Posts Tagged winning tennis doubles

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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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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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 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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