Today was the first match of our 4.5 Senior (55 and over) team; and my partner today, Rich Whale, and I faced an interesting challenge: an opponent who returned serve by standing literally just two feet behind the service line and taking the ball on the short hop to return serve as a half-volley.
He was very, very good at this technique; so the return game back so quickly, either to the net man or the server, that we had real trouble handling it. Serving him wide (he was in the ad court) or down the middle helped a little, but not much.
So after being crushed in the first set, 6-2, we changed tactics in the second set.
When serving to this opponent, the net man played Australian; thus taking away his natural cross-court shot. And the server STAYED BACK. This forced him to go over the higher part of the net; and his natural return was a chip that would have been at the serverâ€™s feet; but instead, just sat there as a simple groundstroke, allowing us to keep the offense.
Then, he tried to adjust and put his return longer; but that was very difficult to do while starting with a half-volley return below the level of the high part of the net. He sailed many of them long.
We won the second set in a tie-break; and ended up winning the ten-point Champions Tiebreak, 10-8 to win the match.
Sometimes, it is better to be smart than good.