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Playing by Avoidance - In Doubles

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John Mills, USPTA

Does this sound like you? You are getting older, you still love to play tennis, and you are winning less and less, getting less exercise and finding it hard to find partners who want to play with you. You might be "playing by avoidance." What does that mean?
A few by products of "playing by avoidance" are:

  • You stand over so far toward the alley, when your partner serves, that you seldom make an error. You almost never hit the ball and think you are doing well because you are not making errors. Correction: stand in the middle of the service box. Just worry about the balls that come at you and the alley shots. This will at least put some pressure on your opponents and you will hit more balls.

  • When the ball is lobbed over your head, you never anticipate it and you never chase it. Correction: stand a couple of steps farther back from the net. It is easier to move forward for the volley than backwards for the overhead. Also, never give up on hitting the overhead until you have taken at lease 3 steps.

  • You think all is fine because you are not making many errors. False; you are losing because you are so afraid that you will make an error that you are petrified. Correction: play the game! Don't worry about the outcome!

  • You never double fault, but also never win your serve. Correction: your serve is so weak that your partner is uncomfortable standing at the net. Correction: if you cannot hit your serve harder, then at least hit it higher and deeper into the service box.

  • You play an entire match, you lose and you do not get lobbed and you do not get any overheads. Correction: you are not putting any pressure on your opponents. They are literally playing two against one. Your opponents have taken you out of the equation.

  • You are playing points and your racket never leaves its "ready position." You are too afraid to even try and hit the ball. Correction: it's all exercise, let your racket go to every ball that comes near you. Remember, you may hit it. Half of something is something. Half of nothing is nothing!

It's a game. Just play it! Quit avoiding!
Good luck on the courts!

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills currently teaches tennis at the University of Houston, Clear Lake campus. John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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