Everyone has heard the old tennis adage, “Down the middle solves the riddle.” Meaning that is the smart place to hit most shots in doubles. But the converse is also true.
Guard the Middle
If the logical place for your opponents to hit a shot is down the middle, shouldn’t that be the logical place for you to try to cover? That situation is obvious when you and your partner are both standing near the service line waiting for the next shot at you; but it is also true in other situations.
But frustrating for me is when I am in the deuce court and my opponent hits an excellent shot that lands in my alley and going out wide. If I can somehow motivate my body over to the ball and get it back in play and I look over to my partner who is just then moving toward the middle where our opponents are hitting their next shot.
And my partner says, “I was coming to the middle!” I try not to preach; but if I did, what I would say is … “You should have moved to the middle as soon as you saw where their shot landed.” In my opinion, too many players WATCH their partner chase the wide ball and then, after they see them make a shot, they start moving to the middle (where their opponents will then want to hit the next shot.)
The Right Next Shot?
And related to the sequence above… if you are taken wide off the court, where should you hit YOUR next shot? I think you will usually have four options (in potential success order) …
- Down the middle – As you set to hit your shot from the alley (or wider), there should be a seam between your opponents down their middle.
- Down the line – If your opponents anticipate that first shot and move to the middle, that should open up the down the line shot for you.
- Diagonal lob – Frequently, your cross court opponent will tighten up to the net, looking to pick off your next shot; so they would be very vulnerable to a lob over their heads to the opposite diagonal corner.
- Cross court angle – And the most difficult (most psychologically rewarding?) shot would be the soft, extreme angle back cross court to their alley.
What do YOU think about these choices and/or “guarding the middle”?
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