To be able to cover a tennis singles tennis court by ground and air is a physical challenge. The basic strategy comes from the geometry of the tennis court.
The geometry of the court is a rectangle. Four points to remember when hitting a cross court shot: 1.) When you hit a ball over the center of the net it has less height to attain clearance. 2.) There is more court available for landing the ball in play. 3.) The natural rotation of a balanced body is toward the cross court. 4.) You have less court to recover your position for a cross court than the down the line shot. These four factors make a “Cross Court Shot” the percentage shot! If you are running fast and arrive late to the ball a lob cross court high and deep may be needed to get back into the point. By hitting your outside cross court and deep to your opponent with any type of spin or flat you have neutralized your opponent. If you hit your cross court short you give your opponent opportunities to attack in various ways. Having the ability to hold a deep cross court rally patiently without changing the line of the ball whimsically is a “bread and butter” play that you should practice in your drill sessions. Whenever your opponent goes up the line on your deep cross court shot you can now make a “butterfly wing”. If you stay in deep cross court rally’s, the butterfly will come to you. Be patient and the butterfly will come. Take a look at the diagrams of the butterfly patterns for both righty and lefty players. Be sure to include steady deep cross court training in your practices and match play tool box. I realize my diagrams are a bit crude. In the future I hope to provide a more artful illustration.
How to use your forehand in singles as a weapon is an art form. After you learn to hit steady Butterfly Patterns you can learn how to make your inside forehand open up the court by making your opponent hit outside shots on the run! This will create “opportunity balls” that will lead to rally finishing opportunities. Know that these plays take time to master, require quick ball recognition, with solid footwork and aggressiveness. Both left and right handed players will benefit from these shot selection patterns. These Fortissimo Forehands do not cancel the Butterfly Patterns, they add to them. When blended correctly together a fine game of moving chess is played on a large rectangle where cunning, quickness, anticipation, court awareness, technique, strengths and weaknesses, confidence, consistency, power, spin, and style all come into play.
Regardless of your style of play there comes a time when you must approach the net to play winning doubles. There are two positions that have this possibility on the court— the serve and / or the receiver. This is assuming both teams line up in the traditional one up and one back formations. The pattern today is the receiver approach. If the server and the receiver are in a cross court rally away from the net players then either position may elect to cross court approach and join their partner at the net. The example here in Doubles 102 is the receiver approach.
First, you should always be ready to move forward as a receiver. The server can hit a tough dink serve and catch you off guard sitting back expecting a hard serve. That being said, servers tend to repeat similar types of serves and locations, over and over again. Taking a weak second serve with a compact drive or chip deep to the server gives you time to get about one foot inside the service line in the defensive volley zone. Your partner who is in the hot seat should move directly forward if your return clears the opposing net player.
An exception to this would be if the server lobs consistently and neutralizes this strategy. In this case the receiver’s partner should not close in tight to the net. This balances the receivers court with two players standing one foot inside the service box in the defensive up position while the other team is one up and one back. This is a disadvantage to that team as they now have two players who can volley in front of them. And their one up one back position now is more limiting. Keep in mind that this assumes all players are around the same level. A stronger player on the court is capable of forcing errors while playing up or back and can cover their partner’s court at a high level of proficiency.
The receiver’s team while at the net tries to make their opponents play balls off groundstroke while the one up one back team is trying to keep the ball low or lobbing deep by using topspin, slice or touch to create an approach opportunity for the back court server to form a two up verses two up, a balanced court formation thereby neutralizing the court.
Where do I stand? Where do I go? Over the next few weeks I’ll cover doubles in great detail with positioning plays to assist you with decision making on the court. These plays will help you adjust to your partner and plan for percentage tennis rather than just hitting the ball and see what happens. A good position makes you a tougher player to beat for sure.
