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.