Why Can't Tennis Players Agree on Much of Anything?

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I had a frustrating weekend of tennis. Just social matches with a variety of 3.5-4.0 people. Some teammates, some friends. And I left with a question: Why can't rec tennis players agree on the simplest things?

In the course of a few days, I have been told that:

The DTL player in a staggered net formation should not play any ball going up the middle.

If one player transitions to net, the other should backpedal furiously.

In a one-up, one-back formation, the deep player should call switches on lobs over the net player's head.

Players should not poach with their BH.

All that, volunteered by partners in just one weekend. And if people are volunteering this stuff as gospel, heaven only knows what nonsense is banging around in their heads that they aren't voicing?

That doesn't even begin to cover some of the horrific positioning I'm seeing. One example. After some back and forth during a critical point, both of us were at the baseline, me deuce, partner ad, partner slightly in no-man's land. Ad side opponent hits a crosscourt ball that lands near the T but is angling away from me. My partner rushes forward, which I believed meant she was going to hit a FH approach shot. Instead, she ran right past the ball, apparently expecting me to play it. She later explained that she wasn't planning to hit a FH approach, but was instead just planning to go to the net while I hit the ball. OK, this is obviously wrong on so many levels I don't even know what to do. First, she is closer to the ball and to the net, with the ball angling toward her, so why not hit it? Second, how am I supposed to know she is planning a faux approach shot? Third, she doesn't know what kind of shot I'm about to hit -- what if I send it straight to the net player or she poaches -- so shouldn't she wait to move foward until my ball clears the net player? Fourth, if she is going to inexplicably lay off any ball headed toward her, shouldn't she, you know, say something to me, like "You!"

This is becoming beyond frustrating. We're 3.5s. None of us hits the ball so well and so consistently that we can afford to make egregious mistakes in positioning, communication, and shot selection. I don't get it. Surely people aren't learning these mistakes from teaching pros. And, well . . . we have the internet now. Anyone who wants to learn about doubles tactics can study themselves silly. So what gives?
 
I had a frustrating weekend of tennis. Just social matches with a variety of 3.5-4.0 people. Some teammates, some friends. And I left with a question: Why can't rec tennis players agree on the simplest things?
Probably because everyone gets information from different sources and everyone thinks their source is authoritative but not everyone can reason through a recommendation to deduce what the answer should be.

That's assuming they remembered the information correctly; they could have it 180 degrees out of sync.

In the course of a few days, I have been told that:

The DTL player in a staggered net formation should not play any ball going up the middle.
I wonder if the offerer of the advice would feel the same if the opponent violated that rule and slammed a volley into her feet.

If one player transitions to net, the other should backpedal furiously.
I had a partner in 4.0 league who would do that. I think he was operating on the assumption that the sum of the distances between us and the net had to remain constant, otherwise known as Newton's Law of Conservation of Net Distance.

In a one-up, one-back formation, the deep player should call switches on lobs over the net player's head.
I don't mind the deep partner calling "switch" or "mine" to let the net man know he's there if he can't get it but it's going to be the net man's decision whether to take the OH.

Players should not poach with their BH.
See hypothetical scenario #1.

All that, volunteered by partners in just one weekend. And if people are volunteering this stuff as gospel, heaven only knows what nonsense is banging around in their heads that they aren't voicing?
Unfortunately, you have next-level doubles knowledge [IMO, you're just as knowledgeable as my partners at 4.5 Men's and 9.0 MXDs] but you're stuck playing with lesser-knowledgeable people. And, further unfortunately, if the majority is wrong, they'll still think they're right because they're the majority. Rationale won't necessarily change their mind, certainly not on-the-fly; maybe some carefully-curated YT videos will show them how it's done.

That doesn't even begin to cover some of the horrific positioning I'm seeing. One example. After some back and forth during a critical point, both of us were at the baseline, me deuce, partner ad, partner slightly in no-man's land. Ad side opponent hits a crosscourt ball that lands near the T but is angling away from me. My partner rushes forward, which I believed meant she was going to hit a FH approach shot. Instead, she ran right past the ball, apparently expecting me to play it. She later explained that she wasn't planning to hit a FH approach, but was instead just planning to go to the net while I hit the ball. OK, this is obviously wrong on so many levels I don't even know what to do. First, she is closer to the ball and to the net, with the ball angling toward her, so why not hit it? Second, how am I supposed to know she is planning a faux approach shot? Third, she doesn't know what kind of shot I'm about to hit -- what if I send it straight to the net player or she poaches -- so shouldn't she wait to move foward until my ball clears the net player? Fourth, if she is going to inexplicably lay off any ball headed toward her, shouldn't she, you know, say something to me, like "You!"

