Tennis magazine article on what to do when you are the weakest link in doubles

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
In the entire history of Talk Tennis, has there ever been a player who admitted to being the weak link in doubles?
"My name is S&V-not_dead_yet and I've been the weakest link."

Any other questions? :)

Here is a hint that will make your life a lot easier. Tennis advice should be given in the same way financial advice is given, ie only when asked for.

If you are my partner, the only words I want to hear from you is "nice shot". If you have ATP points, ok you can give me advice. Otherwise, no.
If I'm doing something dumb, I'd rather my partner say something than allow me to continue to lose the match for both of us.
 

RetroSpin

Hall of Fame
If I'm doing something dumb, I'd rather my partner say something than allow me to continue to lose the match for both of us.
Sounds good but in practice, it is a terrible idea. You're playing with someone at your approximate level. How likely is it that they have such a superior understanding of the game? I know they may sincerely believe they have such superior knowledge and can really help you, but the truth is usually more nuanced.

Another reason giving unsolicited advice is a bad idea is that it magnifies your own, inevitable errors.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Sounds good but in practice, it is a terrible idea. You're playing with someone at your approximate level. How likely is it that they have such a superior understanding of the game? I know they may sincerely believe they have such superior knowledge and can really help you, but the truth is usually more nuanced.
It's not so much that my partner has a superior understanding of the game: it's that, in my own bubble, I fail to see that I'm doing something stupid while he and probably my teammates, can see.

For example, I get so fixated on hitting great returns that I start missing more than normal. This isn't as likely to happen when I'm the best one on the court; it's more likely to happen when I'm the weakest link.
 
I think in this discussion it is also important to make the distinction between mutually agreed upon strategy and unsolicited advice. As it has been mentioned, it's nuanced and depends on the person.

It fact this is the reason I dislike doubles, because you are constantly trying to interpret that nuance. I'm sure it's fine if you have a partner you regularly play with but i certainly don't want some stranger I've never met trying to impose their game plan right off the bat.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I think in this discussion it is also important to make the distinction between mutually agreed upon strategy and unsolicited advice. As it has been mentioned, it's nuanced and depends on the person.

It fact this is the reason I dislike doubles, because you are constantly trying to interpret that nuance. I'm sure it's fine if you have a partner you regularly play with but i certainly don't want some stranger I've never met trying to impose their game plan right off the bat.
I also will avoid unsolicited advice to a stranger, even if he is the weakest link, unless he asks and I interpret he really wants to know as opposed to asking for show.

I like both singles and doubles but for different reasons. One of the pros of doubles is the team aspect and mutual problem-solving. It sounds like you consider that to be a con rather than a pro.
 
I also will avoid unsolicited advice to a stranger, even if he is the weakest link, unless he asks and I interpret he really wants to know as opposed to asking for show.

I like both singles and doubles but for different reasons. One of the pros of doubles is the team aspect and mutual problem-solving. It sounds like you consider that to be a con rather than a pro.
I've always been more oriented towards individual sports so that might explain some of it (track, BJJ, tennis).

Some of it is because I suck at doubles. I mean I suck at singles too but less so.

Some of it is because I have had bad experiences with partners with bad attitudes. You play enough guys that are really cool when you're winning and give you the cold shoulder after you start to lose and it's enough to be fed up with it.
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
I've always been more oriented towards individual sports so that might explain some of it (track, BJJ, tennis).

Some of it is because I suck at doubles. I mean I suck at singles too but less so.

Some of it is because I have had bad experiences with partners with bad attitudes. You play enough guys that are really cool when you're winning and give you the cold shoulder after you start to lose and it's enough to be fed up with it.

Doubles is easy to improve on, much much easier than singles improvement. in singles, you actually have to improve your strokes. but in doubles you can get higher higher in level without improving your strokes at all. do you want to know how ?
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I've always been more oriented towards individual sports so that might explain some of it (track, BJJ, tennis).
I've played both in roughly equal amounts.

