How to serve if partner has forgotten how to volley?

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I have now had 3 different matches where the same issue has come up.

Playing dubs I know how to serve such that the return (if it comes back at all) is popped up to my partner at net nearly invariably.
I have one basic serve and I can vary it's placement with some accuracy (T, body, wide)
It comes in fairly fast (clocked in match average 75-80mph, it has an odd top-slice spin to it.
I hit it at 75-80% first serve in
2nd serve is exactly the same just a little more spin but no deceleration ... usually go body for placement for margin.
Majority of my service games are very easy holds .... Serve - no return or Serve - put-away-volley

If my partner is missing every volley that day .... it becomes much more frustrating.

This is not my partner's fault entirely as obviously I need to be able to serve differently on those days.

How?
What type of serve is more likely to come back to me and not the net person?
Hit more wide?
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
Generally cross-court shots are more likely to draw cross-court returns. So, kick or slice it wide. Just be prepared to come in quickly to cut off the angle. This is tough though, because usually giving your opponents angles is the last thing you want to do in doubles.

I would be more inclined to play I-formation. Normally you hit a serve to draw a return to the side your partner is splitting to, but there’s no reason you can’t do the reverse.

That allows you to keep some variability in your serve (and still play mostly down the middle of the court) whilst ensuring the majority of the returns still come to you.
 

chic

Professional
I also like to serve and volley when this is happening. If my partner wants to stay at the net they only have to over the line all else is mine. If they want to move to the baseline for comfort then we still end up one up one back but pressure off.
 

jered

Rookie
Serve up the T. If they're still going at your partner there is nothing you can do because they've identified them as weak at the net.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Absolutely, definitely do not serve middle.

Instead, tell your partner you're going to serve wide and be sure to "cover her alley." This will ensure she is ready in case the returner tries to pass her DTL, and it will discourage her from lunging at a middle ball.

Then serve wide and follow it in conservatively in case they pop it over your partner's head. (See how I assumed your partner has no overhead either and will be hugging the net?)

Play your first volley or half-volley into the canyon between the opponents after you pulled the returner wide. It doesn't have to be an amazing shot, it just needs to be between them and deep.

Lastly, if the problem is that your partner is a singles player who is terrified at net, pull her off to the baseline. Build a wall at the baseline and you launch a sneak attack when opponents are in trouble.
 

BenC

Rookie
This is not my partner's fault entirely as obviously I need to be able to serve differently on those days.
That may be the most patient and understanding thing ever said on TTW.

Lastly, if the problem is that your partner is a singles player who is terrified at net, pull her off to the baseline. Build a wall at the baseline and you launch a sneak attack when opponents are in trouble.
Yep, that. If your partner can't do it, no point forcing them to stay up there.
 

eah123

New User
Definitely serve T or body. If your partner can't do a regular volley, but is will to stay up at net, then have them stay a racquet's length off the net on their side of the court with their racquet held in front of their body. That's usually enough to intimidate the receiver to go cross court. Anybody can poke their racquet at the ball and get it over at that distance from the net. Miss-hit volleys are usually winners lol.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
Another vote for serving wide to get crosscourt returns back to you and I would suggest only slice and flat serves. Kick serves are more likely to be returned near your bad volleyer’ partner. I serve lefty slice wide on ad and flat wide on deuce when I have a terrible net partner who has too much ego to play 2-back. If they are willing, you can also consider asking them to play Australian formation on ad and then you can serve body/middle if it is easier for your slice.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Serving wide ... seems like the most obvious solution and I like getting a wide ball back to the ad side ... not so much to the deuce side but it is okay.

Most people are quite stubborn and reluctant to admit that on that day they have no business at net ... I had recommended dropping back in two matches without a terribly positive response.

The whole point of developing a good serve is so I don't have to have this discussion!!!
Honing a serve so that I can set up my partner is such a waste on days like this, I hate having to fight to hold my service games.

@Cindysphinx I think in the past two years I can count on one hand the number of times my serve has been returned as a lob. I think at least 2 of those times the lob was actually an error. Although yes .. usually if the volley is gone, the overhead went with it.
 

chic

Professional
Most people are quite stubborn and reluctant to admit that on that day they have no business at net ... I had recommended dropping back in two matches without a terribly positive response.
Imo, even on the worst of days, doubles is still better played partner at net as long as they're wanting to be there. That being said it's their responsibility to find something at least 60% functional while there.
 

jered

Rookie
I don't understand why some of you advocate a wide serve. That opens up the line and the sharp angle for the returner. Are you playing people who only hit crosscourt? Up the T reduces the available angles and makes a line shot risky. It's a much easier volley for your partner. You should be going up the T most of the time anyway.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I don't understand why some of you advocate a wide serve. That opens up the line and the sharp angle for the returner. Are you playing people who only hit crosscourt? Up the T reduces the available angles and makes a line shot risky. It's a much easier volley for your partner. You should be going up the T most of the time anyway.
That is my usual serve either to the T or a body serve ... but when your partner cannot volley that day ... and keeps trying to ... I need to serve in such a way to avoid that whole mess.
 

jered

Rookie
Hmmm... ok. When I return a wide serve I’m probably 50/50 going down the line if I think the net person wants to poach or is weak. In my case your partner would get hit at more, not less. Maybe just me.
 

