In honor of the upcoming Australian Open, let’s look at the Australian doubles formation. The Australian formation is executed by the serving team and involves positioning the server’s partner across the net from the receiver’s partner.(Instead of across the net from the receiver). The server positions themselves very close to the center mark, because they will be covering the other side of the court, unless their partner pouches(more on that later).
Reasons to use the Australian formation
1. Take away the cross-court return from the receiver- if the receiver has been cracking your serves cross-court with ease or damaging effects, the Australian formation will force them to return down the line, a much more difficult shot.
2. Protect a weak stroke- let’s say the server has a weak backhand and their team is losing points when they serve to the add side(for right-handers) and the return is hit well to their backhand. Australian forces the return back to the servers forehand side in this instance.
3. Break receiving team’s concentration/rhythm- nine times out of ten the return is hit cross court because it is the safest and most natural shot. Returners don’t even think about the mechanics of it, but…if they are forced to alter their return (because their opponent is standing right where they’ve been hitting it) they begin to think a lot about how and where to hit it. Many times, they don’t even make the return.
Next time we’ll get into the specifics of executing the Australian formation successfully.
Where do you go after the lob?
Last week we discussed how to hit an effective lob. Now we learn what to do after you lob.
Scenario 1: Your lob is a good one, that is, you see your opponent’s back as he runs it down to hit a defensive shot.
Advance to the service line or a little closer. This way you can…1. move forward and put away a volley off of a short ball, or 2. move back and hit an overhead off of their defensive lob.
Scenario 2: Your lob is good but they get in position to hit an overhead from the baseline or behind.
Advance all the way to the net. If you stay around the service line the overhead is, most likely going to be at your feet. By advancing to the net you are prepared to put away a volley. The fact that the overhead is coming from the baseline gives you time to react.
Scenario 3: Your lob is not so good and your opponent prepares to hit an overhead from mid-court.
Run!! Actually, if you have time, backpedal to the baseline and split-step as your opponent hits the ball. The split-step is important because it allows you to move right or left so you have a chance to get the ball back.
Merry Christmas! Hope you get all the tennis gear, clothing and accessories you wish for!
Lob the service line not the net man
To get your lobs deeper, lob over the service line not the net player.
If your lobs are consistently landing short, focus on making the high point(apex) of the lob happen over the service line.
Most people focus on lobbing over the net man. This makes the high point of the lob happen over the middle of the service box, or roughly, where the net man is standing. With a couple of steps, the net man can move back and hit the overhead from the service line. Not a desirable out-come for you.
By lobbing with the service line as the apex, you make the net man shuffle back to almost the base line to hit the overhead, or better yet, chase the lob and hit a defensive shot back.
So remember to lob against aggressive net players, use the service line as the focus.
Serve and Mosey
Last week we talked about putting away the angle volley. This week we’ll discuss one of the ways you get to the volley position. In doubles the strategy is traditionally, to serve and volley. In other words, serve and head straight for the net to join your partner.
Sometimes that strategy doesn’t work. For example, your opponent keeps crushing your serve back at your feet as you come to the net, or lobs your return over your partner. In these instances, and if you just don’t feel comfortable serving and charging directly to the net, try the “Serve and Mosey”.
Serve and Mosey simply means serve, hit a ground stroke as an approach shot, and come to net. This lets you concentrate on your serve, step into the court to hit an aggressive ground stroke and advance closer to the net than you would serving and volley at one time.
Remember, the best doubles teams still win the points at the net. How you get there is up to you. Try the serve and mosey.
short, angled volleys work well on a deep opponent
Most of us only want to hit one volley in a point if we can help it. Give your opponent a second look at you at the net, and you may not get a second volley. That’s why a short, angled volley can be effective in ending the point. The angled volley is easiest when it is hit from higher than net height. If the ball is lower than the net, you’ll have to hit a drop volley to angle it. Not an easy shot.
The best way to set yourself up for a point-ending, angled volley is to plan your approach. A deep ground stroke, especially to the back hand corner can give you time to get close enough to the net to put away the weak return from above the net. Just watch the ball and point it toward the side line. With your opponent deep in the back hand corner, this should be a winner.
For related tactics see previous tip, “1-2 Tennis Punch”
*improve forehand consistency and power
The forehand is most players’ best offensive shot. To make it a more consistent, more powerful weapon, it helps to hit it from the same spot, relative to your body. This is the Power Zone.
The power zone for your forehand (and backhand) is between your knees and chest, approximately two feet from your body. Hitting balls in this zone will allow you to add the most control, spin and power to your shots.
The best way to insure that you hit balls from your power zone is with your footwork.
*move your feet to position balls in your Power Zone
Stay light, on your toes, knees bent
Split-step(bounce evenly on balls of both feet) as your opponent makes contact
Take small adjustment steps as you get closer to the ball
Use shuffle steps to recover quickly after shots
By practicing good footwork, you can turn different types of balls (high, low and wide) into shots you can hit from your power zone. Keep your feet moving to turn on the power!
Did you know that more traffic accidents happen at slower speeds? Why? Distractions! The mind wanders when it thinks it has plenty of time to react. Tennis players fall victim to the same problem when hitting slow balls.
When hitting a faster ball, you automatically focus on the incoming ball and the task of returning it. When “waiting” on a slower ball you might start considering all the options and lose concentration. Given enough time, some players even start doubting their strokes and short arm the shot(tighten up and swing tentatively).
Set up a practice match with a friend that you know hits slower shots and work on your focus and concentration. Remember, practice focusing as much or more on the slow ball so you can avoid “accidents” on the court.
One overlooked “weapon” in tennis is the “puff ball”. I’m sure you’ve been a victim of this shot. It’s the shot that has no pace on it and bounces almost straight up and down. Many good players make tons of errors trying to return this shot. Why?
- The ball bounces up high…out of your strike zone. You either hit it down into the net or way long.
- The straight up and down bounce is hard to time. It’s only in your hitting zone for a split second.
The ball is so slow that you have a lot of time to over think your shot. And you are easily distracted by your opponent’s movement, or the many options you envision for your shot.
Few people practice hitting this kind of shot.
Now that you know why you may have problems with this shot, you can use it against other players…especially players that like to hit the ball hard. They tend to make a lot of mistakes anyway.
set up your opponent with a deep backhand
Here is a simple, 2 part strategy to win points in singles.
Hit the ball deep to your opponent’s backhand corner.
Approach the net and put away the resulting short ball.
So how do you start this process? It’s best to hit a cross court shot into the backhand corner. If you have a fairly strong backhand, just go for a deeper, more angled shot during a cross court rally. If your forehand is much better, try to run around a shot that is near the middle of the court and hit an inside-out forehand into their backhand corner.
As you practice this simple 1-2 attack, notice how the weakness of the return varies, depending on the depth and height of your shot. Many players have a lot of trouble hitting a high backhand, so try to put as much topspin on the ball as possible. Or, if topspin is difficult for you, hit a high, deep shot that bounces out of their strike zone.