Some of it is because I suck at doubles. I mean I suck at singles too but less so.
A) You can address this
B) Doubles has a lot more potential longevity

Some of it is because I have had bad experiences with partners with bad attitudes. You play enough guys that are really cool when you're winning and give you the cold shoulder after you start to lose and it's enough to be fed up with it.
Sure, that's enough to turn anyone off. But sucky opponents in singles can do that as well as partners in doubles.

IME, the bad partners are mostly in the lower- to mid-intermediate neighborhood. Much lower and they usually [but not always] recognize their limitations; much higher and natural selection has weeded out [most of] the complainers.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
I've always been more oriented towards individual sports so that might explain some of it (track, BJJ, tennis).

Some of it is because I suck at doubles. I mean I suck at singles too but less so.

Some of it is because I have had bad experiences with partners with bad attitudes. You play enough guys that are really cool when you're winning and give you the cold shoulder after you start to lose and it's enough to be fed up with it.
I don't know people who play tennis, so I go to "drop in" tennis. I've been doing that at different places for a long time. You get put into groups of 4 and play doubles. Your partner is a stranger, so it's not like being in a tournament, where your partner is someone you know. After you get used to doubles, it's a lot more fun. You get to put away a lot more balls. It improves your volley.

I'm sure there's something like this in your area. Sometimes they call it "drop in", other times they call it "men's night". Some private clubs will take non-members for a nominal fee. It's a lot more interesting than hitting with the same guy all the time.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
Did you try faking to bait her into hitting DTL and then move in to close off the alley [just make sure you don't fake so well that you can't get back in time; not that I'm speaking from experience or anything].
Twice. But I think she was going there anyways no matter what I did. She had a nice inside -in BH and her inside out BH floated. So most BHs she went DTL after I poached her floaty CC BHs.
 

MarinaHighTennis

Professional
A lot of doubles (& that article) say you have to come to the net to win or be in a good position.

I'm the opposite, i tell my students and partners to play 2 back especially on serve returns. Why give up free points when you can bash them from the baseline. Groundies tend to be much better than ppl's volleys these days. Especially if you constantly aim at their chest/gut level, they can't do anything but hit a neutral ball back.

Its not until the high 5.0 level where ppl can hurt you with their volleys

 
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Steady Eddy

Legend
A lot of doubles (& that article) say you have to come to the net to win or be in a good position.

I'm the opposite, i tell my students and partners to play 2 back especially on serve returns. Why give up free points when you can bash them from the baseline. Groundies tend to be much better than ppl's volleys these days. Especially if you constantly aim at their chest/gut level, they can't do anything but hit a neutral ball back.

Its not until the high 5.5 level where ppl can hurt you with their volleys

Do you also coach them to stay back when serving?
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
High level league players standing in the alley what? Even I don't stand there and I'm a garbage doubles player (not that I'm much better at singles).
 
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Deleted member 120290

Guest
Interesting. Some say to always take the net. Others say play 1 up, 1 back.
Personally I hold my serve more often and more easily when I stay back after my serve.
I double fault more when I S&V.
Nothing more I like as a returner than someone who hits a relatively weak serve and tries to come in after it.
That said, trying to pass 2 good/great volleyers at the net in a tournament pressure situation is about the toughest thing to do.
 

MarinaHighTennis

Professional
Interesting. Some say to always take the net. Others say play 1 up, 1 back.
Personally I hold my serve more often and more easily when I stay back after my serve.
I double fault more when I S&V.
Nothing more I like as a returner than someone who hits a relatively weak serve and tries to come in after it.
That said, trying to pass 2 good/great volleyers at the net in a tournament pressure situation is about the toughest thing to do.
Yeah but they're only good once at the net. So if they're S&Ving then you take their serve off the bounce and hit to their feet. Also after 2/3 serves, you figure out their pattern and from the toss you know where & what serve is coming at you (even at the 5.0 level). From that toss you can cheat to where its going and slam a FH or BH.

