Is hitting down the alley when pulled out wide a "% play"?

EddieBrock

Semi-Pro
For background I was down in a tiebreaker in doubles and got pulled out pretty far wide on my backhand. Instead of trying to roll it cross court I went down the line at the alley and struck the ball well, but missed it by a few inches. After I missed it my partner said something like "let's stick to % plays while in a tiebreaker, ok?" Even though I missed the shot I don't think I did anything wrong. Had I rolled cross court the net man could have poached it and I felt like had the opening down the line.

Since then I've hit a few winners down the alley in other matches, but it got me wondering about whether it's the right shot or not or when you get pulled out wide on either side and you don't see the net man covering the alley.
 
For background I was down in a tiebreaker in doubles and got pulled out pretty far wide on my backhand. Instead of trying to roll it cross court I went down the line at the alley and struck the ball well, but missed it by a few inches. After I missed it my partner said something like "let's stick to % plays while in a tiebreaker, ok?" Even though I missed the shot I don't think I did anything wrong. Had I rolled cross court the net man could have poached it and I felt like had the opening down the line.

Since then I've hit a few winners down the alley in other matches, but it got me wondering about whether it's the right shot or not or when you get pulled out wide on either side and you don't see the net man covering the alley.
Like most things, "it depends":
- How active has the net man been all match? How good is the net man?
- How far out wide were you pulled?
- How good is your CC return?
- How good is your DTL return?

I tend to focus on the thought process behind the shot, not solely the result. If you had good reason to try DTL, I wouldn't blame you. Your partner's comment implies a rigid interpretation of what's the best shot. For example, did your partner ever try go DTL? Did your partner hit everything CC because it was the "right play" and the opposing net man won several easy points because he knew your partner was not going DTL and could thus poach more confidently?

If I was the opponent, I'd love to know the returner is never going to hit DTL.

Just watch higher-level doubles: they don't always hit CC [and I'm not talking about when the serving team is in I formation]. You can't be that predictable.

I can't find anything wrong with your thought process. There's risk in any decision you make: you weighed the risks and took an intelligent gamble. Nothing wrong with that.

Is your partner a "hindsight is 20/20" type of person?
 

EddieBrock

Semi-Pro
Like most things, "it depends":
- How active has the net man been all match? How good is the net man?
- How far out wide were you pulled?
- How good is your CC return?
- How good is your DTL return?

I tend to focus on the thought process behind the shot, not solely the result. If you had good reason to try DTL, I wouldn't blame you. Your partner's comment implies a rigid interpretation of what's the best shot. For example, did your partner ever try go DTL? Did your partner hit everything CC because it was the "right play" and the opposing net man won several easy points because he knew your partner was not going DTL and could thus poach more confidently?

If I was the opponent, I'd love to know the returner is never going to hit DTL.

Just watch higher-level doubles: they don't always hit CC [and I'm not talking about when the serving team is in I formation]. You can't be that predictable.

I can't find anything wrong with your thought process. There's risk in any decision you make: you weighed the risks and took an intelligent gamble. Nothing wrong with that.

Is your partner a "hindsight is 20/20" type of person?
In this case I was playing with a 5.0 vs another 5.0 and 4.0 where the net man was the 5.0 and very good. My DTL return off a 1st serve is pretty poor, off a 2nd serve I can usually hit it pretty well. My partner didn't hit everything CC, but told me to do it since it's the "right play" for me and you're right that the opposing net man won several easy points because he knew I was always going cross court. This was in a high pressure situation in the tiebreaker, which in general gives me trouble cause I don't want to mess up but also want to avoid playing "not to lose".

In my 4.0 league matches I've just started mixing in being more unpredictable since I've had certain "right players" drilled into my head but they make me very predictable. My last match I went down the alley twice and won the 1st point and lost the 2nd (net man got it).
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
Not unless the netman is sleeping and/or you're inside the baseline with planted feet when you swing. 1/2 isn't nearly successful enough to be messing around with.
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
I don’t see anything wrong with going for that shot. At the 5.0 level, I’m pretty sure that cross court shot would have easily picked off.

I do agree with S&V though. A lot questions about your skill level and confidence determine whether to hit the DTL shot.

Whenever I play doubles, I NEVER say anything negative to my partner (I might think it lol) it’s best to keep the positive energy going and reassure your partner. Besides had you made the shot your partner probably would have commended you.
 

