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Hardscrabble Scramble
May 1996 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Cover The Middle For Good Doubles

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Mike Whittington

Good doubles teams know the value of covering the center of the court. "Cover your line!" is screamed so often in doubles. When does this make sense to a doubles team?

Think about the ball as it crosses the net during the point. On a majority of shots you will find that the ball crosses the net near the center strap. The serve crosses near the center if it is to be in, the return is usually crosscourt to avoid the server's partner at the net, and the first volley will travel across the center strap more times than not. Of course there are the occasional returns down the line and the high volley at the receiver's partner, but you will find that smart doubles teams play consistently to the area they make fewest mistakes.

Remember that one of the characteristics of a solid team is a low number of unforced errors. These teams know that they need to cover the center of the court because it is the highest percentage shot for the opponent. Angles are still possible by going over the center strap but if you aren't close to the net, extreme angles shouldn't be attempted.

Always cover and anticipate to the middle of the court with one exception: when the ball is wide on your side, cover your alley and let your partner move to the center. If you move with your shots you will naturally be covering the middle of the court as well as the alley. The less experienced team will cover the alley and the lower percentage shots and make it easy for the opponent to hit the easiest shot - down the middle. If your opponent is at the baseline and you cover the center of the court, you force them to hit to you, hit a low percentage sharp angle, or hit down the line over the highest part of the net. Make them hit for the edge of the court.

So when in doubt on court coverage, make sure that the middle of the court is covered. You'll find that you are more prepared for a majority of the shots and you will probably force the opponent into the lower percentage shot.

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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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