#20 Three Feet
It’s easier to go under than through your opponents.
It all revolves around 3 feet – the height of the net in the middle of the court.
The height that a player contacts the ball in a doubles match really, really matters. As you may well know, the height of the net in the middle of the court is 3 feet and the height at the net post is 3’6″ – a six inch difference. That’s good to know, but only as a reference.
Here’s a key golden rule that too many players don’t value – make your opponent hit below the height of the net ALL over the court, but especially at the front of the court.
Hitting up is not easy.
You will get a lot of opportunities, indeed several times a point sometimes, to make this happen. In doubles, the natural instincts are far more to to do the following with a ball:
- Go through them – Yes, power is a great at making the ball weigh a lot more on the opponent’s racket, but quite often all they have to do is stick their racket out and use your power in a rebounding manner right back at you. Going through someone is not easy.
- Go around them – It is an obvious natural instinct to want to hit the ball where your opponent is not standing. Sometimes it works, but quite often the open court is an illusion – by the time the ball reaches the open hole they have taken a couple of steps to shut it down and now have angle to use back against you.
- Go over them – Nothing wrong with a good lob. But it better be a good lob because you are matching that up against a powerful overhead that can end the point right there. Lobbing is a very good thing to do – at the right time. Very few matches will the lob be something that you try hundreds of times in a match.
- Go under them – Now you are talking! This is absolutely something you can do hundreds of times a match – simply making your opponents hit the ball below the height of the net will draw an unbelievable amount of errors into the net.
Serving Team = Pound the back player.
Returning Team – Pound the net player.
Go Low Against:
A Serve & Volleyer – Factor in how fast the opponent is when they serve and volley and aim for an area where they will be standing when your return gets to them. Essentially, you are aiming at their shoes as they run to the net. That makes for a very tough first volley! If they are slower, you will aim deeper, probably right past the service line. A faster opponent will make it into the service box, so you will definitely want to add more topspin to get the ball to dip quickly right after it goes over the net.
An Approacher – This is exactly the same as against a serve and volleyer. It’s all about measuring or predicting their speed to the net and hitting the ball to where they are going to be -hitting their shoes. In fact, the phrase “hitting their shoes” is something I think about a lot when playing a doubles match. It’s a great way to keep enjoying the benefits of this wonderful tactic.
A Volleyer – Since they are already at the net, this will take a little more precision. If it’s the server’s partner, you can go off speed with heavy spin to make them uncomfortable. A lot of times it does not matter if the height of contact is just an inch or two below the height of the net or nearly all the way to the ground – both require the volleyer to hit up which is not easy.
Name: Submarine Playing
Objective – To get the two net players far more involved in covering the front of the court and to get all players primarily trying to dip the ball low at the opponent’feet
- Play a set regular scoring.
- The only ball that can bounce on the court is the serve.
- If the ball bounces on your side of the net, you just lost the point.
Variations – Play one service game each with this rule and then finish the rest of the set under normal rules – still trying to play in the spirit of the drill.
Name: Submarine Feeding
Objective – To make players automatically look to hit low to begin the point and to also give them practice volleying below the height of the net.
- One team starts at the baseline. The other team starts at the service line.
- Always feed to the back team.
- As soon as the ball is fed to the back team, the net team can move forward into the service boxes.
- The first shot must go low – be made contact with below the height of the net. If it’s higher then the point does not commence. Re-feed and if it happens again (too high), the net team automatically wins the point.
- If the back team can make the ball bounce in front of the net team then they automatically win the point.
- Play to 15 and then change sides.
Variations – Round 2 you can introduce the lob also as a first shot, and if that hits the court then the net team also loses the point – making any first shot that hits the court an automatic point for the back team.
Hurt with opponent with extra “dip” on the ball instead of extra power.
Making your opponent hit even just a little below the height of the net is a big deal.
When the opponent has to hit up, they can’t hit it hard and hit it in.
Both softer and harder works. It’s the height, not the power, that ultimately draws the error.