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JAK'S NEW ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

On Being a Doubles All-Courter

February 2021

 

Being an all-courter in doubles means being comfortable engaging in sustained cross court dueling rallies from the back of the court, playing the net aggressively by seeking to poach opponent's vulnerable returns – especially returns of first serves, eagerly pouncing on short balls and following them into a strong net position behind an effective approach shot that challenges opponents leading to easy pickings at the net, and mixing in both the occasional serve and volley, or "chip and charge" (not necessarily literal) returns of weak second serves in particular.

4 men playing a Men's Doubles tennis matchIf you exclusively hang back, actually avoiding opportunities to come in, you're not an all-courter. If you relish coming in, but often indiscriminately mostly to avoid playing back to minimize perceived weak groundies, you're not an all-courter. If you're too apprehensive at net to even attempt poaching, afraid to make an error that might upset partners who like informing you that "they had it" if you lose the point, you're not an all-courter. If serve and volley and chip and charge doesn't exist in your playbook, you're not an all-courter.

You're one dimensional embracing very limited options in the truly dynamic doubles equation.

4 women playing a female's Doubles tennis matchSome club level matches feature players playing "singles for four." Ugh. For some it appears to be a perceived long way to the net, and it's as if there's quicksand up there. This is at least partly because of the often rationalized refrain, "if I come in they'll lob over me."

The glass half-empty. Seeing failure.

There's two typical reasons why facing Lucy or Leo Lobber is dreaded and feared by so many in club level tennis. First, these same folks typically never ask "for some up" – overhead practice - in their pre-match warm-up. That's assuming that they even take the time to have an actual productive warm-up. So, as time goes by, they never develop a reliable overhead. They're in overhead avoidance mode since it's not a good shot for them, and, with their approach, never will be. Second, when they do come forward – having no real choice since some incoming balls are short – their approach shots generally fail to make lob happy opponents uncomfortable in order to elicit a weak response, leading them to then believe that the opposition are the best lobbers on the planet.

Your net game in general is only going to be as good as the shot you came in behind.

If I target a deep penetrating approach shot right at a lobbing oriented peer, jamming them, they are going to be hard- pressed to hit an effective lob, leading to easy pickings at the net for myself or my partner. Or, if you develop an approach "dropper" that brings them in to the net, where they do not want to be, you will have taken away their quasi weapon, and then can out volley them in close, quick exchanges.

Embed from Getty Images

In my on-court doubles coaching sessions, and even in conversations about the subject of putting pressure on opponents versus them grazing exclusively in the back forty - not even attempting to put opponents on the hook - I'm successful in showing them that being a sometime attacking all-courter is actually doable, and can pay dividends with practice.

Trial and correction versus standing pat.

But too many, in friendly doubles that count for nothing in particular, are willing to step outside of their comfort zone.

I recently enjoyed reading about current world #8 Andrey Rublev's new, altered mind-set in his steady rise to the top over the past couple of years. He shares that he has evolved from "win or lose" to a "win or learn" attitude.

In the end, if you're interested in improving your double's game by becoming an all-courter, especially when it's only a practice match with nothing at stake – after all, let's get real, you're not risking prize money, ranking points, or losing endorsements – try developing a more complete game by improving your execution of less comfortable tactics and strategies.

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Past Essays

  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
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  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
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  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
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  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
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  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
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  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
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  • May 2021 - The Focus
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  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
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  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
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  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
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  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
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  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
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  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
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  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
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  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
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  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
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  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
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  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
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  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
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  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
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  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
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  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
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  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
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  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]
  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]
  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.