Doan

Rookie
That is my usual serve either to the T or a body serve ... but when your partner cannot volley that day ... and keeps trying to ... I need to serve in such a way to avoid that whole mess.
Where's she standing to volley ? The tendency in women's dubs is to be further back to cover the lob. Get her closer to the net and tell her you will get all the lobs.
 

golden chicken

Hall of Fame
Is she afraid of being hit by your serve? Is she open to mixing up the formations or pre-planning poaching? If she's afraid of being hit, you could try Aussie formation and pre-plan who covers what.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
What type of serve is more likely to come back to me and not the net person?
Hit more wide?
Stand out wide and hit out wide. Almost always comes back CC unless your partner is not protecting the alley. Even still that's a tough redirect for most returners.

Where the ball comes back is pretty much determined by your net person's positioning. If you want to see the ball come your way, have them alley camp.
 

zaskar1

Semi-Pro
OTL
if your partner cant volley, tell them to play at the baseline and try to hit groundstrokes. sometimes no matter how good your serve is, if the partner cant volley
you just have to suck it up.
it beats getting your serve broken because your partner cant volley and the returners win every point hit to the net guy.
two back works sometimes if you have good grounstrokes but cant volley to save your life. often singles players have excellent groundies but cant volley.
i think one really good ladies pro said, i do go to the net, once at the cointoss and another time after the match is over to shake hands!
z
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I don't understand why some of you advocate a wide serve. That opens up the line and the sharp angle for the returner. Are you playing people who only hit crosscourt? Up the T reduces the available angles and makes a line shot risky. It's a much easier volley for your partner. You should be going up the T most of the time anyway.
A couple of things.

Poor volleyers often hug their alley. That means they are already in the correct position if you serve wide.

Second, if the returner is going to target my partner, let's at least make them change direction of their return. If the serve is wide -- especially if the server has a good serve -- that up the line return with a net player standing there who can push a ball up the middle is daunting.

Third, serving up the middle can result in a middle-ish return, and a bad volleyer will sometimes decide that Today's The Day she will take a chance and poach.

True, OTL is taking on the challenge of dealing with a hot cross-court return. But if she can handle it, the whole court is open for her approach volley, as is the lob over the net player.
 

Daniel Andrade

Professional
I think it's not only the serve you should be worried about but the position of your partner in the court. If he isn't volleying well it's better for him to stay back as well. But that implies a complete difference in terms of strategy.
 

Traffic

Hall of Fame
I don't understand why some of you advocate a wide serve. That opens up the line and the sharp angle for the returner. Are you playing people who only hit crosscourt? Up the T reduces the available angles and makes a line shot risky. It's a much easier volley for your partner. You should be going up the T most of the time anyway.
Serve up the T also has a greater chance of hitting toward the net player. Which sounds like could be point for receiving side.
Out wide, the net player can protect the alley. Just stick a racquet up as you know where the ball is going. If it's a sharp CC angle, then server knows what's coming.
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
I have now had 3 different matches where the same issue has come up.

Playing dubs I know how to serve such that the return (if it comes back at all) is popped up to my partner at net nearly invariably.
I have one basic serve and I can vary it's placement with some accuracy (T, body, wide)
It comes in fairly fast (clocked in match average 75-80mph, it has an odd top-slice spin to it.
I hit it at 75-80% first serve in
2nd serve is exactly the same just a little more spin but no deceleration ... usually go body for placement for margin.
Majority of my service games are very easy holds .... Serve - no return or Serve - put-away-volley

If my partner is missing every volley that day .... it becomes much more frustrating.

This is not my partner's fault entirely as obviously I need to be able to serve differently on those days.

How?
What type of serve is more likely to come back to me and not the net person?
Hit more wide?
Forgotten or just suck at net and misses ton of volley he shouldn't miss ??
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Normally can volley and quite strong .... I don't know what was wrong ... forgot to have coffee, put socks on inside-out ... that day could not volley.
I have those days sometimes. Once after pulling an all-nighter. Another time after getting my eyes dilated by optometrist earlier in the day.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
If I knew the right magic word to get a 3.5, 4.0, or 4.5F partner to stand closer to the net, winning at mixed would be a lot easier for me. Most can learn, but there are some who never will.
Here is the problem:

Every instructor worth their salt teaches to not hug the net as it takes you out of the play and sets you up to get lobbed.