Raul_SJ

Legend
I am more comfortable hitting DTL when pulled out wide in doubles. But I only play with 3.0-- 4.0 players. My DTL shot mostly works against them.

The few times I've played with a 5.0 player at the net, they mostly somehow read my mind and eat up that shot.

In your scenario, I'd say the % play is cross-court since you are a 4.0 trying to pass a 5.0 net man. Only go DTL occasionally to keep them honest.

In general, always listen to your 5.0 partner. They did not get to that level by playing dumb.
:(
 

blablavla

Professional
For background I was down in a tiebreaker in doubles and got pulled out pretty far wide on my backhand. Instead of trying to roll it cross court I went down the line at the alley and struck the ball well, but missed it by a few inches. After I missed it my partner said something like "let's stick to % plays while in a tiebreaker, ok?" Even though I missed the shot I don't think I did anything wrong. Had I rolled cross court the net man could have poached it and I felt like had the opening down the line.

Since then I've hit a few winners down the alley in other matches, but it got me wondering about whether it's the right shot or not or when you get pulled out wide on either side and you don't see the net man covering the alley.
The way I see high % play vs low % play is following.

Given a certain situation, let's say a BH CC exchange.
If I hit for example 100 BH CC, and I'd put 90% of them back, keeping at least neutral situation, that's a decent number.
If I hit for example 100 BH DTL, and I'd put 90% of them back, keeping at least neutral situation, that's a decent number.
In this case, it doesn't matter if I hit CC or DTL, as the probability is pretty much same.

Let's say for some reason, just as an example, I'm the same player, but on the other side of the net is someone who plays better from the left corner.
Then obviously the DTL will become more % play as the CC.

Same, if on the opposite side of the net is someone righty with a very strong FH, out of a sudden my DTL might become a less safe % vs CC.
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
It really strongly depends on how deep you are, how stretched/rushed you are, where’s the netman, how wide is DTL opening.
If you are in control and confidently on the ball, you can smack it at the net man, hit it DTL if the opening is good, or hit it CC if the netman covers the alley. Sharp low slice is a good play as well.
If you are barely reaching for the ball, behind the baseline and wide, with netman in good position on his toes to move to whatever ball you send... CC is likely higher percentage, dipping one, so that he cannot hit down easily if he goes with poach. Or a deep CC/DTM lob to buy some recovery time.
 

user92626

Legend
S&V-not_dead_yet

TagUrIt said:
Besides had you made the shot your partner probably would have commended you.
+1

This is why I asked if the partner was a "hindsight is 20/20" type of guy: always comes up with the right decision after-the-fact.



----

Years ago someone playing with us commented: if you make it, you're a hero. If you miss it, you're a dog.


Well, that's kinda true if you're RESULT ORIENTED. Nobody cares about intentions or processes. All they care about is RESULTS.
 

user92626

Legend
If you have to ask then it wasn't a high % play.

J
well said.

I bet this flies over a lot of guys in this place's heads, given how they've said nothing wrong, right shot, etc. LOL.

As alluded above, result speaks for itself (ie answers your question), OP.
 

Morch Us

Semi-Pro
It is extremely tough to say what is the right shot without a proper video, because it really "depends". But I can give some pointers to start a thinking process based on some "wild guess".

From the below two quotes, it seems like you really enjoy the "amazing shot" feel of that clean down the line winner. If your opponents are of similar level, you SHOULD NOT get chance to hit "A LOT OF" down the winners, without sacrificing a lot of errors and easy net point finishes (the big opening between you the baseline returner and your net partner, gets exploited so easily). It is extremely easy to forget these silly mistakes, so video a full match and then rewind and analyze.

In a match it is important to keep the opponent net-guy guessing, and to keep him honest about his position and movement. The role of down the line winners is ONLY that. Anything more than that, there are some level differences in play or weak serves (for level) in play.

off a 2nd serve I can usually hit it pretty well.
Since then I've hit a few winners down the alley in other matches
Here is the role of play comes into picture. So being a 4.0 your main task in hand, is to get your higher level partner involved, and to avoid getting your opponent 5.0 player involved. Hitting winners is NOT your main task (but nothing against it, if it is obvious). Being the lower level player YOU ARE the target. Keeping you in play, and making you "think" you can hit winners (and there by avoiding your partner getting involved), is perfect for opponents.

