this later in the match. I guess I just worry about giving the net player easy volleys early in the match (3rd or 4th game). But I'm actually giving him easier volleys doing what I'm doing.

Also lob some returns straight ahead - behind this poacher - to steal his initiative. Remember to lob beyond the service line and move in with your partner as soon as you hit that shot.
Yes, we have some players who can run back for a mediocre defensive lob and rip a forehand either way or run back for a good defensive lob and flick an aggressive tweener, but either way I think the net is the place to be after the ball has gotten over them.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
Can you hit a very low, slow, slice into the alley crosscourt? This is pretty hard to poach and I don't think that much could be done with it even if the net person was able to reach it.

 

HuusHould

Professional
If you're getting really weak and slow serves, you should be able to hit offensive or even topspin lobs.
The other night I was getting fairly weak and slow serves, but cagey and well placed. A couple of times the problem was the serve was dropped too short, so by the time it got to me (I moved forwards obviously) my options were limited. The topspin lob is a strength of mine, so I should definitely cosider this option.

Remember the Pythagorean Theorem too. You can hit a high return down the middle. It just has to be higher than the reach of the poacher.
It seems pretty doable when you put it this way. I guess I should remember that the netplayers ability to poach is inversely proportional to his ability to cover a lob.

The soft, slow lob can work well too if it creates uncertainty as to who should run it down on the other side.
Yes, creating uncertainty as to who should take a ball is always a good thing because it opens up other areas of the court. In mixed I think you can do this by hitting to the lady at the net, putting the man in doubt as to whether he needs to backup the net player, then going wide with the next shot.

it's really slow, consider a soft, slow slice into the opposite alley.
Deep enough to make the net player have to move backward if he wants to take the ball (poaching on the bounce I guess youd call it).
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
Can you hit a very low, slow, slice into the alley crosscourt? This is pretty hard to poach and I don't think that much could be done with it even if the net person was able to reach it.

I agree, but you need to mix in good deep lob over the net man with the return of serve to prevent him from getting very close to the net. If the guy gets super close to the net, even a good low slice return crosscourt can be cut off fairly easily. Lob off the return of serve is very very important shot even in high levels like 4.5 level. Guys think it is low level or girl shot so they don't use it. But Watch great Professional players like Jaimee Murray in doubles, he uses it even at the highest ATP level and it works.

Use it and mix it in and you will see. just don't abandon it if you accidently hit it short and it gets clobbered. Keep mixing it in and you will hit good deep lobs off the return of serve and really frustrate oppoenets that poaches a lot.
 

HuusHould

Professional
If what you're doing is not working, you need to think about what to change. Unfortunately, you're limiting your choices with the mentality "keeping the ball away from the net player":
Yes, its one of those things some of us try to do without ever questioning why we do it, but its too predictable.

Go DTL occasionally; don't become predictable by always trying to go CC. Don't go for the low margin winner; just in the DTL direction to make the net man aware that you can hit it
This is a good point. It doesnt have to be a winner!
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
I agree, but you need to mix in good deep lob over the net man with the return of serve to prevent him from getting very close to the net. If the guy gets super close to the net, even a good low slice return crosscourt can be cut off fairly easily. Lob off the return of serve is very very important shot even in high levels like 4.5 level. Guys think it is low level or girl shot so they don't use it. But Watch great Professional players like Jaimee Murray in doubles, he uses it even at the highest ATP level and it works.

Use it and mix it in and you will see. just don't abandon it if you accidently hit it short and it gets clobbered. Keep mixing it in and you will hit good deep lobs off the return of serve and really frustrate oppoenets that poaches a lot.
I usually blast one down the line on my first return game. It doesn't matter if it goes long or into the net. It puts the net person on notice. It's a long run to the alley and the person would have to get started pretty early. The low slice to the alley works because I can hit the other shots too. If, however, the net person goes for it and doesn't get there, it means that you have an effective counter. It also leaves the positioning of the other team in a mess.

I get the feeling that we're talking 3.5 doubles here given the serve speeds we're talking about.

