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… 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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