This is becoming beyond frustrating. We're 3.5s. None of us hits the ball so well and so consistently that we can afford to make egregious mistakes in positioning, communication, and shot selection. I don't get it. Surely people aren't learning these mistakes from teaching pros. And, well . . . we have the internet now. Anyone who wants to learn about doubles tactics can study themselves silly. So what gives?
People just assume that what they know is correct so there's no need to check one's knowledge. if they've been playing for decades, that's understandable.

I feel your pain in a detached, academic sort of way since very few of my partners these days have those kinds of knowledge gaps. For the most part, we know what we're supposed to do; whether we can execute is the key.

How do you feel about playing up? Because that seems to be where you belong. I'd love to play MXDs with you.
 

Matthew ATX

Semi-Pro
Different things work differently at different levels. I think that's part of it.

"If one player transitions to net, the other should backpedal furiously." This is an absolutely idiotic statement at my level (4.0-4.5) that not one single person I play with or against would ever utter with a straight face. But maybe it's valid with 3.0 ladies in a match against lob queens? Idk.
 

silentkman

Semi-Pro
I had a frustrating weekend of tennis. Just social matches with a variety of 3.5-4.0 people. Some teammates, some friends. And I left with a question: Why can't rec tennis players agree on the simplest things?

In the course of a few days, I have been told that:

The DTL player in a staggered net formation should not play any ball going up the middle.

If one player transitions to net, the other should backpedal furiously.

In a one-up, one-back formation, the deep player should call switches on lobs over the net player's head.

Players should not poach with their BH.

All that, volunteered by partners in just one weekend. And if people are volunteering this stuff as gospel, heaven only knows what nonsense is banging around in their heads that they aren't voicing?

That doesn't even begin to cover some of the horrific positioning I'm seeing. One example. After some back and forth during a critical point, both of us were at the baseline, me deuce, partner ad, partner slightly in no-man's land. Ad side opponent hits a crosscourt ball that lands near the T but is angling away from me. My partner rushes forward, which I believed meant she was going to hit a FH approach shot. Instead, she ran right past the ball, apparently expecting me to play it. She later explained that she wasn't planning to hit a FH approach, but was instead just planning to go to the net while I hit the ball. OK, this is obviously wrong on so many levels I don't even know what to do. First, she is closer to the ball and to the net, with the ball angling toward her, so why not hit it? Second, how am I supposed to know she is planning a faux approach shot? Third, she doesn't know what kind of shot I'm about to hit -- what if I send it straight to the net player or she poaches -- so shouldn't she wait to move foward until my ball clears the net player? Fourth, if she is going to inexplicably lay off any ball headed toward her, shouldn't she, you know, say something to me, like "You!"

This is becoming beyond frustrating. We're 3.5s. None of us hits the ball so well and so consistently that we can afford to make egregious mistakes in positioning, communication, and shot selection. I don't get it. Surely people aren't learning these mistakes from teaching pros. And, well . . . we have the internet now. Anyone who wants to learn about doubles tactics can study themselves silly. So what gives?
Tennis is not that complicated. Once you start thinking too much, its over.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I had a particular person in mind. I had such high hopes. She recently switched her FH grip to SW, and regardless of whether you think that is necessary or appropriate at 3.5, to me it shows someone who is willing to make a difficult and fundamental change and stick with it in the belief it will improve her tennis.

Then I come to find her mind has been ruined by wrongheaded thinking about positioning while two-up (don't hit your BH volley, DTL player shouldn't play a crosscourt volley even if she can reach it). How are we ever going to be successful two-at-net if she won't cover anything but her alley? I assume this comes from years of one-up, one-back tennis where letting a ball go through to your baseline partner doesn't usually result in a loss of point, or playing mixed where your stronger male partner can play that ball just fine.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
 
I had a particular person in mind. I had such high hopes. She recently switched her FH grip to SW, and regardless of whether you think that is necessary or appropriate at 3.5, to me it shows someone who is willing to make a difficult and fundamental change and stick with it in the belief it will improve her tennis.

