Going At The Net Person

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, May 16, 2009.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006
    I've heard that it is a good idea to test the net person, especially if you get a sense during the warm-up that their volleys are suspect.

    I cannot bring myself to do this. If they stand too deep, near the service line, then I suppose it isn't too hard to hit a topspin shot that dips.

    But what do you do when they hug the net, as most weak volleyers tend to do? Is there a best way to hit this shot? Won't they just block it back for a winner?

    Should I tell my partner ahead of time that I am planning on doing this, or should I do it in response to a weak serve? Does it work best in the middle of a point or off the service return?

    Should you aim at a particular spot, or do you just put your head down and swing hard? I find soft balls tougher to volley than hard-hit balls, so should I take off some pace?
  2. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Usually best to hit at the forehand HIP, right into the body.
    But more points won lobbing with controlled slice OVER the crowding netperson, making the other cover 3/4th of the court, then hit your overhead directly at the shins of the netperson, or right into the hip area.
    You gotta teach them where to stand sooner or later, so why not sooner?
  3. JavierLW

    JavierLW Hall of Fame

    Apr 29, 2007
    It depends on how good your return is on your opponents serve, compared with how weak you might think they are at volleying a ball that's coming right at them.

    Best shot is topspin so it dips down near the net, preferably near their right hip (if they are right handed) if it's possible to even control that much.

    If you aim too high you might hit them in the head, but more (or less) importantly those are easier to block back for the winner.

    If they have a swinging volley, then hitting it faster so they cant react in time is good. Usually some of those people have a lot more trouble with shots going right at them then ones that they can reach out for.

    I have a more traditional volley technique (using legs) and Im usually stand halfway between the net and the service box, so Ive seen people do the opposite where they hit a real slow topspin shot that just barely floats over the net and sometimes I have trouble with those.

    As far as when to do it, I think just doing it once or twice at the beginning just so they know you can is good enough. It might keep them from covering the middle quite as much. Maybe pull it out in a big point once in awhile as well.

    Maybe it's a male thing, but it seems some people get carried away and they keep going at the net person every single time, and then they end up screwing their partner (who is trying to get setup).

    (I love it when someone does something low percentage and they use the excuse "well Im just keeping them honest", yet they are doing it every single time.....)
  4. Julieta

    Julieta Guest

    IMO one of the best times to do this is if you feel the net person might be losing their concentration a bit. I like to do this if I'm returning on game point to see if they are still paying attention.
  5. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

    Dec 11, 2006
    You seem to be overthinking this. One of the reasons you hit a service return at the net man is to keep him from poaching, that is, keep him honest. So just hit a good hard shot in the body. You don't need to tell your partner.

  6. oldhacker

    oldhacker Semi-Pro

    Feb 8, 2007
    In my experience the outcome depends a lot on the net person. As you say a sharp, confident volleyer will mostly hit a good volley if targetted at the net. However, nervous / reluctant volleyers will often take a step back as soon as they see the ball heading towards them and that usually means a weak on netted volley. Also if you notice the netman not paying attention (for example looking at play or a chick on another court) it is worth a try.

  7. shell

    shell Professional

    Nov 8, 2007
    Cindy, I remember you starting a thread similar to this regarding a player not warming up their volleys. I think I remember it because you gave me a bit of grief for being mean :shock: because I said I would quickly test them at net. So now it seems you are hearing this is established dubs. It also seems you are still uncomfortable to go there. I think it depends on your comfort with your own shot.

    I will often choose to test the net person if I don't feel they have great volley skills and dependent on the circumstances. If we are up in the game, I may pop a return down the line or at the net person. I do it to test them, and to establish that I can - so they know and it makes them a little more hesitant to crowd the middle or poach. In mixed, I almost think you have to, the guys tend to move much more at net. It is a low percentage shot, so you have to pick your time.

    I usually hit a low drive. Topspin dips are another option, but that shot starts a little high before it drops and they could move forward to pop an easy volley. And I usually tell my partner ahead of time that I am returning down the line or at the net person so they are extra prepared to cover the middle or short ball that sometimes results. If the netman hits a winner, then I have my answer on their volley skills. But they still know that I will go DTL so have to consider that throughout the match.