If there was ANY way to avoid the 5.0 net player, that is the percentage play for you. You probably should have asked your partner, what exactly was the "percentage play".

Was lobbing over cross court to get the 4.0 hit the next shot a good percentage option? If yes, I can see that being very advantageous to your team.

Was keeping it low by a short slice and making the 5.0 hit a difficult volley only to get finished by your partner an option?

How far from the middle line was the opponent 5.0 net player?

How many times had he poached beyond the middle line and hit a clean volley at the foot of your net partner?

I was playing with a 5.0 vs another 5.0 and 4.0 where the net man was the 5.0 and very good
In general, 5.0 does see the game a little bit beyond what a 4.0 sees. (Just like you can see the percentage of points in play better than a 3.0).
 
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EddieBrock

Semi-Pro
It is extremely tough to say what is the right shot without a proper video, because it really "depends". But I can give some pointers to start a thinking process based on some "wild guess".

From the below two quotes, it seems like you really enjoy the "amazing shot" feel of that clean down the line winner. If your opponents are of similar level, you SHOULD NOT get chance to hit "A LOT OF" down the winners, without sacrificing a lot of errors and easy net point finishes (the big opening between you the baseline returner and your net partner, gets exploited so easily). It is extremely easy to forget these silly mistakes, so video a full match and then rewind and analyze.

In a match it is important to keep the opponent net-guy guessing, and to keep him honest about his position and movement. The role of down the line winners is ONLY that. Anything more than that, there are some level differences in play or weak serves (for level) in play.




Here is the role of play comes into picture. So being a 4.0 your main task in hand, is to get your higher level partner involved, and to avoid getting your opponent 5.0 player involved. Hitting winners is NOT your main task (but nothing against it, if it is obvious). Being the lower level player YOU ARE the target. Keeping you in play, and making you "think" you can hit winners (and there by avoiding your partner getting involved), is perfect for opponents.

If there was ANY way to avoid the 5.0 net player, that is the percentage play for you. You probably should have asked your partner, what exactly was the "percentage play".

Was lobbing over cross court to get the 4.0 hit the next shot a good percentage option? If yes, I can see that being very advantageous to your team.

Was keeping it low by a short slice and making the 5.0 hit a difficult volley only to get finished by your partner an option?

How far from the middle line was the opponent 5.0 net player?

How many times had he poached beyond the middle line and hit a clean volley at the foot of your net partner?



In general, 5.0 does see the game a little bit beyond what a 4.0 sees. (Just like you can see the percentage of points in play better than a 3.0).
While of course I like hitting winners, my problem has always been that I'm too conservative and predictable. In my 4.0 matches I rarely hit a return or rally shot down the line and am usually just steady cross court with my groundstrokes. In the match with the 5.0 partner/opponent I had been burned by him poaching my cross court backhands several times. My cross court backhand doesn't have the same pace as my forehand and sits up a little more. I also think that the 5.0 net player was closer to the middle than usual, which is why I saw the alley open. I probably could have also kept the ball low with a slice so that could have been another good option. A lob also may have worked, but I don't have a great deal of confidence in my backhand lob, especially against the tall 5.0 opponent. The dynamics in these matches with 5.0 players is a bit tough since I'm used to either men's 4.0 doubles or mixed doubles so it's a strange feeling being the target and weaker player.

In my last 4.0 match I'm sure I only went down the alley twice because it's such an usual shot for me. With the 1st one the alley was open. In the 2nd point I think it was a mistake since he had moved over a bit more to cover it but I thought I could still get it passed him. Losing that point is what prompted me to ask the question here.

Everyone tells me I need to mix it up more and stop being so predictible, so I'm trying to figure out how to reconcile that with doing the "% plays"
 

Morch Us

Semi-Pro
Was there a need to paint the line then? Couldn't you have gone for a normal DTL ground stroke inside the singles line, there by making it a high percentage shot? Even if the baseline 4.0 opponent gets it, you still got what you wanted to gain advantage on the point, just by making sure that it is now a 4.0 weak opponent hitting the shot from a defensive (baseline) position.
I also think that the 5.0 net player was closer to the middle than usual, which is why I saw the alley open
That explains it. Being a follower is not for everyone. You like to be "the lead" and not to be the "follower" in the match. So you probably do better with same or slightly lower level partners. It is a totally different skill to be the "follower".
it's a strange feeling being the target and weaker player.
Again. DTL is not really to "pass" your net opponent on every opportunity you get. It really is a low percentage play if you start to think that way. It is not about the result of DTL, it is about the intent.

