Where should you stand as the server's partner with a weak 2nd serve?

EddieBrock

Professional
A lot of guys I play with have very strong 1st, but weak 2nd serves. Obviously if the returner is blasting return winners I'm going to move back, but what if they're occasionally going up the line, but mostly hitting aggressive returns cross court?

My last partner's serve lands short in the box, but low so the returner is hitting up but still pretty close to me. I don't really feel comfortable trying to poach on a serve like that and never got any weak returns like off a 1st serve. So is there any benefit to starting in the normal doubles position close to the net? If the returner had gone right at me I don't think I could have deflected it.

Is there a better place to stand to start?
 

Morch Us

Professional
mostly hitting aggressive returns
pretty much what you are saying is the serving team is starting on defense on second serve. Then think what is your best defensive position as a team, and go with that. To most that would be a two back position (both guys behind baseline). And work your way up into offense gradually.
 

zaph

Professional
Behind a two foot thick concrete wall with words don't hurt me in 6 foot red letters.

Alas hauling that around is hard on the back, so I usually resort to standing at the baseline, which is fine as long as your partner isn't deluded enough to think they have an effective serve. Otherwise they take it as an insult.
 

socallefty

Legend
Two-back. If you want to stay at the net, try Australian formation on some points to take away the crosscourt return. When opponents are grooved on the crosscourt return, it makes sense to make them hit DTL occasionally to hopefully throw off their rhythm.
 
If you want to stay at the net, try Australian formation on some points to take away the crosscourt return. When opponents are grooved on the crosscourt return, it makes sense to make them hit DTL occasionally to hopefully throw off their rhythm.
Or, if you're really hankering for variety, I formation. Keep 'em guessing. You'd be surprised how often this works when you add in the variability of the net man.
 

socallefty

Legend
Or, if you're really hankering for variety, I formation. Keep 'em guessing. You'd be surprised how often this works when you add in the variability of the net man.
Many adult rec players who are older have a problem crouching low in I-formation and springing up quickly to move to one side of the court. So, I use I-formation only when I’m playing with fit guys who can still move explosively - usually they are the younger players. But, if you are playing with someone who is used to doing it, I-formation is very effective which is why it has replaced Australian formation at the pro level.
 

tonylg

Legend
I might move back a step, but I don't give up the net. You can do more there to take away return options than you can standing at the baseline.
 
I might move back a step, but I don't give up the net. You can do more there to take away return options than you can standing at the baseline.
It depends heavily on how good OP's hands are: if he's only an average volleyer, chances are he'll lose more points being up at the net. At least from the BL it's easier to defend. It's a tradeoff.
 

tonylg

Legend
It depends heavily on how good OP's hands are: if he's only an average volleyer, chances are he'll lose more points being up at the net. At least from the BL it's easier to defend. It's a tradeoff.
Sure, he'll lose a few points because he's a sitting duck, but giving up the entire court to someone who can just pound a return anywhere and take the net away isn't a winning strategy either.
 
Sure, he'll lose a few points because he's a sitting duck, but giving up the entire court to someone who can just pound a return anywhere and take the net away isn't a winning strategy either.
1. If a strategy is failing, change it. If staying at the net is not working, do something else. No guarantee that won't fail also but you have to try.

2. In exchange for allowing the returner to pound the ball anywhere, you have the toughest defensive position for the attacking team to crack. Maybe a simple lob will reveal their OH weakness. Who knows?

My aim is to be flexible.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
If my partner has a weak 2nd serve (or a very weak 1st serve), I'll stand several feet (a meter or more) inside the BL. If the return appears to be coming deep, in my direction, I'll quickly take a couple steps back and play the return aggressively (if possible).

If the serve return is headed in my direction, but short, I'll move in to play the shot, and then take up a position at the net (about 2-3 meters off the net, actually) after an appropriate response.

OTOH, if I see that the serve return is directed toward my partner, the server, I'll take this opportunity to move in quickly to take up a position at the net (about 2-3 meters off net). Since I had started at a position inside the BL, it is relatively easy for me to take up an offensive position at the net in this situation
 

tonylg

Legend
If my partner has a weak 2nd serve (or a very weak 1st serve), I'll stand several feet (a meter or more) inside the BL. If the return appears to be coming deep, in my direction, I'll quickly take a couple steps back and play the return aggressively (if possible).

If the serve return is headed in my direction, but short, I'll move in to play the shot, and then take up a position at the net (about 2-3 meters off the net, actually) after an appropriate response.

OTOH, if I see that the serve return is directed toward my partner, the server, I'll take this opportunity to move in quickly to take up a position at the net (about 2-3 meters off net). Since I had started at a position inside the BL, it is relatively easy for me to take up an offensive position at the net in this situation
Yep, you're still attacking .. rather than just finding a different way to lose.
 

rosheem

Rookie
If my partner has a weak second serve, I will just start playing mind games with the returner to trap them into hitting to me. Show and take. Show them an opening where they’d love to hit, but then take it away after they commit to the shot.

I might set up away from the net, close to the service line to entice them to hit an aggressive dipper at my feet, but I’m closing early to cut off their reply. I will cheat towards the middle and be willing to give up about a foot on the down-the-line shot until they burn me at least twice down the line.

