Playing as the weaker partner in doubles

At clinic yesterday, one of the coaches was trying to help me with my dismal toss. He suggested the ball should rest on your fingers and not be touching the palm at all. Suddenly my tosses were a lot less wild - not perfect, but at least reasonably in range. Seems like such a simple tip that I can't believe nobody has told me before. Or maybe they have and I've either forgotten or wasn't really listening.
I don't know if anyone has ever told me to avoid touching the palm. When I toss, the ball might be touching the upper part.

The more important concept for me is one of the platform: you want to "raise" the ball up to the right position rather than throw it, sort of like if you're lifting something to put on a high shelf. I think a lot of variability enters when using more fingers and wrist as opposed to the arm [relatively straight but not locked].
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
At clinic yesterday, one of the coaches was trying to help me with my dismal toss. He suggested the ball should rest on your fingers and not be touching the palm at all. Suddenly my tosses were a lot less wild - not perfect, but at least reasonably in range. Seems like such a simple tip that I can't believe nobody has told me before. Or maybe they have and I've either forgotten or wasn't really listening.

After that, serves were feeling a bit better. I really liked serving with the racquet I was demoing, the prince phantom 93P. Although my wrist and palm at the base of my thumb were sore from using this racquet - probably a combination of factors: ~1/2 an ounce heavier than my current racquet, hand was slipping on the leather grip quite a bit, and the grip was a size bigger than my current racquet. Ah well, the racquet only makes a marginal impact, at the end of the day it's 99% technique of the user

He also said I need to work on keeping my toss arm straight. Apparently I'm keeping it bent and not extending up. Honestly thought I mostly was doing this... feel like I need to see a video of myself serving for a reality check :sick:
Sounds like a good coach. The bit about the bent arm is what I was trying to explain: gotta reach for the stars.

And yeah, I was told it has to be fingers. And personally, I have to be sure the thumb is not on top. That’s a weird habit I got into that introduces huge inconsistency.
 
Fifth 7.5 match last night. This one was an easy one, playing against one of the teams at the bottom of the division which doesn't have a lot of 4.0s so we played a 3.5/3.5 team. We won 6-1, 6-3. I played the most consistently that I have all season, and was happy to be able to keep up a reasonable amount of pace and aggressiveness throughout the match. I have a history of not playing well in matches I "should" win (more so in singles than doubles, but still), so I was happy with how I played. Biggest frustration was that serve was more of the same...I wanted to work on putting the toss advice I've gotten into practice, but caught myself going back to old habits mid-match.

I did get to use the slower pace of their serves to practice more on my returns on the deuce side (back to playing with my lefty partner). Against them I could stand almost entirely in the ally and hit a lot of backhands. It was also a great day for my backhand swing volley when at the net. I love going for these in drills but in matches make more errors on them because I get tight. Not so this time...wish I could find a way to be so loose and confident in all my matches :/

We stayed after to play a set against our line 1 team, which I was thankful for since this facility was a 1 hour 15 minute drive away for me (in another state, actually) and I hate spending more time driving than playing. We lost pretty handily (6-2), but it was a lot of fun...great rallies and different shot quality than what we had just played against. They both had great serves down the T, so after getting aced once I quickly changed my returning position back to a more normal spot. I returned pretty well for most of the set, but was reminded how a strong serve limits the returner's options...I was just looking to get it back crosscourt and often didn't feel like I had the time to set up a lob or go DTL with the pace the serve was coming in. I definitely got some grief from my teammates on my serve...comments like "I'd rather see you actually hit it and double fault than dink it in." To which I responded that I only felt like it made sense to go for it when the toss was in my strike zone, leading to of course more advice on improving toss consistency.

All in all a fun night :)
 
Well, mixed doubles season is back in my neck of the woods, so I'm reviving this thread.

My 7.0 team from last year disappeared, so I emailed the LC to find a new team. My new team only had about 8 people when I registered, but is now up to 19 (!) players. I also signed up for a 3.5-4.0-4.5 tri-level team, but it turns out most of the matches are on weekdays during the day (it was advertised as a combined weekday/weekend league), so I'll only be able to make a couple on that are on the weekend due to work schedule. Knowing I'd only play 2 matches for each of these teams, I looked into the 8.0 mixed league. My 7.5 captain from last spring is captaining an 8.0 team now, so I texted him on a whim and it turned out they needed a 3.5F so I'm now on an 8.0 team as well.

First matches are this weekend. 7.0 and 8.0 are both on Sunday. First one is a timed match 2-4pm, and the other is at 5pm and about 40min away from the first, so I told both captains I could make it thinking it very unlikely both would need me. Well, as I'm sure you can guess, it turns out I am set to play both matches.

The first match is 7.0, and I'm set to play line 1. For the 8.0 match, I haven't seen an actual line-up. I assume I'll be playing with the one 4.5 guy registered on the team, but the team is on the smaller side so I suppose they could put me in with a 4.0 guy if the alternative is to forfeit a line.

This is my first time playing 8.0, so should be interesting. 7.5 went well last spring, though I think most of the matches were against 3.5M/4.0F teams so I never felt terribly over-matched on ROS or baseline rallies. It looks like the team we are playing in this first match is mostly comprised of 4.0/4.0 combos, and they also have a couple 4.5F/3.5M but no 4.5M/3.5F combinations (though most other teams in the league have at least one of the latter).

This is also the first time I've played 2 matches in a day in a quite a while, but since it's doubles I'm not concerned about being too tired for the 8.0 match. It would be nice if they were at the same facility so I could at least stay warm in between, but with the drive I'm sure muscles will be cold by the time we're starting the 8.0 match. Ah well, looking forward to it all the same, they'll be my first USTA matches since April.

