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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more

July 2022

Altering return positions can positively have an effect on reducing server success, and even draw a double fault at times as well, especially in pressure situations. 

Giving them a different "look," simply by changing positions - left, right, forward, back - can affect serving comfort levels versus always remaining in the same position. Even tour players can be impacted. Just watch the Tennis Channel and see for yourself. 

Let's start with my personal favorite versus an opponent with a less than stellar second serve at a pivotal moment in a tight match, particularly in the ad court where a righty can overtly position themselves in the alley, or beyond, looking to crush a cup cake guaranteed forehand opportunity deep into the server's backhand. 

Or, generally, going deep and at them – a tactic that too many club players wrongly think has no upside potential -like world #1, Iga Swiatek, does so often to immediately make an opponent uncomfortable on their serve.  

And then there's, as utilized repeatedly by this year's French Open doubles champ, veteran Kristina Mladenovic, attacking vulnerable, sitting duck net players - that would be Coco Gauff and Jennifer Pegula, both top ten singles players who became deer in the headlights by the end of that double's final - by drilling weak second serves right through their belt buckles (naval destroyer) from any advantaged position. (Faux apology at the ready…or not.) 

Misha, Sampras, Navfatolova

When utilizing that extreme ad court initial return position, besides gaining a mental advantage, the typical server in Clubland will be initially dumbfounded when faced with this "look", notably at the important junctures, probably give you a double take, and then either put in a Grandpa-Grandma serve, go for a delusional ace up the exposed T, or just choke and double fault. 

Back in my playing days, I always found this tactic to be effective - while seldom being aced up the T – even against world class players if used sparingly, or more if I found it bothered them on those key ad side points. 

Keep in mind that as the server busies themselves with their toss and contact, it's prudent to sneak back a little to be on the safe side, but not completely – they cannot see you after all – in the event that you discover that they are indeed capable of pulling rabbits out of the hat, and deliver penetrating T serves. 

If you know that the chance of a particular opponent actually delivering that is slim, don't bother. 

Even if they do find their spot on occasion, you can still be a bit late to the contact point and safely pull off an effective inside out return moving into the court. 

Definitely far more risky in the deuce court since just about every Tom, Dick, and Harriet clubber can serve wide to the forehand (righty), and foolishly predictably do so too often. One must be limited in any positioning that leaves too much court to cover on that side, especially since any un-poachable cross court response must be struck well in front which can be very challenging with the ball angling away out of reach. 

A related tactic is to stand way in, near the service line, to intimidate, and challenge a weak second delivery. You can, if leery, adjust back somewhat when they get busy with contact with their head up. Just another way to Vulcan mind melt shaky servers.  

Another option, particularly useful versus those with a big first serve, is to stand way, way back behind the baseline to buy a little extra space and time. You see players on the men's tour often utilizing it. 

At the club level try standing a few feet farther back than your usual. Although admittedly you might be giving up the potential angle –difficult to exploit for the average server – the server's spatial perception can be disrupted by the different "look" and affect accuracy. 

So, there you have it. Be willing to experiment, especially in friendlies. Avoid one trick pony receiving positioning. Diversify your game.  

Continually growing your game to improve and raise your level is always doable. It just takes the commitment to do so.

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Past Essays

  • June 2023 - The Approach Dropper: Lob Killer
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  • May 2023 - Why club players don’t practice
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  • April 2023 - DON’T FIGHT TIGHT
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  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
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  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner – The "Switch"
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  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
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  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
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  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
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  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
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  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
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  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
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  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
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  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
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  • March 2022 - Caving
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  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
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  • January 2022 - The Knees
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Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
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  • 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.