Pegging the Net Guy

PrinceYonex

Rookie
Question for vets of USTA leagues: I'm playing in a combo 7.5 doubles league. In the first set, the opponent hits a soft second serve, and I decide to hit the return fairly hard right at the body of the net guy, rather than go with a conservative cross court shot. When I say a soft second serve, I mean that I'm standing inside the baseline and teeing off on the ball. I did this twice, in fact, both times I caught the net guy off guard and won the point straight off. He was able to get his racquet on the ball, so it didn't actually hit him, but he didn't seem to like this -- even went after me at the net later in the match (which I thought was fine). I considered a body shot like this to be totally legitimate. It's adult rec league tennis -- peg or be pegged!
And I wanted to get in the head of the server about dumping a softy for his second serve.
Did I cross the line, in terms of etiquette?
 

Curtennis

Semi-Pro
Question for vets of USTA leagues: I'm playing in a combo 7.5 doubles league. In the first set, the opponent hits a soft second serve, and I decide to hit the return fairly hard right at the body of the net guy, rather than go with a conservative cross court shot. When I say a soft second serve, I mean that I'm standing inside the baseline and teeing off on the ball. I did this twice, in fact, both times I caught the net guy off guard and won the point straight off. He was able to get his racquet on the ball, so it didn't actually hit him, but he didn't seem to like this -- even went after me at the net later in the match (which I thought was fine). I considered a body shot like this to be totally legitimate. It's adult rec league tennis -- peg or be pegged!
And I wanted to get in the head of the server about dumping a softy for his second serve.
Did I cross the line, in terms of etiquette?
When I play doubles with some of my 3.0 friends I move back to the baseline on their second serves. I’m not trying to get pegged at the net.
 

vandre

Hall of Fame
as far as i'm concerned, if you are playing the net in league doubles you understand the risk associated with it. therefore, hitting at the net player is totally bueno. personally again, if i'm playing "social dubs", i will not hit at the net player.
 

Winners or Errors

Hall of Fame
Meh, hard to control that shot. I'd love for that down the line shot to blow right by the net guy down the line, but I usually pull it right at him. Been doing that for more than 13 years in my regular doubles group and everyone expects it. Lots of late backhands fighting off serves and going for a big return. Much more likely to tee off crosscourt on the kind of serve the OP listed, though, or try to go right down the middle, or hit a crosscourt drop shot.

All legitimate plays in our weekly doubles match.
 

Slicehand

Semi-Pro
you did good, but you can also say to the net guy, in a very polite and playful way, lets see if you catch it next time big boy, or, it was close eh? youre fast, congrats! like that you get in the head of the server AND the net guy, this is big boys tennis, a little mental fortitude test is apreciated
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
Meh, hard to control that shot. I'd love for that down the line shot to blow right by the net guy down the line, but I usually pull it right at him. Been doing that for more than 13 years in my regular doubles group and everyone expects it. Lots of late backhands fighting off serves and going for a big return. Much more likely to tee off crosscourt on the kind of serve the OP listed, though, or try to go right down the middle, or hit a crosscourt drop shot.

All legitimate plays in our weekly doubles match.
I find it safer and often as effective to hit right at the guy, as opposed to trying to beat him down the line. It’s easier to catch him off guard and you don’t have to thread the needle in a tight window. I’m not doing it all the time, of course, but trying to surprise him.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
you did good, but you can also say to the net guy, in a very polite and playful way, lets see if you catch it next time big boy, or, it was close eh? youre fast, congrats! like that you get in the head of the server AND the net guy, this is big boys tennis, a little mental fortitude test is apreciated
Ha ha, should have thought of that. The first time I did it, I ended up apologizing. Frankly I don’t think I needed to apologize because I didn’t hurt the guy.
But your suggestions definitely would have gotten even more under his skin!
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
as far as i'm concerned, if you are playing the net in league doubles you understand the risk associated with it. therefore, hitting at the net player is totally bueno. personally again, if i'm playing "social dubs", i will not hit at the net player.
Interestingly in my social doubles group, we tend to be both easy going but also occasionally aggressive with our targeting. It’s actually a fun mix of mostly joking but also once in while having a ball whizz past your head. Sounds a little psychotic when said like that, but it works somehow.
 