Wish me luck and let me know if you have any sage advice :)
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Wish me luck and let me know if you have any sage advice
Good luck and my sage advice is don't reach for middle balls especially with your BH. Your 4.5 likely has good groundstrokes and will be looking to hammer any middle ball with a FH or overhead. Let him. Protect the alley but leave the middle to him (and tell him so he knows).
 
Good luck and my sage advice is don't reach for middle balls especially with your BH. Your 4.5 likely has good groundstrokes and will be looking to hammer any middle ball with a FH or overhead. Let him. Protect the alley but leave the middle to him (and tell him so he knows).
Yes, I was already thinking that 8.0 is not the place to practice poaching if I'm not already really good at it (far from it). Unless it's reeeeaaaalllly a sitter...
 
Yes, I was already thinking that 8.0 is not the place to practice poaching if I'm not already really good at it (far from it). Unless it's reeeeaaaalllly a sitter...
I enjoy playing 8.0 mixed as 4.5. I don’t mind my 3.5 partner poaching, as long as she makes contact from about 6 inches from the net. Then she has a wide range of angles to choose from that still result in a winner.
 
I enjoy playing 8.0 mixed as 4.5. I don’t mind my 3.5 partner poaching, as long as she makes contact from about 6 inches from the net. Then she has a wide range of angles to choose from that still result in a winner.
As the 4.5 guy, I make a concerted effort to try and get my 3.5 female partner involved: I don't want them cowering in the alley, taking up 10% of the court. I want her to go after some poaches, be active at net. In other words, I want her to participate.

I don't know how typical this is but one partner said she never gets to do any of these things when playing Women's dubs and she loved the chance to do them in MXDs. It's not that she and her partner can't execute; it's just that they are comfortable playing the "regular" way.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I enjoy playing 8.0 mixed as 4.5. I don’t mind my 3.5 partner poaching, as long as she makes contact from about 6 inches from the net. Then she has a wide range of angles to choose from that still result in a winner.
I think this is incredibly important to take note of.

If you are the weaker player in dubs, your job is to own the net in your range. That means being much closer to the net than in a more balanced (skill wise) match. Your job is not to cover the middle, especially to your backhand. Your stronger partner has that, trust your partner.

Hug that net and be a threat. Those are put-aways .... do not send them back without purpose.
Don't let a poachable ball go by, especially to your FH
 
Are you all suggesting I hug the net and never move from there? I'm used to shifting back closer to the service line when the ball is going to my partner, then moving back in once it's clear the ball is going to pass the opponent net person. If I'm constantly hugging the net, I get that I'm in a better position to hit an offensive volley, but the trade-off is that it's much more difficult to play defense, right?
 
Are you all suggesting I hug the net and never move from there? I'm used to shifting back closer to the service line when the ball is going to my partner, then moving back in once it's clear the ball is going to pass the opponent net person. If I'm constantly hugging the net, I get that I'm in a better position to hit an offensive volley, but the trade-off is that it's much more difficult to play defense, right?
If you are a level or two below your partner, then yes, that’s what we are suggesting. Hug the net. Be a threat. Liberate yourself from worrying about covering lobs, and give your opponents a reason to think twice about hitting to your side.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Are you all suggesting I hug the net and never move from there? I'm used to shifting back closer to the service line when the ball is going to my partner, then moving back in once it's clear the ball is going to pass the opponent net person. If I'm constantly hugging the net, I get that I'm in a better position to hit an offensive volley, but the trade-off is that it's much more difficult to play defense, right?
What @travlerajm said is incredibly true. It is totally freeing to play mixed as the weaker of the pair. In your mind pretend that you are in a volley clinic. Everything within your reach at that net is yours. Take them down.

That does not mean not to shift back *some* when a ball is going back to your partner .... but no where near as much as you likely are. Your stronger partner is usually also taller and faster and does not need you to cover as much court as a female at level partner. You still need to position to cut off angles but the geometry of those angles has changed with a strong partner.

Follow the ball on your shift, but not as deep as you normally would and definitely closer to the net when you shift forward again.

At first it will feel uncomfortable .... but as you dial in on owning that net it can be a blast.
 
Are you all suggesting I hug the net and never move from there? I'm used to shifting back closer to the service line when the ball is going to my partner, then moving back in once it's clear the ball is going to pass the opponent net person. If I'm constantly hugging the net, I get that I'm in a better position to hit an offensive volley, but the trade-off is that it's much more difficult to play defense, right?
I usually agree with @travlerajm and @OnTheLine but I will take the under on this one: if you have the mobility to be able to move up and back without compromising your readiness at net, I think moving back to cover the middle is sound doubles. If you hug the net and your partner hits a middle ball that the opposing net person intercepts, that's a lot of ground in the middle to cover because the angle is so wide, regardless of how quick your partner is.

Yes, all other things being equal, it's better for the stronger player to retrieve that ball but all other things are never equal: what if the stronger player can't get to it but the weaker player could have at least gotten a racquet on it?

So I say at least experiment to try and find a balance.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I usually agree with @travlerajm and @OnTheLine but I will take the under on this one: if you have the mobility to be able to move up and back without compromising your readiness at net, I think moving back to cover the middle is sound doubles. If you hug the net and your partner hits a middle ball that the opposing net person intercepts, that's a lot of ground in the middle to cover because the angle is so wide, regardless of how quick your partner is.

