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Tennis is not just for pros.
Tennis is for everyone.


Where a little geometry can actually be useful in a real world situation

In the title, “Good” refers to your shot being In or Out,

Not “Good” as in strategically good.

Image A below (not to scale, for conceptualization only): If you are positioned at the middle of the baseline on the right hand side of the diagram below, the two diagonal lines show the widest angle you could possibly hit a ball without going out of the doubles court. Balls landing on any part of the boundary lines are IN.

Net Height. The net, which stretches from one sideline to the other sideline is lowest in the center by about 6 inches. (The net loves to grab balls which are hit near it and if you have supersensitive hearing you can hear it say, “Yum, yum, thanks.”)

Common Sense Conclusion (ignoring high shots such as lobs): Since the net is lowest in the middle, then the safest groundstrokes are across the middle. Conversely, the most difficult (risky) ground strokes are those that are closest to the sideline. At each end of the net nearest the net posts, where the doubles alleys are, the net is significantly higher than in the middle -- one of several reasons why it is riskier to try to hit a ball down the alley rather than cross court.

Image B (not to scale, also for conceptualization only): If you are in the center of the court near the net, the two diagonal lines show the widest angle you can possibly hit a ball without going out of the court.

Notice that in Image A on the previous page (hitting from the baseline) the angle of possible shots is MUCH smaller than the angle of possible shots in Image B immediately above (hitting from the net). In real life, you will likely be hitting from your service box, but the possible angles are very similar. Most matches are won by the team which controls the net.

Common Sense Conclusion: If you can handle the pace of the ball, it is easier (safer) to hit a ball in the court from near the net than from near the baseline, so the easiest place to hit a winning shot is from near the net – presuming that your volley and overheads are serviceable. The closer you are to the net the wider your angle of shot possibility.



In doubles the angle of good shot possibility means the possible area where you can hit a shot without it being in danger of being intercepted by the opposing net player and without your shot going outside of the court side line on the opposite side. Here are the team formations.


There are three Partner Court Positions (not counting the Australian service position where the net player lines up near the center line and which is only used when serving):

1) One-Up One-Back Formation = One partner at the baseline and with the other partner up near the net. This formation is typically used when your team is serving, although the server’s partner can be anywhere. 3.0 and below players often remain in this formation for the duration of most points. Some 3.5’s do this also.

2) Both-Back Formation = Both players are playing back at or near the baseline (side by side). This formation provides the best absolute defense possible, but it is very difficult for you to make winners in this formation. It is seldom used at a 3.0 and above levels.

3) Both-Up Formation = Both players are up at the net. Surprising fact: Generally, if your volley skills are OK, side by side is the best (strongest) doubles formation. Note however, that the average recreational doubles player has played one-up one-back for so long that playing side by side with their partner makes many feel uncomfortable, mainly because they are afraid they will be lobbed.

Good doubles players dynamically switch from one formation to another as circumstances require. If you ever watch professional doubles on TV, you will see all three of these formations being used. Knowing which formation to use in your game is part of smart tennis.

When your opponents are using the customary one-up one-back formation, you need to place a majority of your groundstroke shots out of the reach of their net person or you risk losing the point, because their net player may volley your shot away for a winner. The one-up one-back scenario is where you have to think about shot angles.

As happens constantly in traditional doubles tennis, you are back near your baseline, your partner is up at the net, and your opponents are in a similar one-up one-back formation. Your immediate mission is to hit your groundstroke past or away from their net player but still inside the side boundary line.

Presuming a groundstroke, i.e. not a lob or a low-percentage alley shot, you have an angle of possible good shots to consider. This groundstroke is obviously more difficult to do with one of their players up at the net rather than both of their players back at their baseline. You have half the hitting space, or less, depending on where you are at the baseline and where their net player is. See Image C below for a diagrammatic example.

Note: Some statements are obvious, but this instructional is written for all levels through 3.5.

In this image, you are player A, your partner is player B, your opponent net player is Y, and your opponent baseline player is Z. The closer you hit your ball to their net player, the riskier your shot is. Likewise, the closer you hit your ball to the sideline, the riskier your shot is.

Common Sense Deduction: Generally the nearer you hit your shot to the middle of the angle of possible shots, the safer your shot is. Selecting this kind of shot is a prime example of playing (high) percentage tennis. However, playing percentage tennis is more complicated. Read the “PLAYING SMART by TennisTom” instructional to find out how.

Companion Reference Instructionals by TennisTom


What to Do Immediately After You Hit the Ball During a Point

[8B2-Angle Of Possible Good Shots BY TennisTom] [Rev 2-14-11]


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