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How To Play Against The Lob

Q. “If the opposing team insists on lobbing the ball from the baseline most of the time and is very successful at it, how should we play our game? I might add that we are 3.0."

From Nick D., Syracuse, NY:

Sadly enough, playing the ball high and deep is a great strategy when your opponents are trying to play the ball hard. If you find that your opponents are playing this way, try to take some power off on your end. Don't play into their game.

I know you're a 3.0, but play the ball short, don't try to push them. Just play basic tennis and allow time for your opponents to make mistakes. Trust me, they will.

From Dick B., Morrisville, VT:

If the team consistently is lobbing from the baseline and hitting winners, then it may mean that your team is too close to the net, making it easy for them to create the lob. Knowing that the lob is the shot that is hurting you, try to start off by only going into a point just in back of the service line. This way they have to hit a lot better lob to beat you.

If they still lob for winners, then play one near the service line and one on the off side of where the ball was hit by your team at the baseline. The last resort would be to play both players back.

From Mark C., Austin, TX:

Try to hit a deep slice shot to the feet of your opponent, then advance to the net to cover the returning shot.

REASON WHY: If you can keep the ball low, it will make it more difficult for your opponents to play a successful lob shot.

It might help to practice this before playing a match. Good luck.

From Eric R., Santa Rosa, CA:

This is the oldest dilemma for the emerging player: What do I do about a "pusher"? That lament has an easy answer: attack the lob by running into a better position.

Lobs are part of every “pusher,” aka, soft retriever’s, game. You must learn to attack them, unless you want to be bored to tears by a game of moon balls.

If you have to let it bounce, just run around backhands whenever possible. Whack it hard with inside-out forehand strokes to the deep corner of their weaker side. Learn to hit high volleys with authority, as advancing into the court gives you geometrically better angles of attack.

Take them off court wide, if you don’t have a clear put-away position. Practice your overhead every single day, and learn when to bounce the very high "rainmakers."

A pusher will never go far in competition unless you let them. Develop inside-out forehand strokes, effective high volleys and solid, well-balanced overhead techniques, and you will never again fear the pusher.

From Linda N., Little Rock, AR:

Welcome to the world of tennis frustration. Lobbers have made my life miserable for years. We take lessons on how to come in behind our serves, how to "work the point," and how to cover the court WITH our partners, only to have our games mutilated by players who insist on keeping the point going for 15 minutes -- their modus operandus being to make the "other" person miss, instead of striving to MAKE a point. If you find a solution to this, let me know!

From Kelly C., Atlanta:

The last ALTA (Atlanta Lawn and Tennis Assoc.) and USTA season, my doubles partner and I faced the lob game more than we care to mention. We countered the lob game by playing one up and one back and decided to be patient and just get one more lob in than our opponents. The player playing up is looking for a miss-hit lob to put away. Sometimes we both play back to let our opponents know that we can play that game, too, and this sometimes throws them off, so we can get back to our net game.

From Kenny S., Highland Park, IL:

Don't get frustrated would be my first thought. At the 3.0 level, you need to get the ball back, try and take the net, but have confidence in improving all your shots.

Your basic strokes are not totally there yet at the 3.0 level, so work on your baseline game, don't swing at your volleys, keep your head up, and point at the ball on your overheads. Get your first serve in, and try to control the point more as a team.

Maybe hit a short ball so it is hard for the other team to hit a lob and work on your game. High balls tend to make you hit your shots down and into the net. Try and keep your swing going straight through or low to high, if you can.

Being in the right position is also very important in returning these lobs. Either catch the ball in the air with a non-swinging volley, or catch the ball on the rise, which are both tough shots usually used by players at a higher level.

So as I first said, don't get frustrated, work on your strokes and be in the right position to return these lobs. And don't hit down.

From Catherine M., Johns Creek, GA:

There are two strategies that can be used in this situation. You can come in to the court at about the service line and take those lobs out of the air, or you can opt to play one-up/one-back to cover those lobs.

I prefer to come in to the court, but if you do, remember your poach/lag positioning on the court: one at the net and one lagging behind around the service line. If you are playing lobbers, it is dangerous to get too close to the net at any time.

These are tough players to beat, but remember to stay aggressive and be patient!

Good luck in your next encounter!

From Terry J.:

My partner and I are 3.0 players. What we found that worked the best for us is to play one back at the baseline and one at the net or the service line.

My partner is a better baseline player, and I'm a better net player. By playing in this format, we found that it made it harder for them to lob -- my partner would take the deep lobs, and I would smash the short lobs.

I don't know if this is the best technique, but it worked for us.

From Ashley, Des Allemands, LA:

I am a freshman, and I just made the tennis team at my school. At practice, we worked on where to position ourselves in a doubles match.

It sounds like you are a doubles player. If so, you should try standing in the middle of the net, and your partner at the baseline. It might sound a little funny, but you can play around at where you stand in practice until you get the positions right. Their style of play will depend on where you stand, also.

Good luck with your upcoming matches.

From Dena T.:

I realize that 3.0 players don't necessarily have every shot in the book (I was one once, too), but coaches I know would say, “What kind of ball are you giving them that allows them to do whatever they want with it?”

You should focus on what you can do to make it difficult for them to hit the shot they want to hit, like hitting away from them to keep them on the run, trying short shots and deep down the middle so they can't dictate play.

I'm a 4.0 player and know a lot of players who also can't stand a lobber, but I say whatever shot wins you the point is a good shot.

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