Yes, all other things being equal, it's better for the stronger player to retrieve that ball but all other things are never equal: what if the stronger player can't get to it but the weaker player could have at least gotten a racquet on it?

So I say at least experiment to try and find a balance.
Simply because I always want you to agree with me .... I did state that the weaker partner should shift back *some* but not as much as in a balanced-level partnership.

Simply hugging the net and never moving back at all would be folly.

One still needs to cut off angles and follow the ball, the unbalanced partnership simply changes the coverage requirements.
 
I usually agree with @travlerajm and @OnTheLine but I will take the under on this one: if you have the mobility to be able to move up and back without compromising your readiness at net, I think moving back to cover the middle is sound doubles. If you hug the net and your partner hits a middle ball that the opposing net person intercepts, that's a lot of ground in the middle to cover because the angle is so wide, regardless of how quick your partner is.

Yes, all other things being equal, it's better for the stronger player to retrieve that ball but all other things are never equal: what if the stronger player can't get to it but the weaker player could have at least gotten a racquet on it?

So I say at least experiment to try and find a balance.
I think it depends on the skill sets of each player. When I am playing 8.0 mixed, I absolutely do not want my 3.5 partner to back up to the service line to defend the middle. That would be just plain dumb doubles.

The percentage play is for the 3.5 gal to stay in offensive position and trust that her 4.5 guy partner will hit a shot that sets her up for the kill on the next ball.

And when she’s at net in deuce side and the ball goes over her head, she should not back up. She should stay close to the net and slide across to the net strap. That way she’ll be in good offensive position to clean up the weak reply after my deep overhead from the deuce alley.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
I think it depends on the skill sets of each player. When I am playing 8.0 mixed, I absolutely do not want my 3.5 partner to back up to the service line to defend the middle. That would be just plain dumb doubles.

The percentage play is for the 3.5 gal to stay in offensive position and trust that her 4.5 guy partner will hit a shot that sets her up for the kill on the next ball.

And when she’s at net in deuce side and the ball goes over her head, she should not back up. She should stay close to the net and slide across to the net strap. That way she’ll be in good offensive position to clean up the weak reply after my deep overhead from the deuce alley.
Oh come on, you know how I love to see 4.0 ladies diving for backhand volleys up the middle as I am preparing to hit a forehand 3/4 the speed of light through the opposing net player's soul.

J
 

n8dawg6

Legend
Oh come on, you know how I love to see 4.0 ladies diving for backhand volleys up the middle as I am preparing to hit a forehand 3/4 the speed of light through the opposing net player's soul.

J
cant stop thinking about how this is my signature shot. righty playing net on ad side, i lunge for a high backhand volley and frame the ball. it dribbles pitifully over the net and becomes an easy sitter. then the worst part, i have to turn around and look at my partner who was in place to hit a scorching forehand. oh well, at least theres beer
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Oh come on, you know how I love to see 4.0 ladies diving for backhand volleys up the middle as I am preparing to hit a forehand 3/4 the speed of light through the opposing net player's soul.

J
As I hate this in my ladies' dubs .... and will state that I had a coach drill it so completely out of my own play .... I am curious:
Do you have any 4.5/5.0 male partners who insist on attempting the lunging backhand volley up the middle?
 
As I hate this in my ladies' dubs .... and will state that I had a coach drill it so completely out of my own play .... I am curious:
Do you have any 4.5/5.0 male partners who insist on attempting the lunging backhand volley up the middle?
Yeah, the LBVutM is not solely the domain of the weaker [female] player. I've made that mistake, for sure.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
As I hate this in my ladies' dubs .... and will state that I had a coach drill it so completely out of my own play .... I am curious:
Do you have any 4.5/5.0 male partners who insist on attempting the lunging backhand volley up the middle?
Very few. Sometimes a guy will be planning to go and the XC player just hits a little too good of a shot and it happens, but they know they screwed up and we move on. Which is fine, I mean I hit volleys on balls that are going out, we all screw up, but it's when they look at you like they are waiting for you to say "good try" or something that you have a problem.

J
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Are you all suggesting I hug the net and never move from there? I'm used to shifting back closer to the service line when the ball is going to my partner, then moving back in once it's clear the ball is going to pass the opponent net person. If I'm constantly hugging the net, I get that I'm in a better position to hit an offensive volley, but the trade-off is that it's much more difficult to play defense, right?
In mixed with a higher level male partner you can generally trust that he will always get the ball past the net person. So your need to take the defensive position is minimal. Whereas you maximize your utility be being a monster presence at the net. Being there from the get go gives you more time to anticipate, feint, poach etc. Being close means even framed shots go in.

Only if and when you see your partner struggling with getting balls past, over, through the net person should you take your foot off the gas and hang back for defense. Or if the opponents go into "lob" mode.
 
I appreciate the multiple points of view on this. I'll see what my partner thinks, but will plan on "hugging the net", see how that goes and report back. I'm better at playing defense, so I'll look at this as on opportunity to practice focusing on offense :).
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
I appreciate the multiple points of view on this. I'll see what my partner thinks, but will plan on "hugging the net", see how that goes and report back. I'm better at playing defense, so I'll look at this as on opportunity to practice focusing on offense :).
The last match we played against a couple that usually beats us, I had my wife take the "hug the net" approach and we destroyed them 6-0 6-1. It was truly enlightening as to how effective it can be. As long as my FH is on point, I can dictate points from my ad court position and give her easy finishing shots.
 
