Taking on the Sandbaggers

Dartagnan64

Legend
So my partner and I are into the Men's B (3.5-4.0) doubles semifinals at our club championships. We are taking on one of the two sandbagger teams in the draw (3.5 with a 4.5 partner).
I know from mixed that you need to target the weaker player, early and often. But at some point you do have to deal with the better player.

I'm thinking of trying to avoid the CC rally with him when serving or returning and trying to get to the net off an angle return or deeper return. When he's at the net I think there will be an issue since his partner serves flat skidders that are hard to get pace on and my lob return is tragic. Still trying to think of a good tactic. Maybe just misdirection?

Any other advice for trying to beat the inevitable sandbagging crew you face in semis and finals?
 

ChaelAZ

Legend
Yeah, just hit 99% of everything to the 3.5 guy. Really, in most doubles you pick on the weaker player all the time anyway, so the league strategy doesn't change.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
Return big and hard into the 3.5 and lob over the 3.5 to bait him into an overhead. If you have a 3.5 male hitting overheads, you will cruise to victory.
 

CiscoPC600

Professional
And have your partner be ready for the occasional lucky volley that goes to his feet (perhaps take a step back depending on how aggressively your partner's location is) or is a framed dropshot.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Yeah, just hit 99% of everything to the 3.5 guy. Really, in most doubles you pick on the weaker player all the time anyway, so the league strategy doesn't change.
Sadly the weaker player is about the same as my partner and I'm just a wee bit stronger. So it's going to be tough just to pick on a guy that's about equal.

3.5's generate a lot of errors so just hit to him. No need to overthink it.
Well therein lies the problem. As one of the three 3.5's on the court, I have to balance not trying to do too much but still avoiding Mr 4.5 and pressuring Mr 3.5.

Return big and hard into the 3.5 and lob over the 3.5 to bait him into an overhead. If you have a 3.5 male hitting overheads, you will cruise to victory.
I've faced this 4.5's serve. I'll be lucky to just get it back, let alone going big and hard.
 

ptuanminh

Hall of Fame
If that is the case, you have zero chance. Just pop every ball high up and pray the 4.5 misses a few. If they move back to baseline, hit junk /slice to the 3.5. No need to play a straight-up game against a stronger opponent. You guys also have to be extremely focused at the net.
Using this strategy, me paired up with a 3.5 lady almost beat 2 4.0 dub guys.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Well it turned out to be a disaster. Tactics were bad, execution was bad. Lost 1 and 0.

They had an excellent strategy to protect their weaker player. They put him right at the net in the doubles alley and just asked him to volley anything his way. At the baseline he hung out at the deep corner and lobbed things back while his 4.5 partner crowded the middle and gave us the alley all day daring us to make that shot. My partner struggled with it all match and even my usually reliable inside in FH was misfiring.

I think we ended up trying too hard to get to the weaker player who wasn't that weak at all (played better than my partner). If I took them on again I'd work the points more trying to get the ball into open spaces. The few times I showed patience I actually won several points just staying in rallies until I could get a favorable ball.

And I need to build a lob mindset. I'm so used to playing offensively against players of my skill level that I have trouble switching to the defensive mindset when a higher player comes my way. Part of that is the social dubs thing where no good player will invite you back if you play vertical tennis with them. So I'm pre-wired to play horizontal tennis, win or lose, just to keep the invites coming from better players. Not a great strategy in a tournament where they are not intimidated at all by your FH.

I wish I could go back and try again as it took an evening of contemplation to dissect what went wrong. Part bad tactics for sure. Part poor play. I wasn't playing that great but my partner was abysmal, double faulting away his service games, missing return after return. When you don't even get the point started, its an upstream swim the whole way.
 
Well it turned out to be a disaster. Tactics were bad, execution was bad. Lost 1 and 0.

They had an excellent strategy to protect their weaker player. They put him right at the net in the doubles alley and just asked him to volley anything his way. At the baseline he hung out at the deep corner and lobbed things back while his 4.5 partner crowded the middle and gave us the alley all day daring us to make that shot. My partner struggled with it all match and even my usually reliable inside in FH was misfiring.

