#24 Not Hitting = Moving
When you are not hitting the ball, the focus is on you.
Read the play, and get into position for the next shot.
Whenever I am coaching a practice set of doubles, my focus is always on the person not hitting the ball to see what they are doing.
For most players in doubles, they don’t do a lot when the focus is not on them. That’s a very bad habit to get into. When you are not hitting the ball, you have got to be doing everything you can to hit the next ball. That’s what teamwork is all about!
This is a two-way street with you and your partner. Your partner has got to be hitting the ball to a part of the court that makes it easier for you to get involved at the front of the court when the ball comes back over the net.
There are really two different types of footwork in tennis – interior footwork and exterior footwork.
Imagine reaching down to the ground with your racket and drawing a circle all around you. The space inside the drawn circle is your Interior Footwork. This space is full of little adjusting steps and split steps and represents the most important footwork on a tennis court – especially in doubles. During a point, your Interior Footwork has got to be working overtime – especially when you are not hitting the ball!
This is the specific footwork I am talking about when you are not hitting the ball. Keep the feet pumping, stay active, and be ready for the opportunity to get involved in the point.
This is everything outside the circle – the longer running that you do around a tennis court. Exterior footwork is not quite as important for doubles, and is not really relevant for when you are not hitting the ball. It’s just good to understand the two different concepts.
Help A Brother Out
When the back player keeps the ball through the middle of the court, it greatly helps out the front player to get involved. When the front player is not hitting the ball, and identifies that the ball is in the middle of the court, they should be on high alert to go and get the ball in the Center Window region.
Wider = Chaos
Chaos in doubles favors the returning team because the serving team can’t rely on the ownership of the Center Window any more. The wider a point gets stretched, the more the returning team can hit to new angles that simply were not there when the ball was in the middle. The front player has got to rely heavier on analyzing the body position of the opponent, and their own good footwork, to get involved in a point that has been stretched wide.
1. Playing Drill
Objective – Create a greater awareness of movement away from the ball.
- Play a set.
- The coach needs to talk during the point – not too loud to distract, but loud enough to teach.
- Only talk to the player or players not hitting the ball.
- Keep talking to them, encouraging them to have great interior footwork when not hitting, and always be looking for an opportunity to get involved.
Variations – Award double points for a net player that gets involved and wins the point in a situation they would normally not be as aggressive.
2. Feeding Drill
Objective – To entice the net player to get to ball they would not normally get to.
- Have two players on the serving team.
- Have a player serve at a target and the coach feeds the return.
- Feed away from the net player just enough so they can’t get it but watch them to make sure their feet are still active when their partner is hitting the ball.
- Eventually reward the net player with a feed close enough that they can get it – but they still have to move well to the ball.
Variations – Alternate both players serving and at the net in both the deuce and ad court. Change locations after 10 good practice points.
When you are not hitting the ball, you must keep the motor running. Keep the feet active.
Interior footwork is the most important. Lots of small steps over a short distance.
If you are not hitting the ball, you are moving. Period.
Work as a team so the back player is constantly trying to set up the front player.
Split steps are the best movement for interior footwork and exploding to the ball.