Playing mid-level doubles, when should your net partner poach on your serve if their backhand is over the middle? This question comes from a frustrated lefty reader…
Put It Away or Stay Home!
“Hi George, I am enjoying your book and the blog. Thanks.
“I have a doubles question for you and your readership-
I am left handed and have an OK net and volley game & usually come into the service line and close to center court after I serve. My question is, when I am serving from the ad court, when – if ever- is it a good idea for my right handed partner playing at the net to attempt a backhand poach on a high crosscourt return down the middle?
“At the 3.5-4.0 level where I am now, I see partners who operate on the theory that if they can reach it, they should try it. But these poaches usually end up either in the net or weak short shots that the other team can hit to the open deuce court because my partner and I are in I formation. Only rarely do I see a player who can hit a winner with this backhand poach. I think this shot has to be a winner or we lose the point.
“I would prefer to defend the service return down the middle with my own backhand volley and my partner defend the deuce court.
thanks, mike Kane (Wilderness)”
Mike, I usually play the ad court in doubles; and my worst fear is facing a lefty server who takes me out wide and their net partner is picking off every one of my returns over the middle. So, I side with your aggressive net partners.
The role of the doubles player is not necessarily always put the ball away; but to put it in a spot that is difficult for your opponents to handle … which then might give you a put-away on the next shot.
When you are serving in the ad court and your righty partner poaches, the first thing YOU should do is change your direction coming in and go to his vacated deuce court.
And then, when your partner hits their backhand volley, they should primarily hit it in front of them at the opposing team’s net man, standing right in front of them in their deuce court (i.e. not behind them to the returner in the ad court, who would then have an easier shot into your deuce court).
And if they are not in a “full poach mode,” and just reaching over the middle, the key is the center line … if they cross it, they should keep going (and you change direction to cover the open court); but if they don’t, you both stay on your own sides of the court ready for the next shot.
In my opinion, “Offense wins” in doubles. Other thoughts?
PS For better or worse, Tennis Channel is now showing live tennis… a current fast-four tournament going on with lesser known players (instead of the “classic tennis matches” shown in the guide).
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