Posts Tagged Joe Marshall

Joe Marshall Describes How To Win In Tennis

Joe Marshall posted this comment to my “Mentality” article yesterday (below). Joe was a great mentor/coach for me and wrote about 15 articles on this site about how to play tennis much much better. His strategies have helped me and many others improve their game dramatically. You can find them by searching with the keywords Joe Marshall.

Great story….Remarkable in its coincidence. Yesterday, I played a doubles match with a couple of thirty somethings on the other team, and my partner and I (ages 64 and 59) on our side…..they got off to a 3-0, 15-40 lead. My partner was solid, I was very inconsistent. Our opponents run twice as fast as us, one hits twice as hard, the other hits with twice the spin….I usually serve the best of the bunch, but yesterday, we all served about the same….serviceable…We stole that game and won the next. on serve! But they broke me for the second time to go up, 4-2. But we fought back, and won the next 4 games, fighting off break points and game points in each one….6-4 us.

In the second set, we got up 2-0 15-30, but they held, then they broke and held again. We tied it up at 3-3. They got up 5-3, but we won three games in a row, and I served for the match….they broke me for about the 5th time….I have been holding serve very well lately, but I lost all confidence, and my partner wasn’t helping me by stealing a poach here or there, or even moving to distract them or anything….in the tiebreak, we got up 3-1, but then they reeled foo 5 out of 6 points to go up 6-4. One had an easy volley at the net and tried to dropshot it…he JUST missed it, but I was running in, and would have had it if it wasn’t a very good dropper, so I think I put some pressure on him…..Then I hit two service winners, probably the only two I got all day….neither a terrific shot, but both solid first serves. When my partner served with our match point later, I poached and they hit the return in the net.

The key was experience, playing the pressure points well, but mostly strategy. The only thing I had working for me wsa my mind and my reflexes…I made several fine reflex shots to extend rallies, and some great gets….My partner was solid as a rock….They kept playing one up, and one back, with the server occasionally sneaking in. They also made some terrific poaches. My partner and I realized the only way we were going to get ahead was to lob everything, especially the return of serve. We had long rallies of our team lobbing, and their deep man running around hitting (and occasionally missing) groundies, while their net man looking for overheads, that he would occasionally hit, and about half the time, miss (or we would block it back.

In the second set, my partner lost his lob, he started hitting them all short…..I reminded him to get his weight into the shot, like any other shot, and follow through HIGH. Correcting things when they go wrong is one of the great gifts of experience.

They changed strategies in the second set when they had their run…..their deep man started hitting big high topspin shots, backing us up, and making it difficult to lob the net man (the best way to get a lob over the deep man’s head is to move up and take it early)…..Unfortunately for them, they didn’t stick with this strategy, and inexplicably, their server started to come in fast behind creampuff serves, making my return of serve lobs over the net man twice as effective….On big points, experience teaches you to follow certain mantras…..”Keep your weight going forward on return of serves”…anticipate on a certain side, On a serve, keep the toss high, let it bounce if it isn’t good, make sure you clear the net, exhale, put plenty of spin on the second serve…..and above all BE CONSISTENT, but forgive your self immediately if you miss one…Stay in the moment, the past means nothing, the future isn’t written….you might lose, you might win, but keep fighting….Now’s not the time to think about results…now is the time to hit the BALL!

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Nate The Great Is A World-Class Juggler

My tennis mentor, ping pong enthusiast, stand-up comic, songwriter and stage performer Joe Marshall sadly moved away from me. I miss him and his great counseling on the court, so now we are limited to email. However Joe recently sent me a little story and video about his son, who is extraordinarily talented. This is a justifiable Proud Papa tale. And it makes me feel that jugglers aren’t really appreciated for all the years they train to do something you can see in just a minute or two. Be sure to keep watching past 49 seconds, when the super hard stuff begins.

This is a video of my son, Nate Marshall. He is a very popular touring singer/songwriter, along with his wife….they are billed as Nate and Kate. Nate is a self-taught musician, plays guitar, harmonica, piano, and banjo, all at a very high level…..to give you an idea…if you’ve ever heard John Popper’s song “Runaround” with the fabulous harmonica, Nate plays that exactly WHILE he is also playing the guitar part….but his song-writing is terrific, he is known for his sensitive poetry and social comment but he can rock too.

Nate has an alter-ego: NATE THE GREAT….you see he is a world-class juggler…he juggles 7 balls at once AS PART OF THE ROUTINE…he has also “qualified” juggling 8 and 9 balls (qualifying means at least 2 full times around for each ball without a drop….so 18 throws and catches qualifies you for 9 balls)…he has “flashed” ten, and has it on film…10 throws, ten catches, without a drop….He learned to juggle 3 as a kid (7 years old)…he was always a good athlete in baseball, soccer, and schoolyard games….he picked up the guitar at 16, the piano at 21, the harmonica at 18, the banjo after the piano….this video was made when he was about 25….his juggling skills are even better now. He is 30, and works for a very reasonable price….they have a special kids’ show that includes juggling and music….he is a really nice guy, too, (takes after his mom)

Something else I meant to say about Nate is that he could juggle three until he was 20, but at 20, he saw some guys in Chicago juggling seven, so he said, “I wanna do that’ It took him five years, but at the same time he was studying music theory, teaching lessons (he is a fine teacher of all his skills and is in demand), and writing, learning new instruments, arranging four albums, and touring…and all the business work that goes with it.

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Joe Marshall Reports From New Home

My tennis mentor, Joe Marshall (who has written over 15 articles on this site about tennis strategy), emailed that he was having trouble finding a regular tennis game after he relocated to New York from his home in Connecticut. I missed his advice and unconventional game right away. Joe is a very strong ping pong player and brings that talent into tennis, with many slices and lobs. Here is his latest report.

We moved. I didn’t want to at first, but my wife insisted that life would be better if we were closer to the kids and the grand-daughter.

“But what about my tennis friends?” I wailed.

“They’ll be plenty of tennis up there,” she insisted. “And you can always come back to visit.”
Oh well……

I’ve played a few times, beating the opponents easily with my whacky game. But today I made a classic mistake. I played a guy I had beaten easily in the wind on clay. And today I took the first set on a hard court 6-1. Then I started taking it easy a little bit…..Not too different, just being a little less aggressive, and not moving in between shots……In no time he was up 2-0.

