Ron Steege, USPTA, Director of Tennis
Do you feel uncomfortable about going to the net in doubles because you fear being lobbed over? Believe me, you’re not alone! In fact, this is probably the number one concern for players at most every level. So, what’s the answer?
From a technical standpoint, one of the best things you can do is learn to love your overhead, and not just at the net. You also want to be comfortable from the service line, no-man’s land and even the baseline! For most upper level players, the overhead is often one of their favorite shots. If your opponents discover that you have a good overhead, they will be less likely to lob you knowing that there will be a price to pay in doing so. From your standpoint, having the knowledge that you possess a good overhead as you move towards the net will breed confidence and reduce your anxiety about lobs in general.
From a tactical standpoint, the first thing to recognize is that you can’t cover 100% of the shots that come your way. The key is in understanding what are the most important areas to take away from your opponents and trying to force them in to shots they may not own. As a rule of thumb, your primary goal in doubles should be to take away more straight-ahead shots that land in deeper parts of the court. This mindset will force your opponents to try for angles that travel in front of you, which are easier for you to react and cover. There’s also a good possibility that this positioning will force your opponent’s shot to travel wide and miss out of bounds.
For a better understanding of these concepts, check out these diagrams:
C and D are too close to the net, parallel to each other and exposed to deep lobs from A.
D is too far back which leads to exposure to balls at the feet and short angles.
Ideal position. Here C has the sideline and can help with the middle and short lobs. D has the middle — short angles and all deep lobs covered.