The first play I’m showing here is follow the ball. Follow the ball in a one up net position and a one back baseline position. The baseline players are trading cross court diagonal groundstrokes while their partners move diagonally in the service box between offensive and defensive volley positions. The offensive zone volleyer is looking to put the ball away while the defensive volley player is guarding the middle at mid court. The defensive volley player is hoping that their partner can hit strong shots and keep their groundstrokes away from the offensive volleyer who is close to the net.
Please take a look at the image I’ve drawn marking the original positions of all four players and the adjustments made by the two opposing net players. As you can see everyone on the court has a job to do. You must do your job.
Podcast with Sports Psychologist Jerry Reid, Coach Kevin Pease, and Educational Therapist, Alexis Reid
Jerry Reid, one of my students from the Saturday morning clinic and his sister, Alexis Reid interviewed me in the Back Bay section of Boston at a sound studio. Jerry and Alexis work with athletes and non-athletes helping make their lives better. This podcast reviews a little history regarding my life of tennis, and influences that have occurred in my coaching. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening. youtu.be/P3DZvbnR9F8
Jeff Salzenstein does a great job explaining the rotation of your upper body as well as using space behind your back to create power and flow for the serve. Another variation of this exercise is to start with the racquet pulled back more. This may be easier to time when you practice with your racquet up. I highly recommend this type of serving practice. youtube.com/shorts/jTXDrAjxFJA?feature=share
Here are three basic tips for your forehand. It doesn’t mean you have to have the same stroke. Everyone has a different style. But no matter your style, remember this: get your shoulders turned and racquet loaded before the bounce! get your feet planted to distribute into the ball, and move your body forward in the direction you are hitting through the ball. These three elements should be included in your forehand. Enjoy this short clip. youtu.be/hIC2n0A4Dek
Nik and Shamir demystify the one handed backhand through a series of soft toss drills that show how to widen your base (creates more shoulder rotation), heel toe closed stance drives, emergency open to closed stance on the run, and defending the high heavy backhand deep back in the back court using a semi-open stance, hitting off the back leg. A little gem of advice describing “vertical swing path” on lower and deep high balls is revealed. A great way to practice these techniques would be to bring a bag of balls out to the court and practice soft tossing feeds that allow you to practice the various types of footwork that need adjusting based on ball height and depth in the court. I have to give this video five stars. youtu.be/oLKPPTsV5C0
The volley technique that Nik is suggesting is spot on! Squeeze and freeze is really the perfect way to describe the sensation of how to “feel the volley.” I’ve used this tip for years. It’s not new. The path of the racquet head and how to execute the shot is described perfectly. I know my personal coach when I was young, in high school, John Fournier had the fastest hands I’d ever seen. He was a boxer growing up and is volleys were crazy good. He always leaned forward with his waist a bit, telling me that this gets you moving forward and helps keeps your elbows out in front. Nik’s student, Shamir is a 4.5 player, and eagerly listens to Nik’s sage advice with great enthusiasm. Nik gets Shamir to shorten his follow-through, squeeze and freeze while he shows him how to adjust for fast balls, and softer pace balls. The footwork explained is well done, show how moving two extra steps after contact prevents lunging and dumping the ball in the net. I I’ve this video five stars. youtu.be/9hr7YPAGgWs
Jeff Salzenstein shows us how to dominate the net when our partner is serving. It’s a great way to stay proactive and not become a fixture at the net.
Have you ever played a doubles game and the opponents serve could hardly break an egg and they held serve. The first time was a fluke you thought. The second time it happens again. And that’s not the worst of it. Your partner served great but got broken twice. Ouch!!!!And it seems as if your partner can’t play consistent enough to win but comes really close. Even your opponents congratulate the great power your partner’s losing serve! Wow.
You’ve got to take over the net from the receivers starting the first game. You’ve got to get in their heads, get free points, put away middle balls, and your partner will look like an all-star. Your partner won’t get broken. If you both employ this strategy you’re headed for at least a tie-break. Guess what, you’ll have less pressure to break the weak server, and if you play your cards right, you win the set 6-3, 6-4, or 7-5, all from adjusting how you play the net as the server’s partner. This truly is the secret sauce.