You’re up 4-3 in the second set of the doubles final. You’re up a break and serving. You have a forehand volley at 40-30 with two choices.
Do you go crosscourt at the other net player? Or do you try to hit an inside out touch drop volley for a winner to go up 5-3?
You go for the more difficult drop volley. As you look up, you see it clip the net and bounce back on your side. The game goes to deuce, and you lose. A few minutes later the set is over. You lose 6-4.
You could have smashed an easy, high percentage, crosscourt volley at the opponent’s feet, ended the point on the next shot and taken the 5-3 lead. But you didn’t. Oh… and you lost the first set already so the match is over.
Why do we go for the more difficult shot in these situations? Especially when it’s against a better team?
The biggest mistake people make when playing an opponent better than them is that they try to do too much. They’ll step out of their game and go for shots they don’t usually hit. It may help for a few games, but it’s unsustainable for a full match.
What do you do instead?
Focus on these three simple strategies and win more matches against better teams.
Don’t do things you wouldn’t normally do. Don’t start trying to hit winners every other shot. Don’t try to hit more aces up the T if that’s not your game. This will, of course, just make you miss and get frustrated.
Instead, double down on your strengths. If you are good at forehands, find a way to hit more. If you’re good at the net, get in there.
You don’t have a switch you can flip on to make your volleys cleaner or your forehand heavier. Instead of trying things you don’t normally do, just do what you’re good at.
Instead of going for that touch inside out volley, hit the crosscourt one you know you can make. It’s much better to make your opponent beat you than to beat yourself.
So you have part 1 down. Stick to your game. But, they’re better than you, so that’s not enough. Next, we focus on part 2. Throw them off their game.
I call it perceived chaos because all we need is the other team to feel the chaos. It will be controlled chaos in your own mind.
If you can get them frustrated eventually that will turn into nerves since they expected to beat you. Of course, there’s one way to create the chaos I’m talking about.
POACH… duh. I’ve written many lessons on poaching in doubles, but essentially what you need to know is this. Make them aware that you’re at the net. Move forward and back, side to side even when you’re not poaching. Give up the alley one point and fake the next. Be OK with getting passed up the line.
Even if you miss a few volleys, it only takes a few makes and a break to get the opponent frustrated. Doing this early in the match will set the stage for the rest of it and give you an early advantage they didn’t see coming.
This seems simple, but one mistake people make against better players is they go for too much on returns, especially against tennis players who serve and volley. Of course, this makes them miss a lot and the end the match with zero breaks of serve.
Instead, make the goal of return games to simply make as many returns as possible. Don’t worry about the outcome of the points, just make a lot of returns, and see what happens.
The idea here is to just make them play the points and work to hold serve. Create a goal of making 75% of your returns. If you do that enough games, you’ll get a break or 2 even against a good team.
Solid, crosscourt, returns are all you need.
Focus on those three easy strategies and I guarantee, you’ll start beating more doubles teams and leveling up your game.
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