Friday, December 2, 2022

Are you ready to break all of the rules?


Doug Browne

Ok. I’m guilty. I’ve told my ladies teams hundreds of times to hit crosscourt. Yes, I even yelled, hit all of your returns crosscourt so you play the high percentages. And, this particular strategy works for all levels of play. However, I am offering a new plan. In no way am I suggesting that a conservative plan is a bad idea; today’s suggestions are another way to attack your doubles opponent. Whether the net player poaches or not, it can be wise to hit your return down the line instead of crosscourt. Why? Most recreational doubles players do not like to face a ball coming right at them. Striking a forceful forehand drive at the net person could shake their confidence. Moreover, most tennis players try to avoid confrontation and when the ball is aimed right at the net player it is difficult to volley. My advice is to hit both the forehand drive and backhand drive down the line so the foes are kept off balance.

There is another big reason to hit the ball down the line… the receiving team is keeping the server out of the play and uninvolved. Therefore, the receivers are taking the ball out of the hands of the server and perhaps winning points with dynamic groundstroke drives at the net person. If you really wish to confuse your opponents, add the service return down the line lob and then move into the net. Again, the server is no longer facing a crosscourt stroke and may or may not have to fetch the return lob. In each case, the return team has added so much variety that is often confuses their opponents. If you would like to add the cherry on top of the dessert, hit a drop shot return of serve. Though risky, it can pay huge dividends as most doubles teams fail to switch and the server feels compelled to run thirty plus feet to get the short return. The smart way to handle the return ‘dropper’ is to have the net person cross over and switch and now can easily track down the ball. If the serving team fails to communicate with one another, the return drop shot will be a total nightmare.

Let’s review our new doubles court strategy that we’ve discussed today: First, abandon the smart, conservative approach and hit the return down the line, near the alley, instead of the reliable crosscourt pattern. Second, make sure to hit both the forehand and backhand drive right at the net opponent, not just the forehand drive. This plan will completely frustrate the serving team. Third, implement the service return down the line lob to thoroughly befuddle your opponents. Last, when your confidence is at an all-time high, adding the crosscourt service return drop shot will muddy the waters for the serving team. This precise and deft stroke is so difficult to defend, unless the net person switches, this short ball might be an outright winner!

USTA update: As reported recently, the USTA was ready to make across the board sweeping changes as far as junior tennis is concerned. Specifically, the USTA committees were ready to drastically limit the number of players at each tournament (64 draw was to move to 32), eliminate certain national events, incorporate the 10 and under plan and radically alter the collegiate game. To understand the real importance of limiting draws, one has to understand that the junior player who can travel to numerous events undoubtedly accumulates points for their rankings. So, limiting draws favors the wealthy kids. Soon, we would see the same kids at each tournament site but not necessarily the best players. Without going into too many specifics, the USTA was facing criticism from players, coaches, parents and leaders in the sport of tennis. So, at last week’s USTA meeting, it was determined that many of the major changes were temporarily shelved! Stay tuned.

Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.

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