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Hardscrabble Scramble
April 2001 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Two Back In Doubles

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Mike Whittington

If you have watched any professional doubles matches you have probably noticed that there are times when many receiving teams elect to play both back at the baseline. Why would players that are so talented decide to use this strategy? Isn't this more of a tactic used by beginning doubles teams? After all, weren't most players taught to start the receiving team with one player at the baseline and the other at the service line? Actually playing both players back can be a good strategy for teams at all levels given the right situation.

Power is playing a bigger role in tennis these days. Even at lower levels a player can control a match if he/she can overpower the opponent with a strong serve or forehand. Smart doubles teams realize the importance of a good return against big serves and aggressive net players. Remember that the serve and return are the two most important shots in the game. So what do you do when you are facing that explosive serve and you are having some problems getting back a decent return? The smart move could be to move both players back to the baseline on the receiving team.

Remember the server is not only trying to get the ball in play but hopefully force you into a weak return that sets up his/her partner for an easy put away volley. A floating return will allow the server's partner to put the ball at the feet of the receiver's partner. Most often I see doubles team continue a match just having this happen to them over and over hoping that they will eventually be able to get the return back effectively.

A simple positioning change in moving back could change everything. It will make the receiver feel more comfortable knowing that there isn't as much pressure on the return. The receiver isn't going to get his partner smoked every time with a weaker return. This will also allow the receiver to try more shots without fear of a quick volley at his partner every time. And think how much better the receiver's partner will feel against the explosive server. Moving back to the baseline will allow them more time to judge those quick volleys when a weak return is hit. Of course, after a successful return is placed past the net player, both players can rush the net as usual if that is the game plan. The key is to successfully get the ball back in play without setting up your opponent each time.

This strategy has worked for some of the best doubles teams in the world and can work for you. The next time you are struggling with the return in doubles, move your partner back and see if you win a few more points.

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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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