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Got Doubles Skills? (Part 3)

Post 24 of 40

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed Part 1 and Part 2 of our Got Doubles Skills? series.  In today’s Part 3 of Got Doubles Skills?, we’ll look at The Receiver’s Jobs.  From the length of this article, it may look like the receiver doesn’t have many responsibilities.  Don’t be fooled!  Remember, the receiver must get the ball in play to begin the point for their team.  This leads me to their first job.

Job One:  No Returns Wide or in the Net

Of all the jobs we’ve discussed so far, and all we will discuss, this is the only what-not-to-do scenario!  This is a reminder that the return should be hit over the net and through your opponents.  It is helpful for the receiver to block the net man out of their mind, as if they were invisible or nonexistent.  It is best not to change the direction of the ball (hit it back from where it came) on the return; this reduces the percentages for an error.  The rule is very basic, a ball hit wide or in the net is an immediate loss of the point and the mortal sin of a returner!

Most returning errors in doubles are the result of pressing or trying to make the shot too good.  Just remember, the player’s “regular stuff” is good enough, as long as the rule “No balls wide, no balls in the net” is followed.  Even a ball hit directly at the net man still gives you a chance at winning the point because you got the ball in play.

Job Two:  Determine Which Formation to Use and Which Play to Run

There are basically three options to follow while performing this job:

Option One:  Move into the net behind a weak serve.  Controlling the net is a big advantage in doubles, and when the receiving team can take the net away from the serving team, it becomes easier to break serve.  Don’t worry about hitting the ball hard (chip and charge works well); just ensure you get it deep in the court so you have a chance at winning the point on the next volley.  Remember, both you and your partner should move in and take control of the net.

Option Two:  Return the ball low at the server’s feet, allowing the returner’s partner to poach for a winning volley.  This idea is to hit low and aggressive returns that will force the server to pop up the first volley.  The receiver’s partner can be intimidating to the server by leading them to press and make errors at critical times in the match.

Option Three:  This is probably the least popular option and one you rarely see used, but it is a viable option.  Play both players on the receiving team back and try to take the net off the first weak ball.  The objective is to take a bit of pressure off the receiver in having to make a great crosscourt return every time.  With two players back, the serving team has a tough job putting away the first volley.  As soon as the first volley is hit, the receiving team hits through the serving team until the serving team pops up an easy ball that creates an easy winner for the receiving team.  The offensive lob may also be thrown into the mix to keep the serving team from closing the net too tight.  This formation does take practice, but if mastered, it can beat any opponents who are not good volleyers.  Please be aware that the best doubles teams will usually beat a defensive doubles team which uses the both-players-back formation.  Top-tier doubles is won at the net and players should learn offensive tactics as well.  The best tactic would be to strategically use this formation now and then as a change of pace.

As you can see, the receiver gets the ball rolling for his team. By ensuring he gets the ball in play, good things will happen!

Tune in for our next installment of Got Doubles Skills? Part 4 where we’ll discuss The Receiver’s Partner’s Jobs.

See you on the courts!


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