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volume: 17, issue: 38
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Doubles Poaching when Serving and Special Formations

We all know the importance of poaching when playing doubles at all levels. However, as we watch many teams playing, we often wonder why they don’t do it more often. The answer to this question is clear doubles teams don’t feel confident poaching because they have not received enough specific training on this topic.

There are 3 kinds of poaching:
  • Per reaction: when the ball is easy and you move out of your territory to poach.
  • Per anticipation: when you are sure tactically or technically of a crosscourt return.
  • Per command or per signal: when the team decides to cross from a conventional position or when doing the “Australian” and “I” formations.

The “Australian formation” is implemented by the serving team. When serving to the “deuce” court for example, the server‘s partner will take up a net position on the same side of the center line as the server. The server will stand very close to the center “T”, as it is their job to either move to the opposite side of the court after the serve has been delivered, or stay on the same side as they started.

The reason for such a strategy can be:
  1. To cause a receiver with an excellent cross court return to now return down the line.
  2. To allow a server with an excellent backhand, or backhand volley to receive more shots to that particular side.
  3. When used in variation, to cause a good returner to consistently have to alter their return of serve direction.

The “I formation” is where the server’s partner will take a position at net virtually straddling the center line, while the server stands very close to the center “T”. The server and partner have determined in advance which direction the server’s partner will take immediately after the serve has been delivered and consequently, the server will move in the opposite direction. This requires the server’s partner to crouch very low at the net as the service ball will come almost directly over their head.

The reason for this strategy is:
  1. To cause considerable doubt in the mind of the receiver as to whether the return should be directed down the line or cross court.
  2. Because both the server and their partner are in motion before the receiver strikes the ball, this distraction can lead to the receiver taking their eye off the ball early, causing inconsistent shotmaking.
  3. Such a strategy makes it very difficult for the receiving team to plan a response, as there is no certainty as to what the serving team has planned.

Alternative Scoring Methods

Why should golf have all the fun utilizing different scoring methods and tennis have so few to choose from? Here is an old school method you might remember and a couple of modern scoring methods to help you keep the game interesting.

“The 9-Point Tiebreaker”
Another name it goes by is “sudden death”. When a game reaches 6/6 many times a “tiebreak” is used to eliminate prolonged sets. The 5 out of 9 tiebreak was popular in the 1970’s and was the preferred method for ending the set or match. Each server serves 2 points each starting from the deuce side. The individual or team that has 5 points first wins. Change sides after 4 points are played. In the event of a 4/4, the last server serves the final point. Opposing team or player can then decide the side to be served the “sudden death” point.

“The Comen Tiebreak”
Another name it is known by is the “Balboa” or the “Experimental” tiebreak. When wind, sun or other conditions favor play on one side of a court, the John B. Coman Tiebreak format can be used to even out the points played on the “bad” side. In doubles, it allows partners to serve throughout the tiebreak on the same side that they served on during the set. The Comen tiebreak originated out on the west coast where the mid-afternoon sun is at fence top level at certain times of the year. The players on the “bad” side of the court are at a distinct disadvantage and if ends were not changed in a tiebreak until after six points were played, a few balls in the sun and the tiebreak could easily be almost over before it started. Here is an easy way to remember how to play a Coman tiebreak. Change ends after the first point of the tiebreak and every four points thereafter. Put the two numbers together and you have 14. Remember the significance of the number 14 and you know the Coman tiebreak. Everything else is the same as a regular set tiebreak including changing ends at the end of the tiebreak to start another set.

“The Sliding Scale”
Another name for this scoring method is called the “progressive handicap”. It will help to be an equalizer for different levels that play each other. Start the match like regular scoring, and whoever wins the first game, will start the next game down love/15. If the person who is down wins the next game again, they would start the third game down love/30, and so on. Remember you cannot go down by more than love/40. The spread of the games between you and your opponent will help tell you the score. If the score is 4/2 in your favor you would start the next game down love/30, 4/3=love/15, 4/4=love/love, 5/2=love/40… In this “sliding scale” type of tennis the more you win, the more you start down. Don’t forget to start from the correct side of the court in each game depending on the score.

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