    It is not mean nor meant with malaice. And it is not to be overdone with frequency (due to the risks that you mentioned), but it is a viable strategy in dubs used for surprise and with purpose.
  8. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006
    What I can't really figure out is when it makes sense to try this. If I wait until we are up 40-love, it seems the opportunity is rarely there. Or if the opportunity does come, perhaps the serve is too hot. I think part of the problem is that I usually play ad court, so it feels like it is my job to close out the game (or keep us in the game if we are behind), so it never feels like the right time to do something risky.
  9. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

    Oct 4, 2004
    Wait until you have a good whack at the ball on a second serve, especially if the serve is short and bounces high. I would tend to not hit at the netperson when the serve is really low, because I would have to a hit a softer ball to keep it in the court.
  10. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

    Oct 4, 2004
    Also, if you have a very active netperson that is distracting you from the return of serve, I often decide to focus on the ball and hit at the netperson, who is moving around (I figure I have at least a 50-50 chance to make a good shot).
  11. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Jun 2, 2006
    The Great NW
    I agree that this tactic is not a great one for you based on your description of your competition. If the netman is a poaching wildman, it would be a necessity. I don't think you are running into that much if at all. In addition many post of hitting the netman's body with their spectacular groundies from the baseline. I suppose I could post about pink unicorns...

    In a match where folks have weak volleys and compensate for it by playing on top of the net and not poaching, they are essentially giving up on being lobbed. It would be a tactical error to hit a groundstroke from the baseline to the netman.

    Of course if both players are at net, that is a different story but it sounds like this does not happen routinely.
  12. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

    Feb 18, 2005
    I would sometimes just try to murder a return early on during a singles or doubles match just to get my nerves out. Hitting it at the net guy can freak them out. I should know because we once played a team during spring break, and I was kind of scared of the deuce side guy's forehand. One of his first returns came really close to me and I was kind of nervous after that. It got rained out though before we could play more than a couple of games. Glad, cuz after playing so many matches all week, I was cramping up big time.
  13. Racer41c

    Racer41c Semi-Pro

    Jul 5, 2007
    A bunch of stuff goes into it for me.

    Is the person active?
    Do they volley well?
    If I tempt them with a drive just out of reach will they go for it?
    Am I trying to hit a winner or make them stop poaching?
    Am I fighting off the serve or is the serve something I can work with?
    How's my backhand working today?
    Are they crowding neutral or shading?

    Here's an example. I had a very good player the other day dominating the net. Very good volleyer and I"m thinking, "I gotta do something or this guy's going to dictate the entire match" So I moved up on my returns and started driving balls at him. I didn't give him any time to react. As the match went on, I'm returning from 3 feet behind the service line and he's playing at the baseline, and of couse we won.
  14. volleyman

    volleyman Semi-Pro

    Aug 13, 2004
    Durham, NC
    Unless your opponent has rooted themselves to the court, you need to go at the net player on your return a couple of times a match.

    You need to establish in their minds that you are willing to go down the line, which makes them much less likely to poach. It's almost irrelevant whether you win the point or not. If you manage to hit a winner, you can sometimes freeze them for an entire set or more.

    If the net player is crowding the net, that's just that much less time they have to react to the ball, so crack it at them, hard. Lobbing them is also a good tactic, and it may even move them off the net some.

    As for when, do it early. Your playing ad a lot, so just make the decision, that if you get a forehand return on one of your first two points of your first return game against each server, you're going to crush it down the line.

    Do it regardless of the score in the game. First off, you're returning, so you have some room to take some chances. Second, you're trying to put doubt in the mind of the net player for the rest of the match. You can afford to sacrifice an early point if it throws the net player off their game for the rest of the set.

    I really prefer to go at the net player off first serves. Most net players are much more likely to stay at home on the second serve, which defeats your purpose: you want to make them wary about leaving the line unguarded. If you go down-the-line off a first serve, you're much more likely to catch them leaning or moving.

