Doubles Volley Drills3/11/2022
Do you ever ask yourself, how can I practice for doubles? I'm just not where I want to be. The answer is yes you can! And there are so many good videos available online. Here are some great volley drills to practice:
Intro to the volley with Mike Bryan: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqgu-H2WVUA
Volley Drill: This is how to practice volley to baseliner. Notice the split step hop at contact of the ball. To me, this is living the dream! The Bryan Brothers! www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L8ak57V9KA
Poaching with four players: Cat and Mouse with the Bryans (Go where you think the ball is going to be!):
Volley to Volley Drill: Romanian Davis Cup (RDC drill) with the Bryans
How to hit a forehand volley correctly with the Bryans (split step in the air before your opponent hits the ball; you then can land and take off for the ball with correct timing!:
0 CommentsWhere do I Stand?2/23/2022
When I first began playing doubles I had very little knowledge as to why I was standing in the standard one up one back formation and serve and volley wasn't a top priority for me. As I got older players got younger and their returns came back like serves. I still depend upon my net partner to make quick kill of returns saving my strength for the next big serve.
When serving I desire quick points with lots of quality first and second serves. It is a time when I'll hold nothing back on that one shot. It is without question the most important shot in a game of doubles. You should position yourself as a server to place it to the receiver's weakest shot, typically the backhand, but not always!
And when I have a bad day serving it leads me back to my fan base, a flock of seagulls watching me practice hitting serves on a broken outdoor court into the wind by the sea. I'd say, that's the one. No, that won't do, it's not what I want at all. It was a freak lucky serve, non-replicable. Toss at one o'clock like Taylor Dent. This is the self talk I go through to this day.
I'll save writing more about the serve for another day. But it's importance must be stated here in the beginning of your journey of doubles. Without a good serve, doubles will be a tough day at the office. My digression is over.
There are general positions on the court that you should know to play doubles.
The starting positions:
“The server” is typically located half way between the doubles line and the center slash mark, staking claim to the middle of that half court. This allows the server to cover both the serving side and the back court of the net partner should a lob clear the smash zone of the net player, causing a retrieval by the server on the net player’s side of the court.
“The net player of the server” should take position six feet from the net, centering half way between the doubles line and the center service line. This position allows the net player to attack a middle return from the opponent and protect the alley. This position can be adjusted depending on where the ball is served and also if the opponent tends to lob frequently.
“The receiver” should stand in a position that draws a straight line from server to the receiver, and that line splits the receiver’s service box in half. If the server changes position then the receiver must adjust to keep the line through the service box straight to the server causing an equal division of the box. If the server stands wide in the court then the receiver would take a wide position. If the the server moves closer to the middle then the receiver must take a more middle position. If the server hits a weaker serve then the receiver should take position inside the baseline. If the server hits difficult hard serves then the receiver should back up behind the baseline. Alternatively the receiver may try blocking the return of serve early to reduce width the angle of return. The receiver should make calls on wide serves in the service box. “The receiver’s first job is to return the ball away from the net player.”
“The receiver’s partner” should take a position on the service line, facing 45 degrees to the back service line, close to the middle of the court. This allows the receiver’s partner to make good back service line calls and cover a volley from the server’s net player off the return of serve.
“Following the ball” as a net player: If the receiver of serve returns a ball cross court and clears the server’s net player, then the “receiver’s net player” should move up at a 45 degree angle toward the net (distance moved is determined by the speed of the ball, player’s ability to cover ground, and opponent’s tendencies) and cover the alley and potentially poach. At that point the “server’s net partner” should move back at a diagonal 45 degrees toward the center service line and cover the receiver’s net player in a defensive volley position. This “following the ball”ball movement by the net players occurs during the rally. This is a “diagonal shift.”
“A vertical shift” occurs when one or both players move toward the net. If two players are up and the other team is one up and one back then the team that is split will no longer diagonal shift as the opponents have taken the net position. It also occurs if two net players run back to retrieve a bouncing deep lob, hence giving up their net position to their opponents.
“A lateral shift” occurs when both members of a team move to the left or right based upon where they direct their ball. Lateral shifts occur in two up verses two back positions. This allows the team to cover the angle of return.
In general, two players up at net verses one up and one back is an advantage for the net team. That would be an offense verses defense positioning. Put-aways are easier for two up at net. One up and one back verses one up and one back is neutral. Two up verses two back is offense verses defense. Two up verses two up is neutral. It is best to be offensive, then neutral, then defensive. That being said, any formation can win if played by a team with better skill sets than their opponent’s.
