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


By TennisTom 2011

Assumption: Both Teams in a Traditional One-up, One-back Doubles Formation

General Court Movement. Many 3.5 and lower players do not continuously adjust their court position until an in-play ball is coming their way. The two reasons for this are generally either a lack of doubles technique instruction, or laziness. Failure to reposition to a more favorable position is especially true of net players.

Good doubles players are seldom static during a point. Good players unconsciously following their internal habit of readjusting to the best tactical location in accordance to the position of the opponent about to hit the ball, rather than reacting just after the opponent has hit the ball. It’s a case of moving just before VS moving just after. There’s a big difference in terms of team effectiveness.

Rapid Court Repositioning Movements. These rapid court repositioning movements are known as anticipation movements because you are changing your court position before the baseline opponent actually hits the ball. A further aid to anticipation is to make a mental note as to your opponents’ tendencies in certain situations. Typically a player will tend to hit the ball in certain situations in the same, repeated manner. Just like you, they instinctively feel more comfortable hitting whichever stroke they have the most success with. The further you are into a set, the more you should be able to know what opponents’ tendencies are. You have to pay close attention to each opponent’s tendencies from the beginning of the first game in order to achieve this playing advantage.

General rule for the volley position. Using the COURT POSITION GUIDELINES & ADJUSTMENTS AT THE NET provided below, use whichever positioning that works the best for you most of the time according to game circumstances. Brain-engaged practice is the key.

Logical tactical reasons why a player plays at the net in the first place. Basic Volleying. It’s demonstrably advantageous to volley at the net rather than to hit a groundstroke at the baseline. Using an extreme example to explain, if you are standing one foot behind the net, then your options for hitting an oncoming regular-paced ball IN are much better than if you are back at the baseline. When at the net you typically have over 120 degrees in which to volley the ball. If you’re back at the baseline you have around 30 degrees to get the ball in the court. This advantage is a real and good reason to play at the net.

The Net Players Jobs Are to:

1) Cover your half of the court. The idea of covering half of the court is appealing, but you actually need to cover more than half in several regularly occurring situations. For instance, if you partner is forced to run into his alley to retrieve a ball, the net players has about ¾’s of the court to cover – or even more if his partner has to run outside the court.

2) Get into the mind of the opponent server or baseline player by threatening to poach after the ball is in play – and by poaching if reasonable opportunity arises. Their baseliner should be forced to be aware that you may intercept his shot at any time.

3) Move tactically just before the opponent baseliner hits the ball, you should anticipate where the opponent might hit the next ball and reposition yourself to an appropriate, tactical area. When doing the latter, the net player is actually reducing the available area for the baseliner to safely hit his shot.

General Responsibility of the Baseline Player. A major challenge to the baseliner is knowing approximately where the opponent is likely to hit groundstroke returns. As a learner wanting to understand the best place to move to while in your backcourt when the opponent baseliner hits a groundstroke, refer to the instructional Angle of Probable Returns & Court Geometry by TennisTom. This might be referred to as ‘Basic Doubles 101.”

The Baseline Players Basic Jobs in Relation to His Net Players Movement Are:

Covering lobs that the net player can’t reach, and, covering the court that the net player leaves open when the net player poaches. This coverage by the baseline players requires total focus on your net partner’s movements and the path of the oncoming ball. The baseline partner must instantly decide whether his poaching net player will be able to reach the oncoming ball. If you anticipate that your net player can reach the ball on his poach, then you need to instantly switch to the side from that your net player has vacated. IF you anticipate that your poaching net player cannot reach the oncoming ball, then you will stay put and play the ball yourself. Obviously your net player will have to instantly retreat to his original position while you are playing th ball, lest half of your court will be open. Since you, the baseline player, has full view of the entire court, and your net partner does not, you should yell to your partner what your intentions are. This is a key communication; otherwise you both my end up looking stupid. Stupid is a place that everyone visits once in a while, but you don’t want to live there. :--)

Challenge for the Poaching Net Player. To be a good poacher, you must pay exquisite attention to the opponent’s racket swing. Timing is of the essence, to borrow a phrase. The exact split second for you to poach is when the hitter has already started his swing. Once he has done that, then it is virtually impossible for him to change his stroke. If you leave too early then the opponent may hit behind you and thank you for the telegraph. Or he may hit even harder in an attempt to nullify your poach. These are the slings and arrows, another borrowed phrase from the same source, of poaching. As an early learner of poaching, your heart may be residing momentarily in your throat, but there is no other way to learn. The best and most fun way to learn this is by trial and error in practice games. This is also the only way for you and your partner to learn each other’s games. Obviously, if you play in a league, you should find a regular doubles partner that meshes with you, temperamentally and technically.