Then I come to find her mind has been ruined by wrongheaded thinking about positioning while two-up (don't hit your BH volley, DTL player shouldn't play a crosscourt volley even if she can reach it). How are we ever going to be successful two-at-net if she won't cover anything but her alley? I assume this comes from years of one-up, one-back tennis where letting a ball go through to your baseline partner doesn't usually result in a loss of point, or playing mixed where your stronger male partner can play that ball just fine.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
How receptive is she to...uh, suggestion? If not from you, how about you set up a private lesson both of you and a coach that knows doubles well and is a good teacher? Tell the coach what you want to accomplish and the particular trouble spots you anticipate.

Also, how is her net game? Maybe she believes those things because she has a weak net game and assumes everyone else does also. Maybe she believes 2 up is an inherently weak position.
 
definitely not at 3.5 or 4.0 level
All levels of doubles deal with complications; just because the skill level is not as high doesn't mean the complications aren't challenging for the people at that level. It may be trivial to a higher level player but it's obviously not trivial to them. It's easy to think "just have the partner do X [and Y, and Z, and A, and...].". But if the partner is unaware of those things, she isn't going to do them.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Because the world is full of Monday morning quarterbacks who think that you did something wrong every time you lose a point, and feel the need to justify their own actions.

We posted literally 27 seconds of doubles played by @S&V-not_dead_yet and me, one single point, and got six different opinions on why the point was lost by the losing team when the point could have gone either way by either team getting a tiny bit more oomph or better location on a shot.

J
 
Dubs is not that complicated, one player covers the deuce side and one covers the add side. Each player is responsible for the lobs and drop shots on their sides. Adjust as needed for differentials in movement abilities. Move towards the net in unison to minimize the angles given to opponent's, keeping partner in peripheral vision. Dubs is won at the net--it's serve and volley--not swerve and retreat.

P.s., If both teams are playing one-up/one-back, as you see even the "pros" doing now, they cancel each other out (and look stupid). Leander Paes and Martina Hingis made a great mixed team!
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
Dubs is not that complicated, one player covers the deuce side and one covers the add side. Each player is responsible for the lobs and drop shots on their sides. Adjust as needed for differentials in movement abilities. Move towards the net in unison to minimize the angles given to opponent's, keeping partner in peripheral vision. Dubs is won at the net--it's serve and volley--not swerve and retreat.

P.s., If both teams are playing one-up/one-back, as you see even the "pros" doing now, they cancel each other out (and look stupid). Leander Paes and Martina Hingis made a great mixed team!
Wow.

J
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I am confused by one description and trying to picture it in real life:
"while two up .... DTL player should not play cross-court volley even if they can get to it"

What does that mean? DTL player should in fact scamper across the net in front of partner to get to a ball on the other side? I am certain that is not what you mean.

If you can instead of focusing on positioning per se, come to an agreement as to where a player should hit the ball I think you may have much better results. Doesn't matter where a player is standing if they hit the ball to the wrong place.
 
I am confused by one description and trying to picture it in real life:
"while two up .... DTL player should not play cross-court volley even if they can get to it"
I think this is referring to the DTL poaching the middle ball.

The idea of never taking the volley is ludicrous: if the DTL person is closer to the net and has an offensive volley lined up, he should absolutely take it.

Are there situations where the DTL net person is better off leaving the middle ball? Of course:
- DTL net person isn't a good volleyer [you might ask why is that person playing doubles but that's a different thread]
- Volley will be difficult
- DTL net person has a so-so BH volley vs the CC person who has a great FH volley
- DTL net person doesn't know where to go after the poach and thus CC partner doesn't know where to cover
- Volley would leave the DTL net person off-balance and out of position [even then I'd tell my partner to go for it if he felt like he could win the point or force a sitter]

It would seem like an idea of never taking the volley is pushed by coaches coaching low-level players that mess up such a play much more often than succeed. While it may produce better results in the short-run, it is likely a mistake in the long-run.
 