The last match we played against a couple that usually beats us, I had my wife take the "hug the net" approach and we destroyed them 6-0 6-1. It was truly enlightening as to how effective it can be. As long as my FH is on point, I can dictate points from my ad court position and give her easy finishing shots.
The key, that many lower level players don’t fully appreciate, is that when a 3.5 lady moves from her usual net position (say 6-10 feet from net) to a net-hugging position (2-4 feet from net), she morphs from a 3.5 net player into a 4.0+. This is worth a lot - enough to tilt the advantage in many a mixed match.
 
The key, that many lower level players don’t fully appreciate, is that when a 3.5 lady moves from her usual net position (say 6-10 feet from net) to a net-hugging position (2-4 feet from net), she morphs from a 3.5 net player into a 4.0+. This is worth a lot - enough to tilt the advantage in many a mixed match.
It depends on how net-centric the person is: someone who can take the heat will morph into the 4.0+; but someone who is net-shy will potentially become more of a target because now there's less time to react.
 
3.5 ladies that can’t take the heat and don’t feel comfortable on top of the net tend to self-weed themselves out of 8.0 in my experience.

If they lack the reaction skills to play that role, they will not enjoy 8.0, and their partners will look for replacements.

In the other hand, I’ve had partners who are low 3.5 based on their play in ladies’ matches, but have the perfect skill set and aggressive mindset to be part of a dominant 8.0 tandem.
 
Whew. First matches for 7.0 and 8.0 are in the books.

First match was 7.0; 3.5M partner and I played line 1 against a 4.0M/3.0F duo. I had played a set with my partner previously at a team practice, so we decided to start with the same setup we used there: him returning on the deuce side and me on the ad side (you may remember from earlier editions of this chronicle that I favor my backhand and generally prefer returning on the ad side). It worked pretty well; I was able to take it to her serves well enough that the 4.0 guy only poached when she was able to get the serve to my forehand (ie, not very often). The 4.0 guy had a pretty good flat serve for his height, but thanks to the courts being on the slower side and by virtue of the serve being flat I could return it well enough to get us in the point.

My partner was serving well, he figured out the 3.0 woman returning on the deuce side couldn't get to a wide serve and hit that all afternoon. The 4.0 guy handled my partner's serve well as expected; he tried to go up the line a couple of times but I was ready for it. I was serving well too; no DFs all match. Lots of time the 3.0F's return was weak enough for my opponent to poach with great success. With the 4.0 guy returning, I ended up in quite a few baseline rallies but was generally able to hold my ground and eventually get one I could take to the 3.0F at the net and more often than not draw an error.

We won the first set 6-2, but made the mistake of switching returning sides for the second set (I know, it's dumb to do this if you win the first set, but we wanted to try it out and see if it was a good idea for future matches). We struggled more to break her serve because it was a lot easier for the 4.0 guy to poach on my returns with me on the deuce side. I tried straddling the singles sideline to force a backhand, but she favored a serving wide on that side so I ended up hitting a lot of forehands anyways. The 4.0 guy had a punishing overhead so we immediately paid for any high sitters when he was at net. Luckily we managed to eke out a win in the second set as well (7-5) despite our strategic error.

After a some mingling, a quick snack, and a change of clothes I jumped in the car and head out for my 8.0 match. To be continued...
 
Okay, now the 8.0 match. My partner was a 4.5 guy, I'd guess in his late 20's, righty, medium height. He told me right off the bat that he hates being at the baseline and would be always moving into net as soon as possible. I asked if that meant I shouldn't play close to the net and he said no, he could still cover lobs over my head even if he was moving in.

We played line 1 against a 4.0M/4.0F pair. The 4.0F was pretty solid but from what I can tell looking her up on TR she doesn't play much mixed. The 4.0 guy was a self-rate, and it appears this was his first USTA match. I'll be interested to see what his C rating will be come next year, assuming he plays enough matches to get one, because he was better than any 4.0 guy I recall playing against or with. He was a tall (maybe 6'4'') lefty with a crazy good serve.

For the first set, I asked my partner what side he likes to return on, and he said usually ad side but was fine with whatever. I told him I like my backhand and return better on the ad side, so we decided to start with me there. Well, to call the first set a train wreck would be generous. It was rough; we lost it 1-6 in the blink of an eye. I returned the 4.0F's serve alright on the ad side, but I don't think I ever got a racquet on the guy's serve. He would hit it wide and it would kick wider. I tried setting up further in to cut off the angle and he hit a body serve. My partner told me I had to wait to move in until he started tossing to avoid that. It was good advice but I'm clearly not talented enough to pick something like that up on the fly, because I still couldn't get to the wide kicker fast enough to touch it.

The one game we won was on my partner's serve; the other game he served in the 1st set they broke because I bungled a volley or two at the net. All around it felt like I messed up just about everything possible in the first set (I did serve okay but couldn't hold); the "deer in headlights" metaphor wouldn't be completely inappropriate to the situation. I think I psyched myself out a bit (and the pep talk from you guys about 3.5 women getting "weeded out" of 8.0 wasn't exactly helpful :p).

Okay, I told myself, if the 2nd set goes like that I'll never get the opportunity to play 8.0 again until I - if ever - make it to 4.0. My partner says to me "well, what do you think?". I tell him I have no idea but we should at least switch returning sides because a) I'm never going to get the other guy's serve in play on the ad side and b) can't hurt to try.

Well, I didn't have much more luck returning his serve on the deuce side. It would either: kick up the T, look like it's going wide but then kick to my backhand or into my body, or just slight kick wide (but nothing like the wide serve on the ad side). The serves to my back hand I could get a racquet on but kept framing it. My partner told me I needed to swing faster because of how much spin was on them, but I couldn't even make contact with the stringbed so it was a bit of a moot point. I eventually got a couple of the serves to my forehand in play, of which I think we won 1. So long story short we didn't break his serve all night.

