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#16 Low Middle

This is your doubles default. 

Not sure where to hit it. Well, hit it right here.

Options are typically a good thing. But sometimes they confuse rather than help. In doubles, the primary shot against two players at the net is definitely low down the middle of the court. It’s a heavy ball hit with good shape that dips when it gets below the height of the net and makes the opposing team have to hit up, and also provides them with no angle to hurt you with.

Here’s some food for thought.

1. Percentages.

There are definitely times in a match that it is a good idea to go down the alley. But let’s look at the size of the target area going wide down the alley or hitting a ball right down the middle of the court. Well, the two simply don’t compare. If you are at a level of the game where hitting your spots under pressure is not the easiest thing to do, then defaulting down the middle of the court is a far better option than chasing the alley simply because you have a far greater chance of making the shot.

2. Confusion

This happens all the time and is a huge advantage for the team that is back in the point. When you hit your shot right down the middle of the court it often creates doubt and confusion with the net team as to who has responsibility for the shot – especially if they are out of position to start with. Typically if the ball is hit from the right side of the court, the corresponding right player should have ownership of that middle ball. Communication between doubles players is not always a strength, and you can get away with winning a lot of points by hitting the ball to a part of the court that it is not entirely clear who needs to take control.

3. Boomerang

The best part of hitting a dipping ball low down the middle of the court is that it is extremely difficult for the net team to hit a shot back that really hurts the team that’s back. The net player can’t hit down on the ball and put it away. They have no angle to hurt you with either. Typically when the ball boomerang’s back to the baseline player, they will have a better chance on the next shot to really do something to hurt the net team.

4. Multiplying

What are you really hurting the net team with when you hit a low ball through the middle? Glad you asked… When you successfully combine three elements into the same shot, the ball does not typically come back into the court.

  • Direction –  You create the most confusion between the two opponents and give them no direction to hurt you back.
  • Height – Any time you can make your opponent hit the ball below the height of the net is a good thing.
  • Spin – Hitting heavy spin to get the ball down low makes for a much tougher volley to control than a flat shot.

 Primary option is a dipping ball through the middle.

You may want to try the spectacular to the alleys, but the meat and potatoes is definitely right down the middle. Dip it and there is a very good chance the volley will go right into the net.

Another good opportunity to go low middle. 

The same applies for the deuce court and the ad court – also for forehands and backhands. It’s not so much what you get to hit, but what you want the opposing team to have to deal with.

 

Strategy Drills

1. Playing Drill

Objective – Create an awareness with the Returner’s Partner on the specific movement and timing of this tactic.

  • Play a set.
  • Draw the “j” on the court with sidewalk chalk x 4 (for all positions on both sides of the court).
  • Once the player’s see the shape in front of them, they will figure it out much quicker, particularly if they are used to running a “c”.
  • Evaluate the Returner’s Partner point to point if they moved correctly during the point.

Variations – Award two points for a successfully run “j” that directly contributes to winning the point.

2. Feeding Drill

Objective – To get the timing right of the “j” for the Returner’s Partner.

  • Serve to the Returner and have them aim at a specific target.
  • If they are successful with the return, feed the next ball through the Center Window and have the Returner’s Partner run the “j” to learn the correct movement and timing.
  • Always better to draw the movement in sidewalk chalk for the player to understand. Do it successfully 10 times in the deuce court and then switch to the ad. Then switch returners.

Variations – Hit the serve and simulate a good return (no returner present). Then feed the ball to the player in the Returner’s Partner position who works on the correct pathway along the “j”.

Go Do This

Options can confuse. When it’s not clear what to do, default low and middle with your groundstroke.

Create confusion. The middle is a murky, grey area for a lot of doubles teams.

Spin is more important here than power. A slow, heavy ball is often tougher than a harder flat ball to volley.

Make your opponents hit up. Once the ball is below the height of the net it’s so much tougher to handle.

Stay with the high percentage option that you can consistently make. Let the opponent’s go for the tough shots.

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