Move forward in doubles almost all the time, or at least learn to recognize the opportunity by Tracy Townsend
I am asked daily, “When do I need to move forward?” My answer is, “Almost always!”
In doubles play, it is especially important to control the net. Getting there and staying there are problems for some players. Nearly everyone seems to love to stay back on the baseline and hit ground strokes. Try to recognize when one of your ground strokes pushes your opponent back and notice how much time you have to move forward. Also notice that they often hit a short or weak ball back off your good shot. Most of your problem comes from simply not recognizing when you have pushed an opponent back.
Hopefully you are intentionally trying to get to the net. But also look for weak shots that automatically bring you forward. Examples are a short, slow ball landing inside the service line, a weak floating ball that you could actually take out of the air, or a miss hit that needs to be taken advantage of. You can also create opportunity by hitting a wide ball and moving forward. You can hit a lob and use it as an approach shot. You can hit a drop shot and make your opponent hit up on the ball while you are moving forward.
To where do you move? I think the best net position is one step inside the service line. Closer than that makes you easy to lob over and cuts down your reaction time. Further back than that brings in awkward shots from the infamous “no man’s land.” Remember that it may take an extra shot to put the ball away. Don’t think you’re going to hit a winner every volley. Control your volley and move your opponents around, making them work and wearing them down. I also like the fact that I can get people frustrated by controlling the net.
Lastly, even though control is a great thing, learn to be aggressive. Put the ball away! That does not always mean hit it harder either. A drop shot is an aggressive shot. A short, sharp angle is an aggressive shot. An overhead is an aggressive shot, even if it is hit slowly to an open area of the court.
Bottom line: Move forward in doubles almost all the time or at least learn to recognize the opportunity. I don’t think many of you can win from the baseline in doubles. Singles is a different game altogether, but who plays singles these days?! Hope to see you on the courts soon.
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