The art of poaching in doubles

This  special request  from an avid LOVEtennis Blog fan prompted my next article…. 

Dear Coach,

I play doubles at my local club, but I am forever getting passed down the line at the net, what am I doing wrong?

LTB Fan

 And now to the topic at hand.

Poaching refers to when the servers partner is at the net and they move across the court to intercept or cut off a return of serve or groundstroke. Its an easy way to win a quick point but requires good timing, movement and communication from the server and net player. If you are the servers partner at the net, stand far enough away from the net to be able to make it to the net within one step; stand too close and the ball can come at you very quickly, reducing your chances to put away a volley. The majority of returns of serve go crosscourt hence making it a all too irresistable shot for most players, an easy point when executed well. As the net player you should try and get into the head of the returner, make them think about you at the net, whether you are going to try the intercept or stay where you are. Its a form of intimidation, bullying the receiver into making them play a shot you can bury at their partner. There is a danger however that the returner sees that the net player dives across at every opportunity leaving a relatively simple shot down the line and leaving the net player rather red faced into the process.

So a smart net player must be aware that if they go for the volley and miss or leave their tramline open, they will lose the point. I would suggest faint to intercept every time but only do so when the shot is gonna be a winner. A smart service returner will mix up their return, but once put under pressure by an accomplished net player, they can choke. Get inside the returners head, try and second guess what return they are going to hit.  Be aware though of the lob return and be ready to move across the net, let your partner scamper to hit the lob back.If you miss the intercept at the net off the return dont worry! Step back to the service line so that you can easier scoop back the intercept from your opponents.

In summary, if you are the net player, try and mix up what you do so that there is no  pattern to what you do. Intercept when it is on, if not hold back or dummy intercept, in that way you keep the returner under pressure. For beginners, easiest tactic to employ would be hit the volley back to where it has come from, for more advanced players aim for the other net player, aim for the body just somewhere they cant sneak back a lucky return. If you are the receiver and are playing against an albatross at the net, a 10 foot tall, 10foot wide and ready to volley everything monster. Keep a cool head, let them dance about, focus on the serve and mix it up.

I hope I have answered your question.

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