Being predictable is not a bad thing, if the opponent is not getting anything out of it. For example if your opponent net player is not too agressive and does not constantly threat your cross court shots, there is no reason to go down the line, even if you are now predictable. Variety is overrated.

I thought I could still get it passed him
 
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Variety is overrated.
I second @J011yroger: I will keep going to the well until it runs dry and probably past that. The thing that many don't realize is that sometimes the well doesn't run dry.

The common refrain is "but then he'll know what I'm about to do!". And my rejoinder is "So what? How is he going to counter it? If he didn't do it in the 1st set, what makes me think he'll be able to in the 2nd?"
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
I second @J011yroger: I will keep going to the well until it runs dry and probably past that. The thing that many don't realize is that sometimes the well doesn't run dry.

The common refrain is "but then he'll know what I'm about to do!". And my rejoinder is "So what? How is he going to counter it? If he didn't do it in the 1st set, what makes me think he'll be able to in the 2nd?"
Nadal won the French Open hitting every single serve to Federer's backhand, I'm not going to worry about whatever bozo I'm playing figuring out how to return in the next hour and a half.

J
 

Morch Us

Semi-Pro
Just to elaborate a bit more on what I meant above, about the intent of DTL

Every single time you go DTL, there is a question you have to ask yourself. Why did I do it?

Lets say at the first game of the match you went DTL and for the above question,
If your answer is "I thought I could still get it passed him", the intent is wrong (irrespective of result).
If your answer is "He was cheating too much to poach. I wanted to keep him honest", then even if you missed the DTL winner, it is the correct intent and good answer.

Now lets say on the last point of the match... you can see that the second answer can be a bad answer. What is the point of setting the trend on the last point of the match? Now does that mean you should never go DTL on the last point of the match? Not really... you can go DTL, it becomes a risk vs reward judgement then. And "I was convinced that I could get it passed him" becomes a right answer, even if you made a mistake in the judgement.

I thought I could still get it passed him
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
After I missed it my partner said something like "let's stick to % plays while in a tiebreaker, ok?"
What a dousche of a partner.
Agreed.

OP, there's a high % that your partner is a french shower

Anyway, it depends how far out wide you were when you elected to hit out wide. If it's just a slightly wide CC, then unless you were inside the baseline you may have been better off hitting a wider CC shot and trying to win that way (I'm assuming this will go into your opponent's own backhand).

If you were pulled out like 3 metres wide just to hit the shot, then yeah, DTL is probably the easier shot to hit. CC is arguably more difficult in that to get a CC shot that doesn't get poached you need to hit it at a super wide angle, which means early contact, which isn't always realistic since if you're being pulled out wide you're basically reacting to a shot than setting yourself up in anticipation of such a shot. You could do it if you can hit an open stance "stomping" backhand I suppose, but that's a shot you'd have to practice separately.
 
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ChaelAZ

Legend
Since then I've hit a few winners down the alley in other matches, but it got me wondering about whether it's the right shot or not or when you get pulled out wide on either side and you don't see the net man covering the alley.
As other have mentioned, it always depends on a lot of factors. For me though, in dubs you HAVE TO test the alleys a few times during every match to keep the net man honest. You keep playing percentage tennis going cross court on the low part of the net and any net man will start paching the bajesus out of that shot. I've had plenty of times I, or my partner have tried to sneak a ball down the alley in less than opportunte times with mixed results, especially when a net man is moving early and leaving a bit of light. I don't get on anyone if they try.

But again, all depends on things.
 

Morch Us

Semi-Pro
I think the main issue in play here is really the respect of roles.

OP is a 4.0. The doubles was a 4.0+5.0 vs 4.0+5.0 doubles. So the best way to see what the 4.0's main role in this situation is to put yourself in the opposite role. Play doubles with a 3.0 against another 4.0+3.0. Now see what frustrates you the biggest from your partner (for sure some are better at this than others, but still there will be some moments). What you think your 3.0 partner should be doing, and how you expect him to play to make the match better for your team within the limitations of individual skills?