In addition, S&Vers 80% of the time will hit the first volley cross court back to the returner so your partner at the net (second serves if you stay back on first serves) can pick that off.
 
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Deleted member 23235

Guest
So it's a good thing that @nytennisaddict is a strong 4.5.
regardless of rating... when i play in pick up groups in the public parks,.... no one knows if i'm a 2.0 or a 6.0... they just know, "i'm decent"
but when paired with a 3.5ish player (my own self rating), i get fisheyed and sighed all the time if i'm poaching and getting passed... (and have even been told by 3.5's "stay on your side")
well it really depends how many successful poaches i pulled off ahead of time :p
that said, in the public parks, i'll inevitably end up playing against 3.5-4.0 guys that relentlessly will pound their awesome fh... looking to hit through me at net. the best thing that could happen is that they are succesful once, early in their tries, which then prompts them to continue trying.
 
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Deleted member 23235

Guest
I thought the Fernandez article was very good. Similar to what I'd learned from the Art of Doubles.

I agree that alley camping is bad but sometimes you gotta do it. I played mixed this am and my wife was serving and the opposing woman would hit DTL as often as she could and was good at it. I managed to lunge volley a couple back but 2 got past me. All 4 were going in so, she had that shot. If I poached every time, she'd have gone there every time and won. It was far better to let a few CC returns get to my serving partner to set up the point than it was to risk getting passed.

And planned poaches? Good luck with that. I know that my wife and most of my older doubles buddies will almost always be standing exactly where they were after they last hit the ball. Covering DTL, no chance. Australian formation is hard enough for a lot of them to master.
lol, i might try finding a mixed dubs team in ct, just for the opportunity to play against gigi :p
i have a couple buddies that belong to the club she teaches at.
 
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Deleted member 23235

Guest
I've always had the rule is that down the middle shots go to the player with the stronger stroke. Is this an oversimplification?
generallly...
* are both players at net? vs. staggered (ie. closer person to net should take it)
* are both players at baseline? p1 might have a better fh overall, but p2 has a killer lob (which might be the better shot)
over time you refine... and talk often and early... presuming you're playing with the same person regularly and both are willing to commm
many dubs teams don't talk, some don't know the strats and don't want to learn "on the job", etc..
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I teach math. Unlike tennis, when it comes to math I know what I'm talking about. I get asked math questions all day long at work.

As a consequence, I don't offer unsolicited advice. I get enough requests. So who wants to give advice? Usually, someone who really doesn't even know what they're talking about. As Shakespeare noticed, "A little learning is a dangerous thing."

I only say positive things to my partners. I'd never try coaching, no matter how egregious their mistake. As you pointed out, that NEVER works.
That is true only for social doubles. OP is talking about 4.5 leagues. These players take it seriously, practice together, and point out the problems.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
That is true only for social doubles. OP is talking about 4.5 leagues. These players take it seriously, practice together, and point out the problems.
Well, you're right. They are a 4.0 team, moving into a 4.5 league.

It's odd that a player at 4.5 could significantly learn from a magazine article. They've played that long and never learned doubles fundamentals? Oh well.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
if they suck at the net yes. I actually came back from 1-5 down to win a set 7-5 doing that. I basically told them "why hit volleys when your groundies alone can win the match?"
Because when they finally face a good volleying team they will be destroyed.

The only way to get good at volleys and especially transitional volleys is to do them. Saying, "your volleys are trash so stay back to win" is bad coaching in my view. You want to teach people the skills they need to succeed at all levels.

I used to think i could win with gropundstrokes in doubles. And playing a bunch of 3.0-3.5's reinforced that. Then i started playing experienced 4.0 level players and found that they could easily volley my groundstrokes and I no longer could hit through them. So i had to start back at ground zero and up my volley game and get to the net. My transition game and volley game has improved mightily and my overheads are better because of it.