I said to myself “Better buckle down”…Close game….I lost it….3-0….I got to 3-1, but he won the next two game, and he EARNED them…..tremendous play….AND movement….he was figuring me out! Down 5-1, I took the next three games. But he hit the line on every serve in the next game and had me set point……he hit me a jamming serve, which I mishit….It bounced twice on the net and dropped over…..From there I won in a tiebreak…..playing one key point where I brought him in and lobbed him FOUR times, and he STILL won the point….but I think I got to his legs on that one, and it cost him the next couple of points…..I’m glad it didn’t get to go to a third set….he seemed a lot fitter than me.

Playing a lot less tennis, I have been surviving on ping pong. What a great game….The local University has a tremendous ping pong club that is open to the public…..ON a Thursday night at ten PM, it was forty college kids and 57-year-old yours truly hacking it out……I could beat most of the hackers, but some of the kids from the team are superb, playing in a style like the Olympic champs….a couple of young ladies from China were better than all but 2 or 3 of the boys.

Ping Pong is a lot better for my back and legs…..Singles tennis, especially, can really do a number on your body….stretching is essential.

My tennis friend said he would recommend me to a group of guys who play more at my level….But he warned me….”They are an insular group, and if you don’t do well the first time you play them, they won’t invite you back.”

Talk about pressure! Now I know how Andy Murray felt!

If I play poorly, I’m in tennis limbo at least until next spring when the local tournament roles around…….Wish me luck!

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Great Ping Pong Points From Joe Marshall

I love playing tennis with Joe Marshall, partly because he brings onto the court the spins and slices that he uses on the ping pong table. No one else at our club has his style. Here are Joe’s comments to the previous ping pong posts.

I see you have Marty Reisman interviews posted. I first read about Marty way back….how he hustled people in ping pong by beating them using books or garbage pail covers…..great self promoter….and player.

Like Marty, I enjoy the hard paddle (sandpaper or pips-up paddle) more than the sponge, because of the longer rallies. But i have to say, I do love the sponge game as well. It requires a monstrous amount of concentration in order to read the spins of the opponent, especially if they have different grades of rubber on each side of the paddle.

Back in the 70’s, when the technology allowed for great diversity in the rubber over the latex foam, a Chinese athlete rose to be #2 int he world by using two different kinds of rubber and playing defensively, sending back shots with all kinds of different spins that would handcuff the opponent. He would actually flip the racket in his hand between strokes, so you didn’t know which kind of rubber he was returning with……For this reason, it became mandatory to have the two different colors we see today on the racket (usually red and black)…so the opponent could at least have a fighting chance of reading the different spins…..some rubbers are extremely sticky, and can create a lot of spin (but are difficult to control the other player’s spin with), and other rubbers are “DEAD”, take all the spin off the ball, and just dump it back.

Below are five videos (one is just a link) that show that all modern day rallies are not that short….by the way, it seems like nowadays they have switched from the 2-out-of-3, 21 point game format to the 3-out-of-5, 11 point format….at least on the ESPN shows…..I like it better this new way.

The last point in this next video is something.

and also……

how bout that Zhang Jike?

(Zhang Jike is the reigning World Champion and World Cup winner in singles. Should he win the Olympic gold medal in singles, he will be the fourth male player in the history of table tennis to achieve a career grand slam.)

Above is a long point in a match at a Mohegan Sun tournament. You don’t see many points like this at the highest international levels (I don’t know what level this is).

What makes it interesting is that it is shown form three different perspectives. The third being an angle from above. The third angle shows how the ball leaps off the table in any of three directions due to spin. You have to be able to read that spin, allow for it in your timing of the stroke, and COUNTERACT the spin because it will leap off your paddle in a crazy direction if you don’t! This is what makes the soft paddle game so intriguing.

The instructor I worked with from the USTTA said that you should try to take slam shots no higher than your shoulder….hence the jumping on the slams….for consistency and control.

Every once in a while they do this above……just for fun (in an exhibition game):

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Joe Marshall’s Attitude About Tennis: It’s A Good Day To Die

In response to my post yesterday about success coming partly from attitude, Joe Marshall wrote the following:

When you’re down in tennis, it’s easy to make the other guys into magicians. They’re not. It’s easy to make yourselves into losers. You’re not. You are both just guys swatting a tennis ball around. The key points we lost were lost by unforced errors by us, and better consistentcy by them. It was just a few shots…..a couple of inches here, a couple of inches there.

Serving out a match always has its own separate drama. The servers, who have been cruising along, suddenly say to themselves….”Now don’t blow it, you’ve got them.” But it’s difficult for the mind NOT to blow it…..better to say something positive like “Get a good first serve in,” “Move your feet.” or “Keep the ball in play”…some practical advice that will help keep you in the moment, and solve your biggest problem…..WINNING ONE POINT…..that’s all you can do anyway.

So for us, as returners, the goal is, “Make them play.”

No easy points, no unforced errors…..Make them EARN the victory, and if they can, tip your hats to them……so you lost a tennis match, so what? As the Roman soldiers who guarded the borders of the empire used to say, each beautiful Mediterranean morning, “It’s a good day to die.”

Today might be your last day. The point you are playing may be your last point, so LIVE IT UP! Play your best and enjoy every minute. Even if you send up a weak lob right in front of the net, guess where they are going to hit it, and run there at full steam……IT feels a lot better than standing there bemoaning your fate, and more often than you think, you just might guess right and save the point.

ON the first point of the key break game at 3-5, I figured David would serve and volley. I figured if I could get a decent lob over his head, we could make him run back to retrieve and take over the net. I told my feet to move, and guessed he’d be going for my backhand, which he had been doing successfully. He hit a cautious serve and I was able to get the thing in. That sent a message We weren’t dead yet. Ira smacked a clean winner on David’s serve to the ad court, and I was able to get another lob in at 0-30. By then we had the momentum, we broke, and when Ira put a couple of overheads away off good first serves of mine in the next game, we had them on their heels, and were able to play another game of controlled aggression to break.

Ira served it out. We shook hands….Great day of tennis for everyone….Let’s do it again.

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Success Often Requires A Positive Attitude

The best thing about winning the third set and the match in tennis today, was that my partner, Joe Marshall, enabled me to change my attitude by 180 degrees. Even though I have written about how important the correct attitude is in sports, as well as in life, I forget or am unable to always apply it in a stress situation.

Having won the first set in a tiebreaker and then losing the second, we were really after the third set…the big one. My team was down 3-5, I couldn’t get my first serve in, and Joe and I were missing easy winners. I automatically attempted to excuse myself and make him feel better by stating that “I guess we are both off today.” He slapped me (verbally) right down in a nice way, ordering me to focus on the next point, not think negatively, and certainly not give up. We then played our best points of the day, broke our opponents twice and won 7-5. I even served the winning game.