Moving back to the baseline doesn’t interest me at all. That’s like playing singles with four guys. Maybe a tactic at super high levels like the pros, but not for me.
 
Stand at the net for at least first several points. Back up only if they are successfully blasting on you almost all second serve. Many returners feel pressure and their options become limited, just because you are standing in front of them close to the net. As other people said, you can try I-formation and fake moves to get your opponents out of their rhythms, before backing up.
 

socallefty

Legend
If your partner is getting broken every time, try something different in terms of formation or calling intentional poaches. Nothing worse than when your partner steps up to serve and everyone knows he has no chance to hold serve playing conventionally with 1-back - might as well try something else.
 

RajS

Semi-Pro
Well, there's no escaping the fact that you are a sitting duck if your partner has a weak second serve. When I am in that situation, I just try to play mind games with my opponents.
 

Dragy

Legend
For the rec level it strongly depends if returners go at you (and execute well) off weak 2nd serves. If they hesitate more than not, or try to drill the alley rather than your chest, it's good to be at the net, in my opinion. They might go for strong CC shots most of the time, and here you've already done your job shrinking the court for them, and there's a chance to poach here and there.
Now if your net position gets exploited repeatedly, no sense in holding it. I doubt mindgames would work if the returner can just smack it hard onto you. Falling back improves your defences, and they now have to come up with some solid attack, take the net, play your DTM dipping passes or lobs after taking the net. Some good chances there.

But overall, if your partner is not occasional or random, I'd encourage him to develop more reliable 1st serve and possibly hit same serve (without sharp placement) as a second serve. If his serve is solid, not below 40% all-in swatting heater, it's much more rewarding and fun to play without putty-puff 2nd serves. DFs will happen eventually, but who cares?
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
Its doubles. no need for a strong 1st serve. have him get the 1st serves IN so you dont have to worry. Set up some preplanned poaches or set up ausie and keep the returner worried about the net guy more than their return.
 

Dishiki

Rookie
If my partner has a weak 2nd serve (or a very weak 1st serve), I'll stand several feet (a meter or more) inside the BL. If the return appears to be coming deep, in my direction, I'll quickly take a couple steps back and play the return aggressively (if possible).

If the serve return is headed in my direction, but short, I'll move in to play the shot, and then take up a position at the net (about 2-3 meters off the net, actually) after an appropriate response.

OTOH, if I see that the serve return is directed toward my partner, the server, I'll take this opportunity to move in quickly to take up a position at the net (about 2-3 meters off net). Since I had started at a position inside the BL, it is relatively easy for me to take up an offensive position at the net in this situation

If the serve is really weak, then I will talk to my partner about taking a ton off the first to get it in. Going two back is so difficult from 3.0-4.5. If I am returning and they go two back my partner or I are on the net in the middle of the court. If it's a weak serve, you return a good middle ball and the net guy cleans up. There is no angle to hit a great shot, and if you have a good net player, you can put it away nearly every time. On the off chance a good lob is thrown up, the returner can retrieve and reset the point. It is really difficult to win consistently 2 back.

If my partner has a really weak 2nd serve, I just move more. Make them think I am poaching or actually poach. They have alot of time to think, so get in their heads on the returns. No strategy is optimal in this situation, but I am never successful two back, because if the serve is that weak, you aren't getting meatball returns.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
If the serve is really weak, then I will talk to my partner about taking a ton off the first to get it in. Going two back is so difficult from 3.0-4.5. If I am returning and they go two back my partner or I are on the net in the middle of the court. If it's a weak serve, you return a good middle ball and the net guy cleans up. There is no angle to hit a great shot, and if you have a good net player, you can put it away nearly every time. On the off chance a good lob is thrown up, the returner can retrieve and reset the point. It is really difficult to win consistently 2 back.

If my partner has a really weak 2nd serve, I just move more. Make them think I am poaching or actually poach. They have alot of time to think, so get in their heads on the returns. No strategy is optimal in this situation, but I am never successful two back, because if the serve is that weak, you aren't getting meatball returns.
Many players with weak 2nd serves are often too stubborn (or proud) to take much off their 1st serve to get a high % into play.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting a standard 2-back position. As the server's partner, I'm actually standing in NML (somewhat deep) so that I'm not a target for opponents who tee off on the server's weak serve. It also puts me in a position where I can get to the net easily in many situations to play short balls &/or to be in a more aggressive position. If I play too deep in a 2-back orientation, we then become highly susceptible to a drop shot return.

I never played doubs as a 3.0 player. I started using the offset 2-back positioning as a 3.5 player. Found that it worked quite well at that level as well as at a 4.0 level. Truthfully, at the 4.5 level, I was no longer seeing partners with significantly weak 2nd serves.
 
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EddieBrock

Professional
Sounds like there a lot of good options besides just standing there as a target like I did.

In this case I wasn't getting drilled at the net, but I've had it happen before and I feel very uncomfortable up there when the opponent is returning when I see a 2nd serve they are ripping cross court.

Once they got the return in play we lost almost every point since my partner was on the defensive and the opposing net player had a chance to poach a floater from him or he'd go for a winner on the defense and miss it more often that not. The funny thing is we won most points off his 1st serve as they'd miss the return/I'd get an easy volley/he started the point of offense and could win a rally then.

So maybe Australian, I or even starting back a bit would give them a different look.
 
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