Playing doubles the other day, we noticed that one of our opponents kept backing up at the net – and thus was very vulnerable to the short ball right at him. Bob Wilkie, my partner, observed, “Frequently, people protect against THEIR favorite shot in a situation.”
Our opponent at the net loves to lob over the net man – and does it very, very well; so while at the net, he is afraid that others will do the same to him. So rather than being aggressive and looking to cut off the return of serve, he is weakening his position by backpedaling (as he said, “almost instinctively”).
To carry the logic further, Bob pointed out that he himself loves to hit the cross-court short angle shot. So when defending against an opponent in the same situation, rather than protect the middle (which he should do), he guards more against that same sharp angle from his opponent.
To improve your doubles game, you need to anticipate the most LIKELY next shot and start moving in that direction. This can be either the most logical next shot OR your opponent’s tendency in that situation.
If you have ever played doubles against solid players like Fred Drilling, you know that he is excellent at anticipating your next shot and suddenly appearing to be where you hit the ball!
PS Nice to see Andy Roddick finally win another tournament this weekend. A nice guy and solid pro (who never really was willing to change his game to maximize his potential).