However, we did a lot better on her serve and were able to break more often than not. Returning on the deuce side, her serve was my favorite kind: medium speed and no spin, so I could stand with a foot on the singles sideline or slightly in the alley and hit a good inside out-ish backhand most of the time and well enough that the guy couldn't poach. She either didn't get my ball back, or if she did my partner was able to pick it off at the net. I know he was trying to get her to serve to my forehand, but she's probably used to aiming for the backhand since that works on most people. My partner would return her serve and immediately move in, play everything to her and she kept hitting back to him. She should have tried going to me at the net rather than to my partner, but she never did, so he won pretty much all of those battles.

We won more of my partner's service games than we lost, but we should have been able to win more of them. To be honest I was struggling at the net when the opposing guy was returning. He returned on the deuce side and would stand well in the alley and take every return as a forehand, sometimes taking them inside-in to me at the net. I was probably 50/50 on getting those back, and on the ones I did get back we often ended up losing the point anyways. There was this one that I volleyed back, but back to him and a sitter just short of the service line. When I saw him lining up the next shot I bailed and shuffled to the ad side - this wasn't a conscious decision but a flight or fight automatic response. Luckily my partner was on his toes and shifted behind me, though the other guy ended up hitting it into the net anyways.

My first service game in the second set, I came close to holding with multiple deuces but couldn't pull it out. My next service game we managed to win, and that felt like the turning point for me at least - it brought my confidence up and confidence can mean the world in a tennis match. Although to be clear, my partner was the reason I was able to win my service games. He was poaching phenomenally on the 4.0F's returns, so much so that the opposing guy started playing back on her returns. My serve is decent speed for 3.5 woman's tennis, but that's still pretty slow for 4.0/4.5 guys, so my partner couldn't poach on the opposing guy's returns. Thankfully I could trade baseline rallies with the opposing guy - he hit a heavier ball than I am used to for sure (as my sore thumb, wrist, and forearm today can attest to), but I'm much more comfortable at the baseline and these being my 4th and 5th sets of the day I was settled in enough to stand my ground and hit out. Now, I probably couldn't stay in this rally longer than 4 or 5 shots, and having my partner at net obviously helped because that narrowed the window the opposing guy had to hit into. Eventually, either I was forced to hit to the opposing female at the net (which we sometimes lost but more often won), or the other guy would try to pass my guy at the net (which he only succeeded in doing once or twice).

We ended up closing out both the 2nd set and 3rd sets on my service games; both ended up at 7-5. 2 of my service games in the 3rd set we held at love, which is a testament to how well my partner was playing the net. My best shot of the night came on the opposing female's service game. I was in a deuce-side cross court rally with her, and got one that I could pull up the line (as a backhand, so inside-in) - I've never hit this shot better in my life: hit clean, low net clearance, it landed within 6 inches of the alley sideline and a foot or so before the baseline. The guy didn't even move for it, probably either out of surprise that I went for it or maybe he thought it would be out.

1-6, 7-5, 7-5 isn't exactly a resounding win, but hopefully was good enough that they'll let me come back and play again sometime. I'm still ruminating about whether I should have played back for part of the match. My partner said to me 2 or 3 times during the match "if you're more comfortable playing back, by all means. I don't want you to feel like you have to play up if you're not comfortable." I didn't take him up on the offer because it felt like quitting, but I was definitely playing better from the baseline. Not to say I didn't hit a few good volleys, but just not enough of them. And I let some go by that I think I could have gotten, but my partner was always there to back me up marvelously - I felt bad making him cover so much court but also knew our chances were better with him taking those and then moving in to finish the point at the net. So I'm contemplating, assuming I get to play another 8.0 match with him, playing back more often - guess it depends on what our next opponents are like too.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Okay, now the 8.0 match. My partner was a 4.5 guy, I'd guess in his late 20's, righty, medium height. He told me right off the bat that he hates being at the baseline and would be always moving into net as soon as possible. I asked if that meant I shouldn't play close to the net and he said no, he could still cover lobs over my head even if he was moving in.

We played line 1 against a 4.0M/4.0F pair. The 4.0F was pretty solid but from what I can tell looking her up on TR she doesn't play much mixed. The 4.0 guy was a self-rate, and it appears this was his first USTA match. I'll be interested to see what his C rating will be come next year, assuming he plays enough matches to get one, because he was better than any 4.0 guy I recall playing against or with. He was a tall (maybe 6'4'') lefty with a crazy good serve.

For the first set, I asked my partner what side he likes to return on, and he said usually ad side but was fine with whatever. I told him I like my backhand and return better on the ad side, so we decided to start with me there. Well, to call the first set a train wreck would be generous. It was rough; we lost it 1-6 in the blink of an eye. I returned the 4.0F's serve alright on the ad side, but I don't think I ever got a racquet on the guy's serve. He would hit it wide and it would kick wider. I tried setting up further in to cut off the angle and he hit a body serve. My partner told me I had to wait to move in until he started tossing to avoid that. It was good advice but I'm clearly not talented enough to pick something like that up on the fly, because I still couldn't get to the wide kicker fast enough to touch it.

The one game we won was on my partner's serve; the other game he served in the 1st set they broke because I bungled a volley or two at the net. All around it felt like I messed up just about everything possible in the first set (I did serve okay but couldn't hold); the "deer in headlights" metaphor wouldn't be completely inappropriate to the situation. I think I psyched myself out a bit (and the pep talk from you guys about 3.5 women getting "weeded out" of 8.0 wasn't exactly helpful :p).