Given how many unforced errors we were making, I would never have believed we could come back from being so far behind. It was magical. And I had many great winning net volleys and overhead smashes, along with my partner’s numerous gets and points. How does this happen? How do a few words cause not only the renewed determination, but the ability to actually achieve the goal? How does a changed attitude lead to success?

I don’t know. I wish I did. Can you help me understand?

The awareness that it is possible should persuade me to never give up on the court and in my life. We all have our down days and periods, but maybe it just takes someone jarring us out of bad habits and poor attitudes to make us believe we can do it. I know people with positive attitudes are healthier than those who are negative. And those who believe in themselves have a better chance at succeeding in the task than those who are sure they will never achieve their goals.

But how does just believing something actually affect the outcome. Or even just striving and aiming for a target help you reach it? I’ve read that faith can move mountains. But how does that work?

Maybe it doesn’t matter “how,” but only that it does. The cancer-origin doctor I quoted earlier this week said he can see that people like the Japanese who didn’t eat much red meat didn’t have much cancer. Then when their diet changed to be more Western and included more red meat, the number of cancer patients “skyrocketed.” He has no idea exactly what the biological connection is. But he can see the cause and effect.

Ben Franklin eliminated from his vocabulary words like “I hate…it kills me…I could have died…” He said in his autobiography that these thoughts were negative, poisoned his brain, would cause harm. I never forgot that guidance that my father insisted I follow as a child. If I had been playing much tennis then, he might have said what Joe told me today.

Now let’s see if I can apply this advice more often in the future. Like the next time I play tennis. What could be more important?

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How To Hit A Drop Shot By Joe Marshall

I told my friend John, a marvelous player who passed away recently, that I thought the most important thing in hitting a drop shot was “Weight”….in other words, get your weight into the shot, so your soft hands are concentrating on taking power off, and directing, the ball. John nodded, seeing my point. But then he topped me.

”I think the most important factor in hitting the dropper is HEIGHT,” he said. And as usual, he was right.

A lot of people miss drop shots, because they think the most important aspect of the shot is to skim the net with the ball, figuring that the lower the height at which the ball peaks, the more difficult it will be for the opponent to get to it before the second bounce. But think about it. If you hit the ball at a low trajectory (initially dangerous because you may catch the net), the opponent will see that the ball will be short, and will hustle in immediately. Also, the trajectory of the ball will make it bounce low, but forward, perhaps reaching almost to mid court.

On the other hand, if you concentrate on lifting the ball higher, peaking maybe THREE OR FOUR FEET ABOVE, BUT WELL IN FRONT OF, the net, the opponent, not realizing that you took the pace off the ball, will initially read a deep shot, and will not immediately rush the net. This trajectory will also allow the ball to drop much closer to the net, which is the most difficult factor for the opponent, since he has to apply the brakes quickly for fear of running into the net, and must still hit a difficult, controlled return into a safe spot. Spin, of course is the killer.

The best droppers seem to have a mix of side and back spin.

If you incorporate a slice shot as part of your game, the dropper should look like it was going to be a hard slice. Even after it comes off the racquet, your follow-through combined with the appropriate height above the net will give the impression that it is a deep slice or an approach shot. Drop shots should catch the opponent by surprise.

They are usually best when struck from inside, or just at, the baseline. They are a great way to break up a long rally, when the opponent is already a little winded or in a groove. Hit them to the opposite side of the court from where the opponent is…..although the inside-out forehand drop is deadly (for those who have the Jim Courier-type, inside-out forehand weapon). Follow the dropper in toward the net (in case he drops it back!), stopping just on the net side of the service line, anticipating a ball you can lob-volley (or even lob half-volley) over the charging opponent.

Drop shots are like body blows. They have a way (especially when combined with lobs) of breaking the opponents spirit, and wearing him out. They earn you invisible points, because they can cause an opponent to lean in every time he hits a short ball, worried about your potential dropper, and mess up his next ground stroke due to poor footwork.

To summarize, think WEIGHT as you approach a shot you want to drop (GET your weight into the shot, use quick short steps, like you are preparing to hit a drive), think HEIGHT as you stroke the shot, making sure to follow through high and clear the net. Follow the lob in past the service line and anticipate a lob-volley. You can win a point on a poorly executed dropper that clears the net and goes too deep, You lose the point every time if your stroke hits the net and bounces back.

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No Such Thing By Joe Marshall

My friend Frank died on the tennis court of a heart attack. I played with him for 24 years, sometimes 60 times a year or more, and we never had a cross word. He was a great partner, a perfect sport (too generous on line calls), and one of the funniest people I ever knew, with a dry, sarcastic wit.

Frank knew how to pick his partner up after a bad mistake or a loss of confidence. One of my favorite sayings of his was usually given in response to a missed “sitter” (volley or overhead). If I started to whine about missing an easy “putaway” volley, Frank would cut me off and simply say, “No such thing.”

And he was right. The putaway shots, volleys and overheads, are the most complex shots, requiring that one deals with a lot of variables, often without a lot of time to think about it. We often feel the pressure to “put it away” because our opponents are in a vulnerable position, and if we don’t finish the point here, they can neutralize the rally, and steal the point. We also don’t want to let our partner down by failing to “finish them off.”

But there is no defense for a ball you hit into the net, which often happens on putaways. Those misses are heartbreakers and momentum changers. Try to avoid them above all. When approaching a putaway, try to get into position to hit the ball firmly into the area you think it will be best to keep the advantage. Don’t worry about where the opponents are, or you may take your eye off the ball. Get up to the ball, and make a nice firm, safe shot, not going for too much.

But really concentrate! If you get close to the ball and find something is not right, abandon ship! Suppose their lob had more topspin than you realize, and you are about to contact it lower than the ideal spot. Or there was wind, or sun, or your feet betrayed you….or you have the wrong grip….what then? Just be consistent. Push the ball back if you have to…massage it deep down the middle….put a little spin on the overhead, like a second serve….drop it back. Anything to keep the point alive……Often the soft ball in this case will work because the opponents were not anticipating it. They were expecting the smash or a firm volley, and are back deep in a defensive position. Even if they get to the ball, they still have to come up with something good. If they neutralize the point, be patient, and restart the point. If they hit a winner, tip your hat to them and begin the next point.

Another thoughtful tennis friend who won a lot, and died too young, said that he thought the most important thing to think about when hitting an overhead was “Consistency”. Not “power”, not “footwork”, not “placement”…….All those things are important, but if you hustle, and concentrate on completing the shot, in the long run, the odds will be with you.

