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Proactive Net Play In Tennis – Ask Ian #80

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In today’s episode of Ask Ian, I answer a question from Josh Hunt. Josh writes:

“I am a decent net player, and it seems when I play doubles, they usually just hit it away from me. I am wondering if I could be more useful to the team if I moved back to the baseline. I don’t get many balls at the net.”

Number one – kudos to Josh for having this issue. Short and sweet – if his opponents are doing their best to hit away from him at the net then it’s more than likely that Josh is doing something right.

This is true because the further away from the net you are, the more defensive of a position you put yourself in. Conversely, as you get closer and closer to the net, you start to be able to geometrically target your opponent’s side directly – this is why they’re avoiding Josh at the net. They’re smart enough to understand that, if given a choice, they’d rather have him back at the baseline. When you’re at the net, you’re in a position to end the point offensively in your favor much more easily than you would at the baseline.

It seems that Josh already has solid net skills but doesn’t quite know what to do to be a proactive doubles player for his team.

The majority of amateur level doubles consists of a “One Up, One Back” formation, where teams get lulled into long, crosscourt rallies with not a lot of volleying. However, having a higher level mindset will help to change this one dimensional strategy.

Even if the ball isn’t coming to you at the net in doubles, you can still be a difference maker on the court by making it your job as the net player to make your opponents second guess where you’re going to hit as much as possible.

There is a decision to be made here – will you be a reactive doubles player or a proactive doubles player?

The difference is this…

A reactive player:
Lets the other team dictate play
Lets the ball come to them
Defends only their half of the court
Reacts to what the other team is enforcing strategically
Has lower level tennis mentality

A proactive doubles player:
Dictates play by poaching, faking, and hitting different spots on the court
Anticipates and moves to where the ball is going to be before it gets there
Looks to cut off as many balls as possible, regardless of what side they’re on
Injects himself or herself into the point and makes things happen
Enforces a team strategy with the goal of continually keeping their opponents uncomfortable
Has a higher level tennis mentality

So, the next time your doubles opponents avoid you at the net by hitting the ball crosscourt over and over again, perceive it as a positive and start playing like a proactive partner.

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  1. Scott Leaverton February 14, 2018 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Hey Ian keep up the great work! I always learn something helpful that I can put into play right away. Thank you!