Okay, I told myself, if the 2nd set goes like that I'll never get the opportunity to play 8.0 again until I - if ever - make it to 4.0. My partner says to me "well, what do you think?". I tell him I have no idea but we should at least switch returning sides because a) I'm never going to get the other guy's serve in play on the ad side and b) can't hurt to try.

Well, I didn't have much more luck returning his serve on the deuce side. It would either: kick up the T, look like it's going wide but then kick to my backhand or into my body, or just slight kick wide (but nothing like the wide serve on the ad side). The serves to my back hand I could get a racquet on but kept framing it. My partner told me I needed to swing faster because of how much spin was on them, but I couldn't even make contact with the stringbed so it was a bit of a moot point. I eventually got a couple of the serves to my forehand in play, of which I think we won 1. So long story short we didn't break his serve all night.

However, we did a lot better on her serve and were able to break more often than not. Returning on the deuce side, her serve was my favorite kind: medium speed and no spin, so I could stand with a foot on the singles sideline or slightly in the alley and hit a good inside out-ish backhand most of the time and well enough that the guy couldn't poach. She either didn't get my ball back, or if she did my partner was able to pick it off at the net. I know he was trying to get her to serve to my forehand, but she's probably used to aiming for the backhand since that works on most people. My partner would return her serve and immediately move in, play everything to her and she kept hitting back to him. She should have tried going to me at the net rather than to my partner, but she never did, so he won pretty much all of those battles.

We won more of my partner's service games than we lost, but we should have been able to win more of them. To be honest I was struggling at the net when the opposing guy was returning. He returned on the deuce side and would stand well in the alley and take every return as a forehand, sometimes taking them inside-in to me at the net. I was probably 50/50 on getting those back, and on the ones I did get back we often ended up losing the point anyways. There was this one that I volleyed back, but back to him and a sitter just short of the service line. When I saw him lining up the next shot I bailed and shuffled to the ad side - this wasn't a conscious decision but a flight or fight automatic response. Luckily my partner was on his toes and shifted behind me, though the other guy ended up hitting it into the net anyways.

My first service game in the second set, I came close to holding with multiple deuces but couldn't pull it out. My next service game we managed to win, and that felt like the turning point for me at least - it brought my confidence up and confidence can mean the world in a tennis match. Although to be clear, my partner was the reason I was able to win my service games. He was poaching phenomenally on the 4.0F's returns, so much so that the opposing guy started playing back on her returns. My serve is decent speed for 3.5 woman's tennis, but that's still pretty slow for 4.0/4.5 guys, so my partner couldn't poach on the opposing guy's returns. Thankfully I could trade baseline rallies with the opposing guy - he hit a heavier ball than I am used to for sure (as my sore thumb, wrist, and forearm today can attest to), but I'm much more comfortable at the baseline and these being my 4th and 5th sets of the day I was settled in enough to stand my ground and hit out. Now, I probably couldn't stay in this rally longer than 4 or 5 shots, and having my partner at net obviously helped because that narrowed the window the opposing guy had to hit into. Eventually, either I was forced to hit to the opposing female at the net (which we sometimes lost but more often won), or the other guy would try to pass my guy at the net (which he only succeeded in doing once or twice).

We ended up closing out both the 2nd set and 3rd sets on my service games; both ended up at 7-5. 2 of my service games in the 3rd set we held at love, which is a testament to how well my partner was playing the net. My best shot of the night came on the opposing female's service game. I was in a deuce-side cross court rally with her, and got one that I could pull up the line (as a backhand, so inside-in) - I've never hit this shot better in my life: hit clean, low net clearance, it landed within 6 inches of the alley sideline and a foot or so before the baseline. The guy didn't even move for it, probably either out of surprise that I went for it or maybe he thought it would be out.

1-6, 7-5, 7-5 isn't exactly a resounding win, but hopefully was good enough that they'll let me come back and play again sometime. I'm still ruminating about whether I should have played back for part of the match. My partner said to me 2 or 3 times during the match "if you're more comfortable playing back, by all means. I don't want you to feel like you have to play up if you're not comfortable." I didn't take him up on the offer because it felt like quitting, but I was definitely playing better from the baseline. Not to say I didn't hit a few good volleys, but just not enough of them. And I let some go by that I think I could have gotten, but my partner was always there to back me up marvelously - I felt bad making him cover so much court but also knew our chances were better with him taking those and then moving in to finish the point at the net. So I'm contemplating, assuming I get to play another 8.0 match with him, playing back more often - guess it depends on what our next opponents are like too.
You know what's infuriating? You spent most of this post talking about how you couldn't return the guy's serve when absolutely nobody said it was important for you to be able to return the guy's serve and relegated it to a footnote that your partner got broken because of your net play which is the most important thing!

J
 
You know what's infuriating? You spent most of this post talking about how you couldn't return the guy's serve when absolutely nobody said it was important for you to be able to return the guy's serve and relegated it to a footnote that your partner got broken because of your net play which is the most important thing!

J
Well. That's some tough love, but it's fair criticism and you're absolutely right. I guess I was just venting my frustration because I like to think of myself as a good returner, so this match was a very humbling experience.

As for my partners service games...I don't know. I was fine at the net against the 4.0 guy returning my 3.5 partner's serve in my 7.0 match. The only reason I can think of why this was so much worse was the 4.0 opponent in the 8.0 match hit a better DTL shot. He kept it low, it was a very heavy ball, and it came faster. And I couldn't read if we was going DTL or cross court until too late so I couldn't try to poach.

