In Doubles, the first thing you must understand is the Middle is your Friend. As a colleague calls it “Hills and Valleys.” The players are the hills, and the valleys are the areas between them and on the outside of them. Picture it.
Now that you can visualize the middle, let’s close it off and make the valley very small. This happens with great communication with your partner. I need the server to hit the serve to either the body (sliding from the middle in) or to the “T.” These two serves line up the return for the middle. Now it is up to our fearless net player to “Cut off the Middle.” The key to a good poach is to know you are going before the point starts. You almost have to get into the mental state before you can get into the physical. If the net player tells the server to go up the “T,” this should allow the net player to take the middle and volley it back down the middle (NOT to the other net player).
When the serve goes more into the body, there is less movement towards the middle as the ball should go up and towards the net player (be aware of the lob). Look for the ball to be attempted towards cross court, but very likely it will come to the net player.
Now, when this fearless net player makes this move, the server must stay with the path of the ball UNTIL the net player makes contact, then he or she moves to the other side of the court. Please don’t end up in “I Formation.”
Have fun “Cutting off the Middle.” The better you get at it, the more you will see shots down the line. That is called “Risk vs. Reward.” If you get passed, you are doing your job. Follow my rule of 3 strikes:
- 1st pass is Lucky;
- 2nd pass they are having a good day;
- and 3rd pass they know how to do it, cover the line.
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