McLovin

Legend
When I coached my daughter’s high school team, I told them if they got a sitter “aim for the net person. Specifically their right hip if they’re right handed”. They all looked at me a bit stunned.

I then said “if you hit them, put your hand up and say ‘sorry’, and when they hit you with the same shot, turn and say ‘nice shot’”.

Hitting the net person is part of doubles. Suck it up.
 

Winners or Errors

Hall of Fame
Interestingly in my social doubles group, we tend to be both easy going but also occasionally aggressive with our targeting. It’s actually a fun mix of mostly joking but also once in while having a ball whizz past your head. Sounds a little psychotic when said like that, but it works somehow.
I generally target belly-buttons, not heads. Heads are never on purpose. Being a 4-4.5, I don't always have complete control of my shots.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
When I coached my daughter’s high school team, I told them if they got a sitter “aim for the net person. Specifically their right hip if they’re right handed”. They all looked at me a bit stunned.

I then said “if you hit them, put your hand up and say ‘sorry’, and when they hit you with the same shot, turn and say ‘nice shot’”.

Hitting the net person is part of doubles. Suck it up.
Yeah, this is basically what I was taught when I was a kid.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
You got to, otherwise he'll crowd the net. Same as if I'm on the mound--send him to the dirt/plexi with a little sweet chin music. Back him off nice and easy.
Exactly. You have to keep him off balance to keep him less aggressive. It’s a tactic. It just felt like he took umbrage, and made me wonder if there’s some kind of etiquette line. Glad to see near unanimity here on this issue.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
I've been hit by my partner's serves harder than I've ever been hit by a service return. I'm usually just pissed I didn't get it back. There's a few headhunters that will intentionally try to hit you. Once you know it, you just learn to duck. Their shots go out 70% o the time. I'll take those odds.
Lol. You’ve got a legit grievance when your partner smacks you with their serve.
 

socallefty

Legend
No problem going at the net guy from the baseline. The only thing you shouldn’t do is hit overhead smashes from inside the service box at the net person especially if they turn their back and basically concede the point. If they don’t turn their back, you can still aim at their feet. Higher the level of doubles, the more people get hit and consider it part of normal doubles - this is because if you hit anywhere close to the racquet of an advanced player without enough pace, they will reflex the shot back and keep the ball in play.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
No problem going at the net guy from the baseline. The only thing you shouldn’t do is hit overhead smashes from inside the service box at the net person especially if they turn their back and basically concede the point. If they don’t turn their back, you can still aim at their feet. Higher the level of doubles, the more people get hit and consider it part of normal doubles - this is because if you hit anywhere close to the racquet of an advanced player without enough pace, they will reflex the shot back and keep the ball in play.
Exactly— if I’m at the net with a sitter, I try to aim for someone’s feet or lower leg. But if I’m swinging full from the baseline, I feel like they should have enough time to react. I’m trying to jam them, so I want the shot to come with pace and right at their body. The risk is if the shot lacks pace or doesn’t go right at them, then they have a straight volley to put back at your partner’s feet. So you have to attack the shot.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
No problem going at the net guy from the baseline. The only thing you shouldn’t do is hit overhead smashes from inside the service box at the net person especially if they turn their back and basically concede the point. If they don’t turn their back, you can still aim at their feet. Higher the level of doubles, the more people get hit and consider it part of normal doubles - this is because if you hit anywhere close to the racquet of an advanced player without enough pace, they will reflex the shot back and keep the ball in play.
Good point about the different expectations based on level of play. That’s what makes the issue here interesting in a combo 7.5 league. Some players are on the lower end of 3.5, and so may be less capable of dealing with the shot coming right at them, or maybe less understanding of this as a standard doubles tactic. Hard to take that into account while playing.
 

TagUrIt

Hall of Fame
The net person knows that their partner has a cream puff second serve. It’s up to them to stay at net or move back. You did nothing wrong.
 
The net person knows that their partner has a cream puff second serve. It’s up to them to stay at net or move back. You did nothing wrong.
It’s a legitimate shot, but let’s not act like it was not a choice.

The OP mentioned a soft 2nd serve, standing inside the baseline, “teeing off”, intentionally going for the body of the net player, repeatedly.

Again, legitimate shot and the net player had the choice to move back, but OP took a calculated risk to intentionally hit someone hard.
 

