Hitting The Lob

lobSure, it can be overused and frustrating, but the lob – especially in doubles, can be an effective weapon to use strategically. But how and when should you use it?

When To Lob

At Newk’s camp, Mark Woodforde told us that he and his partner would try to go at or over their opposing net man at least once per game on the return of serve.

But during a pro-am doubles match, my pro partner advised me that I lobbed “too early in the point.” What he was saying was that you should try driving a ball at your net-closing opponents to get them closer to the net; and to THEN lob over them.

Another great time to use the lob is when all four players are at the net — and leaning forward. The “lob volley” can be a winner and psychological victory.

How To Lob

One prime problem with lobbing is hitting the short lob – that builds your opponent’s confidence and gets your partner blasted. So one great tip I received was to NOT try to hit the lob over your opponent’s head; but to AIM for a target deep in the court, which would more likely have your lob go deep enough.

So for me, the key tips are:

• Don’t default to it to soon: hitting a couple of drives first
• use the same motion as the backhand slice crosscourt;
• “punch” through the lob (not chop);
• be sure to follow through.
• Hit it high and deep
• Aim (not over his head) for a deep spot on the court.

What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Hitting The Lob

  1. I was instructed once to make sure my lobs were deep in the court (even if they were too long and called out) just to spare my partner and myself the humiliation of having an overhead drilled into us.

    Jim, exactly! george

  2. Some doubles teams overuse the lob, in my opinion, especially on service returns. Once the opposing players get accustomed to the fact that a large percentage of the returns will be lobs, a good doubles team can adjust to this, either by having the net man stand a bit back from the net (to cover a not so deep lob with his overhead) or by making a rule that the server will always cover a lob over the net man to free up the net man to remain aggressive at the net.

    Probably the only effective feature of lobbing too much as a team is it does tend to physically wear out an opposing team faster than non-lobbing doubles, because it takes a lot of energy for a net man to have to be constantly back pedaling to hit overheads and it takes even more energy for a net rushing server to have to constantly be split stepping and then running backward to cover lobs going over the net man’s head when he is otherwise trying to serve and volley. I have seen doubles teams — especially in senior doubles — where the players are not in top physical shape and where they tire out from having to cover excessive lobbing. But the obvious response to that is to resort to the same tactic against the team that lobs too much, to wear them out too! It is really no fun for anybody to get into such a match — the doubles equivalent of moonball pushing — but it does occasionally happen.

    The most effective lobs in doubles, I have found, come when the returning team mixes up its returns and uses the lob as a surprise return mixed with other effective service returns such as a low cross court shot (ideally a slice) at the server’s feet, the sudden up the line winner that the net man does not expect, or the occasional — but very effective — surprise drive right into the net man’s solar plexus that he will have little to no time to react to. Unless the receiving team has somebody with an absolutely deadly return that usually is a guaranteed winner, mixing up returns is the best way to maximize a team’s chances of breaking in doubles, I think.

    As for Woody’s comment about trying to lob at least once each returning game, I think that is a good suggested average but I would not be too wedded to the suggested frequency. If a lob is working well as a tactic, two or three times in a row can be highly effective, followed by a game or two of not using it at all. The idea is to be as seemingly random as possible and to make the opposing team have to guess about what may be coming next. Many points in high level doubles are won based on sheer surprise to the opposing team rather than perfect doubles tactics or shot execution.

    Finally, always be aware of the court conditions. Obviously, if the sun is in your opponent’s eyes, lob a lot more than you may normally do. Yes it will be no surprise to your opponents that you are likely to lob them, but their inability to see the ball well will greatly outweigh any lack of surprise to the shot. Further, they will likely be doing it to your team when you are on the opposite side of the court, so turnabout is fair play.

    Marty, good stuff! Woody’s suggestion was to go over OR at the net man once per game… to essentially plant them at their location and not poach. thanks, george

  3. I’m a longtime proponent of “always take what they give you.” So if a server’s partner starts on top of the net, I’ll hit a high-percentage lob over him almost every time (and take the net) until he inevitably moves back. Otherwise we’ll too often get crushed by his easy volleys off lower-percentage drives.

    Pete, great point. thanks, george

  4. Now you’re talking my language George, my favourite shot, possibly my only one worthy of any comment ! Much depends on the sun & the wind & the court surface & (when playing indoors) the lighting. I prefer to take it early & aim over the opponents’ backhand shoulder, much easier of course in Doubles.
    Emmo used to encourage us every year to lob often including a lobbed service return. I love it when opponents crowd the net !
    Perfection is impossible so it’s important to accept that there will be pain along the way as well !
    Best wishes

    Howard, ah yes, your comfort zone — along with a killer dropshot! thanks, george

  5. Great stuff George, et al!

    Would only add that when an older team plays a younger team, lobs often frustrate them and they overhit and miss their third or fourth overhead. Some younger teams consider it a sign of weakness to lob, so it’s not part of their game or often of their opponents’ games.

    Phil, as the tee shirts says, “Old guys rule!” thanks, george

  6. George, Since the Legends at Tennis Fantasies have nicknamed me “Larry the Lobber” and once Emmo asked me to demonstrate the lob at his camp in Gstaad, I had to comment! The biggest problem I found is that when I relied on it early in the match, my ground strokes often went south. The players I play with in S. Florida do not have good range, so it is effective when we are both at the net. I play one guy who’s game is 75% lobs, which causes me to play at about mid-way between service and baseline.

    It has been effective for me but I am trying to get away from using it to abuse!

    Larry, yes the lob is like the dropshot…. there is an unspoken maximum number you are allowed to hit in a match. thanks, george

  7. My impression is we all hate to play lobbers, those that use it repetitively and as a first resort in a return or stroke. All comments are right on and as important is the strategy of when . As with anything, too much familiarity brings complacency and boredom. Mix it up as all have stated.

    Howie, “all things in moderation.” thanks, george

  8. The lob is just one element of your options to take your doubles opponents out of their comfort zone ie. make them beat you with their least favorite shots, strategy.
    If the net opponent likes crowding the net or the middle, you make them back off with lobs or inside alley line returns down the line (never aim for the outside alley line).
    If they cover the lob or down the line returns, hit at the net person’s feet or the middle.
    There is no such thing as too many lobs, just the right amount to change the preferred positioning of your opponents. We have all played against net players who stubbornly refuse to back off the net and are therefore especially susceptible to lobs. Why hit anything else? If lobs are working , make your opponents stop them which will open up other good return options.

    Winder, i once lost a first set 1-6 to a guy who apologized for hitting “too many drop shots”; but i adjusted my court position to take it away and won the match. thanks, george

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