    Finally, be aware of your opponents. Sometimes, you get a tree at the net, and you can forget about the hard one right at them, and just go with crosscourt returns and down-the-line lobs all night. Also, as the ad court player, you're likely to see less enthusiastic poaching from right-handed opponents, as many folks aren't secure in their backhand volleys. On the other hand, a lefty would likely be more inclined to poach, as that's their forehand side, and might require a little more encouragement to stay put. :)
  15. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

    Dec 11, 2004
    Lots of good reasons to do it.

    1. Puts doubt in the net person's mind. Firstly, they might doubt their ability to handle a volley. Secondly, they can start to doubt the ability of their teammate to serve with enough pace, penetration and placement to not set them up. That's especially important if the net person isn't a bad volleyer but the server isn't particularly strong. If you can't make the net person doubt themselves, make them doubt their partner.

    2. Can bully them into changing their position and tactics. If the player has adopted an aggressive position at net (right on top of it) a few balls hit firmly (not a soft shot) and directly at their forehand hip (which changes depending on whether they're a left or right handed player) can push them back or towards the doubles alley. Forcing your opponent to change the court position is one of the key elements of doubles and every good doubles player should know that. Be dubious of anyone who overlooks it.

    ALSO, ask yourself the question 'do I want the net player to move?' If they're hugging the net but standing in the alley, leave them alone. They're doing far more damage to their team than they ever will to yours and you don't want them moving into a better position.

    4. Sometimes you don't even need to hit at the net player to put doubt in their mind. Sometimes the threat that you'll hit at them can lead to them shifting slightly a giving you an easier shot. An aggressive move like running around your backhand to drill a forehand can make them move. When that happens, just hit it past them.

    5. If you're going to hit at the net player, don't forget to move forward after your shot just in case they get a touch on the ball. The idea isn't only to win the point by hitting through them or connecting with their body. You're also looking for a weak return that you can put away.

    6. Tell your partner if you like, that's up to you. Main benefit would be to make them alert in case the net player gets a touch on the ball and it drops over the net.

    7. Why would you do it in response to a strong serve? You're less likely to have control over the shot and you're more likely to be on the defensive yourself. Wait until you get a weak serve.

    8. Hit the ball firmly.

    End of the day, the tactic depends on your ability to hit with accuracy and pace. IF you can't do both of those things, hit a lob.
  16. jwr1972

    jwr1972 Rookie

    Dec 28, 2007
    Atlanta area
    It's one thing to go at them and another to go at them but below the level of the net(i.e. put topspin on it no matter how short the shot). If they get a racket on it then it will be hit up resulting in you smashing it on the next shot.
  17. hammer

    hammer Rookie

    Apr 28, 2004
    Normally if the net person is at the top of the net, I would start lobbing it over him. Most of the time this would cause him to back away a few steps to guard against it. Then you can start hitting at their feet.
  18. plasma

    plasma Banned

    Oct 2, 2008
    I am shocked...As a PTR coach I have never read a thread like this in any TW subforum. EVERY single poster made an extremely intelligent and valid point. I'm going to start discussing the advantages of keeping the netman/woman honest by going at them with my students.
    Cindy, to answer you're questions, no don't tell your partner, and yes a serve which is a sitter is the perfect ball for this shot. Even if they get it back you have kept them from poaching and given them something to think about. Never put your head down, and yes on this shot, you are allowed and supposed to swing hard to make it effective...great questions.
  19. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

    Jul 19, 2007
    A serve which is a perfect sitter? When this happens the victimized netman/woman should aim her wrath at the server, not the returner. The returner is just doing their job. But people who float in a 2nd serve, thinking, "At least it's in.", that doesn't work past the 2.0 level. Don't serve up a "perfect sitter" in doubles without expecting punishment from your partner.
  20. NotSoSuper

    NotSoSuper Rookie

    Mar 26, 2009
    If its the right shot go for it.
  21. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006
    Ha!! It is refreshing, isn't it? :)

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