Should both players go to the net? Frank loves tennis and I’ve known him for years. He plays mixed and mens doubles.
If all levels on the court are equal and you and your partner are mid court volley competent then both going to the net is a better strategy. See my last post on time and motion for doubles. There are some times when both going up isn’t a good idea: You or your partner cannot cover a well placed lob causing switching to occur too often or there is limited mobility to hunt down lobs, your opponent’s groundstrokes are simply too hot to handle for one or both of you, or the other team is playing one up and one back creating a neutral formation on the court.
The priorities of a team’s strengths and weakness may outweigh the “two up” preferred strategy. Nothing ever is cast in stone but being able to play both up is the mark of a more well rounded doubles player.
When should the Australian doubles formation be used? Scott plays in Florida and I’ve met his Dad who also is a great player and pro.
If your opponent has a strong cross court return making it tough on your partner server to volley and too difficult to poach at net then try having your net partner line up on the same side of the court as the server takes this shot away. Now the receiver is forced to change the direction of the ball if the serve is placed wide in the box, hit over the highest part of the net, with the least amount of court available. This alone can create an error if timing hasn’t been established on this shot. The net player can also fake causing further disruption.
A great time to use this is on a key point, causing additional pressure on the receiver to hit a shot they are not grooved to hit. This can get your team an easy point.
Note: if the receiver has a laser ability up the line this can cause trouble in the Australian formation. It should be tested at some point in the match to see how effective it is before or at least have a quick discussion with your partner about the outside return capability before using it.
Note: Serving a ball down the middle creates a natural wrap around down the line on the righty forehand in the ad court. That isn’t a great play to run in my opinion. Also if your partner is a weak server that can pose more problems running the Australian.
How to be better net partner?
I’ve seen Anastassiya play and she covers the court very well and is always improving her shots. She is a powerful ground-stroker. In general to be a better net partner you have to know your partner’s and opponent’s shot tendencies and finish points with angles and placements that score points.
If the ball is above the net and easier to handle go to the short side with your volley or overhead not back to the deep court player.
If you are in the back court and your partner is hitting an easy volley or overhead you should take a free pass to the net and join them.
When your partner is serving it is a good idea to fake a poach and occasionally poach to disrupt the receiver’s timing.
Also talking to your server about any weaker return capability’s of the receiver sets up more volley opportunities for you at the net.
Following the serve (shading wide or to the middle) when playing net puts you in better position to cover the return and prevent passes on your side that you should be able to cover.
Finally, adjusting your distance from the net based upon the time and motion of your opponent is key. See my Time and Motion post on doubles. You can fake your opponent to create a shot you want if you know how to time it. Example: your partner hits a deep groundstroke and you take one step in from the service line as if you are going to close tighter to the net but then quickly adjust back to the service line, baiting for a lob to smash. Another example: your parter hits a short low ball down the middle; you should close the net toward the middle and be ready to poach.
These are some examples of how to be a better net partner.