0 CommentsDoubles Questions Answered from Scott, Frank and Anastassiya!2/17/2022
Doubles Questions Answered
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.
0 CommentsSingles Playbook2/16/2022
This time of year high school players from all over the country are thinking that tennis is just one month away. In New England it's typically the third Monday of March. I remember riding my bike on a sunny cold day down to the Sea Crest Hotel on windy Buzzard's Bay to practice my serve and hit against a backboard. I was a freshman. There were few guests staying in February. The Seagulls were there, my sentinels. I wanted to start for the team.
One: From playing matches I learned to keep the ball in play. It sounds so basic but it's true. Especially with sun, wind, and a host of other distractions that occur while playing outside.
Two: if the ball has been sliced or hit very weak and short you must get to the ball early and take it off the hop. If you don't the ball will play you and the elements now become the partner of your opponent. When you play outside you must be willing to run and recognize what the ball is doing before it hits the court!
Three: if the wind is at your back, use more topspin or aim lower to keep the ball in the court. Approaching the net can be easier with more power behind you and weakens your opponent’s pass. If the wind is in your face aim higher and hit harder. Also, drop shots and lobs are best hit into the wind. The ball plays tricks on your opponent.
Four: because the elements change conditions, managing them in your favor from the beginning is a good idea. Serving into the sun isn't fun. Plan for that from the coin toss on deciding which court to take. If you win the toss, let your opponent choose first, then you choose the correct selection based on their choice.
Five: cross courting the ball is a safer shot in a rally then down the line. Aim safely cross court (more court, lower net, natural rotation of your body) most of the time, and pick your long lines carefully, based upon your skill, the ball, and court available. If you hit cross court, recover to four feet from the middle slash mark to the side you just hit your shot. If you long line recover to the center slash mark. Bjorn Borg once said that he hits cross court most of the time and sometimes goes down the line. He won five Wimbledon titles in a row!
Six: if your opponent drop shots you and you are arriving late to the party then drop it back low and hold a net position.
Seven: try to hit your favorite shots most often while at the same time having your opponent hit their least favorite shots. Start figuring that out from the warm-up.
Eight: when forced out of the court sidelines lob the ball high cross court, and recover back to the baseline.
This post will be updated with more guidelines....stay tuned. Remember, tennis isn’t about doing a ton of amazing things, it’s about executing a few things amazingly well.
0 CommentsTennis Time & Motion2/14/2022
I was thinking that players often show their hand too early during a rally. And when you do this you allow your opponent to hit their smartest shot with little difficulty.
There are a few examples of this in doubles: taking a close middle or ally when playing net, closing the net too close when an opponent is in a baseline position, and standing on or inside the baseline when playing a back position.
If you stand too close to the middle at the net when your partner is serving, and the serve is easy to return, your opponent can hit a difficult passing shot down your ally, especially if they have a great outside shot. You may try standing there to taunt the receiver, then take a safer position closer to the ally after the ball has been served. this makes the receiver think and you've risked nothing but getting in their head that you are looking to poach.
If you stand too close to the ally you are giving your opponent a clear easy return path with no risk of a poach. This allows the receiver to get excellent timing on their returns. You need to show you can volley or smash their returns because of your net prowess (poach and smash ability).
If your partner returns a serve cross court and you
rush the net tight too soon, from your service line position, the receiver can lob you easily with time on their side and force your partner to have to play a difficult lob shot making them change direction. It's much better to take an off net position, 10 feet off the net at least, depending how difficult the lobs are from your opponent.
And if your opponent is staying back during the cross court exchange and you and your partner are at the net, then both of you should take a defensive volley position closer to the service line. If one of you show a close net position early, your opponent now has time to make a well placed lob, taking you off the net causing a switch creating a missed "two up" opportunity to finish the point!
If you or your partner are choosing to stay back after a shot, you must recover two to three feet behind the baseline. If you stand inside the court you are saying to your opponent (I'm out of position and I will have to hit a deep return backing up). Your opponent should then hit a deep ball right at the player standing in the court and move to the net. They have backed you up and now have the net. You should have been “back already” and moving forward with “time and force,” neutralizing them in their back court position.
If you can think about where your opponent is and what their shot possibilities are based upon the “time” they have to think about them then you will be better able to cover their next shot! Your tennis I.Q. goes way up!