Pushing expediency to win over the process to become better is not how i want to be coached. Show me the right way and let me work on it.
 

Off The Wall

Semi-Pro
When I want/need to pass along some unsolicited advice. It will be immediately after the problem lost a point and I will begin with "Go ahead and..." I then tell them what want them to do. It seems to give them permission to fail. If they do, I say "that's good, you were there."

On the court, your partner is never to blame. They either just missed or the opponent hit a good shot, or it was your bad. (Off the court, you tell your friends you had to hold up a doubles moron.)
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Well, you're right. They are a 4.0 team, moving into a 4.5 league.

It's odd that a player at 4.5 could significantly learn from a magazine article. They've played that long and never learned doubles fundamentals? Oh well.
About half of the 4.5s I see playing USTA leagues at my club have not even learned the fundamentals of tennis. They foot fault about 50% of the time, on the average, the average being over players as well as first and second serves.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
When I want/need to pass along some unsolicited advice. It will be immediately after the problem lost a point and I will begin with "Go ahead and..." I then tell them what want them to do. It seems to give them permission to fail. If they do, I say "that's good, you were there."

On the court, your partner is never to blame. They either just missed or the opponent hit a good shot, or it was your bad. (Off the court, you tell your friends you had to hold up a doubles moron.)
I never comment on a partner's execution. I will comment on positioning. If they aren't where I think they should be I'll let them know. That way we work as a team. i expect them to offer me the same courtesy if I'm not in the spot they thought I'd be. Positioning is crucial in doubles and in developing a team approach to court coverage. My side - your side is so 3.0.
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
lol, i might try finding a mixed dubs team in ct, just for the opportunity to play against gigi :p

I would imagine Gigi, even as a senior player, is likely rated at least 5.5 and ineligible for 9.0 leagues.

Reminds me of Brent Abel trying to appeal down to 4.5. Imagine being a 3.5 playing 8.0 and seeing Brent on the other side of the net. :eek:
 
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Booger

Hall of Fame
i'm amazed how many 4.0's (especially 4.0 and lower) and even low 4.5's (or 4.5 singles players), stand nearer the alley. maybe a NY vs. CA thing :p
When I have a weaker partner, I leave maybe 2 feet of alley open on every point so I can cover anything near the middle. I swear I get at least 5x more easy winners and solicit errors than the opposition gets winners down that small window of open alley, but every time it happens (maybe once or twice/set) our opponents celebrate like crazy and my partner glares at me like I'm the dumbest guy alive.

Sometimes they even try to "correct" my positioning by telling me to stand in the alley.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Yeah but they're only good once at the net. So if they're S&Ving then you take their serve off the bounce and hit to their feet. Also after 2/3 serves, you figure out their pattern and from the toss you know where & what serve is coming at you (even at the 5.0 level). From that toss you can cheat to where its going and slam a FH or BH.
If you can that easily defeat your S&V opponent, you're likely an overall better player period, rather than simply being a better returner than they are at S&V.

In addition, S&Vers 80% of the time will hit the first volley cross court back to the returner so your partner at the net (second serves if you stay back on first serves) can pick that off.
Of course, a good volleyer will be aware of the net man poaching or pinching and go DTL a few times.

It depends more on the quality of the return: a shoelace-height ball that forces me to hit a BH half-volley is more attackable by the net man than a waist-height, medium-paced ball.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
A lot of doubles (& that article) say you have to come to the net to win or be in a good position.

I'm the opposite, i tell my students and partners to play 2 back especially on serve returns. Why give up free points when you can bash them from the baseline. Groundies tend to be much better than ppl's volleys these days. Especially if you constantly aim at their chest/gut level, they can't do anything but hit a neutral ball back.

Its not until the high 5.0 level where ppl can hurt you with their volleys

All of the high-level Mens doubles teams attack the net [Nadal doesn't but...he's Nadal; besides, he doesn't focus on doubles].

