Dear Team Captains & Competitive Doubles Players [Bcc’d to over 50]:
On Sunday, the 5th rubber to decide the world team Fed Cup champion nation came down to the final doubles match between defending champion Czechs in Prague, lead by two time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and the Sharapova lead Russian team in front of a raucous crowd of over 10,000 lucky spectators.
Not since 2011 has the 5th rubber doubles match decided the champion.  The stars of the team could only watch and bite their already short nails.  There are many other interesting story lines to this event.  One being that a Sharapova match in Fed Cup for Russia is rare but created by new coach Anastasiya Myskina.
Like the dominating play of Hingis/Mirza at the WTA tour finals two weeks ago, a classic Baseliner/Net Rover pair, this match had two evenly matched Net Rovers and two Baseliners on both sides.  Of course it went 3 sets and
should not be missed by any competitive women’s doubles players who represent a team.  This is the best example of closely competitive, team women’s doubles play available to view in all of 2015.  Perhaps for several years!
Deciding 5th Rubber:  Pliskova/Strycova (CZE) vs Pavlyuchenkova/Vesnina (RUS).
Each player has WTA tour stop doubles victories and plenty of doubles experience going into this match.  In this case, Pliskova and Pavlyuchankova are the younger baseliners who are comfortable at the net.  Strycova and Vesnina are the more experienced and excellent Rovers at the net who are comfortable on the baseline.
Team captains would do well to match partnerships in similar ways.  While you watch the match, notice that the Baseliners are ready to come forward when possible.  The net experts also know they must stay back after serve or return until they earn the opportunity to go forward.
Historically, great net players would serve and volley or chip and charge.  In todays doubles, the returns are too threatening at the pro level, but NOT at the recreational level.   Recreational servers need to mix in some serve/volley.
Men take note:  Tactics for men’s and women’s doubles is more similar now than it has ever been because of this!
Also worth noting during the match: plenty of “I” formation was used and watch how the Rovers take more poaching risk and the Baseliners come forward more often as the points become more critical.  All four are well aware that both at the
net is still the best formation in crunch time.  Enjoy!

I was asked for the best advice for the partner during a crosscourt rally so here is the pro, best in the world, poop on that role:

This subject came up during our Mixed Doubles class last night.   Now that she is fearless with her new Oakley polycarbonate eyewear, and doesn’t mind a bruise or two (or three!), Jill prefers to build a fort at the “O” (a chalk mark I put in the very middle of the service box which stand for “offense”) while her partner plays from the baseline during a cross court rally (unless she knows the opponent will tag her).

Despite Jill’s fantastic reflexes at the net and intimate knowledge of her opponent, I prefer she go back to the “Star” (a chalk mark I put at the middle of her service line on my teaching court) in mixed or women’s doubles.  This prevents lobs from going over her head so that her partner can come forward without worrying that they need to cover that shot.

The Bryans, Hingis/Mirza (1), and Mattek-Sands/Safarova (2) have all discussed the role of the partner in interviews when the crosscourt baseline rally is going on.  That role is huge in pro doubles.

The “home” for the pros who are partners during a baseline rally is the “O” or the “Star” (see above)—> HOWEVER—they run from the Star to the center line, to the O, depending on the quality of their partner’s/opponent’s crosscourt shots.  They do this EVERY time the ball crosses the net!   They are that mobile because they are trying to intimidate the baseliner into an error or make them change their shot to down the line.  The best poach for winning volleys.   This kind of constant movement requires a LOT of off court preparation.

The best players in the world say they get a lot more tired than the baseliner so, unless you have Sania Mirza’s forehand groundstroke, to prevent the wear/tear on the partner, the pro baseliner should come forward ASAP.  Even Sania knows she has to make something happen so Martina doesn’t melt doing all that footwork!

Recreational Tennis:  if that kind of effort can not be put into every crosscourt rally by the partner, both on the Star ready to go to the O is best (or both back second best) but the team should ALWAYS try to avoid being extremely split by one being at the O and one on the baseline.  Make sense?


After watching all the US Open semi-finals singles matches today, I was asked by a student, “Why and when did our sport get so ugly?” My first response was that ratings and money have compressed sports behavior into MTV sound bites that are often undignified. Then I started to think more about the question and what was behind it.

These dramatic on court antics certainly don’t reflect the honorable background of tennis from its days as a gentleman’s game. I noted the sport’s most honorable exceptions like Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer. Each contributed their own character to the tennis legacy. Kim’s friendship and graciousness was beloved and admired in/out of the locker room and around the world. Li Na for her outgoing spirit and candid nature. Pete was famous for his low-key public persona and for letting his racket do the talking.

Roger Federer brings a multitude of facets of enrichment to the tennis industry that will linger well beyond his competitive career. The crowds that are drawn to Federer are there for many reasons. At the top of the list are his historical perspective, poetic motions, and respect for the sport. Yes, he is a wizard’s assortment of skills and he makes teaching tennis easier, but there is something more.

