Dear TennisDr:

In my last class, I noticed that when my foursome turned out to be a threesome, I expected the class be a bummer. Boy was I surprised that the class was even better. Let’s do that again soon!




Hey Jess:

You noticed yesterday how potent my three player/90 minute classes can be. Usually avoided in recreational tennis, a three player workout is encouraged in Davis Cup and BJK Cup team play for an important reason–every player on the team might play singles or doubles. In college, all players practice both formats as they could be in either roster.

My 3 player/90 minute format, includes 60 minutes of drills and 30 minutes of point play in which two servers swap out each point, is a potent teaching tool. It epitomizes the nature of college coaching and the “Academy Style” used in Florida. Players need preparation for both games and, as Jess noticed, styles at the same skill level are very diverse in recreational tennis so learning to assess errors, strengths, and planning the next point are key.

Compared to a two or four player class, my 90 minute three player format (never play doubles vs singles!) is actually my favorite as it gives you more time to consider the style of the different opponents between points. Yes, they are singles thoughts in point play and there are is no formal doubles play, it gives me a chance to interject elite player thinking while you wait for your next point.

In the hour before point play, players work on particular physical weakness and practice strengths for both games. Rotating with 2 versus 1 IN PRACTICE for the first 60 minutes is perfect for this. Most of my students have performed these drills where I feed from the middle to a net player in the middle who has to practice a volley to the sidelines, while the doubles team gets to hit to the imaginary middle of a doubles team at the net.

During singles point play, better problem solving occurs versus two different singles styles which gives my students the edge and makes you a better thinker on court in competition. Be aware that a very subtle 2 or 3% edge will dominate 80% of your matches! Play the long run percentages and don’t emphasize, be consumed by, or waste energy on, short term fluctuations in performance.

Given two well matched players, the calm, problem solver will predominate. Simona Halep former #1, on the champions podium said that she finally learned this lesson from Darren Cahill. On court, she appeared more kind to herself, accepting of her flaws, and continued to win slams because of her new demeanor of “calculating calm”.

A student called me, who’s fourth couldn’t make it, desperate to find a player to fill in. My response was that 3 people could be even better than 4, if you pay attention to tennis tradition.

Here are 3 drills for 3 people. They actually provide more focused practice than 4 people on the court!

3 player drills are a tradition that comes from the international competition of David Cup and Federation Cup in which one country plays against another. The captain of BOTH the Russian Davis Cup & Federation Cup Teams (a VERY rare responsibility), Shamil Tarpishchev, would approve these drills for all men and women as he has won 3 Fed Cup and 2 Davis Cup championships for Russia in the last 8 years. With that credential, he is one of the best (though unrecognized) coaches in tennis history.

In my view, if you have limited time, it is more important to complete a rotation using the Ad court before using the Deuce court. My students are more comfortable directing their shots to where a game is usually won/lost than other players.

1) “2 Against 1 Practice Drill”– Two players drop/hit a feed from the net to a single player in the receivers position on the baseline in the AD court. Net players must volley into the half court WITH the alley.

The single player must hit from one net player to the other. 10 minutes for each formation, then rotate. Then rotate. 30 minutes

Then put the receiver in the Deuce side for 10 minutes. Then rotate. Then rotate.
Keep a “bucket” of balls at the center strap of the net.

2) “Half Court Singles Competition”–divide the tennis court lengthwise down the middle (imaginary line extends the center line to the center mark on the baseline) and compete with a ball being served to either the ad side only (with the alley) during each point.

Servers are a team (one player remains the server) and play one point at a time against the receiver until either team reaches 10, by a margin of 2. Then rotate. Servers start each point by serving to the Ad side first, then players rotate, then players rotate. 30 minutes

After that cycle, servers start each point by serving to the Deuce side. Then rotate. Then rotate. Keep the bucket at the back fence behind servers.

3) “Bailin Canadian Doubles Competition”–a two player team plays regular doubles but must hit all their shots into the half doubles court (see #2) Ad side, until either side gets 10 points. Then rotate. Then rotate. 30 minutes

Then the doubles team plays to the Deuce side. Then rotate. Then rotate. Keep the bucket at the back fence behind servers. 30 minutes

These are all great for singles and doubles skills. They are part of the lost traditions of great coaches. The best coaching skills, player improvements, and most audience excitement, come from team competition.

Go watch a University match or a Davis/Fed Cup match as soon as possible!