Vilgan

New User
Teeing off if you can seems normal. I was in a 7.0 mixed match yesterday and the guy hit a really juicy second serve. Initially the combo of him serving and back and the woman forward was causing us a lot of problems because he could hit it with pace for a while and if my shot drifted she could put it away. However, her reactions weren't able to handle me teeing off on his second serve so we got some free points when that happened for a while until she moved back on his second serve. I never hit her, but her moving back then changed the dynamic a lot and we had a lot more success breaking him.
 

TTMR

Hall of Fame
The net person knows that their partner has a cream puff second serve. It’s up to them to stay at net or move back. You did nothing wrong.
Even in singles, I've used the same strategy. When I was younger, I had a "cream puff" second serve, and savvy returners would stand well inside the baseline to take a big swing. So instead, I'd launch a second "first serve" right at their body. If it hits them, service winner. If they manage to duck or get out of the way, I double fault, but they start backing off next second serve. You can keep doing this until you develop a better second serve in practice.
 

nyta2

Professional
Question for vets of USTA leagues: I'm playing in a combo 7.5 doubles league. In the first set, the opponent hits a soft second serve, and I decide to hit the return fairly hard right at the body of the net guy, rather than go with a conservative cross court shot. When I say a soft second serve, I mean that I'm standing inside the baseline and teeing off on the ball. I did this twice, in fact, both times I caught the net guy off guard and won the point straight off. He was able to get his racquet on the ball, so it didn't actually hit him, but he didn't seem to like this -- even went after me at the net later in the match (which I thought was fine). I considered a body shot like this to be totally legitimate. It's adult rec league tennis -- peg or be pegged!
And I wanted to get in the head of the server about dumping a softy for his second serve.
Did I cross the line, in terms of etiquette?
if i'm playing against someone that might have trouble handling it and doesn't know the trouble they might be in... i'll give a heads up (eg. "i'd suggest standing back if your partner is gonna give me a 2nd serve sitter...")

that said, if i'm playing with anyone that weak, it's probably just for fun/social, so i'll go around (dipper at them, lob, cc, etc...)

side note a buddy of mine was playing 5.0 doubles match, and the opponent decided to do an "offspeed" serve, which my buddy lined up and tagged the net guy. yeah, net guy got mad (ego was butthurt)... but at that level anything goes.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
Legal? Sure. But to me, it certainly can be considered a D move if you had other options for the point as well. We all know though, rec tennis is serious.
Well, there's no doubt I had many options. It was a soft-ish serve to my forehand. So I did consciously decide to go right at the net player, rather than either go back cross court, or lob the net player, or try to cleanly pass the net guy down the alley. I felt like I had a high percentage chance to force an error by catching him by surprise, and that worked.
The question of whether I'm being a D is a good one -- in fact, it's the reason I started this thread. Was I being a D -- could have been the title of the thread. Lol. I wonder if the answer depends in part on the level of the players. I mentioned this above: since it's a 7.5 combo league, the range of players can be pretty wide (from low 3.5 to strong 4.0). That can cover players who really don't have very good technique or reaction times to players who are pretty solid. The opponents we faced were neither extreme -- probably high 3.5 or low 4.0. So I didn't feel like I was risking injury.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
It’s a legitimate shot, but let’s not act like it was not a choice.

The OP mentioned a soft 2nd serve, standing inside the baseline, “teeing off”, intentionally going for the body of the net player, repeatedly.

Again, legitimate shot and the net player had the choice to move back, but OP took a calculated risk to intentionally hit someone hard.
To be clear -- I was making a deliberate choice to hit *at* them (not to hit them). My presumption was that hitting from just inside the baseline, even hitting hard from that location, still gives a net player who isn't sleeping the chance to get his racquet up.
I guess my presumption in this thread is that hitting, say, an overhead directly at a net player's body is not ok. That breaches basic etiquette, even if it's permissible, because there's not enough time for the opponent to respond and the velocity of the overhead could actually hurt someone. And so my question in the thread is -- does teeing off on a second serve right at the body of the net guy amount to the same thing as the overhead? Or is it legit?
 

Chalkdust

Rookie
I have no problem with an opponent going hard at me at the net. Part of the game.

