Good doubles teams have a true sense of where to be at the right time. Experienced teams move to the middle when necessary, cover the alleys when the ball moves far to one side and go backwards to cover the tough lob. However, too many CTA and USTA league players are caught moving to the wrong angles of the court and are completely unaware when the opponents are going to lob. In order to gain an early edge with your opponents, make mental notes during the warm-up. For example, if your opponent always runs- around her backhand, it is a sign she prefers one stroke more than the other. If your foe fails to go to the net to volley, she probably prefers the baseline. Furthermore, if her forehand drive is somewhat tentative down the line, she might choose her crosscourt pattern. The sooner the players are aware of what their opponents can and can not do, the better one may predict their future shot selection. If you are playing a doubles match and your opponents continually aim for your alleys, it usually means that you or your partner is not keeping an eye on the area. In other words, when the player hits the ball crosscourt, the opponent will go down the line if ‘no one is home.’ So, do not assume that your opponent will automatically hit the ball crosscourt when you engage in your rally. Talented doubles teams often aim crosscourt because the doubles alleys are covered and the angled strokes are the higher percentage shots. However, the moment a good player spots that their opponent is leaning to the middle of the court is when she may go down the alley or down the line. Now, one way to discover what your foe will do on a given point is to study their body positioning. If you have hit a deep ball, one that travels near the baseline (zones: 4 & 5) the opponent has few options. If your forehand drive moves near the baseline, look for a lob from your opponent. Conversely, if your approach shot is short or near the zone three (service line area) the opponent has numerous options and will favor their best weapon. So, if the foe favors a huge topspin crosscourt forehand, the player will engage this stroke on an easy put-away ball. The sooner one learns his opponent’s idiosyncrasies the easier it is to predict on-court behavior. Don’t just watch the ball during the match; keep an eye on the player’s and their court positioning. In summary, the next time you hit an approach shot and move forward, be aware of your opponent’s tendencies so you can react sooner. Good luck!
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.