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Cummings and Goings XXIV by Jim Cummings

December 10, 2009 10:18 PM

Most instructional books and articles on doubles are written for polished, high-end players. You can read these publications without getting much out of them because they assume a skill level you and I at 3.5 and 4.0 do not have. Early this October, my 3.5 Super Senior 60 and over team was getting ready to play in the sectional championships at the Tennis Center in College Park. I took the opportunity to share with my teammate some of my years of experience on the  doubles court. For what they are worth, I share them with you.

First serve in. Second serves change the percentage win ratio, take the pressure off the receiver, take your partner out of the equation and expose you to double faults. All are bad. Take something off your first serve if you have to, but get it in at least 70 percent of the time. Unless you have an exceptional serve (and few seniors and 4.0 and lower  players do) it is more important to get your first serve in than try to go for a service winner. 

Return of serve - YES! Even if you have to kick it in. Make opponents earn the points they get. Give them the opportunity to error. Lob. Chip. Whatever. You have to do to get the ball in play. If you are having a bad return day, have your partner play back so he won't be a target and wait until you have an opportunity to take the net. But whatever, get the serve in play.

Play the net at a distance that allows you to act, not react, to the shots your opponent's hit; especially lobs. If you need more time, give yourself more space. It is a lot easier to close in on  a ball than to go back for it. And it makes it a lot harder for an opponent to lob effectively if you are positioned further from the net. 

BANG, don't baby, set ups. When you got a good set up at the net, go for the point. The percentages are with you and you probably won't get another good opportunity to win the point if you just push it back.

When you are in the back court and your opponent hits a good forcing shot wide, don't try to hit your way out. The percentage is too low; especially if your opponents are decent net players. A high lob will often get you back in the point. If your partner is the one doing the scrambling, don't just stand stand there like a dummy. Back up and take a defensive position that covers more of the middle so your partner can scramble back into the point.

Don't give up the middle of the court and the middle is not always the center of the court. The middle you have to protect depends on where the ball is on your opponent's side of the court.  When the ball is across the net on your partners side of the court and you are both at the net, play off your partner so that you have the middle covered. Few can hit a cross court angle consistently for a winner and if they do try, you can usually reach it because they have to hit a slower paced shot to do so. When the ball is directly across the net from you, play directly off the ball and your partner plays off of you and covers the middle. Don't overly protect the alley side line when the ball is directly across the net from you. Too much court is opened up on your partner's side if you do.  You have two things going for you when you have to cover the alley side of the court: the net is higher and you win all points hit outside the alley. Your job as a team is to defend as much of your court as possible which usually means leaving the angles and part of the alley open. There are times your opponents are going to pass you; there is no defending everything. Defend the most probable return and you will make out like a bandit.

Stay with what is working for your team; especially on game points. If you are losing, try something different. If nothing is working, hang in as much as you can. Good things sometimes happen if you do.

Serena Slammed

The New York Times reported that Serena Williams was fined at least $82,500 by the Grand Slam committee for her infamous outburst at the US Open. The $5,000 fine imposed by the USTA was seen by many as a slap on the wrist, but this fine should be enough to catch any tennis player's attention. It was a record fine for both men and women. To be honest with you (which I always am), I had never heard of the Grand Slam committee. In addition to the fine, Serena was placed on probation applying to Grand Slam events for the next two years. I see this as good for tennis; especially when you look at what has gone on in other sports. Our game has many grand traditions of which player conduct is one. May it always be thus.

By:  Jim Cummings 12/10/2009

Jim Cummings Bio:
   Born in Marinette, WI
   Boyhood friend of the Cook family
   Played varsity tennis for UW-Madison in the 50s
   Officiated at over 25 US Opens as a chair and line umpire
   Served on USTA's Rules Committee when Jack Stahr and Nick Powel were Chairs
   Active senior player and Referee
   Presently helps edit the Friend At Court
   zjimc@msn.com

 

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