This advice has helped my game enormously. I have about 5-6 different serves I use in a game that keeps my opponents guessing. And playing with Joe is a constant reminder to poach and fake. It works! This is Joe’s sixth article. Check them all out by typing Joe’s name into the search box at the right above. Then make some adjustments to your game and enjoy your improved performance…

The most important thing in a doubles serve is to get the first serve in. Sounds simple, but we all forget it. You can’t serve a double fault if you get the first serve in.

Opponents are less likely to attack a first serve, because they are expecting something big….they are more likely to hit an aggressive shot on a second serve, when they are expecting something slower and closer to the middle of the box. In addition, your net opponent will usually feel more confident poaching on your return to his partner’s first serve as well.

Assuming you are getting a decent percentage of first serves in, what different kinds of strategies can you try in order to make your serve more effective? The answer requires some thought.

What SHOULD you be trying to do with your serve, especially your first serve? The answer is not “trying to knock the racquet out of my opponent’s hand.” It should be, “Serving in such a way that my opponent will be likely to hit a return that my partner or I can hit aggressively (or put away).” In other words, “Set up the net man” as much as possible.

Tell your partner you want him/her to be aggressive. Poach a good percentage of the time (30% sounds about right, depending on the opponents). When he is not poaching, he is faking a poach, or moving forward, or anticipating a lob. Any movement at the net is distracting to the returner, especially when it occasionally leads to a put away. If they beat you down the line once in a while, don’t be upset. Tell your partner, “Good poach,” and encourage them to continue to be aggressive. The next time you serve to that opponent, have your partner fake a poach. See if they don’t get the ball hit right to them or into the net.

To add to the returner’s misery, mix up your first serves with different placements, spins, and PACES OF SHOT (in other words, change speeds…just a little is often enough.) This summer I got to play a set of doubles against a gal in her 20′s. She was on the pro tour at one time, and had top 20 potential, until her career was derailed by injury. Now she is a full time pro teacher. I had a good partner, and her partner was no better than I.
Every time I served and volleyed to her partner in the doubles court, I won the point. Every time I served to her, she took my serve early and wailed it for a winner (at my feet, into the doubles alley, handcuffing my partner). I served it to her backhand, she pounded it. I spun it on the mid line to her forehand, she creamed it. But I was able to stay in the game by winning the points against her partner. I just didn’t have enough pace on my serve to phase her, even on a fast indoor court.

After the third or fourth deuce, at our 4th game point, I tried an old trick. Read the rest of this entry »

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