I think we ended up trying too hard to get to the weaker player who wasn't that weak at all (played better than my partner). If I took them on again I'd work the points more trying to get the ball into open spaces. The few times I showed patience I actually won several points just staying in rallies until I could get a favorable ball.

And I need to build a lob mindset. I'm so used to playing offensively against players of my skill level that I have trouble switching to the defensive mindset when a higher player comes my way. Part of that is the social dubs thing where no good player will invite you back if you play vertical tennis with them. So I'm pre-wired to play horizontal tennis, win or lose, just to keep the invites coming from better players. Not a great strategy in a tournament where they are not intimidated at all by your FH.

I wish I could go back and try again as it took an evening of contemplation to dissect what went wrong. Part bad tactics for sure. Part poor play. I wasn't playing that great but my partner was abysmal, double faulting away his service games, missing return after return. When you don't even get the point started, its an upstream swim the whole way.
At least you recognize what you have to improve. You have mentioned in the past how much you dislike vertical tennis and I commented that, if I could figure that out as your opponent, I'd exploit it. This was the opposite scenario where you failed to use it to your advantage.

Older and wiser, as the saying goes. Not much you can do, though, if your partner isn't keeping the ball in.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
At least you recognize what you have to improve. You have mentioned in the past how much you dislike vertical tennis and I commented that, if I could figure that out as your opponent, I'd exploit it. This was the opposite scenario where you failed to use it to your advantage.

Older and wiser, as the saying goes. Not much you can do, though, if your partner isn't keeping the ball in.
Yeah I've spent a lot of time learning how to defeat vertical tennis but little time learning to use it myself. Fun part of tennis is there is always something to get better at. And always someone to show you where you are weak.

And yes, my partner played his worst version of himself which didn't help. With his best version and a bit smarter approach, I could see a 6-4 6-3 loss quite easily. I would have taken that.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Well the sandbaggers were beat by the other sandbagging team. Sad when the Men's B finals contains 3 A players and 1 B player. But hey not much we can do at our club where the whole ranking system is pretty nebulous.
 

ptuanminh

Hall of Fame
Well it turned out to be a disaster. Tactics were bad, execution was bad. Lost 1 and 0.

They had an excellent strategy to protect their weaker player. They put him right at the net in the doubles alley and just asked him to volley anything his way. At the baseline he hung out at the deep corner and lobbed things back while his 4.5 partner crowded the middle and gave us the alley all day daring us to make that shot. My partner struggled with it all match and even my usually reliable inside in FH was misfiring.

I think we ended up trying too hard to get to the weaker player who wasn't that weak at all (played better than my partner). If I took them on again I'd work the points more trying to get the ball into open spaces. The few times I showed patience I actually won several points just staying in rallies until I could get a favorable ball.

And I need to build a lob mindset. I'm so used to playing offensively against players of my skill level that I have trouble switching to the defensive mindset when a higher player comes my way. Part of that is the social dubs thing where no good player will invite you back if you play vertical tennis with them. So I'm pre-wired to play horizontal tennis, win or lose, just to keep the invites coming from better players. Not a great strategy in a tournament where they are not intimidated at all by your FH.

I wish I could go back and try again as it took an evening of contemplation to dissect what went wrong. Part bad tactics for sure. Part poor play. I wasn't playing that great but my partner was abysmal, double faulting away his service games, missing return after return. When you don't even get the point started, its an upstream swim the whole way.
Lol so they were using the strategy i suggested against you. Smart guys.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Lol so they were using the strategy i suggested against you. Smart guys.
Yep. They flipped it on us. Played very smart. But my partner is prone to run hot and cold. He was hot in the quarterfinals and stone cold in the semis. I’m the steady guy that tries to keep the ship even. And I should have played to that strength.
 
