What's Your Sign?

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I had a bizarre experience in mixed the other night. My male partner (let's call him Bob) is a good player and good guy. No complaints there. But here's what happened.

We lost the first set, and we were losing my serve spectacularly. Why? I was not handling the groundstrokes of either opponent well, and I was struggling with their returns.

On a changeover, Bob asked if I knew how to play Australian. "Yes!" I declared. I love it when a partner is using his/her head, and better still when they see that Aussie might give the opponents a different look for their returns. I assumed, however, we would play Aussie the way my female partners and I do it: Net player lines up on the same side as the server. Poaching/signaling is optional, but signaling go means the net player will cross to the other side. Bob and I got our signals straight: "Fist is stay, and open hand is go."

Bob then lined up on the center line and squatted down. He signaled stay.

And I had no idea what this meant. Surely he didn't mean he would stay camped on the center line? I served to the woman down the middle; she netted it. Whew, because I hadn't moved because I hadn't known where to go.

Bob then went back to the center line and signaled go. Now I was really confused: Go where? I started doing geometry in my head. "Go" must mean that I should imagine that he was not on the center line but was in his normal position in the deuce side, and he was going to run to the ad side. Which means I should serve middle and scoot over to the deuce side. Maybe. Or maybe that was backward. I served, and while I was still trying to make sense of this, the returner sent his return DTL for a winner.

I called Bob over for a conference:

"Dude, I am really confused about what these signals mean. If fist means stay, what am I supposed to do?"

"Cindy, it's just like in volleyball. Stay means DTL, and go means crosscourt. Just like when you're hitting."

"Bob, my head is exploding right now. Are you moving over to one side, or are you staying in the middle?"

"Cindy, it depends on the signal, go or stay."

"Bob, maybe you should just tell me what to do after I hit the serve: Run toward the wall, or run toward the curtain."

At this point, our opponents rightfully objected to our taking an extended discussion break in a timed match. So instead of signaling, he just told me what to cover before each point. This worked brilliantly. Bob got many easy poaches at net, we held my service games, but lost a close second set.

Can someone help me understand and visualize how signaling works out of what I would call an "I" formation? There was one point where Bob extended his pinky down, which so confused and rattled me that I DF'd.

Cindy -- who might have to try this in a ladies' match, if she can understand it better
 

Max G.

Legend
I have interpreted “stay” in Aussie formation to mean the net player stays on the same side of the center line they are on - so that they are covering the cross court and the server is covering the down the line.

That said, I would also find it confusing. I don’t use signals much so I’d have to think about it each time. I prefer just left/right signaling - pinky means they’re covering the left side, thumb means right side (because when their fist is behind their back, pinky is on the left and thumb on the right).

It really shouldn’t matter, but this stuff is why it’s useful to practice with the same partner a bunch, so figuring out what signal means what doesn’t take up brainpower during an actual match.
 
@Cindysphinx,

Squatting on the centerline is I formation; Aussie is standing on the same side of the court as the server. If he had played Aussie the way I understand it to be played, "Stay" means he'll stay on the side of the centerline that he started on; "Go" means he'll cross.

"stay" and "go" are ambiguous if he's straddling the centerline.

You could have asked for a directional signal instead ["I'm going left"; "I'm going right"; "I'm staying in the middle to try and cut off a weak return"].

Explaining it as being just like VB is useless if the other person doesn't play VB doubles.

Since he's playing I formation, he has to tell which direction he's going to move so you know to move in the opposite direction. The basic problem is that his understanding of the signals didn't match yours. Good adaptation, though!
 
Can someone help me understand and visualize how signaling works out of what I would call an "I" formation? There was one point where Bob extended his pinky down, which so confused and rattled me that I DF'd.
Some people have a hard time extending their pinky outward and they can only point down. I would assume this means he's moving in the direction that the pinky would have been pointing if it extended outwards [ie a righty using his left hand to signal using his pinky means "I'm moving left"].

If you want to indicate "middle", you guessed it, use the middle finger. This would happen if you're indicating serve location [ie body].
 

Vox Rationis

Semi-Pro
Bob is just confused. He lined up in "I" instead of Aussie like you said. And if you're going to line up that way, using directionals (pinky, middle finger, index/thumb) is far better than stay or go for this exact reason. Go which way? Stay where?

The only real lesson on your end is you should never serve if you're unclear about the signs. If he wants to use stay/go you should have found out which way was which the second you were confused about it. Better to ask than to try to guess. Other than that you did everything right.
 

Chalkdust

Rookie
Directional signals are more appropriate for I formation than stay/go. But if someone was using stay/go in I then I would interpret it as if we were in aussie.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
When I play Aussie in 8.0 mixed with me at net, my preferred way is to use a huddle rather than a sign. I simply tell my 3.5 partner to either ‘cover forehand’ or ‘cover backhand’.

This reduces the amount of thinking for the server to its bare minimum. I like to do the huddle for both first and second serve.

More recently, I’ve experimented with an even simpler variation on Aussie in both 8.0 and men’s 4.5 that has been remarkably effective and easy to implement:

I line up at net about 3-4 feet from the centerline on the opposite side of the centerline from the server, and I squat low to avoid getting hit by serve. I don’t use a sign - my partner’s responsibility is to serve from near centerline and cross to cover down-the-line return every time. From my net position, I can pretty much cover any crosscourt return, but still be close enough to hammer down a down-the-line return that is not fully in the alley. My more central net position puts a lot more pressure on the returner without really giving up much exposure to winners.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
As stated above, that is the “I formation” not “Aussie formation”.

When I have played “I formation” in the past, “stay” means that the net player will move to the conventional side - if you are serving to the ad side, the net player will move to cover the ad side as if they had not poached, and vice versa for deuce side. “Go” means the net player will move to the side they would be moving to if they were poaching. Basically, think of the net player as being in the middle of a poach, and they are signaling whether they will keep going (go) or go back (stay).
 

J_R_B

Hall of Fame
As stated above, that is the “I formation” not “Aussie formation”.

When I have played “I formation” in the past, “stay” means that the net player will move to the conventional side - if you are serving to the ad side, the net player will move to cover the ad side as if they had not poached, and vice versa for deuce side. “Go” means the net player will move to the side they would be moving to if they were poaching. Basically, think of the net player as being in the middle of a poach, and they are signaling whether they will keep going (go) or go back (stay).
If you use stay-go signals in I-formation, I agree with this - stay would mean go back to where you normally would be. I have a partner that I play I-formation with a lot, and we have three signals - directionals for "I'm moving right" or "I'm moving left" and a third, which is thumb and pinky finger (the "Hawaii signal") which means "if you serve wide, I'm covering cross-court, if you serve T, I'm covering DTL". In I-formation, the hardest thing to do as the net man is cover DTL on a wide serve. The Hawaii signal gives full discretion to the server to serve wherever they want and still keeps the net man from having to cover that wide serve DTL.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Is there a market for an LCD display to be attached at the back of the waist on a belt, with voice-activated control?
 
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