Aussie All the Time?

aussie-formationSometimes during a doubles match, a team will occasional switch to the “Australian formation,” with the serving team’s net man (SP) standing on the same half of the court as the server to take away the crosscourt return of serve. But why not do it ALL the time?

Playing To Your Strengths

Assuming a right-handed server serving in the ad court, when the doubles opponent returns crosscourt, the ball will be one of the toughest shots in tennis… low at the server’s feet on his backhand side.

But if you set-up Aussie, your net man takes away that crosscourt shot and forces the ad court returner to go out of his groove/comfort zone and hit down the line … to the server’s and righty net man’s forehand!

And if the ad court returner happens to be a lefty, that ads to the rationale; because now you have a better chance of serving down the middle and stopping him from running around his backhand return.

Works For Lefties Too

When I pair up with lefty Bob Wilkie, we will frequently use this same tactic for him while he is serving in the deuce court. This formation then takes away the deuce court returner’s favorite crosscourt return and makes him go down the line to Bob’s lefty forehand.

Variety, The Spice of Life

But like most strategies, I think you should vary and not use the same formation on every play. You don’t want to let your opponents get into a new groove; so mixing it up helps.

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Aussie All the Time?

  1. George, I agree that the Aussie formation can be a useful tactic to use in doubles, but I would caution that it is by no means a panacea. Although every situation is different, its utility ultimately depends on many other factors than the formation itself, like the strength, placement and consistency of the serve as well as the variety, pace, spin and direction of the receiver’s return. Sometimes, lining up in Aussie formation can actually be worse than serving traditionally. Personally, I think having the serving team line up in the so-called I formation is a much better tactic than using the Aussie formation.

    For example, I am a righty who, given the choice, greatly prefers to receive in the ad court in doubles. Like you write and like a lot of other players similar to myself, my favorite return of serve is a low, sinking crosscourt backhand hit with slice that dies at the feet of the incoming server as he is trying to get to the net to volley. I win a lot of points that way. But I can, and often do, hit a flat/ mild topspin backhand return right up the alley on the deuce side as a surprise tactic when I sense that the net man may be leaning a bit too far to his left and he has left me a bit too much space in the alley to hit into. It is surprising the number of times I can hit the alley shot for an outright winner in a typical two set match. I also will occasionally run around my backhand and hit a much harder inside out forehand crosscourt into the ad court alley, or I can hit the same forehand inside in either right at the net man’s solar plexus or into the deuce court alley. And, of course, I have also been known to hit a topspin lob return over the net man’s head, either forehand or backhand.

    My point here is that I actually PREFER it when opposing teams line up in the Aussie formation if I am receiving in the ad court. Frankly, I wish opposing teams did this all of the time. It gives me a much bigger up the line target to hit my return into, forehand or backhand, than having to go crosscourt with my backhand slice most of the time in a regular formation or occasionally trying to catch the net man sleeping and hitting a surprise shot into his alley. And I don’t think I am alone among players who prefer to receive on the ad side in saying this. A lot of other guys that I know who prefer receiving on the ad side, like me, literally start salivating when we see an Aussie lineup in doubles.

    But the I formation is a much different story. There, because the net man starts out low and crouched beneath the net in the middle of the court while the server serves over his head, the net man has the option of either moving to his right, moving to his left, or staying put right as the receiver is hitting the ball. Not only is this very distracting to me when I am receiving, but it also requires me to outright guess which direction the net man is moving toward. If I guess wrong, and there is a 50% chance that I will, he has an easy put away volley.

    Yes, I can — and often do — still go up the line with my return into the deuce court alley when the opposing net man is in the I formation, and that remains a good play because few people can move fast enough from the middle of the court to cover that line and it also usually goes past the incoming server if the play is for the net man to move left and the server to cover the deuce side on his serve and volley. Another favorite tactic that I use when up against the I formation is to hit a deep lob crosscourt. If hit high and deep enough, this can mess up a lot of good I formation teams because, generally, the I formation is designed for both players to be coming into and pinching the net in the middle. You can take away much of the benefit of the I formation if you keep throwing up deep crosscourt lobs when this tactic is being used against you, thereby forcing the two opponents to have to scramble to retrieve lobs that are over their heads.

    But the I formation is less predictable for the returner on either receiving side and is, therefore, a much stronger play in my mind than the Aussie formation ever allows. For this reason, I think it is a much better tactic, overall, than using the Aussie formation.

    Marty, yes, the I-formation can be challenging for the receivers; but at our advancing ages, it can also be tough on the net man. As a play on my previous headline, “I have squatted down and i can’t get up!”. Looking forward to seeing you and the other mates this sunday at Newk’s. thanks, george

  2. George, good point on Aussie formation , one possible reason some hesitate might be the starting position from which the server likes , I.e. where he likes to stand on the baseline to serve. Is it more to the center, or far in corner etc. Too far away and any down the line shot puts the serving team on the defense.
    Anyway just my thoughts.

    Gary, yes, the senior server has to stand closer to the center line to cover the open court. Thanks, george

  3. The ball travels mores distance to the returner and a cross court return travels further than down the line. Therefore, the server has more time to move to the net in order to be as close or closer than even a chip and charge returner. A take it early and move in returner can put a low ball to the Aussie server who is either in no mans land or still at the baseline while the returner is closing on the net. Bad positioning for the serving team. I use Aussie more when the returner’s cross court return seems grooved and keeps making me neutral or defensive. If the down the line return is just as strong, then I prefer the extra time of the more crosscourt serve. Otherwise, will use the Aussie serve to get the less strong return.

    Winder, thanks, george

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