Playing vs. Two Back

Noble and Me: Brothers in Biceps


What do you do when your opponents are serving and their “net man” is playing on the baseline, with the server? That is what Noble Hendrix and I faced in our second round robin match at Longboat Key on Thursday.

Chuck Kinyon

After surviving his three-set, three-hour singles match on Wednesday, good friend Chuck Kinyon took the court vs. #9 seeded Ron Tirapelli (Chicago) today.  To make his own life as challenging as possible, his first set went to a tiebreaker; and although Chuck won the one hour a ten minute set, he “won the battle, but lost the war.”  After losing the second set and into the third, he was forced to retire with injury.

Teddy and Swanny

Other Naples friends Ted Underwood and John Swan are also in the 75 doubles round robin.  On Tuesday, they won their first round match; and on Wednesday they faced the tough #3 seeded team of Frank Hagelshaw and Bob Anderman… and stunned (read “frustrated”) them 6-4, 6-1.

And today, in the fading light, they squeaked out a third victory 10-8 in the third set Match Tiebreaker!

Our Match

Noble and I faced the solid team of Charles Muntan and Rich McGrath (both of Longboat Key) for our second match.  Because Charles had a strong and somewhat overpowering serve, Noble and I started two back to return serve … and came in either when we got the ball back in a good spot or he had a second serve.

We couldn’t do much with his service games; but had more success with lefty Rich McGrath’s serves.  After we successfully lobbed over their net man, they opted to play two back on their serve!  (I am not sure how many times I have ever seen that).  So we…

  • Had our net man play inside his service box and slightly toward the middle (like we would do when serving)
  • And our returner tried to drive the return deep and down the middle, between the two baseliners
  • And assuming their next shot was not too powerful, the net man “roamed” and our returner stayed back to cover the lob.

In the first set, even though we lost my service games all three times (!) we were able to get into a set tiebreaker and win it.  The second set was an almost-equally close affair with us going up a break and giving it back; but we were able to break big Charles’ serve at 4-5 for the victory.

Tomorrow’s Schedule

“Early to bed, early to rise”… our third round doubles match is scheduled for 8 am vs. the tough upstate NY team of Tom LaPenna and Bill Berry.

After that, Noble has to play his quarter final singles match vs. #2 seeded two-forehands/no-backhands Steve Lunsford.

And then, after that (!) we take the court for our last round robin match vs. #2 seeded Lunsford and Lazenby.

For all scores and matches, click HERE

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4 thoughts on “Playing vs. Two Back

  1. George, that is something I work on with my teams a lot. Since there is no net man on the other side, there is no reason to hit crosscourt and force your partner to cover the alley (except if the crosscourt player is much weaker) and open up angle returns. By hitting the returns down the line of down the middle, it allows your partner more room to roam the net. If they lob over his head, you’re there to cover with a no stress return (unless they attack after the lob) and if they lob a lot, he can play back a little. Players seem to be committed to crosscourt returns from their “normal” positions and tend not to think outside the box. You on the other hand, always think outside the box!! Good luck.

    Steve, sometimes it is lonely “outside the box”! thanks, george

  2. Good Job George! They were pretty solid.

    Chuck, speaking of “solid,” you sure were in your singles matches! thanks, george

  3. Generally I think when the server’s “net man” plays on the baseline, he’s doing his server (and team) a disservice! This often happens when either the server has a horribly weak serve so that the net man is constantly being pounded, or the net man himself has low confidence in his ability to volley. When I see this set up, as the returner, I feel I have lots of possibilities and certainly much less pressure to nail the basic cross court return that I normally would hit. I can also hit a drop shot to bring them to net if they are that uncomfortable inside the service box!

    Jim, i agree that move is a sign of weakness. thanks, george

  4. George, it’s actually funny that as tennis players we want a formula that will work every time. But it’s great to see teams adjust in tennis just like other sports . I believe we could easily go with let’s keep tennis interesting.

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