Of all the times I've been hit, I can only remember two that I took offense at. Both happened in league matches several years ago:

1. Partner put up a sitter overhead, I backed up and turned my back, opponent hit me on the side/back of my head. I'm pretty sure it was deliberate since we were dominating and they were not happy campers.

2. Partner served an obviously out serve, opponent called it out while taking a full swing at the ball right at me. I was not expecting the ball to come back given the out serve and call, and it hit me in the gut.

Basically, anything other than above, have at it.
 
To be clear -- I was making a deliberate choice to hit *at* them (not to hit them). My presumption was that hitting from just inside the baseline, even hitting hard from that location, still gives a net player who isn't sleeping the chance to get his racquet up.
I guess my presumption in this thread is that hitting, say, an overhead directly at a net player's body is not ok. That breaches basic etiquette, even if it's permissible, because there's not enough time for the opponent to respond and the velocity of the overhead could actually hurt someone. And so my question in the thread is -- does teeing off on a second serve right at the body of the net guy amount to the same thing as the overhead? Or is it legit?
It’s difficult to judge for sure. “Teeing off” does make it sound like a D-move to me tho.

And the “hitting at them is different from trying to hit them” is a bit vague. How would that work if the ball ended up in the opponents face? “Sorry dude, pay better attention next time”?:)

NOTE I have had this happen to me, I sucked it up and no hard feelings. If given other options I would not do it, but that’s me.
 

RyanRF

Professional
To be clear -- I was making a deliberate choice to hit *at* them (not to hit them). My presumption was that hitting from just inside the baseline, even hitting hard from that location, still gives a net player who isn't sleeping the chance to get his racquet up.
I guess my presumption in this thread is that hitting, say, an overhead directly at a net player's body is not ok. That breaches basic etiquette, even if it's permissible, because there's not enough time for the opponent to respond and the velocity of the overhead could actually hurt someone. And so my question in the thread is -- does teeing off on a second serve right at the body of the net guy amount to the same thing as the overhead? Or is it legit?
Meh. The difference between 'right at the body' and 'towards the net guy' is like 6-12 inches. If you're hitting it hard you won't be that precise.

There are really only two scenarios where it's wrong to hit at the net person:
  1. The person is unprepared for the ball (i.e. you are hitting an overhead and their back is already turned in resignation)
  2. The person is too inexperienced to know better (i.e. a 4.0+ should never drill it at a 3.0)
Everything else is fair game. If they complain, suggest they play from the baseline where it's safer.

What is their counter-argument? "When we have someone at the net you're required to either hit around them or give them an easy ball?" lol yea right.... :-D
 
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PrinceYonex

Rookie
I have no problem with an opponent going hard at me at the net. Part of the game.

Of all the times I've been hit, I can only remember two that I took offense at. Both happened in league matches several years ago:

1. Partner put up a sitter overhead, I backed up and turned my back, opponent hit me on the side/back of my head. I'm pretty sure it was deliberate since we were dominating and they were not happy campers.

2. Partner served an obviously out serve, opponent called it out while taking a full swing at the ball right at me. I was not expecting the ball to come back given the out serve and call, and it hit me in the gut.

Basically, anything other than above, have at it.
Oof, both of those sound terrible.
 

TTMR

Hall of Fame
I once had a doubles team walk off the court after accusing me of head-hunting. I recorded the match as win by forfeiture on the league web site.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
It’s difficult to judge for sure. “Teeing off” does make it sound like a D-move to me tho.

And the “hitting at them is different from trying to hit them” is a bit vague. How would that work if the ball ended up in the opponents face? “Sorry dude, pay better attention next time”?:)
It's a difference in both my intention and expectation. I'm not intending for the ball to make contact with their body, because I'm expecting them to have enough time to either get their racquet up or to dodge it. I'm making that assessment based on the fact that I'm swinging from the baseline, not hitting an overhead from right in front of them. Of course, it is possible that the ball ends up hitting them, and I guess that's where the question comes in about whether it's ok to tee off on a return.
 

cha cha

Professional
I do not believe I have ever wanted to win desperately enough to shoot for a 3.5 weekend warrior at the net.
 

PrinceYonex

Rookie
  1. The person is too inexperienced to know better (i.e. a 4.5+ should never drill it at a 3.0)
I do not believe I have ever wanted to win desperately enough to shoot for a 3.5 weekend warrior at the net.

