4 Reasons you are getting beat down the alley in doubles.
- Your partners shot isn’t good enough.
- You are misreading your opponent.
- You are leaning/moving toward the middle too early.
- Your opponents shot is TOO GOOD.
A common scenario: Standard formation to the deuce side. You are the net player. Your partner hit the ball crosscourt, not much on it. Your opponent comes forward off the baseline and melts the winner down your alley. Your turn to your partner “ Sorry, my fault. I’ll cover the Alley more”. You spend the rest of the match with a foot in the alley leaving your partner to play singles.
If this sounds like an interaction between you and your partners then I think this article will be very helpful to you.
- Your partners shot is not good enough.
Sometimes, your partner is the best player on your opponent’s team. If your partner is serving pancakes or hitting cross court with no intention, then you are handing the offence over to your opponent’s side of the net. When your opponent has offence, they have options and one of those options is to go down your line. Your partner from the back of the court should be hitting the ball with the intention of making your opponents uncomfortable and playing defence. We all know that playing defence in doubles from the ground means going crosscourt away from the net player. Simply, If your partner is doing their job, they should be limiting your opponent’s chances of going down the line on you. Encourage your timid partner to be more aggressive so you can force opponents crosscourt and you can help out in the middle.
*Note: There are many ways to make your opponent uncomfortable. Lobs, slices, short balls, wide balls, low balls, jamming balls… to name a few.
2. You are misreading your opponent. (Comfortable Vs Uncomfortable)
Another reason you might be getting beat down the alley is that you are misreading your opponent. If your opponent is comfortable, they are much more likely to take the ball down the line. You should be reading your opponent before the ball is hit to them. This means watching your opponent and looking for clues. Clues like…
* Reaching up for a high ball
- Reaching down for a low ball
- Stretched out wide on defence
- Pushed behind the baseline for a deep ball
- Jammed up by a hard ball at the body
- A ball down the middle that gives no angle
These are all scenarios where your opponent is not comfortable and should be looking to play the ball crosscourt, which is the higher percentage play. If you see these signs early you have a jump on the direction of the ball and can be a much more intimidating net presence. You don’t have to become a better athlete, just read the play better.
3) You are leaning/Moving toward the middle too early.
Sometimes when you read early, you move early. This gives your opponent time to change their shot and hit behind you. Sometimes even with an average shot, they can beat you down the line. Very frustrating. The timing of the poach/move depends on the pace of the ball your partner hits. The faster the ball the earlier you will have to move. The slower the ball the longer you will have to wait before you make your move to take away the middle. I can’t tell you exactly when to poach BUT I can tell you how to move.
Poach like the letter “Y”, not the letter “T”
Creep forward before you move for the poach. Your movement before poaching is very important. If you make an early lateral move your opponent is likely going to spot you early. If you creep forward before you poach you won’t disrupt your opponent’s peripheral vision, they won’t see you coming and you will be nice and tight on the net to knock off the volley. The human eye picks up side to side movement much better than forward and back. It is the reason we have brake lights on the back of our cars. How much worse would traffic be without brake lights!
4) Your opponents shot is TOO GOOD
Sometimes you and your partner will do everything right. The perfect set up ball the perfect read, the perfect move to cross and… your opponent comes up with the perfect winner down the line. It’s OK! Give them some credit, they took a gamble and it paid off. Say “too good” and move on to the next point. The best chance of you winning the match is playing the percentages. You need to accept that sometimes your opponents will get lucky, even when they are uncomfortable. No one on the tour can cover the whole court, chances are you won’t be able to either.
I like to play a game with my doubles clinics every now and then to remind them how hard it is to hit the ball in the alley. I have two teams on the baseline. One team hitting from each side of the court, the AD court, and the DEUCE court. I hit them dead ball feeds and we have a race to hit 5 balls as a team that land down the line in the alley. It seems easy but always takes much longer than everyone would think. This is from an easy feed with no spin and no net player defending the line. Add spin, pace, a reading net player and match play pressure to the equation and it is even harder. Bait your opponent by giving them half the alley, don’t cover any more. If they can hit down the outside half past your outstretched racket… “TOO GOOD”. Now let’s see them do it again, especially under pressure.
USTPA Elite Professional
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
Sheraton Hotel & Marina San Diego