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She Did It Again! By Joe Marshall

My friend Sally is a wonderful player. She and I were able to win a mixed doubles tournament a few years ago. She was the number one singles player in her high school, and went on to coach high school tennis for many years.

Sally’s game is worthy of analysis. She has a marvelous two-handed backhand that she says she developed by copying her baseball swing. She hits the ball kinda flat, sometimes with a little backspin, sometimes a little top, sometimes a pure knuckle ball. Her forehand is usually a slice shot, which she strikes by getting down low and punching the ball with heavy backspin, like a volley. She can also slap the forehand with a wristy flick that can turn into a topspin pass or a flat drive. Her serve is an inside-out twist, which stays low, and skips or stops. She places it well and varies the pace. She also lobs very well off both sides. But she is maddeningly consistent, takes the ball early, recognizes the patterns of her opponents, and disguises her shots until the last second…able to hit cross court or down the line without giving it away.

And now, she has developed the BLOOP!

Recently, I played Sally and her partner Ted a couple of times. The first time, they beat us in straight sets. The second time, we were wary of what she was doing, and we squeaked out a close first set, lost the second, and gave up a 2 break, 5-2 lead in the third set ( we had to leave the court at 5-5).

Sally has mastered the BLOOP, and it has taken her already formidable game to a new level. The Bloop is a derivative of the lob volley, the advanced shot that is so handy when all four players are at the net. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who Should Play Forehand? By Joe Marshall

When I read Joe Marshall’s insights about doubles tennis, I realize how little I know and think about this team game. Here is yet another example of why Joe wins so consistently when he plays. Of course it helps enormously that he is good enough to execute what his brain thinks of doing. Much of the time, I am just trying to get the damn ball back over the net and in the court. But maybe someday…

If anyone saw the movie “Moneyball,” with Brad Pitt, you heard the name of Bill James, a man who was working as a security guard in the 1970′s, when he started writing very clever analyses of baseball statistics. He was part of a grass roots movement of stat-head baseball fans, known as SABRmetricians (SABR stands for Society of American Baseball Research), who began to realize that all kinds of “set-in-stone” notions about baseball productivity and statistical analysis were just plain wrong. Bill was probably the most engaging writer of the group, and got published, so his ideas began to spread. George Will spoke of them in his baseball book, MEN AT WORK in the early 90′s.

It took almost 30 years before Bill was hired by a club (the Red Sox), to help decide who were the most productive players available in winter trades, and how the team could be best configured to maximize success on the field. He was instrumental in helping the Sox kill the Curse of the Bambino, and win its first World Championship since 1918 in the middle of the first decade of this century.

Bill wrote early on that in all areas of life, sloppy thinking can get ingrained, and truisms which are not true can proliferate. I think there are some of these things going on in tennis, and I will mention one today that may interest the tennis fan, or the fan of clear thinking.

The first came up in our match yesterday……IN doubles, if all else is equal, on which court should the stronger player play defense, the AD or the DEUCE?

Conventional wisdom has it that the stronger player should play the AD court because this is where all the “Important points” are played (the game points and the break points they mean, I guess). I strongly disagree. The more consistent, stronger player, especially the one with the more consistent return of serve, should play the deuce court.

The underlying assumption of the conventional wisdom is wrong…. Read the rest of this entry »

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Helping Your Partner Play Better By Joe Marshall

Some more good advice from Joe Marshall that came in a few days ago.

Today Ira and I played four sets with two friends of his, Matthew and Ann. I had played with Matt before in doubles and felt I was the better player, beating his team in each set, even when we changed partners. I asked him to play a couple of singles sets, and he cleaned my clock (on Har Tru). He is very quick, and has a terrific forehand, which he can hit with accuracy, consistency, and pace, standing still or on the run. He likes to run around his backhand, so it can seem that there are no safe shots against him…..His backhand is a push shot, but a consistent one with some spin.

As I was warming up with Ann, I noticed that she too was quick, but she had some trouble adjusting to my spin shots, as a lot of people with western grips do. As the match began, she showed herself to be a person who liked to be aggressive at the net, but she missed a lot of put away volleys, hitting them hard into the net. I think part of the problem was that we were employing a two-back strategy part of the time, which can often make people over-hit at the net, when they (sometimes unconsciously) realize that the volley is not as easy to put away with that position as it is with the one up, one back position.

Ira and I won two sets 6-2, 6-2. We decided to switch partners. If you had watched the match so far, you would have thought that Ann was the weakest of the four players. Her serve was not that strong, she was making a lot of mistakes, and was unsure how to use her quickness.

When Ann and I began our first set together, I wondered what I could do to help her play better…..the obvious answer of course, is to play well myself, which I did….nothing fancy, just my usual mix of spins, lobs and blocks….but at least I was consistent, and they all said that I served well. I said to her, “If you don’t mind me suggesting, you seem to be a very good net rusher, but you might do better, if you just try to be more consistent at the net, and not hit every volley so hard…..the threat of the hard one is just as important as the hard one itself….set up to hit the volley hard, but if you have any doubt, just make sure you clear the net with it, and get it in.”

In the first game, we went to at least 6 or 7 deuces. For a while, we had all the ads, but they kept fighting them off (including one sitter volley I over-massaged into the net). Then we fought off a break point….then they got another…..I went to Ann and conferred…..”Fake a poach, and they will hit it right at you…have your racquet up. ” Sure enough, we got lucky, and it worked just as we planned. We held and went on to hold.

The other strategy we employed was playing two back on offense. This put a lot less pressure on Ann’s serve. She had help covering any great returns, and our opponents would have a hard time putting the ball away with two of us back.

The amazing thing was how well Ann played. She began to clock her ground strokes, forehand and back hand, finish off her volleys beautifully, and approach off short balls with aplomb. Several times she whacked groundies right at Ira, curling the ball over the top of the net, and handcuffing the man I call “The Wall” when his net game is on.

Maybe it’s ego-centric of me to say I helped Ann play better. Maybe she would have played just as well if I didn’t say anything (maybe she would have played even better). I will agree that I am full of myself much of the time…..and can give you many email addresses of people who will agree. But I think after playing doubles a lot for a while, that helping your partner find a way to maximize what they do well, and minimize their mistakes, is a key to doubles success. And asking them to help you when you are having trouble, can get you to figure it out when things are going wrong. Some people don’t like it at all when you suggest things, and it can be over done (Ira will attest to the fact that I over do it a lot). A good doubles team is always trying to find a strategy that works, and sticking with it until it goes sour.

