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Tennis for Two

For the Aging Tennis Enthusiast, Doubles Offers Additional Years of Exciting Competition
Roger M. Williams
From the Print Edition:
Michael Douglas, May/Jun 98

(continued from page 2)

Through drills and the use of ball machines, Gardiner's pros help players develop sound doubles strategies. But the resort is by no means the only one to offer doubles instruction. Dennis Van der Meer's Shipyard Racquet Club at Shipyard Plantation on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has doubles instruction every Saturday and features week-long doubles clinics throughout the year for players over the age of 50. Topnotch at Stowe Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vermont, can tailor a custom-made doubles program for parties of two or more. Other adult camps such as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club in La Jolla, California, Harry Hopman Tennis at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Florida, and the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas, incorporate doubles instruction into their singles tennis clinics. But Gardiner's is the most doubles-dedicated.

Although Gardiner's pros claim that even a 2.0 player (barely above rank beginner) can absorb the fundamentals of doubles, he can't play it in any meaningful sense. Even Gardiner's doesn't know everything about how to beat your buddies in doubles, or at least it doesn't teach everything. Just remember that tennis is a game of levels, and a player at level C will seldom, if ever, beat one at level B. But don't think about that at this point. Think instead of being armed like a gladiator with clever shots, smart footwork and a winning attitude. These are the most important elements to help you beat your nemeses on the court.

Gardiner's Resort on Camelback can be reached at (602) 948-2100. For more doubles tips, turn to page 259.

Roger Williams is a contributing editor for Tennis magazine for 15 years and the author of The U.S. Open: Game, Set, Unmatched.

"Move with the ball" and obey Gardiner's other rules. When your team is at net, hit low to your opponents so they have to hit high into your put-away zone; except for clear openings, keep the ball down the middle of the court to minimize errors and create uncertainty; on a ball down your middle, let the player nearer the net take it if he can; when a weak shot wafts over the net, close in on it quickly so you can hit down at short range.

When your team is serving, let the stronger server go first; use the "Australian" formation--net man standing on server's side of the court--if an opponent is killing you with crosscourt returns; if you're comfortable poaching a lot, work out simple, behind-the-back hand signals so the server's not left guessing.

If you're out of position, or in doubt, lob, and don't be reluctant to keep lobbing. Few club-level players can put away overheads consistently.

Communicate regularly--and, of course, sotto voce--during the match. For instance, keep track of the opponents' good and bad returns so you can advise each other about where to serve on big points.

To determine which of you should play the forehand ("deuce") or backhand ("ad") side, you should weigh the advantages of having the stronger player receive serve on break points and having the better overhead smasher cover the middle of the court, where most lobs go. But if one partner is left-handed and your forehands are your best shots, put the lefty in the ad court; that will allow you both to step around weak serves to hit forehand returns crosscourt--almost everyone's strongest shot.

While you're mastering all that, toss in this bit of Gardiner's esoterica: in moving with the ball, the net man farthest from the ball retreats a bit as he shifts sideways, to position himself at the service tee. The purpose, says Gard Gardiner, is to give the player farther back more time to react to the most likely return, a drive down the middle or moderately crosscourt, and to make him better able to run down the second most likely one, a lob over his partner's head. Don't use this maneuver against advanced players. They will respond with a sharply hit crosscourt ground stroke for an easy winner.

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