Even better if there is an exact situation happens sometime during this 3.0+4.0 doubles play, when 3.0 is pulled out wide on his baseline.
 

Morch Us

Semi-Pro
By the way there are a lot of things which makes a shot low percentage. Let us forget the exact direction of the shot for a moment (DTL or cross court).

For example let us say your net opponent was beyond the center line, committed to poach. So arguably your shot down the line would have larger separation from the netguy than a similar shot cross court. But what was your target? How aggressive was the shot? How high over the net was the shot? All these things do count to make it a low percentage shot.

1. If your target was 12 inches from line, and was hit very aggressively.......
vs
2. if your target was 5 feet inside the line and was hit with medium aggression with 5 feet margin over the net....

I bet in this case it was (1)

Now you can go back and see would you have gone for a less aggressive shot DTL in this case, if the answer is no, it is very unlikely that your net opponent was as aggressively covering the center/cross court. It is just that you saw a slight opportunity to finish the point, and went for it, instead of a larger opportunity to make it to other side, and still having to deal with more pressure (since it is very likely that you will still be continuing in defense).
 

EddieBrock

Semi-Pro
By the way there are a lot of things which makes a shot low percentage. Let us forget the exact direction of the shot for a moment (DTL or cross court).

For example let us say your net opponent was beyond the center line, committed to poach. So arguably your shot down the line would have larger separation from the netguy than a similar shot cross court. But what was your target? How aggressive was the shot? How high over the net was the shot? All these things do count to make it a low percentage shot.

1. If your target was 12 inches from line, and was hit very aggressively.......
vs
2. if your target was 5 feet inside the line and was hit with medium aggression with 5 feet margin over the net....

I bet in this case it was (1)

Now you can go back and see would you have gone for a less aggressive shot DTL in this case, if the answer is no, it is very unlikely that your net opponent was as aggressively covering the center/cross court. It is just that you saw a slight opportunity to finish the point, and went for it, instead of a larger opportunity to make it to other side, and still having to deal with more pressure (since it is very likely that you will still be continuing in defense).
Looking back it was between (1) and (2) above. I was pushed out pretty far and have trouble with my backhand when I get stretched and since that match have been working on doing a better job cutting off the angle and not letting it get past me. I was aiming for a spot a few feet inside the doubles alley even though I ended up hitting it long. Sometimes my backhand ends up being too flat and I think that's what happened here.

After reading these responses and playing a few more doubles matches I'm convinced it was the right shot and I just missed it. In my match the other day the guy was camped out up close in the middle of the alley when I got pulled out wide and obviously there's no way I was going DTL there. I did lob him a couples times though. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
What a dousche of a partner.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
How? It's important to communicate your plan and at least this states his opinion and opens the discussion. DTL is a bit more high risk than CC for making the next shot and if you as a team decide to "make em play" or make them earn it thru forcing them to come up with the goods....then this guy is right. On the other hand, if you want to play it straight and hit for the holes to try to win it or take the initiative, then that is what you express and quickly & seeking an agreement or buy-in. This is doubles and the comment is far from unreasonable as stated here. Also it depends on who is the Captain, so to speak, for your pair. Usually it's good to have one guy as sort of the QB calling the plays with the other guy filling more the role of a position player. Sure both can make suggestions, but it helps to have someone who is the tactic and strategy captain. On my teams I always had a designated leader for each line spot. Sometimes it was the weaker player who knew how to cover his weaknesses and just call the match to do that while playing to the stronger player's strengths....sort of like a catcher calling the pitches in baseball. Having that leader at each line at least tended to help ensure both players were on the same page....which is half the battle in dubs. It's more about being a team than being right in most cases.
 
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Dansan

Rookie
As a 4.0 playing with 4.5 and 5.0 players, I've learned to hit higher percentage shots over time in a situation like this. Out wide, I'm, mostly I'm hitting back a topspin forehand to make sure I clear the net, or high back court lob if the player has approached. I'll go DTL if the opponent is way out of position and I have a lot of court to work with or if the alley player is super weak.

If you hit a crosscourt forehand right into the opposing net player, and they put it away - you'll get flack for giving it right to them. So in those situations, I think your partner should give you some slack. Cutting you down while in play isn't going to help your confidence or your game. The best thing he could have honestly done is keep you relaxed for the next point and give some constructive teamwork if he's really that good of a player.
 
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