After the match we had a lively discussion on what was happening for the two sets Ann and I played together (which we won, 6-1, 6-2). Ira and Matt knew they should change strategies, but couldn’t figure out just which one would work. It turned out that they had been playing one up, one back all the time. And never tried coming in behind the return of serve or moving into the two-back position. Ira, whose greatest strength is his net game (he has those ping-pong hands, and no fear), let a couple of good lobs I hit scare him into backing off the net too much, and he wound up getting stuck in no-man’s land a lot. Matt, on the other hand, had been hitting some good returns of serve, but was not following any of them in, allowing me to just float them back with no pace, or hit short slices to bring him in.

I hope we play again. It will be interesting to see how things turn out after we all try to make adjustments.

Here is Matt’s comment to Joe’s assessment:

Hi Joe,

Pretty accurate evaluation of the game. Good job. I could have been more aggressive and tried a few different tactics. Since I play mixed doubles all the time and enjoy the slow pace and more volleys to keep the game going, I didn’t want to go for the killer shots. When I play doubles mixed or otherwise, I try to set up for my partner and I love watching them put the ball away. It’s more fun for recreational tennis. Of course, it is beneficial to listen to comments and learn from it. As I said, you were very right on what you said. Keep it up…Matthew

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Movement Without The Ball by Joe Marshall

Here is another insightful post by Joe Marshall that will improve your tennis doubles game. Look for more of these by typing his name in the search box above to the right. And contact Joe if you want personal lessons in winning doubles.

Anticipation is the key to success in so many areas of sports (or life, for that matter….not that I know much about success in life….). In the videos I posted there are some great examples of this….check Fabrice Santoro’s amazing point against Roger Federer, where he makes several impossible gets from way off court by simply figuring out where Roger will hit the ball before he hits it. In the Larry Bird video, he takes a shot from the top of the key, and while the ball is still up in the air, he tears off to the right base line, realizing that his shot was slightly off. The ball caroms off the rim, over the heads of several defenders ….right to the moving Larry, who Jumps, catches the ball off the ground, and before coming back to earth, arcs a perfect swish into the basket as his body falls out of bounds…..unbelievable! Andy Murray videos are an absolute lesson in anticipation.

How does one anticipate where the opponent will hit the ball?

One way is observation. Before the start of a match, when the opponent is warming up his overheads, where does he hit the first one? Does he put slice on the ball, or hit it flat? Does he employ an inside out, kick overhead? (those are tricky…and effective) During a match, where does he like to put away his volleys?

At the net man’s feet? Angled off with touch? Hard down the middle?

Which ever one he shows he can hit successfully, take that one away from him by moving to the spot just before he hits it. If you throw up a short lob, for instance, and your opponent is ready to slam the thing away, remember where he hit the last put away.

Let’s assume he hit it down the middle of the court. Read the rest of this entry »

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Poaching Off The Return of Serve By Joe Marshall

Here is the most recent article by Joe Marshall. You can see all of them by typing his name into the search box above and to the right. His doubles tennis strategies are really worth applying to your game.

Hopefully you understand the idea of poaching at the net when your partner serves. Poaching off the return is a lesser used, but equally important, tactic. To poach off the return, start by taking the normal defensive, one up, one back position.

When you, as the short man (the one closer to the net), take your position around the service line, the first thing you are looking to do is to defend, if the opponent’s net man poaches or volleys a ball hit to him. It’s not easy from the mid-court position, but if you take a split step and move in a little as your partner returns, you have a chance. Block the ball into the open part of the court toward the server, keeping it low, or lob-volley (another advanced shot) over the short man’s head.

Most of the time, your partner’s returns will not be successfully intercepted by the net man (if they are being intercepted too often, go back to the baseline and play two back), and will return to the server. Once the ball passes the opponent’s net man, quickly move straight ahead and take a split step as the ball bounces, then slant across court and in toward poaching position, with racquet raised and wrist slightly cocked, anticipating a high volley that you can hit at the short man’s feet. If the server has stayed back, a deep return by your opponent is the best to poach on. If the server has moved in toward the net, a low return at his feet by your partner will be the easiest one to poach on. Treat your return poach just like you did the poach off the serve, hitting it at your opponent’s short man’s feet.

This summer, in the round robin tournament my partner and I won, there was a key point. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Art of Poaching By Joe Marshall

Here is another article by Joe Marshall. You can see all of them by typing his name into the search box above and to the right. His doubles tennis strategies are really worth applying to your game.

Poaching, I believe, originally referred to stealing game by hunting on someone else’s property. In tennis, poaching refers to the art, in doubles tennis, of a person leaving the side of the court he is protecting, to slant in to his partner’s side, and steal a point by putting a volley away.

Most of the time, the partner of the server stands on the alternate side of the court from the server, near the net, covering the opposite side of their half of the court, hoping for a weak, or poorly placed, return of serve, that he can easily put away. In club doubles, the net man rarely poaches unless he has an easy floater. He is so concerned about “covering his side of the court” that he rarely ventures off his real estate, for fear of the embarrassment of the returner hitting the ball right where he HAD been, for an easy winner.

Let me say something before we go any further……Winning tennis, at all levels, is about playing the percentages……if you ain’t poaching, you ain’t helping. In many cases, you’d be better off back at the baseline with your partner, trying to win the game with ground strokes and lobs, rather than just sitting there and never poaching. The whole purpose of the net position is to play aggressively. To “boldly go where no man has gone before,” picking off what the returner thought were good returns, making them take their eye off the ball with dramatic, but subtle fakes, putting away overheads, and, in general, making their returning lives miserable.

In a tournament match, I like to poach on my partner’s first serve of the match. And I mean POACH. Set up in the middle of the service box (middle from side to side, AND from front to back), and SLANT IN QUICKLY, performing a split step as the ball bounces (moving forward and sideways), with your racquet raised high, anticipating a return halfway between the net strap and the sideline.

Now the big question…..where do you hit the sitter?

Many volleys are missed because the volleyer hasn’t anticipated what he would do with the volley before he got there. Read the rest of this entry »

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World’s Oldest (100 Years) Marathoner Tells How To Stay Fit

Joe Marshall sent me this story about a 100-year-old runner who completes marathons…ten so far. He is a Sikh named Singh nicknamed the Turbaned Tornado, and he has a great sense of humor: he wears a T-shirt that says Sikhs in the City (you’ve heard of Sex in the City, right?). The two videos I located show Singh running and offering wisdom about how to live so long and so healthily. To keep fit, Singh runs 10 miles a day and eats sparingly. He also says that the largest reward and blessing is given to those who make other people happy.