He is a throw back; a reminder of what tennis was like when Laver, Rosewall, Smith, and Ashe strode the grounds of the majors. Perhaps if players like Marty Fish, Tim Henman, and Coco Vandeweghe got to number one, he would have enough company at the top of the sport to bring back the behavior of yore. The dignified times for which so many purists yearn.

Serena should watch how Roger handles the “pressure” of winning when you are expected to win. His approach to high expectations is that he far prefers that to the alternatives. A pretty simple reply to a vexing issue for many right?

Most psychologists would agree that consistent, over-the-top emotionalism is harmful to athletic performance. It needs to be carefully metered out so that the athlete’s level of arousal can be kept constant. This is as important a principle of competition as that of “temporary amnesia” for the loss of a point, game, or match. So, we come back to Roger.

He has held the flag for elegance in temperament, for athletic amnesia, and for grace under tremendous athletic pressure for many years. Will tennis swing back toward net rushing if he prevails in the finals? I don’t know. I hope so. One thing I know for sure, he won’t scream so loud and so often that he might break a blood vessel in his neck and he won’t tear his shirt off.

Hey TennisDr:

What is the latest advice from the on air pundits and professional coaches that I can put into my game?

Tiger Topspin

Hey Tiger:

Great question!  When I watch recreational players, I see some of the same issues that touring pros face.  Too many singles shots in the net, usually when they are out of position.  Here are some tips from world class authorities:

1) Tennis pundits and pro coaches use the terms “Rally Ball (RB)” and “Aggressive Shots to Conservative Targets (ASCT)” frequently on the air.  Recreational players need the same advice.

RB means a ball that has no business being anywhere near the level of the net.  Typically, you are out of the center or off balance at the baseline and your shot selection is not appropriate.  Loop or floater are the correct selections.  Like the chant at a basketball game,  “D-D-D-D-Defense!”

2)  ASCT:  EVERYONE, pros included, goes through patches in which the confidence/accuracy in your aggressive shots is dips.  ASCT means to try that same racket speed a few times down the middle of the court to the T to get your confidence back.  If you are still missing after that, slow the racket and use RB’s (see above).

If you need help with these, ask your local pro.

Professional doubles is rarely broadcast.  That is a shame because doubles is the most popular form of tennis.  Go to a college tennis match and see how different it is as a team sport.

First, it is rare when both partners are on and making aggressive shots successfully and taking risk at the same time.  Most of the time its a bit of a see saw, one player hot, the other has to be steady.  It’s important to note that in mixed doubles its not always the guy who is thermal.

One of my best mixed doubles teams got down 2-5, and the guy was showing outward signs of dejection.  He felt responsible for their plight, but doubles is always about the teams shared responsibility.  That’s why the pros and college players ALWAYS approach each other, fist bump, or high five no matter the out come of the last point.  The feeling of sharing responsibility must be reinforced as often as possible.

His female partner dolled out the proper amount of encouragement on the change over and he dedicated himself to keeping his body language positive plus, choosing safer shots.  His partners advice in this case was the key.  She had taken on the role that makes a valuable partner for any competitive team, always encouraging her teammate.

Her role became tactically important as he reigned in his aggressiveness, she got bolder.   She started taking some chances and it paid off with a 7-2 win in the tiebreaker.  There is no “I” in team…unless its Dominique Thiem!

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This is a note I sent to a 3.5 league player who came to me for a 4.0 level serve.  His serve was predominantly flat and deserted him when the stress was on.  What he needed, but did not know it, was a serve with spin, arc, and shape that could stand up to stressful situations and be more precise.

He SAID he wanted to change it, but did not know what the task entailed.  Here is that note:

Dear Jim:

People come to me who want to change.  When it comes to tennis movements,
 you need to understand that when your body tries to move differently, attention to 
making the ball strike the center of the racket is TEMPORARILY distracted.

It is INEVITABLE that anyone will mishit and frame shots during this process.
  If you are standing near the net, the racket velocity is lower and the shock 
to the arm is much reduced during this stage of learning.  

I realize you were not comfortable with that part of my training, but it was very necessary.

The body can basically learn one thing at a time before it can incorporate 
multiple skills.   You are no different than anyone else learning skills EXCEPT
 you are more reluctant to trust me during this stage of development on your serve.

The serve is very likely the most complicated performance in ALL sports.  That is the reason 
why it is so difficult to improve it without help.  IFFFF you want that, you are in the right place, but you have a choice.

We can spend your LivingSocial purchase fine tuning other shots and avoid changing
 your serve OR we can do both if you trust the process I’ve developed over 30 years that is 
backed by a Ph.D. in Biomechanics/Exercise Physiology and has been used with players of 
ALL levels from beginner to elite University team members.

You are the customer.  It is your choice.


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