Womens doubles are usually 1 up/1 back slugfests with the occasional lob/moonball and poach [I'm thinking Hingis/Mirza, Hingis/Chan, Mattek-Sands/Safarova, Dellacqua/Barty, etc].

People can hurt their opponents with volleys at any level. it's not the level of volley alone that's important: it's the level of volley vs the level of GS.

I don't follow college or juniors: do they still S&V/C&C or is it more BL-oriented these days? When I watch Open bracket Mens doubles, everyone is attacking the net.
 
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Deleted member 120290

Guest
When I play with 4.5 or higher level partners who have strong serves and groundstrokes, I can roam freely because usually I will get a lot of weak returns.

But when I play with a weaker player with floating serves and strokes, I get passed a lot more DTL.

The worst is when this type of 3.5 player hits a weak return that the opponent smashes at my feet when I'm at the T. The weak partner stares at me with his hands on his hips suggesting that I lost the point. Or he will say something ridiculous like if I had let the smash go and not defend myself, then he could have retrieved it instead.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
But when I play with a weaker player with floating serves and strokes, I get passed a lot more DTL.

The worst is when this type of 3.5 player hits a weak return that the opponent smashes at my feet when I'm at the T. The weak partner stares at me with his hands on his hips suggesting that I lost the point. Or he will say something ridiculous like if I had let the smash go and not defend myself, then he could have retrieved it instead.
It's an exercise in patience playing with a weaker player who is ignorant about how to play doubles. It's a lose-lose proposition.

Is this one of those random pairings at a public court?

I remember walking by a MXDs match: the guy had just netted an attempted poach and the woman partner said "that was my ball". The guy tried to explain why the poach was the right move even if he missed but I could see she wasn't buying any of it. I sighed and kept walking.
 
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Deleted member 120290

Guest
...Is this one of those random pairings at a public court?...
At one of the clubs I play with, we have a monthly round robin tournament. To make the teams fair, we do lottery picks with 1 A (4.5 or higher) and 1 B (4.0 or lower) pairing.
 
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Deleted member 23235

Guest
When I have a weaker partner, I leave maybe 2 feet of alley open on every point so I can cover anything near the middle. I swear I get at least 5x more easy winners and solicit errors than the opposition gets winners down that small window of open alley, but every time it happens (maybe once or twice/set) our opponents celebrate like crazy and my partner glares at me like I'm the dumbest guy alive.

Sometimes they even try to "correct" my positioning by telling me to stand in the alley.
haha.... best thing that could happen is if the returner hits a blazing winner dtl that lines 2in from the line...
because for sure, they will try that again and again... and for every 1 winner they hit, they will miss 4-5
 
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Deleted member 23235

Guest
At one of the clubs I play with, we have a monthly round robin tournament. To make the teams fair, we do lottery picks with 1 A (4.5 or higher) and 1 B (4.0 or lower) pairing.
these days, i avoid those types of round robins at all costs... 4.5+3.5 is a game of keep away. or even if i'm poaching well, (and winning) my opponent is getting mad anyway, because they didn't get to hit the ball (ie. less interested in winning, more interested in hitting alot of balls because this is their 1 tennis outing this week).
 

zaph

Professional
I've never had a good experience with someone trying to coach me through a doubles game. It makes the experience uncomfortable and I tighten up trying to execute something I clearly haven't practiced. I am my biggest critic so if I am playing poorly and need to improve, I know already. I'm sure most people are like this.
You're right, there is nothing worse than getting coaching advice from your partner. All it does for me is make me tense up and worry about the error.

Sometimes it is a better player who doesn't understand your limitations. Yes I would return it that way, but I don't have that shot. Other times the reasons you're playing badly is actually down to your partner. Nothing worse than being at the net while your partner sends over powder puff serves and returns. Then blames you for failing to intercept the rocket like passing shots hit off these nothing balls.

in conclusion, if you're tempted to coach in a match, bite your tongue.
 

zaph

Professional
In the entire history of Talk Tennis, has there ever been a player who admitted to being the weak link in doubles?

