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Player to Player: Doubles Positions

September 14, 2012 04:07 PM
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.
Player to Player:
This week's question from Barbara:
How can I hit better overheads? I have a pretty good serve, but it doesn’t translate to precise overheads. Is there a way to judge the ball? Does one step forward while hitting or just get shoulders turned and hit without transferring weight?
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!
Last week's question from Willie:
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
I was playing mixed doubles with a guy in a national tournament, and he told me he is a teaching pro. I was playing the deuce court. Whenever I was pulled wide off the court to return a forehand, he said I was supposed to hustle back to the court to return the next shot, which really was a put away for our opponent. I disagreed with him because I take drills with a different pro, and he says it is your partner's responsibility to move to the middle when one is pulled wide off the court. Who is correct?
Player Responses:
LW, Madison, Wisc.

I believe you are correct. You and your partner should move together on the court. When you are pulled wide to the right, your partner should move to the right, not into your side of the court, but move close to the center line. And you do the same when your partner is pulled wide to the left or else you will leave a gap in the middle. Of course, you should not stay off of the court after you've made the shot. But even if you have time to hustle back, you will have less of a chance to cover the court near the center line with your backhand than your partner with the forehand, assuming both of you are right-handed.

Coach Leonard, Concord, Calif.

In doubles, it's all about creating holes on offense and covering the court on defense. If you are pulled wide, your partner should cover the center until you are able to get back in the court. When retrieving a wide angle, it is common to take recently finished, I'll refresh you with images that you can relate to. Two-person beach volleyball... when Kerri is on the edge of the court, Misty shifts to center until Kerri gets back. The 100-meter dash... note how Bolt runs another 20 meters beyond the finish line. The volleyball shows proper teamwork. The sprint after run proves that it's pretty tough to stop after a short sprint. If you are able to dash off the court and come back before your opponents close in, then I offer two pieces of advice. One, let your partner know so she can stay on her side and cover the alley. Two, get ready for Rio. Bolt may be looking at silver. Be careful on that quick stop and change of direction. The sudden shift may be hazardous to your knees and ankles.

Kenny S., Chicago

There is the basic position when your team is serving with the one player serving not from the usual serving place but closer to the doubles alley. The net player would be a foot or so from the doubles alley and maybe three feet from the net. Usually the net player wants to cover the alley but also look for good poaching opportunities when the ball goes down the middle or when the team decides before the point that the player will go for that move. You can also play having both players in the back court  on both the serving and returning sides if you feel your net games aren't that great.

One other position would have the net player in the middle of the court and the  server either in the usual singles serving position or the normal doubles position. You would decide where to move before the point or with basic hand signals behind the back, like one for moving to the right and two for moving to the left. The normal return position would be one player returning the serve, and the other player could be at the service line in the normal position or in no-man's land deciding to move forward or back or more in the serving net position as stated before.
Calling for balls is key in doubles as well as knowing where the other player is on the court.

Eric R., Northern California

The answer to your conflict is simple. You both are right.

Your pro said that the partner covers the middle, moving towards you as you run off court to return. Yes. Your partner complained that you assumed it was a put away and did not hustle back to your court. Yes.

You always have the duty to hustle back and split step for balance just before the smash or volley by your opponent. You may not get all the way back, but so what? By running that way, your opponent may try to look and see your position, thereby increasing your odds that they will make an error.

Tennis is "The Game of Constant Motion," a good book by Mr. Gene Scott, by the way. The old saying goes that "To AssUme, can make an Ass out of U and Me." Do not assume a put away. Keep moving back toward your starting point.

Your partner's responsibility is to move with you to cover more of the middle, as your pro suggested. If it is a lob "sitter," then he might have time to move back toward the middle baseline. If it is a volley sitter, then he moves toward the T towards the volleying opponent.

Enjoy the journey.
*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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