The Baseline Overhead

Who is the girl in the middle?
Who is the girl in the middle?
Many commentators talk about the return of serve being a shot never practiced; but when was the last time you actually practiced hitting deep overheads standing on the baseline?

When your singles or doubles opponents drive you deep with a high, defensive lob, you retreat to the baseline and the ball bounces up high for you to hit. Even though it should be very much like a serve, there are very few of us who can actually whack a hard offensive shot from there (and keep it in play).

For most of us, it should NOT an offensive shot, but one to be put back in play in a good place. If your doubles opponents are both still at their own baseline – or one is up and roaming at the net – your objective should be to PLACE the ball in a good spot, deep to one of their backhand sides.

If both doubles players are up at the net, the safest shot is probably a lob back over their heads… and then you and your partner come to the net.

Taking a Ground Stroke

During a recent singles match on TV, Andy Murray had two baseline overheads and he choice to hit them both as forehand ground strokes. If you can time the ball coming almost straight down, this is an interesting option for getting some offense on this shot.

How do you handle the baseline overhead?

A Rising Star?

Did you see 15-year-old Catherine “CiCi” Bellis defeat the 12th seed and Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round at the US Open? She is pictured above just THREE YEARS AGO and is the youngest “woman” to win a match at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996, and the youngest American to win a match at the U.S. Open since Mary Joe Fernandez in 1986.

What I really liked about her and her play was her “fearless tennis,” hitting out on shots no matter the pressure or score.

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4 thoughts on “The Baseline Overhead

  1. I actually *have* practiced – and experimented with – that shot. The rule I came up with that works for me is to get myself positioned so that the ball is directly over my eyes before I whack it.

    Most guys seem to either miss the shot, or don’t go for much with that overhead, so I try to get to the net when I anticipate that opportunity. Once, I closed in tight on the net, knowing I was going to have an easy volley and lots of angle to work with, and the talented old fart hit the overhead as a topspin lob. 🙂 I’ve since incorporated that play into my game, too.

    Kevin – good tip! Thanks. George

  2. I try to relax, bounce on my toes to get into position at right angles to the ball then I think of the shot as a serve, pick my court and moving into the ball using the same motion as my serve try to hit a first flat hard serve aiming at the service line. I’ve had great success using this technique.

    Paul – you are a braver man than me! Thanks. George

  3. I am playing in the Men’s 50s nationals on grass at Germantown this week. This afternoon, while playing singles, my opponent hit a high lob over my head as I was rushing net and the ball was hit so high that I was able to get back to the baseline to await the ball when it came down. Various thoughts raced through my head in the milliseconds that I had to think about what to do before the ball came down from the sky: hit back another lob; try to time the shot just right (ala Murray) to hit a forehand drive passing shot winner; or hit a screaming overhead winner from the baseline. Unfortunately, I had just read this post earlier in the day before my match, so I guess I had overhead on the brain. But the ball was hit so high, and I was also looking into the sun, that I decided the safest play was to let the ball bounce before hitting the overhead. Big mistake. Numbskull that I am, I forgot I was playing on grass. The ball hit the ground and bounced up only about 4 feet high. I must have looked pretty funny to my opponent as I dropped to my knees and tried to hit an overhead while kneeling on the court– my ball hit the middle of the net. Thanks a bunch for putting up this post, George. You owe me. LOL

    Marty – if you had chosen to hit it as a groundstroke, it would have been the perfect height! george

  4. With the whole length of the court to work with, the overhead error is much more likely too short than too long. I aim head high to the opposite baseline and it almost always is in and effective.
    For bringing a serve (overhead motion) into the service box, we are constantly reminded to hit out and not down in order to clear the net. Just exaggerate that concept and the baseline overhead can be seen as an opportunity.

    Winder – good thoughts. tks. george

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