Yes, for sure. If the difference in level between yourself and the opponent is this vast (4.5 to 3.0), you are probably playing with a much lower intensity overall, and frankly you shouldn't be in the same league match. Something went wrong in how that was organized.
The issue really becomes a live one in something like a 7.5 combo league. In theory 3.5 and 4.0 players shouldn't be too far apart, but a low 3.5 and a strong 4.0 might be pretty different. It can be hard to gauge sometimes whether the skill level gap is so big that you, as the stronger player, should take the foot off the gas or not.
In the case at hand, I don't think the skill level gap was so big as to be obvious that I should be taking it easy.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
You only have to do it once, maybe twice to get the point across. Then they usually back up and you can start attacking the middle. It’s totally legit.

The overhead is the same. It should only take one or two for you to realize that you should back up when the net player is lining up an overhead. And if you don’t get off the tracks when the train is coming through, you’re going to pay for it.
 

RyanRF

Professional
Yes, for sure. If the difference in level between yourself and the opponent is this vast (4.5 to 3.0), you are probably playing with a much lower intensity overall, and frankly you shouldn't be in the same league match. Something went wrong in how that was organized.
The issue really becomes a live one in something like a 7.5 combo league. In theory 3.5 and 4.0 players shouldn't be too far apart, but a low 3.5 and a strong 4.0 might be pretty different. It can be hard to gauge sometimes whether the skill level gap is so big that you, as the stronger player, should take the foot off the gas or not.
In the case at hand, I don't think the skill level gap was so big as to be obvious that I should be taking it easy.
Frequently I'll play casual/social mixed dubs where its 4.0 male hitting at 3.5 female. In this case it very much depends on the person. Some 3.5 women are used to playing vs stronger men and are up for the challenge. Other 3.5 women are only comfortable playing vs 3.5 women, and take it personally if you ever hit at them.
 

nyta2

Professional
Legal? Sure. But to me, it certainly can be considered a D move if you had other options for the point as well. We all know though, rec tennis is serious.
IMO that's the best % option to win the point in that scenario... could you win other ways? sure, but i think the %'s go down.
for example, that's why all poaches (including mine) often go at the net person (taking away time from them)... not to physically hurt them, just to take time away and make them miss.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
IMO that's the best % option to win the point in that scenario... could you win other ways? sure, but i think the %'s go down.
for example, that's why all poaches (including mine) often go at the net person (taking away time from them)... not to physically hurt them, just to take time away and make them miss.
Definitely the case in doubles. I know a few guys that do it in singles, which is usually not the percentage play because there’s usually open court to hit into.

The exception would be a short ball in the middle of the court and the net player is also in the middle.
 

nyta2

Professional
I have no problem with an opponent going hard at me at the net. Part of the game.

Of all the times I've been hit, I can only remember two that I took offense at. Both happened in league matches several years ago:

1. Partner put up a sitter overhead, I backed up and turned my back, opponent hit me on the side/back of my head. I'm pretty sure it was deliberate since we were dominating and they were not happy campers.
to be fair, most folks in rec don't have control of their overhead... so i aim for the "biggest" space... and if you happen to be standing there (as you should to guard it)
it's my responsibility to turn my back to defend myself, AND move away (to not get hit)
i guarantee that if you gave me the 10 overheads to hit the back of your head, i'd probably miss all 10 times (maybe other body parts, by accident), but that's just damn hard to aim.
2. Partner served an obviously out serve, opponent called it out while taking a full swing at the ball right at me. I was not expecting the ball to come back given the out serve and call, and it hit me in the gut.
yea, D move... clearly careless. that'd **** me off.
Basically, anything other than above, have at it.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
IMO that's the best % option to win the point in that scenario... could you win other ways? sure, but i think the %'s go down.
for example, that's why all poaches (including mine) often go at the net person (taking away time from them)... not to physically hurt them, just to take time away and make them miss.
You have to hit every firm volley or overhead towards the shallower player. If you hit towards the deeper opponent those balls come back. I'm not thinking of hitting at the net player so much as I'm thinking of angling the volley or overhead away from the deep player. The opposing net player needs to learn to take care of himself as he should know he's in the way of the appropriate shot.
 
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