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Hardscrabble Scramble
December 1996 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Forget The Net Man

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Mike Whittington

How many times in a doubles match have you thought "OK, just keep the return away from the net man." That is really the wrong thing to think about at the time. You need to think more about what you are going to do rather than what you don't want to do.

If you have a nice sharp crosscourt return of serve that stays low, the net player will probably not be a factor unless he had decided to poach. And in that case, he has beaten you by strategy rather than your bad shot. Of course no one wants to lose a point but it would be better to do so by good strategy of an opponent rather than your own unforced error.

Part of the net player's role is to fake or move in such a way as to get the receiver to worry about him. If the receiver is watching the net player he probably has taken his focus off of the ball and a worse shot is likely. So if you know that the net player is just going to do his job, it should not bother you so much to see his movement. If you have confidence in your ability to return sharp crosscourt, try to think of doing that and hitting your planned target area.

Plan your return in advance of the serve if possible. Think about your options and the one the would be best suited for the time of the game or match. Is it time to throw in a lob or maybe sneak a ball down the line? You make the call and go for it. Don't let a pesky net player distract you from your objectives. Visualize what you want to happen and then execute. Focus on what you need to do with your own shots rather than what your opponent might do with your shots.

You might just gain more confidence by forgetting the net man. Getting more returns back in play will surely win more points. Think about what you want to happen rather than fear what might happen. You'll like the results.

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Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


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