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Winning Free Points in Doubles.

IF DOUBLES IS AS IMPORTANT to the tennis program as so many high school and college coaches believe, why does it remain the most under-coached aspect of the high school program and why do so many coaches make it much more complicated than the singles game?

The secret to making doubles fun is to make it simple, and the secret to winning free points is by poaching effectively. That is, having the net player intercept the ball before it bounces in front of his partner.

While a poach can be attempted anywhere on the court, it is usually effected by the server's partner intercepting the return of serve.

The key to doing this effectively lies in knowing when to move into position for the interception. Since most players fear being passed down the line once they move, many coaches try to teach them to read the receiver's hips and racket face to learn where he is aiming.

But this is usually too difficult for most high school players to understand. Fortunately, there is a simpler way of poaching and winning free points.

To be successful, the doubles team must do three things well: (1) get a high percentage of first serves into the court, (2) make good volleys, and (3) be aggressive. Players who do not like to go to the net are not going to help you.

All good doubles players start from the right positioning on the court.

Diag. 1: The Server (S) should stand about halfway between the centermark and the doubles alley, allowing him to cover his half of the court.

The Server's partner (SP) should stand in the center of the service box. High school players will sometimes want to hug the doubles alley -- which is wrong. It's the SP's position in the center that makes him a threat. It allows him to poach or cover the sideline.

The receiver (R) should stand in the center of the server's capabilities. This will usually put him in the corner. The receiver's partner (RP) should stand with his heels on the service line to guard against a poach clown the center.

The SP is the player who can win most of the points. He can hit a winning poach that will rattle the opponents and get them to commit more mistakes in their return game.

The SP's job is to poach. Many pros want him to read thc receiver's hip and racket face to determine where the S is attempting to put the ball. As previously mentioned, this is usually too difficult for the high school athlete. The best way to teach poaching is not by reading what the R is doing, by what he is capable of doing.

Coaches should demonstrate this to their players by setting up three targets (T's) on the court (Diag 2). Place the first T in the forehand corner of the service box, and explain that when a serve lands in this area, the R can go either down the line or crosscourt effectively, especially if the serve is short and slow.

In this situation, the SP should stay put and guard the alley.

The next kind of serve (Diag. 3) usually lands in the center of the service box (T2). It can be taken by the R on either the forehand or backhand side, and he can again go down the line or crosscourt. He will, however, have a more difficult time going down the line from this position.

In this case, the SP can carefully come across to poach -- aiming for the RP's feet. This will handcuff the RP and produce a weak ball, which the serving team can put away if it does not win the point outright.

Diag: 4: The best place to poach is when the serve lands in the center of the court. This will limit the R's return to one place -- down the middle. The SP can then aggressively come across and pick off the return.

The R must return down the middle. It is impossible for the R to return down the line.

This is why the first serve is so important. The first serve allows the SP to poach. The serving team must be defensive on a second serve. A fault on the first serve will severely limit the serving team's aggressiveness and allow the receiving team to take the initiative. By poaching effectively, the serving team can win a lot of free points.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:tennis
Author:Huskey, Scott
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Previous Article:Power Your Way to Victory.
Next Article:Ten Things You Don't Learn in Coaching School.

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