“EVERY POINT IS A CHANCE FOR A FRESH BEGINNING”
In Part ll of The Beginning of a Doubles Point (Part I click here), I am going to focus on the two jobs each of you in doubles is entrusted with if you’re in the 2.5-3.0 level of play. The goal is to let you concentrate on what you need to do for your level of play. Just what you are capable of.
An easy way for you to become overwhelmed, confused, and discouraged is to take on more responsibility than you can handle. The job should fit the skill level. Trying to execute shots without the proper skills and attempting to use tactics beyond your understanding and experience will stifle your improvement. Filling your mind with information that you don’t need, that is above your level, will keep you from building a solid doubles foundation. Improvement and evolving depends on stair-stepping your doubles knowledge. It’s a progression. A good example of over-stepping your level is poaching or going to the net without the strategic understanding of how to accomplish it.
“I FELT LIKE IT WAS A GOOD TIME TO MAKE THE MOVE”
Explaining your tactical decisions based on feelings rather than on an objective game plan is going to produce mixed results for you. Your feelings change from moment to moment: excited, dejected, perplexed, mad, happy, desperate, euphoric…It’s an emotional roller coaster way more unpredictable than the rides you take at the theme parks. Maybe not scarier but certainly maddening.
Eventually, after years of play you’ll develop a feel for the doubles game, and that feel is what I call intuition. But, intuition is only developed by exposing yourself to the same circumstances over and over again and discovering the reoccurring patterns of those situations. Concentrate only on what you’re supposed to do (keep it simple) and you’ll be on your way to improving and growing your doubles game, both technically and mindfully.
Okay, let’s get to those duties for the 2.5-3.0 doubles player:
You’ll be off to a good start if you learn the huge importance of getting your first serve in. The higher the level you ascend, the more crucial it is to get your first serve in. Just ask your partner. 70% is a good number to strive for. Reaching that percentage is easy if you avoid the Jekyll and Hyde serving strategy—1st serve, the speed and intention of a scud missile, which rarely hits the mark and, 2nd serve, which has the look of partially helium-inflated tennis ball floating and floating until it makes an imperceptible soft landing in the service box. My observation is that this bipolar serving strategy is more prevalent among males in the 2.5-3.5 rating range. It’s non-existent in the higher levels of play.
20% Difference Between First and Second Serve
Strive to keep your first and second serve within a 20% range differential in mph. For example, let’s say your first serve is averaging around 60mph, then your second serve ought to be close to 48mph. Which is 20% below first serve mph. The benefits of serving methodology:
- No shock to the shoulder, back, and arm because of the absence of huge contrasts in swing speed
- Easy to develop a fluid and effortless service motion — think of longevity
- Not guiding second service motion — to guide the swing, ironically, creates undue stress to the shoulder, forearm, and wrist — imagine riding your bicycle with the brakes causing significant friction with the rims. To resist the flow of momentum is tough on your body.
- 1st serve percentages will likely increase — and that will make your partner happy. It’s not fun standing there at the net, and having your partner(the server) give you false starts every time they fail to to get the first serve in.
70-75% of first serves in play. That’s your goal.
The Server’s Partner (2.5 – 3.0)
In order to be successful at the net, your partner (the server) has to fulfill his/her responsibilities to you. Otherwise, your effectiveness at the net will be mediocre at best.
Position is vital. Where do you stand when your partner is getting ready to serve? Most 2.5-3.0 doubles players stand too close to the singles lines—overly protective of the alley won’t let you reach your full potential.
Now, what I suggest to you is a bit uncomfortable. But remember, comfort is the enemy of learning, improvement, growth… you won’t evolve.
When your partner is serving, make your stand in the middle of the service box—halfway between the singles line and the center line and midway between the the net and the service line. I know the first thing that pops in your mind; “But I’m leaving the alley open, my opponent is going down the line if I stand in the middle of the box.”
When you stand in the middle of the service box, you will be in an advantageous place to learn your role at the net. The position I’m suggesting for you is fluid, and dynamic; it changes depending on where your partner serves. For example, if your partner serves a weak serve wide, well, you better cover the alley and, if your partner serves an aggressive serve down the T, then you’d lean towards the middle of the court and look to poach.
It takes time to learn to be proactive at the net. But the sooner you begin your learning, the sooner you’ll acquire it.
In the next post, I’ll talk about the responsibilities of the Receiver and the Receiver’s Partner at 2.5 – 3.0.
Okay, let’s have a great beginning.
Let’s do this and have fun!