In this post, you’ll discover the biggest mistake I see 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 doubles players making, but first, we’ll go over crosscourt vs down the line shots.
If I asked you which shot is easier, 100% of you would say crosscourt. It’s obvious right?? Why is a crosscourt shot easier?
If I could give you a way to make your opponent hit down the line instead of crosscourt, would you do it?
In doubles, we can…
Tennis coaches have instructed players for years, don’t hit it at the net player. Almost every doubles team you face will play by this rule.
So if you poach often, then you can force your opponent to hit the up the line shot that we know is low percentage.
Assuming you’re partners serve is okay, and you’re comfortable at the net, they’ll only make one out of three up the alley returns at best.
The idea here is fundamental to one of our principles of tennis, changing it up and playing differently. Being active at the net will make you different than 90% of the doubles players out there, so it’s a great way to get in your opponent’s head and cause them to beat themselves.
Poaching also makes it easier on your partner, the server. In doubles, we can win free points by making the opponent miss the return. Moving at the net makes them second guess where they’re hitting it, and lose confidence in their shots.
If this is so obvious, why don’t people do it?
It’s all in your head.
Something else that most tennis coaches have taught doubles teams that you’ve surely heard and said dozens of times… Cover your alley!
For some reason, we think it’s worse to get passed up the line than to get beat in a cross court rally, so we cover the alley at all costs. In the tennis match, they’re both one point. However, you see it when someone passes you up the line and hear a big “come on!” Emotionally, it feels like a bigger point than most, but you have to realize, it’s ONLY ONE POINT!
When people do this to me, I actually take it as a good sign because I know, they’ll usually only make one out of three. If they pass me up the line early in the match, my opponent will usually keep trying to beat me there and grow frustrated when they start missing returns. They know how to hit the shot, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a low percentage shot.
So go out in your next match and poach!
Make your opponent hit down the alley, and don’t beat yourself up if you get passed a few times. Get in the other team’s head, and experiment with different poaching strategies to find and take advantage of their weaknesses. You and your partner will win more matches and have more fun playing with this aggressive style.
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