Also, I may have made it sound like they broke my partner's serve more than they did. For sure there was the one time in the train wreck first set, and once in the third set (holding the other 2 times). I can't remember if they broke my partner's serve once in the second set too, or if the opposing female held serve once, so we were either 3-0 or 2-1 on his serve in the second set. But I think you're saying (and I agree) that we should absolutely be able to hold serve on the 4.5M's serve every time and even 1 break is too many.

Again, I wonder if it would have been better for me to play back when the opposing guy was returning. It wasn't like I was getting pop-ups off my partners serve for me to put away at the net, and the driving shots at me would have been more easily handled from the baseline.

Oh, and the other shot that was giving me trouble at the net was this topspin lob the guy would hit. It looked very similar coming off his racquet to a sprayed forehand that would land 4 feet out, but had tons of topspin so it would land about a foot in. But it had enough zip on it and didn't go that high so there was no way my partner would be able to cover me on it. So clearly I needed to get sideways and take a quick shuffle step back to take it out of the air, but I couldn't retrain my brain fast enough to realize it wasn't going out and I needed to move on it quickly.
 

CHtennis

Rookie
Great recap and thank you for letting us know what happened.
Again, I wonder if it would have been better for me to play back when the opposing guy was returning. It wasn't like I was getting pop-ups off my partners serve for me to put away at the net, and the driving shots at me would have been more easily handled from the baseline.
I would never recommend this. When I was playing 8.0 when opposing teams would do this, I loved it. It made it easier to hit to the weaker player and take over the net. I understand that you will make mistakes at the net but unless you feel like you are losing points all the time on it, I would prefer my 3.5 partner at the net.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I would also agree with @CHtennis that playing back is not a good idea ... unless your partner asks you to on his 2nd serve ... something I have seen happen in exactly 1 8.0 match.

I would also state that there is very little reason for the lower rated and female partner to ever play Ad court in 8.0 mixed unless her partner is a lefty. By doing so you have put the middle to his backhand and neutralized a lot of his strength through the middle. Typically the Ad court player has to cover more of the court than the deuce side player and that is where you want your strongest player. I think your results in the 2nd and 3rd sets bear this out nicely.

If you have anything to work on it is in being fearless at the net. With a 4.5 male partner he is very rarely going to pop one up that is going to get you killed (quite unlike my 4.0 female partner in my ladies' match on Saturday .... felt like it was target practice to my knees) ... stand much closer to the net than you might normally feel comfortable with and learn how to absolutely own it.
 
I would also agree with @CHtennis that playing back is not a good idea ... unless your partner asks you to on his 2nd serve ... something I have seen happen in exactly 1 8.0 match.

I would also state that there is very little reason for the lower rated and female partner to ever play Ad court in 8.0 mixed unless her partner is a lefty. By doing so you have put the middle to his backhand and neutralized a lot of his strength through the middle. Typically the Ad court player has to cover more of the court than the deuce side player and that is where you want your strongest player. I think your results in the 2nd and 3rd sets bear this out nicely.

If you have anything to work on it is in being fearless at the net. With a 4.5 male partner he is very rarely going to pop one up that is going to get you killed (quite unlike my 4.0 female partner in my ladies' match on Saturday .... felt like it was target practice to my knees) ... stand much closer to the net than you might normally feel comfortable with and learn how to absolutely own it.
This.
 

R1FF

Semi-Pro
I've been playing in a 7.0 mixed league this fall as a 3.5 female partnered with a 3.5 male. While he is a stronger player than I am, it's not unbalanced enough to prompt the opposing team to take the "pick on the woman" strategy. We recently played A 3.0F/4.0M team and won, and afterwards the 4.0 guy asked if I wanted to play in the upcoming 7.5 combo league with him. I've agreed, and am excited for the opportunity to play higher level players but also a bit apprehensive about letting my soon-to-be teammate down.

I've seen a lot of comments in this forum on strategies the stronger player in takes in mixed or combo doubles leagues that they've found good success with. Curious what I can do as the weaker player other than just "not get in the way".

My backhand is much better than my forehand so I usually return on the ad side. However, I've also heard people say it's advantageous to have the stronger player on that side because important game points often end up there. I've been experimenting in a doubles clinic with returning on the deuce side positioning myself more in the alley to get more backhands, so I'm not opposed to playing that side if it'll give us a better chance.

Any thoughts, ideas, or words of wisdom would be welcome :)
Ok, my 2 cents...

1. Stay positive, your teammate has to carry you enough as it is, don’t become a downer or distraction

2. What you lack in skill, make up for in hustle. There is NEVER an excuse for lack of effort

3. Show your teammate the respect they deserve by arriving early & ready to give your best. Be rested. Hydrated. And well warmed up. What this does is inspire confidence. Make your stronger partner confident in you. It will go a long ways

Your teammate has willingly accepted that you are the worse player. So dont stress on it. Just do the SIMPLE things to be your best. That’s all your teammate needs for the 2 of you to be a formidable team.
 
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I would also agree with @CHtennis that playing back is not a good idea ... unless your partner asks you to on his 2nd serve ... something I have seen happen in exactly 1 8.0 match.

I would also state that there is very little reason for the lower rated and female partner to ever play Ad court in 8.0 mixed unless her partner is a lefty. By doing so you have put the middle to his backhand and neutralized a lot of his strength through the middle. Typically the Ad court player has to cover more of the court than the deuce side player and that is where you want your strongest player. I think your results in the 2nd and 3rd sets bear this out nicely.

