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Improve Your Game

Player to Player: Doubles Court Positions

July 9, 2011 09:16 AM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow tennis players!
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love
 
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.
 
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Player to Player:
This week's question from Derek:
 
Recently, I have been playing in a lot of tennis tournaments (to be specific, DR-L7 boys' 16 and under singles). In almost every tournament, I get destroyed in the first round, even though I have been playing seriously for about 3 years. I am a lefty, I played first doubles on JV for my high school team (keep in mind, there are no singles positions on the JV team), I take one private lesson a week, serve on my own occasionally, play in drills, and hit and play practice matches with other peers. I feel like with my experience and the amount I practice, I should be able to easily beat some of the opponents I lose to. So, my question is, what do I need to do in order to take my game to the next level so I can start to win in tournaments and matches?
 
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@USTA.com, and include your name and hometown.
  
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!
 
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READ OTHER PLAYERS' ADVICE
Last week's question from Evans
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
 
Where is the ideal location for me to stand when my partner is serving in doubles? Also, how much should I deviate (up and back) from this position while the ball is in play?
 
Player Responses:
 
From Kai, New York City:

Evans, it all depends on you and the other players. If you are not fast enough to get the passing shots in the doubles alley, then stand right at the singles line and somewhere between the net and the service line. This way you may not need to crouch down. Generally, I prefer to stand about 3-4 feet from the net and 3/4 of the way towards the center line.

If the opponents have the general tendency to hit cross court, then you can stand about 3/4 of the way near the center line. This will confine the hitting area to one side of the court, which your partner could easily anticipate. However, don't stand in the middle all the time because it'll make shot-making difficult for you partner. The general tendency for you is to move from the crouching position, popping up toward the center, ready for a poach. Also, don't make this movement too predictable; otherwise, you may get passed.
 
Eric R., Northern California:

Where to stand at the net depends on your skill level and your serving partner's skill.

At the top of the pro standings are a number of teams that all use the "I" position, based on their high level of volleying and overhead agility. The Bryan Brothers, of course, use this "I Formation," but squatting down that low is hard on old knees. It is the surest formation strategy to confuse and defeat the habitual cross-court only returner. Mandatory is that formation depends on hand signals to let your server know if you are running across to poach or staying put.

Basic club 3.0-level players could learn this advanced strategy if they are quick and aggressive at net. Most are the opposite, unfortunately, and hug close to a hiding position near the singles sideline. This is a sign of weakness that a smart player will exploit. It leaves way too much prime middle open to hit without obstruction or concern. Move away from the sideline, approximately towards the middle of the court, and adjust depending on your partner's service strength.

You did not mention your level, or net skill, which is crucial. If you stand too close to the net, a smart opponent will lob you for easy points. Adjust forward if they never lob.

Do not just practice easy overheads and volleys. Instead, learn how to poach by drilling it in practice. Watch the Bryans and their teaching-pro dad's videos on YouTube or USTA Archives. Google "Winning Doubles Strategies." They control the middle of the court and attack at the net. They move in sync as a team. Watch their footwork and form on volleys and overheads.

Enjoy the journey.

Alejandro M., Medellin, Colombia:

I've learned to stand in between the service line and the net and next to the singles line. This gives your partner more room to aim his serve.

Now when you deviate, make sure you shadow the ball. When the ball crosses the net, wait until it passes your opponent at the net, and move up towards the net. Make sure not to move early! When the ball comes back over the net, move back. Remember to stay in front of the service line.

Ron M., Sarasota, Fla.

One's placement would vary slightly from player to player, depending on one's height and/or quickness and even the message one wants to convey to the opponent, as limiting their choices is an integral part of the game and why doubles is such an intriguing game of "chess on your feet."

1. Distance from the net. In general, I stay just far enough back from the net so I can just barely lean forward and touch the net with my racquet. (On a second serve, I may move back three feet or so). I also keep in mind that player's history of attemping to "lob" over me on the return.

2. Distance from outer sideline of alley. I try to stay far enough inside the line to help reduce the amount of "lateral court" my serving partner must be prepared to cover on the receiver's return of his service, WHILE still being able to cover the alley, thereby giving the opponent only ONE reasonable option; returning between my partner and me.
 
 
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
 
 
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.
 

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