Now some guy comes by and tells the female to hug the net. She hears: I don't want you in the play .... and gets promptly offended.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Here is the problem:

Every instructor worth their salt teaches to not hug the net as it takes you out of the play and sets you up to get lobbed.

Now some guy comes by and tells the female to hug the net. She hears: I don't want you in the play .... and gets promptly offended.
Exactly. I ran into this last week with new partner who was a low 4.5 with poor net skills and poor court awareness and strong personality. I felt forced to choose between two unpleasant options: getting destroyed on the court with lopsided losing score (in a matchup where I was the strongest player on the court) or seriously offending my partner’s ego. I’m not sure what the solution is. I tried to strike a balance but ended up failing at both.
 

jered

Rookie
Serve up the T also has a greater chance of hitting toward the net player. Which sounds like could be point for receiving side.
Out wide, the net player can protect the alley. Just stick a racquet up as you know where the ball is going. If it's a sharp CC angle, then server knows what's coming.
It's interesting seeing the split on this. My experience is the total opposite of what you're describing. Going up the T usually elicits a return back to me or up the middle. Rarely see the returner try to go line on a T serve.
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
Normally can volley and quite strong .... I don't know what was wrong ... forgot to have coffee, put socks on inside-out ... that day could not volley.
i get it.. it happens sometimes. For Example,, RAFA one time completely sucked at hitting his forehands,, missing his easy forehands left and right and lost early in Barcelona open. It was so funny watching him miss what looked like sitter Forehands which he normally destroys with 3500 RPM topspin.

 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
It's interesting seeing the split on this. My experience is the total opposite of what you're describing. Going up the T usually elicits a return back to me or up the middle. Rarely see the returner try to go line on a T serve.
Just means that your partner is not one who poaches. I see a T serve and that will be my ball as the net player 8/10 times. That ball is going middle or at an angle that is pretty good for me to be able to pick off.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Here is the problem:

Every instructor worth their salt teaches to not hug the net as it takes you out of the play and sets you up to get lobbed.

Now some guy comes by and tells the female to hug the net. She hears: I don't want you in the play .... and gets promptly offended.
Problem is too many people take coaches words as gospel. There is no one right place to stand. The fact is, in doubles, the purpose of the net person position is to channel the ball where you want it to go. So you have to look at the strengths of the team and where it's best for a return to go to play to that strength.

If I don't want the ball to go down the alley, I should stand there or at least fake that way. If I don't want the ball coming CC, I should stand nearer the center and make the CC shot look less desirable. If I don't want a lobbed return I should stand closer to the service line. If i don't want to face a screaming dipper, I should be right on the net with my racket in front.

If I've done my job, I should know where the ball is likely to go and move there as soon as the returner looks away from me. If I don't want to poach (heaven forbid), then I should stand where the ball will be channeled to my partner. In most settings that is nearer the alley and closer to the net. Only crazy returners will take the ball at the net person in that scenario since even a framed volley will come back.

And of course I've seen coaches play Calcutta matches where they are paired with 3.0 guys and they always get them to stand at the net near the alley. They know.
 

Doan

Rookie
Exactly. I ran into this last week with new partner who was a low 4.5 with poor net skills and poor court awareness and strong personality. I felt forced to choose between two unpleasant options: getting destroyed on the court with lopsided losing score (in a matchup where I was the strongest player on the court) or seriously offending my partner’s ego. I’m not sure what the solution is. I tried to strike a balance but ended up failing at both.
Some want to play. Some want to win. You'll never convince the former but have a chance with the latter.
 

golden chicken

Hall of Fame
Here is the problem:

Every instructor worth their salt teaches to not hug the net as it takes you out of the play and sets you up to get lobbed.

Now some guy comes by and tells the female to hug the net. She hears: I don't want you in the play .... and gets promptly offended.
You just can't stand still. Too many rec doubles players think wherever they stand to start is where they should stand for the whole point.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
Here is the problem:

Every instructor worth their salt teaches to not hug the net as it takes you out of the play and sets you up to get lobbed.

Now some guy comes by and tells the female to hug the net. She hears: I don't want you in the play .... and gets promptly offended.
And being closer to net is much more intimidating when you know the ball will be coming faster. It feels safer to play off the net to have more reaction time. That is true, but also makes you easier to pass or target.
 