If you have anything to work on it is in being fearless at the net. With a 4.5 male partner he is very rarely going to pop one up that is going to get you killed (quite unlike my 4.0 female partner in my ladies' match on Saturday .... felt like it was target practice to my knees) ... stand much closer to the net than you might normally feel comfortable with and learn how to absolutely own it.
Yeah, I didn't have any fear that my partner was going to pop one up that would get me killed - on the contrary! Everything he hit seemed controlled, well placed, and with consistently low net clearance - his volleys were particularly mesmerizing to watch. The other guy was good enough that occasionally he could still drive one of those at me, but more to the point if anyone ever popped something up from our side it was me. Literally every overhead the other guy hit that I remember was off a ball hit by me. My guy hit a ton of overheads off shots from the opposing female too, probably more in total, so I'm not sure how bad I should feel about it. I try to work on keeping volleys low in practice, but they usually don't get punished there...nothing like the immediate feedback of a deafening overhead.

I also got in trouble when I had to hit forehand groundstrokes, as I don't hit them low or hard enough for this level of opposing net play. I can sometimes get away with them in 7.0 and women's doubles because either height or angle deter the net player from going for them, but this is probably the #2 thing I need to work on after your #1 being fearless at the net. To be a little more specific, it's the forehands on a low-pace ball that get me in trouble. I can redirect someone else's pace alright; even if it's a deep ball I can whip a decent on the rise shot back. It's the slow balls I get tentative on because I know I'm error prone if I try to tee off on a forehand, so this was mostly a problem when exchanging baseline shots with the opposing female.

As for who's playing which side...yes, we'll definitely be going with him on the ad side from the get-go if we play together again. I had just come from a poor experience returning on the deuce side in my 7.0 match so that's probably why I asked to play ad. To be honest I think I just played like crap in the first set and it wouldn't have mattered what side I was on...but I do think the switch to him on ad enabled our comeback. After that we broke her serve on all but 1 or 2 games.
 
If
Yeah, I didn't have any fear that my partner was going to pop one up that would get me killed - on the contrary! Everything he hit seemed controlled, well placed, and with consistently low net clearance - his volleys were particularly mesmerizing to watch. The other guy was good enough that occasionally he could still drive one of those at me, but more to the point if anyone ever popped something up from our side it was me. Literally every overhead the other guy hit that I remember was off a ball hit by me. My guy hit a ton of overheads off shots from the opposing female too, probably more in total, so I'm not sure how bad I should feel about it. I try to work on keeping volleys low in practice, but they usually don't get punished there...nothing like the immediate feedback of a deafening overhead.

I also got in trouble when I had to hit forehand groundstrokes, as I don't hit them low or hard enough for this level of opposing net play. I can sometimes get away with them in 7.0 and women's doubles because either height or angle deter the net player from going for them, but this is probably the #2 thing I need to work on after your #1 being fearless at the net. To be a little more specific, it's the forehands on a low-pace ball that get me in trouble. I can redirect someone else's pace alright; even if it's a deep ball I can whip a decent on the rise shot back. It's the slow balls I get tentative on because I know I'm error prone if I try to tee off on a forehand, so this was mostly a problem when exchanging baseline shots with the opposing female.

As for who's playing which side...yes, we'll definitely be going with him on the ad side from the get-go if we play together again. I had just come from a poor experience returning on the deuce side in my 7.0 match so that's probably why I asked to play ad. To be honest I think I just played like crap in the first set and it wouldn't have mattered what side I was on...but I do think the switch to him on ad enabled our comeback. After that we broke her serve on all but 1 or 2 games.
If you partner is right-handed and has a game based on controlling the net, it should be a no-brainer that he plays ad.

Your ‘home base’ position as an 8.0 team is when you are both at net but with a big stagger - you on deuce side, about 3 feet from the net. Him on ad side, about 10-12 feet from the net.

In this home base position, your 8.0 opponents have no good option. He can cover lobs on both sides from there with overheads because he is right handed.
 
Not to open a whole can of worms or anything but fun fact -
I googled the self-rate 4.0 guy we played against and he's a current sophomore on a D-III team (albeit a small, private college).
I don't really care that he may have self-rated wrong (if I'm reading the guideline right they would put him at 5.0 for being under 26 and playing at a D-III school, but that seems like overkill; to my inexperienced eye I'd guess 4.5 would be fine), BUT it does make me feel less terrible about how I played against him :-D
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
My advice on your experience (useless as it may be) is:

1) If you frame a volley off the opposing male's DTL shot, do not look back to your partner and ask, "Should I play back?" Look forward at the male opponent and smile and think to yourself, "He got me this time but I was there and I'll get the next one." Do not show weakness. I frequently hit DTL towards 3.0-3.5 women in mixed to see if they can handle my FH. If I sense fear and trepidation, I will go there all day.
Now if the ball completely passes you without you being able to move your racquet, that groundstroke is too good and I'd strongly consider playing back. But if you can get a racquet on it, stay up there, stay aggressive and give him the "I'll get you next time look."

2) You need to recognize a good kick serve. If the male tosses the ball over his head rather than out front, the serve is likely to kick to your BH. Try to move yourself into position where your body lines up with the bounce and the ball will bounce to your BH wheelhouse.

3) Lob more. If your groundstrokes are getting killed by the male net player, go over his head. Most women I play against take about 3 games to realize their groundstrokes are not strong enough to get past me and will resort to lobs. The good ones can take me out of the game. The bad ones get a few OHs coming back once I step back a few paces. Try to have a solid lob in your armamentarium. Defense does work.
 
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