The Middle Riddle

Everyone who plays doubles has heard the saying, “Down the middle solves the riddle.”  That usually is thought about while hitting groundstrokes at two players at the net; but according to one tennis pro, it starts with serve placement.

Where to Serve?

Teaching pro Howie Burnett writes in his book “Net Notes” “The placement of your serve in a doubles match determines the amount of court that you and your partner are required to cover.

“Look carefully at the section of the net the ball must cross to land in the court on a service return in doubles. A ball served to the center service line with a reasonable amount of speed must be returned over the center 50% of the net in order to land safely back in the serving team’s court.

“The restrictions that serving target places on the receiver enables the server’s partner to virtually abandon covering the alley and drift toward the center strap to intercept the return as a crosses that center area of the net.

“Conversely, a ball served wide that isn’t played with devastating power or hideous spin forces the server’s partner to move well toward the alley to cover the shot over the far edge of the net; and also invites the returner to play a sharp angle cross court over the very lowest part of the net and quite possibly out of the reach of the server.

“The very best doubles players play to the middle as an ongoing discipline, beginning with the serve and continuing throughout each point they play, until or unless their opponents err in their positioning and can be exploited with a low risk and high benefit shot selection.”

Where do YOU usually serve in doubles?

St. Pete Tournament

From Jerry Ratledge, “I can now confirm that our tournament has been officially cancelled.  We reluctantly concluded that the risks of holding a large, Level 2, National & International tournament during an escalating pandemic are simply too great.  We look forward to a fun, safe, and normalized tournament in 2022.  Suzanne and I hope to be fully retired by then but wish the new TD and committee a very successful tournament.”   

My Surgery

Well, I have been blessed with “the early bird special” … have to be at the hospital tomorrow morning at 5:30 am for a scheduled 7:30 operation start (that is if someone else’s heart emergency doesn’t pre-empt that).

Thanks for your good wishes and good thoughts … I am now planning my aggressive rehab schedule to get back to life and on the court as soon as possible!

P.S. So this site will be quiet until I am back on my computer!

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at GeorgeWachtel@gmail.com

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to Amazon.com, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

17 thoughts on “The Middle Riddle

  1. also shots down the middle don’t go wide

    Bill, good thought! (and we haven’t heard from you in a while. Hope all is ok). george

  2. George why didn’t you tell my partners (and me) years ago about that serving down the middle? Sitting here in the Philippines praying for your quick recovery and devastating play soon.

  3. Serving up the middle, I agree, is more effective in the deuce court against a right hander, but I like wide to the rightie’s backhand in the ad court. His power up the alley is reduced (usually), it’s harder to hit a severe cross court, and there is an opening for the net man to aim for.

    Rick, i actually agree with that concept … especially as a righty who usually plays the ad court and has to try to get by an aggressive net player. thanks, george

  4. George : Guess we won’t see you this winter . Luz and I are sad to miss all you guys and your great tennis . For years I’ve answered everybody who asks me , ” Where do you like to visit the most ? Where is it ? Spit it out ! ” My answer : ” That depends on what week or month you’re talking about . The West Coast of Florida for these 8 or 9 weeks is possibly the Best Place AND the Best Time there is anywhere in the World ” . Again our prayers are with you George . Heal up strong !

    Bob, you and i will both miss the Florida tournament season this year! My benefit is to be here most of the year and get a chance to play against many of teh tournament players. thanks, george

  5. Good luck tomorrow, George! I will be anxiously awaiting news of your recovery. Hope we can hit some balls together again come autumn.

  6. Will be sending positive vibes your way tomorrow morning!Look forward to seeing you back out on the court.
    Cheers, Walt

  7. George,
    Sending you best wishes for your surgical procedure tomorrow. I wish you a speedy healing process that exceeds your expectations. Always strive to get your first serve In! I believe a safer spin serve gives me more time to get to the net and gives my partner a rhythm to poach effectively. By serving down the center, you and your partner have 80% of the court covered, leaving only your partner’s alley unprotected.
    If you serve wide, your partner must protect the alley and the center ball is yours, although you must come to the net wide enough to cover the angled return. Never hurry your first volley. Take care to hit a good, solid reply up the middle on a return aimed up the middle. First, it’s got the most margin for error. Second, it reduces your opponent’s angle of return. Third, it opens up more angles to you on the sides. And fourth, it can create confusion between your opponents about who should return your shot. Always good to know the “middle riddle” can be solved with solid doubles communication and teamwork.

    Glenn, i always find coming in behind a wide serve leaves me a lot of court to TRY to cover! thanks for the tips. george

  8. A key thing to remember is that All tactical concepts are superseded by “ play relentlessly to an exploitable weakness “ – good luck tomorrow ! See you soon .

  9. Just heard that heart surgery went well…Hooray! Can’t wait to see you back on the courts….AND Australian Open on tv in just a week or two….you can watch as you recover!

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