Traffic

Hall of Fame
It's interesting seeing the split on this. My experience is the total opposite of what you're describing. Going up the T usually elicits a return back to me or up the middle. Rarely see the returner try to go line on a T serve.
I agree that for my ROS at T, I will tend to hit straight up the middle. So knowing that it's a very poachable shot, I fire at the net person hoping to catch them slightly leaning the wrong way. In either case for OP, the ball is returned within reach of the net partner. Doubles server is usually positioned slightly wide. So a ball fired up the middle could be trouble.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
And being closer to net is much more intimidating when you know the ball will be coming faster. It feels safer to play off the net to have more reaction time. That is true, but also makes you easier to pass or target.
If you back off the net, the opponents will smell your fear. Overcoming this fear is the #1 key to 3.5 ladies becoming good at mixed.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I have now had 3 different matches where the same issue has come up.

Playing dubs I know how to serve such that the return (if it comes back at all) is popped up to my partner at net nearly invariably.
I have one basic serve and I can vary it's placement with some accuracy (T, body, wide)
It comes in fairly fast (clocked in match average 75-80mph, it has an odd top-slice spin to it.
I hit it at 75-80% first serve in
2nd serve is exactly the same just a little more spin but no deceleration ... usually go body for placement for margin.
Majority of my service games are very easy holds .... Serve - no return or Serve - put-away-volley
That is amazing. What level are you: female 4.5?
 

jered

Rookie
Just means that your partner is not one who poaches. I see a T serve and that will be my ball as the net player 8/10 times. That ball is going middle or at an angle that is pretty good for me to be able to pick off.
Depends on the partner but if it comes up the middle they usually poach it. Extreme wide serve is also usually an insta-poach unless the returner has phenomenal angles.

I think this discussion is weird because we're trying to figure out how to make the partner not poach. Usually it's the opposite problem. A few people mentioned playing two back. I think that's the real answer if the net person's ego can take the hit.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
You just can't stand still. Too many rec doubles players think wherever they stand to start is where they should stand for the whole point.
Really? I had no idea!
I always wondered why my legs were tired after a match but other people's weren't. Perhaps I should try this standing still thing.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
That is amazing. What level are you: female 4.5?
Ha! no I am a 3.5
I have tuned my serve so that it covers up some of the rest of my lack of skill.

It's not magic to have a good serve for the 3.5 ladies' level .... just takes work and time. Honestly easier than some other strokes as there are zero variables, I can control everything.

And as I said, I have one serve. One. No kick, no true spin serve, no flat serve. It has one speed, not slower not faster. One serve that I have managed to get pretty darn decent and can place. That is it.
 
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Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
If this were just some random person you were teamed up for a single occasion, I might agree with one or another of of the above suggestions. However, since this seems to be a regular partner that you can't seem to count on, I would suggest either of two things- get another partner who can volley (since that is what doubles is all about), or, more humanely, spend some time with him or her and practice, practice, practice various volley drills until the situation improves. Then you won't have to carry the world on your shoulders.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
If this were just some random person you were teamed up for a single occasion, I might agree with one or another of of the above suggestions. However, since this seems to be a regular partner that you can't seem to count on, I would suggest either of two things- get another partner who can volley (since that is what doubles is all about), or, more humanely, spend some time with him or her and practice, practice, practice various volley drills until the situation improves. Then you won't have to carry the world on your shoulders.
My regular partners know exactly what to do and are good volleyers ... really easy to hold serve because they are great.

These 3 matches were all with 1-off partners.
The first was a 2.5 friend of mine and we entered a 6.0 women's tourney ... not going to blame her for anything... I needed to adjust my serve but didn't
2nd a male 4.0 in 7.5 mixed. He normally can volley but man that day he could not find the court .. I needed to make the change but didn't
3rd a 4.0 female I have never played with before and she usually plays singles.
 

Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
OK, I see the problem. Nevertheless, I would not suggest serving exclusively wide or to the"T". Just as if you were playing with someone good, you need to mix it up- then communicate with your partner and give them the best advice you can under the circumstances.

Before I became the amazing player I am now, I was weak at serving and moving to the net. My partner, more reperienced, made some suggestions- explained what he would do and what I should do, and how we would work together, and that made the difference.

I don't think we would have won if it was all up to him (and me playing poorly), but working together we did quite well. I remember that day and now try to work with my partners in the same way.
 

chic

Professional
Here is the problem:

Every instructor worth their salt teaches to not hug the net as it takes you out of the play and sets you up to get lobbed.

Now some guy comes by and tells the female to hug the net. She hears: I don't want you in the play .... and gets promptly offended.
Granted I'm young and usually playing with younger partners since I'm 26.

But I can usually offer: "I promise I will set you up for the volley. If you get lobbed you're welcome to move back, but try it out for me."

But that really only works if you can serve aggressively enough to prevent most people from lobbing.
 
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