Here is a hint that will make your life a lot easier. Tennis advice should be given in the same way financial advice is given, ie only when asked for.

If you are my partner, the only words I want to hear from you is "nice shot". If you have ATP points, ok you can give me advice. Otherwise, no.
Oh I am the weak link, my volley is a block, my overheads are prodded safely into the court and all my serves are basically second serves. In doubles my role is to act like a human backboard until my better partner can actually finish the point. Know your limitations.
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
yea but you have to be careful before passing judgements. Cause most good 4.5 guys, they may stand close to the alley initially when partner is serving, but as soon as serve goes in, he will move towards the center to cut off any weak returns in the middle of the court. I acutally seen Redlicki from UCLA do this.

Tell your players to watch the college video and net guy position when partner serves. (His position is extreme but you get the point; he's not hugging the alley). See how hard it is for the returner to keep it away from the net guy with a serve down the T. Net guy gets lots of easy volleys in that video off the return,



 

MarinaHighTennis

Professional
All of the high-level Mens doubles teams attack the net [Nadal doesn't but...he's Nadal; besides, he doesn't focus on doubles].

Womens doubles are usually 1 up/1 back slugfests with the occasional lob/moonball and poach [I'm thinking Hingis/Mirza, Hingis/Chan, Mattek-Sands/Safarova, Dellacqua/Barty, etc].

People can hurt their opponents with volleys at any level. it's not the level of volley alone that's important: it's the level of volley vs the level of GS.

I don't follow college or juniors: do they still S&V/C&C or is it more BL-oriented these days? When I watch Open bracket Mens doubles, everyone is attacking the net.
thats open level but still rare to see here in California. Ppl only volley well at the high 5.0 levels. But even NCAA they usually stay back and rip at the net man when returning. But true depends on your GS vs their volleys but with most juniors these days, its a baseline slugfest and net-tag game.

Marc Lopez also doesn't rush the net too much but hits forehands until a short ball allows him to slug the net man and pick off the weak response
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
thats open level but still rare to see here in California. Ppl only volley well at the high 5.0 levels.
It's also possible to write "Ppl only [insert any tennis skill here] well at the high 5.0 levels."

In my limited, 4.5 view of Mens doubles, most teams still attack the net as a default.

But even NCAA they usually stay back and rip at the net man when returning.
Are you saying it's more common to return at the net man rather than to the server? I find that hard to believe. Of the few top 20 Div I matches I've seen, most of the returns went away from the net man.
 

Nostradamus

Bionic Poster
Tell your players to watch the college video and net guy position when partner serves. (His position is extreme but you get the point; he's not hugging the alley). See how hard it is for the returner to keep it away from the net guy with a serve down the T. Net guy gets lots of easy volleys in that video off the return,



Right Right but that Net guy Knows how to play the net. Look how far into the Middle he is. Guy I was playing with had his Left foot On the side line toward the alley. and he is like 1/10 as fast as Sameer Kumar you see at the net...... LOL
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
Right Right but that Net guy Knows how to play the net. Look how far into the Middle he is. Guy I was playing with had his Left foot On the side line toward the alley. and he is like 1/10 as fast as Sameer Kumar you see at the net...... LOL
Yes the Stanford 5.5 guy is positioned almost near the T. He can get away with this extreme position because he is quick and partner has a strong T serve.

If he can do that, then certinly your recently promoted 4.0 4.5 guys can at least stand towards the middle of the box.
 
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Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
Are you saying it's more common to return at the net man rather than to the server? I find that hard to believe. Of the few top 20 Div I matches I've seen, most of the returns went away from the net man.
Also find it hard to believe div 1 returners are attacking the net man. The returners are doing all they can to avoid the net man in the Stanford clip.
 
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