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Coaches Corner - tip of the month


Tips by Jak BeardsworthDEFEATING THE POACHER

I’m sure that you’ve experienced playing against exceptional net players in clubland who are not only adept volleyers, but, more daunting, skilled poachers in doubles as well. They tend to be an annoying bunch who do not allow the luxury of an unchallenged, meat and potatoes cross court return of serve to start a point. When operating in concert with a good server – meaning a server with pinpoint placement versus one sporting big power – they can become a nightmare to deal with.

They poach, they fake poach, and they position themselves in the middle of the service box on serve, in fairly close proximity to the net, tempting you to try and thread an overly ambitious needle down the line.

However, there are two primary counter measures. Constantly avoiding them, and having to hit sharp shooter returns out of their reach into the center of the court, without periodic counter attacks, only empowers them to run wild on you with no consequences. Since no one at any level can take the offensive, or be comfortable, when the ball is hit with some authority right at them – the “naval destroyer,” you must be willing, and enthusiastic about, taking them on and letting it fly. A well placed ball into their midsection, even if they’re already in motion, will completely handcuff them, typically leading to an outright error or a feeble response. Besides then enjoying a quick turnaround advantage, a strong message is sent with regard to them thinking that they’ll be able to roam freely versus you!

Naturally, lobbing is the other viable option, particularly when you’ve got your hands full with a tough serve on your weaker side. Going over the eager poacher – I am not implying a perfect offensive topspin lob but instead a standard lob that’s especially high (50’ at its apex) and intended to land in the middle of no man’s land – allows you and your partner to then close and take full control of the net, completely changing the dynamic of the point and perhaps the match.

Okay, so that’s all good, but please let us not forget that if you’ve got a good ball to hit, HIT IT, that’s what they make ‘em for! A “match” featuring a lob contest when viable shots were there for the taking, becomes a counter productive exercise in lowering the bar over the long haul, the antithesis of aspiring higher.

In a past Nike magazine ad campaign, “Ask Mac,” a participant wrote, “I love to lob. Sometimes even when my opponent is on the baseline, I lob. Or when returning serve, I’ll lob. I can’t help it. What should I do?” McEnroe responded, “ If they arrested people for being annoying on the tennis court, you’d be looking at doing 15 to life.”

Very much analogous to “get a life” is “get a game.”

Questions and comments are welcome at anytime for all tips present and past via email.

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