10/17/2011
Living to 100 is a goal, a privilege, and, let’s face it, a nearly impossible task. It’s a destination few can reach or even imagine.

But for one of us, it’s the starting line.

Fauja Singh, born in 1911, ran an entire marathon in Toronto over the weekend. That’s amazing enough. He did it in 8 hours, 25 minutes, and 17 seconds. That’s even more remarkable. But consider that Singh started running competitively only after losing his wife and son 11 years ago, at age 89.

When an old man loses a spouse or a child, many around him worry that he will soon give up on life. After all, what is the day worth without the companion to whom you have devoted every day since you can remember? What’s there to look forward to?

Singh found something, and he put his whole heart into it. He didn’t want to simply make it to 100. He didn’t settle for a piece of cake and a nap. He wanted to break a record. And he did. Singh wasn’t just the first centenarian ever to run 26.2 miles. He beat five other runners. He’s now in the Guiness Book of World Records.

And he did it with a sense of humor, wearing a T-shirt that read “Sikhs in the City.”

This isn’t his first marathon, either. He’s completed 10, running a 6:41 at age 89, a 5:40 at 92, and a stunning sub-five-hours at 94. Only days before his historic feat, he accomplished something just as incredible: He set eight world age group records in one day — running the 100 meters in 23.14, the 200 meters in 52.23, the 400 metres in 2:13.48, the 800 meters in 5:32.18, the 1500 meters in 11:27.81, the mile in 11:53.45, the 3000 meters in 24:52.47 and the 5000 meters in 49:57.39.

Singh’s story, which started on a farm in the Punjab, has captivated many around the globe, who refer to him as “The Turbaned Tornado.” Now he wants to participate in the torch relay for the London Olympics next year.

“His will cannot be captured,” biographer Khushwant Singh told the TV show Amazing Indians. “It cannot be trapped.”

Singh has said, “I won’t stop running until I die.”

Words to live by.

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Changing Momentum By Joe Marshall

This may be Joe Marshall’s seventh article about how to play better tennis. His insights keep working for me. I played the best tennis of my life today with—and against—Joe. I have improved my serve by keeping my left shoulder aimed at the net (instead of my chest), added a wrist snap to the serve, am using 5-6 different serves, changed my grip from continental to eastern forehand, brought my elbows close to my body for my service returns, am lobbing more, shifting positions with my partner as Joe suggests…it’s all adding up and adding much more excitement to the points and victories. I am sure Joe’s insights can work for you as well. Send Joe an email (joemarshall63@aol.com) if you have specific questions or want a doubles strategy lesson.

The other day, I was involved in a third set in an indoor match. We had a break lead, but played a sloppy game, and our opponents evened the score. The set progressed to a tiebreak. They got up 4-2 playing inspired tennis, and were about to serve, when I realized something.
“Hey, isn’t it time to change sides?” I said.
“Yeah, but we’re playing indoors,” the server said.
“Well that’s the side with all the points on it, we want it,” I joked. So we switched.

Now some may say that the main purpose of the rule that you switch after each 6 points of a tiebreak is to even up any advantages caused by wind or sun. Being indoors, why bother. But the hidden reason to change sides is the momentum change.

Any time you have the momentum, it is best to play at a nice rhythm, changing as few things as possible in your routine. Any time your opponents are playing confidently, it is to your advantage to slow things down or give them a different look. Nothing accomplishes this better than changing sides. You relax, say a few words, encourage your partner, and give yourselves a fresh start. Our opponents had to move to the opposite side, and think about their lead….not always a good thing to do. We won the last five points and the set. Apparently all the points WERE on that side.

If my team is ahead in a tiebreak indoors, and I realize it’s time to change, I always say, “Hey, that’s six points, do you want to change?”
The opponent almost always replies, “Why bother? Just play.” And we stay where we are……Oh well, I gave them a chance……

The next day we were in a third set, and we were down 2-5. My partner has a solid game, but his serve is his weakest link. By the third set, the balls had lost their liveliness and our opponents were focused on returning his serve and approaching the net, which they both do very well. They had already broken my partners serve. We lost the first point. So what did we do?

We played two back. “Two back on offense?” you say.

But think about it. We were actually playing one up and one back (the weakest formation), and our opponents were playing two at the net (the strongest position). We had two options. Either my partner had to come in behind his serve and take the net away from them, which is not his game, or we could try to beat them by playing good defense from the back court, mixing solid ground strokes with well-place lobs, and coming in behind them.

The game went to several deuces, but we held, and went on to break back and even the match at 5-5. After that we lost a close game and the set 7-5, but we had them thinking.

To summarize: use your changeover when you are down in a tiebreak, and some times two back on offense is the right position to try. Always change a losing game, Never change a winning game. Have fun!

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Larry Bird’s Unbelievable Basketball Skills And Dexterity

Here is another video and comment by Joe Marshall about a professional player who can inspire us all. What impresses me so much is the same skill I observed in the previous Santoro video from Joe posted two days ago—the ability to anticipate where the ball is going to be in the future. This may just be an instinct that you either have or your don’t. But I can see in my own tennis game that I begin to sense where certain people I play with repeatedly are going to put the ball. It takes a bit of courage to commit to going there before even the opponent knows what he/she is going to do. But it makes all the difference.

Even if you have no interest in basketball, go to 3:00 in this video and watch an astonishing anticipatory Bird steal of the ball.

Larry Bird, one of the all time greats in his sport. He dreamed the game.

No one was more creative, no one hustled more, no one did as much with relatively limited gifts (couldn’t jump, couldn’t run). But he was tall enough to be a great player, he had great hand-eye, amazing anticipation, the best pattern-recognition, and a genius basketball mind.

I don’t follow basketball that closely, but Larry was an exception….he reinvented the game.

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Thoughts About Serving In Doubles (Including The 27 Different Serves) By Joe Marshall

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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Why I Admire Fabrice Santoro’s Tennis Game By Joe Marshall

Joe Marshall loves Fabrice Santoro’s ultra-unorthodox style, and many of Joe’s opponents have complained to me how maddening it is to play against him. It’s full of lobs, spins, surprise placements and drop shots, and a ball that lacks all the speed and force of what most modern power tennis is about. Maybe you’d find it works for you. In the video above, Fabrice is the guy who keeps returning the balls that the other guy just can’t seem to put away. There is another video that won’t embed. This is Joe’s fifth article in a series about winning tennis strategies for doubles.

