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Hardscrabble Scramble
April 2000 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Should You Take The Net?

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Mike Whittington

Do you ever find yourself playing aggressive doubles and getting to the net quickly, but still losing most of the points? Sometimes doubles players feel just making it to the net does their job. But just taking the net does not necessarily mean you have control of the point. Doubles is a fast paced game with much of the action taking place at the net for many players. If you cannot do something aggressive with the volley, you might really be putting yourself in position to lose more points.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you have a great forehand that you hit with penetrating depth and accuracy from the baseline. You get your volley in but seem to pop it up more times than you would like. By going to the net you would certainly put pressure on your opponent and cut down on the amount of open court they have. But if you are unable to do anything with a volley then they will certainly pick up on that and not feel pressure from you. By hitting a safe ball at you they will find that you simply pop it up and give them an easy shot. So are you doing the right thing by rushing the net? If they were winning more points by passing, lobbing, or going at you then I would say not.

You also have to have a moderate amount of power and control with your serve to allow yourself to get into position to volley and hopefully force a weaker return. If your serve is weak it is the same as hitting a weak approach shot and running in to an oncoming bullet. It is important to have all the parts of the package to be a good serve and volleyer. If any aspect is weak then the whole strategy and game plan suffer. Being able to hit a low return to your opponents is also a key ingredient to attacking.

Although I am a big fan of rushing the net and playing aggressive doubles, I do see many players that may not have all the tools to be a good player at the net. I would encourage any doubles player to work on being able to hit well placed serves, good low deep volleys, and sharp angles on high balls while close to the net. You must also be able to hit good low returns if you intend to come to the net as a receiver. Putting pressure on your opponent by coming to the net can win you many points without even having to hit the ball. But moving into an offensive position of the court to hit defensive shots can make the strategy blow up in your face.

Work on your serve to the point that you have confidence you can get to the net and prevent your opponent from hitting a low ball at your feet all the time. Practice returning low volleys deep to your opponent and don't neglect the high ball that you need to put away with sharp angles. Having confidence to set up a point, dig yourself out of tough situations, and then put the ball away when given an opportunity can make all the difference in the world in your serve and volley tactics. Even though you might have a great volley, a weak serve would prevent you from being able to hit it from a good position many times. You might have a beautiful booming serve but still miss the easy first volleys.

I like for my players to be aggressive and look for opportunities to attack. Good doubles players put themselves in position for these opportunities and capitalize on them when they get them. If you don't have confidence in your serve, return, and volley, attacking the net could do more harm than good. Know your game and realize your weaknesses and work on them to become a better net player. You and your partner will be glad you did!

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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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