If someone consistently hits slow or short servers. I stand in six feet from the baseline and I'm at the service line by the time the server looks up.
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
I usually blast one down the line on my first return game. It doesn't matter if it goes long or into the net. It puts the net person on notice. It's a long run to the alley and the person would have to get started pretty early. The low slice to the alley works because I can hit the other shots too. If, however, the net person goes for it and doesn't get there, it means that you have an effective counter. It also leaves the positioning of the other team in a mess.

I get the feeling that we're talking 3.5 doubles here given the serve speeds we're talking about.

If someone consistently hits slow or short servers. I stand in six feet from the baseline and I'm at the service line by the time the server looks up.
agree but at high levels like 4.5, if you blast one down the line and don't make it, it seem to give them more confidence instead of making them conservative. If you blast one up the line early and they get it then it's even worse. but if you blast it up the line and it is clean winner, it puts them on notice, but only temporarily.
Do you know why ?? it is because they know that blasting shots up the line is LOW % shot. so they are willing to just give it to you few times and dare you to do it over and over.

This is how good high level net players think,,, " I am going to take away the Middle and also occasionally poach hard and confuse my opponents. And also I am going to fake poach every other time to also confuse my opponents. Also I am going to close real close to the net if they don't use the lob return because it is so much easier to poach and put away volley the close you are to the net "
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
agree but at high levels like 4.5, if you blast one down the line and don't make it, it seem to give them more confidence instead of making them conservative. If you blast one up the line early and they get it then it's even worse. but if you blast it up the line and it is clean winner, it puts them on notice, but only temporarily.
Do you know why ?? it is because they know that blasting shots up the line is LOW % shot. so they are willing to just give it to you few times and dare you to do it over and over.

This is how good high level net players think,,, " I am going to take away the Middle and also occasionally poach hard and confuse my opponents. And also I am going to fake poach every other time to also confuse my opponents. Also I am going to close real close to the net if they don't use the lob return because it is so much easier to poach and put away volley the close you are to the net "
I do hit people with those DTL shots.
 

Yoneyama

Hall of Fame
Practice the SABR / chip and charge.

I struggle with hitting a fast enough CC return that will get past the net player, especially on deuce side (where I play the net players are really good). So, I started SABRing about 90% of the time and after about 10 sets of doing it I am starting to become really good at it, even against the biggest server in my comp. I try and hit most serve returns about 1-1.5m behind service line.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
Practice the SABR / chip and charge.

I struggle with hitting a fast enough CC return that will get past the net player, especially on deuce side (where I play the net players are really good). So, I started SABRing about 90% of the time and after about 10 sets of doing it I am starting to become really good at it, even against the biggest server in my comp. I try and hit most serve returns about 1-1.5m behind service line.
SABR rattles a lot of Rec servers
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
I do hit people with those DTL shots.
well at high levels, it is very difficult to hit the net guy because seves are very heavy with heavy spins. but if I see a net guy that is very active constantly moving side to side looking to poach, I hit the ball hard right at the right hip if I can. That does cross them up some and they will pop up the volley. and I move in for the kill.

at the level that I play, guys just don't miss the volley unless you make it extremely low with high RPM topspin. so you have to think 2-3 shot pass or offensive lob play. You use the 1st one to set up a semi pop up volley then you take the next one for the winner.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
well at high levels, it is very difficult to hit the net guy because seves are very heavy with heavy spins. but if I see a net guy that is very active constantly moving side to side looking to poach, I hit the ball hard right at the right hip if I can. That does cross them up some and they will pop up the volley. and I move in for the kill.

at the level that I play, guys just don't miss the volley unless you make it extremely low with high RPM topspin. so you have to think 2-3 shot pass or offensive lob play. You use the 1st one to set up a semi pop up volley then you take the next one for the winner.
A lot of rec matches are after work and people aren't always the most alert after a full day of work.

There's one guy I play against and he is completely unpredictable with where he will hit the ball. He has a really powerful racquet, wears an arm brace, is very fit and fast. But his strokes are awful to look at. We joke that he has no idea where the ball will go when he hits it. That's the kind of guy that people don't like to poach on.
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
Your partner should basically be standing on the T. Give the center service line maybe a foot or two so the ball doesn't hit you, but the best spot to defend poaches is basically right there.