Because the world is full of Monday morning quarterbacks who think that you did something wrong every time you lose a point, and feel the need to justify their own actions.

We posted literally 27 seconds of doubles played by @S&V-not_dead_yet and me, one single point, and got six different opinions on why the point was lost by the losing team when the point could have gone either way by either team getting a tiny bit more oomph or better location on a shot.
And roughly half of those 27 seconds was dead time after the point!

I'm guilty of MMQing and I was one of the participants! "I could have hit my first volley at a sharper angle and finished the point."; "I should have run around my BH and hit a FH volley instead"; etc. It's easy to fall into this trap because we're watching the video [which slows everything down] and can leisurely watch replays and single frame-by-frame to pinpoint where the mistake was made. In real life, it's "bam, bam, bam, point finished" with no "re-dos".
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I think this is referring to the DTL poaching the middle ball.

The idea of never taking the volley is ludicrous: if the DTL person is closer to the net and has an offensive volley lined up, he should absolutely take it.

Are there situations where the DTL net person is better off leaving the middle ball? Of course:
- DTL net person isn't a good volleyer [you might ask why is that person playing doubles but that's a different thread]
- Volley will be difficult
- DTL net person has a so-so BH volley vs the CC person who has a great FH volley
- DTL net person doesn't know where to go after the poach and thus CC partner doesn't know where to cover
- Volley would leave the DTL net person off-balance and out of position [even then I'd tell my partner to go for it if he felt like he could win the point or force a sitter]

It would seem like an idea of never taking the volley is pushed by coaches coaching low-level players that mess up such a play much more often than succeed. While it may produce better results in the short-run, it is likely a mistake in the long-run.
Perhaps I was too hung up on the part of the description that began While Two Up and pictured both players at net/serviceline

The rest of it ... yes
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
Ah, yes. The “know-it-all” recreational doubles player! In reality, at best, they know just enough to be dangerous. At worst, they don’t know sh*t. To top it off, these are the people that coach their peers during matches, which is one way that dumb ideas about doubles spread.

About all you can do is try to steer clear of people like this - keep them off your teams, avoid playing with them, etc. Which in fairness, may be easier said than done.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
It would seem like an idea of never taking the volley is pushed by coaches coaching low-level players that mess up such a play much more often than succeed. While it may produce better results in the short-run, it is likely a mistake in the long-run.
I don’t doubt that there are (bad) coaches out there coaching that. IMHO if your coach is telling you to do this, find a new coach.

I suspect poor strategy like this is also largely perpetuated by “peer coaching.” For example, I spend the whole match poaching, making an absolute killing. First time my opponents beat me with a pass up the line, my partner comes to me and tells me I need to cover the line and “stay on my side.” Riiiiiiight.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I don’t doubt that there are (bad) coaches out there coaching that. IMHO if your coach is telling you to do this, find a new coach.

I suspect poor strategy like this is also largely perpetuated by “peer coaching.” For example, I spend the whole match poaching, making an absolute killing. First time my opponents beat me with a pass up the line, my partner comes to me and tells me I need to cover the line and “stay on my side.” Riiiiiiight.
Totally agree. However . . .

I also poach a lot, depending on the situation. Sometimes I am amazing. Other times, for whatever reason, my poaches are not helping us. In those cases, I can see that I am not helping and **I will be more conservative with my poach attempts.**

Nobody has to tell me that, though. If I miss a couple -- not talking about getting passed down the line but talking about hitting bad shots or missing entirely -- I will adjust.

I do sometimes play with ladies who seem to have no idea that they aren't doing well with their poaches. I had a situation a few matches ago in which my partner poached off of my serve four consecutive times and dumped each one into the net, costing us that game at love.

How, though? After the second or third miss, how do you not think to yourself, "Wow, I'm having an off night, so I am not going to stick my racket out and dive across the net for a poach anymore tonight."

Four straight poaches into the net? Aren't you *embarrassed?*
 
I don’t doubt that there are (bad) coaches out there coaching that. IMHO if your coach is telling you to do this, find a new coach.
The problem is that the player might just accept everything the coach says as gospel.

