Where you stand on the court to start a point in doubles really matters!
CLOSE UP: Positioning a return partner.
The Returner’s Partner is by far the most difficult position to play on the doubles court. The other three players hit the ball in front of them. The returnee’s partner will often react to what someone else has done rather than attacking themselves.
When the server makes his first serve, it is imperative to be neutral or defensive with attitude and position. A quality first serve will put pressure on the returner and bring the serving partner into the game.
So let’s look at the following scenario and point out why the serving team scored.
Photo 1: Point origin
Herbert serves and his partner Mahut at the net. Peers returns and his partner, Polasek, is positioned INSIDE service box.
This is where the percentages drop immediately for the return team to score – even before the first serve has been hit. The Pole is in an extremely aggressive position with two feet in the service line. It’s more acceptable when dealing with a second serve, but it’s really just rolling the dice against the first serve.
Why? Response time.
If that first serve is thrown in and Peers are under pressure, Mahut will fill the net and will want to send the ball straight at Polaska as he will not have enough time to react and hit the ball back over the net.
Photo 2: Servo return
Herbert performs the first quality service extensively for peers. Now Peers has a perfect backhand return, but look how he has his feet together and reaches for the ball on this occasion.
He has a strong shot. How do we know? Take a look at Mahut on the web. He picks up all the same signs and knows that couples are really hard to beat. So he goes to the center of the court early to come out and hit the ball.
Image 3: The server’s partner volleys the ball
As predicted, Mahut is in the middle of the pitch, given the quality of Herbert’s first pass.
Now, where should Mahut try to hit the ball?
Well, not back to peers who will probably take the next shot back on court. It’s best to go straight for Polasek, who still has both feet in the service box, even though his team isn’t even close to attacking.
Image 4: The returnee’s partner misses the volley
Mahut does the right thing tactically and hits the ball straight at Polasek, who doesn’t have time to react and puts the ball straight into the net.
When did the returning team really drop a point? Earlier, it started when Polasek took an aggressive position with both feet inside the service line.
He had to stand with both feet on the first serve BEHIND the service line, giving him enough time to react to have a much better chance of blocking the volley back into the field.
The Returnee’s partner must be neutral or defensive to start the point. They are reactive. They must be far enough away from the net to have enough reaction time to get the ball back into the court if the server’s partner engages on point and hits the ball straight at them.
How many game points is this particular coaching advice worth for a returning team? Probably around 6-8 points, which is certainly enough to turn a defeat into a win.