Circumstance when:

Your partner is serving

Play about half way back between the net and your service line (about 10 feet back from the net)

Play 3 or 4 feet from the inside alley line – but be ready to move more toward the center line as play progresses

Circumstance when:

Your partner is receiving serve

Play about 15 feet BACK from the net, i.e. 6 feet in front of your service line

Play half way (in the middle side-to-side) – but be ready to move more toward the center line as play progresses

Circumstance when:

Your baseline opponent is hitting hard enough to overpower you at the net

Play about 1 or 2 feet in front of your service line

Play half way (in the middle side-to-side) – but be ready to move right or left according to where opponents are standing

Circumstance when:

Opponents are successfully lobbing over your head a lot - putting your team on the defensive

Go back 2 to 3 feet behind your baseline & play parallel to your partner (in the both-back position) & wait for your first opportunity to move in

Laterally, play half way, between the center hash mark and the side singles line – but be ready to move up instantly for any short shots the opponents may hit

Circumstance when:

Your partner is hitting too many short soft returns to their net player - a skill problem

Go back to just behind your baseline & play parallel to your partner (both-back)

Play half way, between the center hash mark and the side singles line – but be ready to move up instantly for any short shots the opponents may hit

Fundamental Doubles Strategiesat a 2.0 to 3.5 USTA playing level.

A primary shot placement strategy is to hit the ball away from the opponent so that he either can’t retrieve it or will have trouble retrieving it. Hit at their net player when he or she is vulnerable or out of position.

The soft, angleddrop shot. When you are close to the net most players can purposely hit a soft return far easier than if they are further back in the court. This short placement shot is called a “drop shot” or “dump shot.” The drop shot is designed to hopefully bounce twice before your opponent can hit it. The baseline opponent will have to run up to play the ball and the more they have to run the more likely they will hit a weak return. Even if they manage get to the ball you are usually at an advantage because they are defensively hitting the ball at an upward angle (with little to moderate pace because if they hit the ball very hard it will go out of the court), and you are thinking “yum yum” at the net because you are likely going to be able to volley the ball downward or between the opponents and make the point.

Effective movement instruction for the net player. If you are doing your job at the net then you should be a bothersome presence for your opponent by threatening to intercept their return. This is a real and psychological advantage. Don’t be a statue out there. Don’t stand still at the net and watch the ball go by you over and over. Threaten their baseline player with poaching (i.e. intercepting her ball). This means that you should moderately bounce side to side at the net - just before and during an ongoing point. Worry the baseliner with your presence. The baseliner will miss more shots if he’s concerned about what you might do. This movement ploy is completely legal as long as you’re not waving your racket, making noise, or side stepping in a ridiculous manner.

Where to stand when your partner is serving. As indicated above in the court position table, where you stand at the net depends on whether your partner is serving or receiving. Basically when you partner is serving, play about half way back between the net and your service line (about 10 feet back from the net). When your team is receiving serve play about 15 feet back from the net, i.e. 6 feet in front of your service line.

A general consideration about playing net. The closer you are to the net the easier it is for you to hit a good volley. However, the closer you are to the net, the more you invite a lob over your head, and the less time you have to react to an incoming ball, so if you are too close to the net you will not have time to prepare. The closer your volley technique is to the classic block-punch method, the better. With experience you will know what is too close and what is best.

The Ready position. At net is where the ready position is most crucial. You need to be on the balls of your feet, knees flexed, racket up in front of your chest, eyes locked onto the ball, and ready to move, rotate, and punch forward in an instant. You need to be playing “in the moment,” which means to be able to react in an instant.

Some players are content to play net back near the service line. (They are playing a long 21 feet back from the net.) This is typical of some players who were never coached. Their stance is primarily defensive, which may be perfectly OK for them. However, for learning players with normally quick reflexes, it is best if you learn to play closer to the net as this will make you a considerably better net player over time.

TennisTom 2011

[9-NET PLAY – Court Repositioning in Doubles] [Rev 5-19-11]


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