And I need to build a lob mindset. I'm so used to playing offensively against players of my skill level that I have trouble switching to the defensive mindset when a higher player comes my way. Part of that is the social dubs thing where no good player will invite you back if you play vertical tennis with them. So I'm pre-wired to play horizontal tennis, win or lose, just to keep the invites coming from better players. Not a great strategy in a tournament where they are not intimidated at all by your FH.
You need to learn and incorporate an offensive lob into your game. Not every lob has to be defensive. If you learn to hit one with heavy top spin off of a neutral rally ball, it can take opponents by surprise and bounce out of reach by the time they get there. At the very least it gives them less time than a typical lob.
 

ptuanminh

Hall of Fame
Yep. They flipped it on us. Played very smart. But my partner is prone to run hot and cold. He was hot in the quarterfinals and stone cold in the semis. I’m the steady guy that tries to keep the ship even. And I should have played to that strength.
Hot and cold is a common thing among 3.5 and 4.0. If you pick the right tactic, start to win a few points, get the confidence up, then you have a streak of hot.
Funny things can happen after that: you can get overconfidence and think you don't need to play that tactic against a stronger opponent, you play your normal games and you can crushed, back to cold streaks.
Discipline to pursue your tactic is important. But also, you need to be able to change tactic when it doesn't work.
 
Hot and cold is a common thing among 3.5 and 4.0. If you pick the right tactic, start to win a few points, get the confidence up, then you have a streak of hot.
Funny things can happen after that: you can get overconfidence and think you don't need to play that tactic against a stronger opponent, you play your normal games and you can crushed, back to cold streaks.
Discipline to pursue your tactic is important. But also, you need to be able to change tactic when it doesn't work.
Hot and cold is not limited to 3.5/4.0; it happens at all levels. I see plenty of matches at 4.5 where team A wins the first set easily and then team B wins the second set easily. Or team A wins the first set easily and barely squeaks by in the second.

It would be interesting to see stats to see how this varies by NTRP: @schmke - how difficult would such a calculation be?
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
Hot and cold is not limited to 3.5/4.0; it happens at all levels. I see plenty of matches at 4.5 where team A wins the first set easily and then team B wins the second set easily. Or team A wins the first set easily and barely squeaks by in the second.

It would be interesting to see stats to see how this varies by NTRP: @schmke - how difficult would such a calculation be?
I have noticed that as I have improved the difference between my hot and my cold is no where near as wide as it was before.

During the first year after coming back to the sport, my cold was really frigid and the hot was amazing. Now my cold is cool and I can usually figure out how to make alterations and get it to tepid, my hot is not as amazing of a difference from the norm. Thankfully it has been a while since I had one of those days I just couldn't hit a ball in a match.
 

ptuanminh

Hall of Fame
Hot and cold is not limited to 3.5/4.0; it happens at all levels. I see plenty of matches at 4.5 where team A wins the first set easily and then team B wins the second set easily. Or team A wins the first set easily and barely squeaks by in the second.

It would be interesting to see stats to see how this varies by NTRP: @schmke - how difficult would such a calculation be?
Interesting. Maybe we can look at the difference between the number of games won and number of games lost in a match. Take the average and the spread.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
You need to learn and incorporate an offensive lob into your game. Not every lob has to be defensive. If you learn to hit one with heavy top spin off of a neutral rally ball, it can take opponents by surprise and bounce out of reach by the time they get there. At the very least it gives them less time than a typical lob.
That shot alone would turn me into an instant 4.0. If I could do that at will I'd be undefeated amongst my peers of middle age men.

At this point I can only reliably do it off a high bouncer to my FH.

I have noticed that as I have improved the difference between my hot and my cold is no where near as wide as it was before.
I'm definitely the even-steven guy myself on the court. I can get to and stay mediocre in most situations. My mixed and men's doubles playing partners are more the wide variant types where they can run scorching hot or ice cold. I call them "all or nothing" types. They are also the type that when you say the room is a little hot, they open all the windows until it's freezing inside then close all the windows until its hot and stuffy again. I'm the guy that just opens one window a moderate amount to reach the desired temperature.
 

samarai

Semi-Pro
AT your level lobs are not defensive shots. i like to throw up couple of lobs in any set to test the opponents overheads. At the rec level, players usually have terrible overheads.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
AT your level lobs are not defensive shots. i like to throw up couple of lobs in any set to test the opponents overheads. At the rec level, players usually have terrible overheads.
Good strategy that is so against anything in my DNA. It's like hitting 5 iron off the tee instead of driver. I know there are times I should do it, but I just can't bring myself to.
 
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