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In Doubles - By TennisTom 2011

▌ © C. Tom Harton 1991-2011 ▐

Early learners, which I sometimes call “improver players,” often ask me this most logical question: “How / where do I hit the ball when it comes to me at the baseline?” The ground stroke options are:

  1. CROSSCOURT to the opponent at the baseline. A crosscourt (diagonal) return is a good choice as long as the opposing net player does not usually tend to poach (intercept your shot).

If you are confronted with a “poacher,” you may use any of the following: lob, short angle shot towards the baseline player’s alley, down the line, or directly at the net person. The lob is the best bet against poachers for many players.

  1. LOB over the opponent net player. A shot where you loft your return high enough to clear the outstretched racket of their net player, even if they jump into the air. Except for beginners, lobs are under-practiced and should be a dependable shot in your repertoire. If you have sufficient control, aim your lob over the net player’s backhand because this is likely one of his weakest shots.

  1. SHORT ANGLE SHOT towards the baseline player’s alley. A short angle shot is a good choice in many cases, especially if your net player’s volley is a good one. It is safest to hit this wide angle shot softly with some underspin (slice). If you practice thistouchshot regularly for one season you will be winning points with it for the rest of your tennis playing life.

  1. DOWN THE LINE, aka down the alley. Alley shots are risky for most early learners and many intermediates. They are often losing shots hit either into the net or outside the boundary line. However, you should go by your success ratio, the game score, and the amount of court space which is open near or down the 4 ½’ wide alley. Never, never, never go down the alley on the game point unless their net player has fallen down on the court or otherwise lost condition.

  1. DIRECTLY AT THE NET PERSON. In social tennis, shots are seldom hit directly at the net player, although the better the player level the more “body shots” are used. In league play, social decorum is overlooked and hard shots directly at the net player are legitimate and expected (probably based on the theory that opponents have their racket to protect themselves which is in fact true). A right-handed opponent net player’s weakest shot spot is their right hip (or left hip for left-handers).

Depending on your mode of play, as well as your skills history, you can choose one of the abovementioned five groundstroke options. Only playing experience can lead you to your best choices, however the logic of which choice to make can be found in other instructionals on this website.

The very good news is that because tennis is so much fun to play, learning new shot strategies makes it even more fun.

[6E-Groundstroke Types for Beginners & Early Learners] [Rev 3-17-11]

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