The magician, Fabrice Santoro. He played for 22 years on the pro tour, the only man in the open era to play in four decades. His highest rank in singles was 17, yet he was as high as 37 in his mid-30’s, a year or so before he retired.

Fabrice beat more #1 players at some point in their career than anyone else (tied with Andre Agassi). He was 3-4 against Pete Sampras, 3-3 against Andre, 8-3 against Marat Safin, 1-0 against Jimmy Connors….he beat a total of eighteen #1’s. It was Pete who named him The Magician.

No one had more joy on the court, no one had a more original style (his main shot was his two-handed, cross handed, righty forehand slice, which he hit primarily with his left hand! Sound impossible? Watch the video).
In an age of power and more power, Fabrice hit the ball softly, neutralizing power, and using his opponent’s aggressiveness to confound him…..like Judo the way the monks invented it. He was a showman and a great sport, quick to compliment his opponent on a great shot with a bow or applause.

He could beat you many different ways….great defense, tricky spins, looped passing shots, drop shots, lobs, sneak attack volleys, and gentle but confusing approach shots….he was afraid of no one. He has the record for the most singles losses in the open era (more than 400), but he won more than he lost (more than 450 matches), and was a great doubles player, winning a couple of grand slam titles. He had the record for the longest match ever (beating Arnaud Clement at the French open in 6 hours and 40 minutes over two days) until it was eclipsed by the famous John Isner-Nicolas Mahut three day affair at Wimbledon. I doubt that they will let him on the senior tour….he would wear them all out…..Enjoy!

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Lob Return In Tennis Doubles By Joe Marshall

Here is more insightful tennis doubles strategy from Joe Marshall, who plays a very unconventional game that results in numerous victories. He tells you where to stand and how to maximize the effectiveness of your lobs. This is Joe’s fourth article, and you can find the earlier ones by typing his name into the search box up above on the right.

Once you become proficient at the basic tennis shots (ground strokes, lobs, volleys, and overheads….also serves and returns of serve), you can focus on strategy…..here is where most matches are won or lost…especially in doubles.

There are three basic positions for a doubles team to choose from: The first is one partner at the net, and one at the baseline.

weakest defensive position that most club players choose: one up and one back

The second is both partners at the baseline.

second best position: both back near the baseline

The third is both partners at the net.

The strongest position is the last. The weakest is the first. Yet most teams play the weakest most often and the strongest the least!

The idea is to get a decent approach shot that challenges your opponents to beat you from the baseline when you have two players at the net waiting to put away a volley or an overhead.

most aggressive and best position: both players at the net

The lob return of serve, used as an approach shot (that means that each partner of the lobbing team tries to get into an aggressive position near the net) accomplishes a shift of advantage from the serving team to the returning team. If you can get the lob deep enough that the net man can’t hit an overhead on it, and you follow it in to the net, you team is in an offensive position, and your opponents are in a very difficult defensive position, which is compounded by the fact that 99% of teams don’t move properly to defend the next shot.

To hit a lob return, start by playing in the two-at-the-baseline formation. In this way, you still have a decent chance to return an overhead if your lob is not so great, yet you have plenty of time to both approach the net if your lob is good. When lobbing from the deuce court, position your self out wide, with one, or even two, feet into the doubles alley. This will encourage your opponent to serve toward you backhand side, which is what you want. As soon as the server begins his toss, slant in quickly toward the net, a couple of steps or more in front of the baseline, running around your backhand, anticipating a serve that you can chip up high on your forehand. Move into the ball with quick feet, eyes at ball level, like you would on a volley, but follow through up high, pushing the ball at a 50 or 55 degree angle ten feet or more above the net man’s head. This is an aggressive shot with weight behind it. Think of the ball peaking halfway between the opponent’s baseline and his service line, or even deeper. You will be amazed at how the ball stays in the court. Follow the shot in to a position just inside your service line. Try to read if your opponent is going lob or pass. If you read “Pass,” move in further, If you read “Lob,” be prepared to back up or move in quickly for a smash.

Don’t do more with the next shot than you feel comfortable with. If the opponent hits you a decent ground stroke that dips below the net, don’t fell obligated to try to angle it away…..Just block it back deep and controlled (not necessarily hard). This keeps the advantage on your side, the opponent must still come up with something good. Keep blocking the ball back until you get a ball that you can hit aggressively: A poor lob leading to a chance for you to hit an aggressive overhead, or a high ground stroke that you can move into and angle away.

As I said before, 99% of teams don’t defend this strategy well. When you hit a lob over their head, the net man moves to the other side of the court to allow the deep man to return the lob….but the net man SHOULD move across and BACK TO THE BASELINE. This would allow his team a chance should his partner hit a less than perfect lob and your team tries to put away an overhead……in other words, they should go into defensive position (two back) against the opponent’s (that’s you) two-forward offensive position.

Once you employ a successful lob return or two, you will notice that most opponents’ net player will back off the net a step or two (as he should). This will open up more room for your ground stroke returns, and make it more difficult for him to poach. Once they back up, you can even try a ground stroke return right at the net man, since he is going to have a more difficult time angling a way a volley from his deeper position. Any spin you can put on the lob return is also helpful in both controlling the shot, and making the opponent’s next shot more difficult.

If you sense that an opponent wants to lob YOU at the net, play in close, then suddenly back up quickly as your partner serves. Looking for the overhead….you just might spook him into a mistake or you might put away an overhead.

And remember: two back on defense, two up on offense…that’s winning doubles!

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A Winner’s Thoughts For Winning At Tennis By Joe Marshall

On September 18th, I wrote about the importance of being a “Killer” on the tennis court if I wanted to win more often. But it is proving unimaginably hard to be so “mean.” When I am ahead, I even feel sorry for my opponents, and it sometimes actually costs me the game. Below is Joe Marshall’s wise counsel and comment on that article . You can search above for other Joe Marshall posts that are full of wisdom and good advice about playing tennis after decades of winning experience. Check out his original story here , and don’t hesitate to contact him at joemarshall63@aol.com if you’d like some lessons or advice. He lives in upstate New York, near Western Connecticut.

Tennis will teach you many lessons, Grasshopper. You will doubt yourself. You will doubt your spirit. You will doubt the laws of physics. But persevere. Don’t judge yourself by results. Always remember, you are not invincible, but neither is your partner. Humility is your best friend, because only IT leads to true confidence….(Meditate on THAT mystery, my friend……)

I would bet that each time you got ahead, two things happened. You said to your self, “Don’t blow this.” And your opponent said to himself, “Ok, tighten up, stop experimenting. You know you can beat this guy, so focus.”
And these thought patterns led to his comeback.

