While at the University Park Cat II tournament, I had a chance to watch former World #1 Hugh Thompson play doubles … and I was amazed at what he did NOT do.
What he didn’t do was hit the ball hard. All his shots – serves, returns, volleys, and even overheads – were totally under control and “in a good spot.” Rather than trying to blast the ball by or through his opponents, he placed the ball (almost softly) at their feet or in a place they could hardly reach.
When you are playing higher level doubles players, your opponents are normally ready for the hard hit ball right at them. So while you (and your partner) are assuming your put-away smash is not coming back, all too often it does as a reflex volley winner. And what should have been a big point for your team becomes a big point for them.
I confess, when I usually have an “attackable ball,” that is what I would normally do. But since watching Hugh, I have been trying to play doubles much more under control and hit balls that put my opponents at a disadvantage.
What that tends to do is create opportunities for your partner to then put the ball away. So, you really have to be in sync with your partner… he cannot relax and assume you will be putting the ball away. Rather, he has to be ready for the next shot on which he can then be the hero (and even that put-away should be in a good location.)
The basic mantra I will try to remember: Better to hit soft where they are not, then hard right at them.