I suspect poor strategy like this is also largely perpetuated by “peer coaching.” For example, I spend the whole match poaching, making an absolute killing. First time my opponents beat me with a pass up the line, my partner comes to me and tells me I need to cover the line and “stay on my side.” Riiiiiiight.
The school of thought seems to be that getting burned DTL is a cardinal sin and is to be avoided no matter what the [opportunity] cost. Simple math would show that the poaching is a net positive [and if it's not, stop poaching so much]. But dogma beats math.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
The problem is that the player might just accept everything the coach says as gospel.



The school of thought seems to be that getting burned DTL is a cardinal sin and is to be avoided no matter what the [opportunity] cost. Simple math would show that the poaching is a net positive [and if it's not, stop poaching so much]. But dogma beats math.
Jolly says if you don't get beat dtl twice a set you aren't going enough.

J
 
I had a situation a few matches ago in which my partner poached off of my serve four consecutive times and dumped each one into the net, costing us that game at love.

How, though? After the second or third miss, how do you not think to yourself, "Wow, I'm having an off night, so I am not going to stick my racket out and dive across the net for a poach anymore tonight."

Four straight poaches into the net? Aren't you *embarrassed?*
Again, it's probably a coach who said "poaching is good" so your partner just heard that and didn't stop to think about what to do if it wasn't good. Too dogmatic.

Some players, I can't blame: they are struggling at their current level and dogma is a lot simpler than thinking for oneself. To make an analogy, when I'm a poor swimmer, I don't worry about stroke count and VO2max and which hand I'm going to use to touch the opposite wall. If I'm a poor swimmer, I worry about drowning.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
@Cindysphinx IME 3.5’s and even 4.0’s who have your kind of aggressive mindset, and the ability to realize during the match (logically) what is/isn’t working and how to adjust...simply aren’t the norm.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
The problem is that the player might just accept everything the coach says as gospel.
I totally agree. It’s not unlike other sports in that good coaching isn’t a given.

The school of thought seems to be that getting burned DTL is a cardinal sin and is to be avoided no matter what the [opportunity] cost. Simple math would show that the poaching is a net positive [and if it's not, stop poaching so much]. But dogma beats math.
Indeed it is.

I’m not saying coaches aren’t responsible for myths like that. That said, I suspect players play a role in perpetuating said myths as well.
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
Because the world is full of Monday morning quarterbacks who think that you did something wrong every time you lose a point, and feel the need to justify their own actions.

We posted literally 27 seconds of doubles played by @S&V-not_dead_yet and me, one single point, and got six different opinions on why the point was lost by the losing team when the point could have gone either way by either team getting a tiny bit more oomph or better location on a shot.

J
Link? I must have missed it. I need to add a 7th and correct one.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
Hate when partners don’t go at all. Or worse, they go a couple of times, until they flag one volley...then they won’t go on anything.

Or, the doubles player who won’t close the net out of fear that, “they might lob me.”
 

n8dawg6

Legend
And roughly half of those 27 seconds was dead time after the point!

I'm guilty of MMQing and I was one of the participants! "I could have hit my first volley at a sharper angle and finished the point."; "I should have run around my BH and hit a FH volley instead"; etc. It's easy to fall into this trap because we're watching the video [which slows everything down] and can leisurely watch replays and single frame-by-frame to pinpoint where the mistake was made. In real life, it's "bam, bam, bam, point finished" with no "re-dos".
unless you buy mulligans ... or drink beer, which i hear slows time down and allows for more thoughtful shot placement
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
@mad dog1 has the only footage. He is guarding it like an original Monet even though it's more akin to two idiots drawing on a placemat with crayons.

J
“And I always confuse Monet and Manet.”
“Now, which one married his mistress?”
“Monet.”
“Right, and then Manet had syphilis.”
“They also painted occasionally.”
 

mad dog1

G.O.A.T.
Because the world is full of Monday morning quarterbacks who think that you did something wrong every time you lose a point, and feel the need to justify their own actions.

We posted literally 27 seconds of doubles played by @S&V-not_dead_yet and me, one single point, and got six different opinions on why the point was lost by the losing team when the point could have gone either way by either team getting a tiny bit more oomph or better location on a shot.

J
Whichever team jolly was on was basically gonna win the point 80% of the time.
 
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