Also, the ideal spot to serve to in doubles is the T. It takes away all angles from the returner and makes it the easiest for the net player to make a play. The WORST spot to hit a slow serve in doubles is actually out wide, since down the line becomes a very viable shot and prevents the net person from cheating too far crosscourt. Sacrificing your balance to get a forehand against a T serve is a waste of time and energy.

For your returns, you should hit 1/3 or 1/4 of them down the line to keep the returner honest if you can (which you should be able to since you're talking about how much of a creampuff the serve is). If you can't, do what you can while getting as many returns in play as possible. Force the guy to keep hitting winners. Just do your best to avoid feeding them errors. Mix it up as much as you can without making a ton of mistakes (placements, spin, pace, height). Just commit to your return early and don't hesitate regardless of what comes in your peripheral vision, force them to hit a good shot.
 

onehandbh

Legend
It was actually a rhetorical question for @Wise one, who claimed that 90-95% of time when righties poach from the Ad side, their team loses the point.

I expressed skepticism.
I am curious about this. I have the complete unedited video of some doubles I played a few weeks ago. I compile stats when I get a chance.
 

tonylg

Legend
Your partner should basically be standing on the T. Give the center service line maybe a foot or two so the ball doesn't hit you
That's where I was first point of my match last night. Nothing happens first point, right? Big first serve, right at my chest! I pointed out that because I got my racquet on it they should get the point, but the embarrassed server kindly declined. Needless to say, I was very awake after that. I ripped backhand winner cross court off the next return and he asked if that was payback.
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
That's where I was first point of my match last night. Nothing happens first point, right? Big first serve, right at my chest! I pointed out that because I got my racquet on it they should get the point, but the embarrassed server kindly declined. Needless to say, I was very awake after that. I ripped backhand winner cross court off the next return and he asked if that was payback.
I'm usually more wary on the earlier points because that's when everyone's serve is most likely to miss by a mile and hit me.
 

tonylg

Legend
I'm usually more wary on the earlier points because that's when everyone's serve is most likely to miss by a mile and hit me.
Yeah, I was talking to my partner, can't remember what about. I lazily turned and was relaxed rather than in the zone. Totally my fault that I wasn't able to get out of the way. At least I got the racquet on it.

Good points above, BTW.
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
Yeah, I was talking to my partner, can't remember what about. I lazily turned and was relaxed rather than in the zone. Totally my fault that I wasn't able to get out of the way. At least I got the racquet on it.

Good points above, BTW.
Yeah, I feel the same in doubles. I have a more relaxed and casual atmosphere until the ball is actually in play. Easier to maintain mentally than thinking I'm going to crush my opponents into the dirt for an hour and a half straight. I find it's easier to play good tennis (or avoid playing bad tennis) if you enjoy your time on court. Little harder with random partners (harder to connect to create a good mood), but with people I know, it's easy to keep it light and upbeat while being competitive.
 

HuusHould

Professional
There are opponents still standing at the net when their partner hits 90 kph serves? You must not have weapons. Develop some.
Yeah my most offensive shots are my first serve and overhead. Im more a player that leeches off my opponents pace rather than generating it myself.
 

HuusHould

Professional
Your partner should basically be standing on the T. Give the center service line maybe a foot or two so the ball doesn't hit you, but the best spot to defend poaches is basically right there.
I've always thought the people standing there were just doing it to distract the server.

Sacrificing your balance to get a forehand against a T serve is a waste of time and energy.
You could say that I guess it depends on the relative strength and weakness of the player in questions two wings. But I think you have more viable options if you take the T serve on your bh, unless you've mastered the Bernard Tomic fade fh.

For your returns, you should hit 1/3 or 1/4 of them down the line to keep the returner honest if you can (which you should be able to since you're talking about how much of a creampuff the serve is). If you can't, do what you can while getting as many returns in play as possible. Force the guy to keep hitting winners. Just do your best to avoid feeding them errors. Mix it up as much as you can without making a ton of mistakes (placements, spin, pace, height). Just commit to your return early and don't hesitate regardless of what comes in your peripheral vision, force them to hit a good shot.
Good point, you have to be unpredictable, you have to concede that if the net player gets it right you might have to kiss the point goodbye, but dont donate it due to being spooked by the net player. Pick your shot (however late that might be) and commit fully to it.
 

HuusHould

Professional
Practice the SABR / chip and charge.