Next time, say to your self, “This is fun! There’s nothing like hitting a tennis ball….it feels great!” And then concentrate on hitting your best shot (your forehand) to his weaker side (usually his backhand), as much as you can. And keep those feet moving! Hustle everything down and give him the chance to blow an easy shot. Judge yourself on whether you did those things. If he beats you, tip you hat to him; if you win, don’t get too excited.

Chris Evert was known as the Ice Maiden because of her steely determination and her ability to come up with pressure passing shots in tight situations…..But a lot of it was just technique. Her Dad had told her that in nervous situations, do two things….aim HIGHER, and swing HARDER.

Why did that strategy work? Because in pressure situations, we are inclined at first to be cautious….we slow down our feet, we try not to make mistakes….we go into slow motion…we hesitate……but Chris’s dad’s advice counteracted that….Aiming higher gives us more net clearance…..Swinging Harder give us more consistency, and frees up our tightening muscles….it also gives the opponent a different bounce to deal with.

If you are feeling sorry for your opponent when you get ahead, this is a false pity. It means that you must feel bad when you are trailing, so you assume that he must feel the same way. But it may not be true. So stop feeling bad when you are behind; keep fighting, even if to win only one point. If someone beats you 6-0, thank him for not beating you 6-1. No courtesy games. Just tiny let downs or adjustments can turn the tide at any moment, so, above all, be consistent.

Last idea…….a soft, deep ball is more difficult to hit aggressively than a hard deep ball. Don’t worry if your service returns are soft. Concentrate on getting good net clearance (6 feet or so) on your shots, and hitting the ball deep…..taking the return early robs the opponent of time as well.
I want to have tee shirts made….TENNIS: IT”S NOT ABOUT MERCY!

One last thought….tennis is about healthy competition, which teaches both competitors important lessons about life and health, and cooperation vs competition. Both people come out better for it, and hopefully, better friends.

War is about dehumanization, hate and death……Forgive yourself for being caught up in the war frenzy; after all, you were just an innocent kid. Thank goodness you survived and can play tennis. Peace.

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Joe Marshall’s Unusual Tennis Strategies For Winning Doubles

Joe Marshall teaches tennis in an alternate universe

Joe Marshall teaches tennis strategies that you never hear or read about. He says his game belongs in an alternate universe. I have played with him, against him and spoken to people who hate his game: he drives them crazy with spins, lobs, punches, maddening drop shots and out-of-reach angles that you rarely see on television.

His game comes out of his background in ping pong, and he maneuvers the tennis ball and his opponents as deftly as if he were on a table with a paddle. He has showed me how to have 27 different serves (I can do three or four of them so far) and totally upgraded my game. Check out his original story here, and don’t hesitate to contact him at joemarshall63@aol.com if you’d like some lessons or advice. He lives in upstate New York, near Western Connecticut.

My Partner Bill Simon and I won a local tennis tournament mid-July…..We are both 56 years old….two of the older guys in the tournament…..some were in their twenties. We got a lucky draw, but we had been in the finals last year, so it wasn’t all luck. Here are some of the things we did well…..

When One partner played poorly, the other tried to pick him up…..both by encouraging him, and giving him advice….”Keep your feet moving”, “Don’t go for too much”…..”take something off your first serve”….And the partner LISTENED….we didn’t take it personally.

We tried different tactics….chip and charge, lob the net man on the return of serve and get to the net, Different formations: two back on defense, Australian formation, one up and one back….these were done to nullify strengths of the opponents….specifically: good poaching at the net, good cross court returns……good chip and charge.

We played to the conditions…..we lobbed into the sun a lot, we adjusted to the slower balls as the day went on…..we made a tired player run a lot.

We poached early in each match to set the example that good returns could be picked off. When we didn’t poach, we faked, to get into the heads of our opponents. (When your partner is serving down love thirty, second serve, poach aggressively, it works almost every time, and can turn the momentum around.)

We played defense……Throw up a lob and get into defensive position (two back….it was a clay tournie)….We didn’t go for too much. We tried to play solid reliable, high percentage shots to put the pressure on our opponents.

We managed our choking well.

We communicated…even when we didn’t have anything to say…(Talk to your opponent in whispered tones, just saying Blah, Blah Blah….the opponents will always think you are up to something, and try an outrageous shot….if you pick up that your opponents are trying something, ignore it and go with your best shot…or LOB)

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Joe Marshall’s Wise Words About Tennis

I have played doubles with Joe Marshall a few times, and he is a great strategist. He always suggests smart moves and places to stand, and we often win as partners…or my team loses when I oppose him. I am thrilled that he has agreed to share many of his insights here in a number of posts that will be very helpful to anyone who wants to upgrade his or her tennis game…ira

It was always the mental challenge of sports that appealed to me most. Outfoxing one’s opponent is the ultimate pleasure I find in competing. To analyze, to feint, to recognize the pattern, to buy time, to innovate, to predict the opponent’s next move, and finally, to surprise him with the unexpected….these are the joys in competition and watching competition that I appreciate. Even if they are done to me!

Some of my favorite athletes…….Fran Tarkenton, Dick Fosbury, Dan Quisenberry, Bjorn Borg, Fabrice Santoro, Wayne Gretzky, Martina Hingis, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson…..these were people who said to the established theories of the coaches of their times, “I don’t agree. Here is the way to play.” And made it work.

I am now 56 years old. For the last 27 years, I have been a tennis hacker. I play a different kind of game. Derived from ping pong, it’s all about slice, placement, lobs and drop shots…..just the things American coaches told us for all those years that were not that important. I rarely hit with power, but I have won a lot more than I have lost, both in recreational matches and at weekend USTA matches. Because I play a different kind of game, I notice different things. Things that might not get you to be number one in the world, but might help you learn the art of club doubles tennis. I concentrate on doubles these days, because my knees aren’t what they used to be.

Ira has asked me to pen a comment or two on these pages based on my observations and experiences in playing this wonderful game. I can honestly say that I have had more fun playing tennis than doing just about anything else. And I look forward to another couple of decades of it. Maybe like my friend Phil, who at 84, still takes sets from people half his age.

I have also met the most delightful people playing tennis…..Folks whose paths would probably have never crossed mine except for for a shared love of the game. They are intelligent people, people who like to compete, but learn to be gracious if they lose. People who enjoy learning the lessons of consistency, humility, perseverance, patience, and teamwork that tennis teaches

They are all winners in the game of life.

Stay tuned!

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