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?