I struggle with hitting a fast enough CC return that will get past the net player, especially on deuce side (where I play the net players are really good). So, I started SABRing about 90% of the time and after about 10 sets of doing it I am starting to become really good at it, even against the biggest server in my comp. I try and hit most serve returns about 1-1.5m behind service line.
Very interesting! Is the SABR all about reading the serve and getting to the pitch of the ball, like playing a good spin bowler? In cricket half volleys are the easy balls, no reason why that cant be the case in tennis.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
Down at my level (UTR5, NTRP3), lobbing over the net player works pretty well. But I can manage a good, deep lob off of most opposing serves.
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
I've always thought the people standing there were just doing it to distract the server.
There are probably a lot who think that way. I doubt many who have been told to stand there really know why they should be there. But the spot has many advantages - you can easily call the center and service line for your partner (they only need to worry about the sideline), it already has you ready to shade to the side to help your partner if the server hits a good wide serve (your partner probably won't recover in time so you'll be playing 1v2 for at least 1 shot), it puts you in the middle of the net man's possible angles if he poaches (aside from if they chase a very wide crosscourt return and get to it, which is when you need to follow them a bit to the side and cover more down the line), and it covers as much of the empty space between you and your partner as possible if your partner hits it to the net man - you just need to try and get a racket on it and put it back in play and force them to hit another winner.

You could say that I guess it depends on the relative strength and weakness of the player in questions two wings. But I think you have more viable options if you take the T serve on your bh, unless you've mastered the Bernard Tomic fade fh.
In singles, sure. In doubles, no. In singles, you get to start with your better shot and can hit heavy topspin to their backhand or hit a heavier and deeper shot to the middle of the court that they can't attack. In doubles, a good net man will be crowding the net and able to reach basically EVERY shot you can hit unless you hit it short into the alley, which is incredibly tough. Not only that, half of the DOUBLES court is exposed so they can just bunt it to that side and win since your weight is moving the other way. Inside out or inside in forehand from a righty on the ad side or lefty from the deuce side is better. Your partner can shade over to cover the middle while you go for your weapon and you guys can still cover most of the court. Also, the net player will have a harder time since the range of angles you have is much better. Run around forehands in the center is basically giving up the point against decent players though. I basically told a guy I was kicking the ball up the T to his backhand, he ran around it to hit a forehand (which he did reasonably well), and my partner was sitting 2 feet behind the center strap of the net and easily put the next ball away before the returner could even move to defend. The returner basically handed us that point.

Your defensive positioning options are just better if you just use the backhand. You won't be as tempted to go big and you won't have to sacrifice as much of your positioning. This is why I feel the better/more flexible return wing should defend the T serve and the weaker return wing defend the wide serve. It's easier to pull balls crosscourt with a weak wing than it is to pull a ball inside out with a weak wing. The former is a shot you should be used to hitting VERY often, the latter you almost never practice. If you're comfortable going inside out with either wing off of most balls you see, then you can play whichever side and whatever return strategy you want. But the smarter players realize T and body serves are the best in doubles since they get your partner involved more easily, As such, it would be best to align your returns to defend against that. If they play mostly wide, their net player will be taking more risks to poach early (exposes the alley, which many experienced players can easily hit to if you move early) and have to cover more ground to reach the ball if they stay honest.

Better positioning => able to reach more balls => able to get more balls back => force your opponents to hit more winners to beat you (either they start missing or they play patiently and you get to play tennis).

Good point, you have to be unpredictable, you have to concede that if the net player gets it right you might have to kiss the point goodbye, but dont donate it due to being spooked by the net player. Pick your shot (however late that might be) and commit fully to it.
Yeah, if they hit a winner, they hit a winner. It's still on them to end the point. Server has the advantage in tennis, just call it them playing well and doing what they should be doing. If you give them free balls all day, you don't test them. Maybe their volley is garbage, Maybe it breaks down after two or three shots, and it's not too hard to try and make one or two extra stabs at the ball to keep the point alive long enough for them to miss (especially if your partner is helping you out).

If you go for a great shot and miss, nobody gets to play tennis. If you hit a mediocre shot in, at least one more ball will be played and there is a chance that tennis will be played.
 
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