Posts Tagged tennis strategy

Joe Shares Secrets Too

In response to my post two days ago about keeping secrets secret, Joe Marshall had a similar story:

Good tale. I beat X the first time I played him in singles, then told him how he could have beaten me. It was about five years before I beat him again. I used to own Y. I could even blow him off the court by serve and volley….then I told him to mix in lobs……he beat me 10 times in a row (I finally got him this year)…..But I figure in some ways, it’s good that they know your weaknesses, forces you to work on them…..Don’t tell anyone in a tournament, though.

Today my partner and I lost 1-6 in the first set. Painful. Especially when I was trying out my new poaching method learned from the Bryan brothers video. Then I took lots of Joe’s advice for the rematch, like switching sides with my same partner (keep them if you win), running to the opposite side base line when I was lobbed (so my partner doesn’t have to keep running from one side of the base line to the other), taking up the two-in-the-back defense, rather than the weaker one-forward-one-back arrangement, and many other tricks. We were ahead amazingly 5-1, and finished the set 6-4. The rubber match was pretty even. We traded games up to 4-4, broke ahead at 5-4, and I served the winning game to take the set 6-4. Very satisfying, especially for my female partner who relished beating her husband on the other side.

It was a very exciting and challenging day of tennis. I am looking forward to the next games, when I can practice poaching, lobs and my weak back hand. What a thrill to improve so dramatically and come back from behind by using strategy, rather than needing just fantastic serves and strokes.

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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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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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Tennis Report—New Grip And New Strategies

Playing the game furiously and practicing as well with a ball machine. So I was on the court five times (7 3/4 hours) last week and three times (5½ hours) this week. Was also in Newport RI watching a tennis tournament for three days last week.

My performance is mixed. Won three out of four doubles sets one day, lost to the oldest guys (they are 93 and 85) the next (one a tiebreaker). Then won at singles with a friend who has a great top spin stroke, and he suggested I change my grip—I moved my hand half an inch farther from the racket head, so that the end of the handle is in my palm rather than just past it. Now I can whip the racket more. What a difference. I can now hit the sweet spot of the racket much more often, almost every time. But the extra power sends the ball long a lot, and we lost all three sets one day.

However my team finally beat the oldest guys 6-2. This is the first time in 8 sets. A record. However pathetic. So some improvement. Then last night I played with the stronger guys in their 50’s and received compliments from two men who had played singles against me just once a year ago and were never available again—I was too far beneath their level. One was on the opposing doubles team, and I couldn’t believe how easily I returned his serve last night that I could hardly touch a year ago. Unfortunately my serve was off, and I choked in the final game. My team split sets.

One player last night uses what he calls “junk” shots—they are all spins and lobs and drops and dinks. He doesn’t do the hard power hitting that so many others choose. Joe’s game is very thoughtful, filled with well-placed shots. Much like the 2007 and 2008 champion of the Campbell’s Cup tournament I saw in Newport, Fabrice Santoro, nicknamed The Magician. Joe admires Santoro’s style, so I called him the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Joe was full of advice that I liked: Read the rest of this entry »

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You Have to Take a Shot or at Least Hit the Ball Over the Net

Up at 3:45 am to be settled in the woods before first light, which is now around 4:40. I am determined to harvest—don’t you love that politically correct word—a tom turkey eventually. One position, no movement for an hour, waiting for the birds to come out of the trees. I was about to give up…then my patience was rewarded: one lone hen flew down too far away. Still glad I out-waited her. Still glad I woke up so early.

In a nearby hayfield I called in three toms to my woods. (You make the sounds of a hen to appeal to the tom’s mating urge.) One approached my clucks curiously. He was only 25 yards away, but between two trees just two feet apart. There were lots of small branches to dodge between him and me. The opening might only have been a few inches. It would have to be a Robin Hood shot that only Kevin Costner can do in his movie. Licking the arrow feathers (the fletching) like Kevin did in the film might have helped. I decided to wait for a better shot. The bird turned away, and I never saw him again.

I should have taken what I had. I gambled and lost. How often do we do this in our lives? Wait for something that might be better? Girlfriends. Wives. Jobs. Business opportunities. So many times we pass up our chance for now and curse ourselves later when we realize what we missed

My first tennis coach said that you have to first hit the ball over the net. That is 50% of how you win the point. Even if it is a poor shot that your opponent smashes right past you for his winner. Hitting into the net is a sure loser.

Now no one hits into the net intentionally. Read the rest of this entry »

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