One of the key tactical mistakes doubles teams frequently make, is that they completely underestimate their opponent’s ability to execute a variety of shots during a big tennis match. Inexperienced doubles teams assume that all doubles teams will hit lobs when they are in trouble and this is simply not true.
“There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.” George Armstrong Custer.
Over the course of the last five weeks, I have viewed four different tournaments and have also observed several league matches and I have noted one huge mistake teams continually make. Top doubles teams possess strong volleys and their goal is to win the net. However, far too many recreational doubles players fail to see their position advantage and quickly flee to the backcourt. Simply stated, if both players have good volleys and strong overheads, it is vital to stay at the net. So, it begs the question.” Why would a doubles player give up a winning strategy and retreat to the baseline?”
One-At lower levels of tennis, many net players do not see the lob coming and no-one runs after the ball thus, giving up the point. Two-One of the players positioned at the net is always anticipating the lob from the opponents and wishes to get a good jump on the ball and are now able to fetch the shot. However, as players climb the ladder in tennis (the best 3.0 players and above)they have other tricks up their sleeves and will quickly abandon the lob tactic and hit a different stroke. Specifically, as one of the foes begins to move backwards, the opponents will strike a forceful ball at their feet. And believe me, it is so obvious for an experienced team to see that one player is running backwards when she shouldn’t be moving in that direction at all!
“What do you do when your team moves forward and the other team usually tosses up a lob?”
First and most important, take the time to discuss strategy with your partner and make sure you are on the same page. For example, “I’m coming in on his serve and will hit the ball to his backhand and he has lobbed down the line every time, so be ready to go back and hit the overhead,” I suggested to my teammate. As long as the seed is planted in your mind, most lobs will not go over your head. In other words, try to stay one step ahead of your opponent and then you will not be surprised at what is coming next. Please understand at the higher levels of tennis, great doubles players frequently win the net and make it almost impossible to defeat this method. With March Madness just over, I offer this basketball analogy. Doubles teams who dominate from the net are similar to basketball teams dominating the boards and often shooting from close distances. In other words, great ‘volleyers’ intimidate the ‘groundstrokers’ to constantly over-hit their shots and routinely miss easy strokes. There is also a big energy difference when we compare volleys versus groundstrokes. A well-positioned net team often moves little to strike a volley but the baseliner must contend with moving his feet and his body in a very vigorous manner. One of the many reasons the Bryan brothers dominate at the ATP Tour level is that they quickly win the net and wear their opponents down.
The next time you hit the doubles court, stick with your winning plan. If you play well hitting balls in the air, hold your position and you will start to win easy points and dominate matches. Good luck.
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.