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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 3)

Now the role-specific points:

Get a high percentage of first serves in. The receiver can't be sure where you'll hit it, with what spin, etc., but he knows your second one will be easier to deal with. If you're comfortable coming to net behind your serve, do so. If not, come in on the first short ball you get. Both moves will put you and your partner on the offensive and, just as important, will eliminate the big diagonal gap created when one player is up and the other back.

Serve wide (into the alley) only sparingly because it creates good angles for the returner. A sound alternative is to serve directly at ("jam") the opponent, forcing him to fend off the ball. And note the most frequent angle of your opponents' returns, and adjust your serving position on the baseline to counteract it.

Don't feel you must start each point at the net. If you're uncomfortable or maladroit there, play all the way back near the baseline. Although that means forfeiting the attacking position, you'll be far better off hitting a good drive or lob than a bad volley.

Assuming you can volley decently, don't hug the alley, leaving your partner to lunge around seven-eighths of the court. You're responsible for half of it, so stand halfway between the singles sideline and the center service line.

If a lob over your head is too deep for you to handle, switch sides of the court with your partner while he's chasing down the ball.

Poaching (darting along the net to intercept a service return) is an excellent tactic but must be timed well. By leaving too early, you give the returner an easy opportunity to hit behind you for a winner. Don't overdo the poach. Your opponents will start to anticipate the move, and it will tell your partner, "We can't win unless I hog all the shots."

In pro-tour doubles nowadays, returners blast the ball. But at the club level, blasts usually mean errors. Instead, hit a soft "chip" that lands at the net charger's feet.

On break points, don't go for a winner. Get the return into play, keeping the pressure on your opponents to avoid making a game-deciding error.

Lob over the net man's head--a lot. No less an authority than the late Bobby Riggs, a great tactician, called it the best shot in club-level doubles.

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