Tennis Blog

Josh’s Final Fresh Take: December 2018 Edition

A Toast, To Tennis

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Tennis has given me the opportunity to connect with so many individuals over the years, some of whom have become very close friends of mine. As a kid growing up in New Westminster, I would always attend the local summer tennis camp every July. It was a four-week long camp that consisted of a tournament in the very last week. It was something to look forward to at the end of the school year, to get outside, enjoy the weather with some friends, get some exercise, and work on my tennis skills. The tournaments were an obvious focal point of the camp and each year I took it more seriously, and ultimately became more competitive in the sport. However, looking back on it now, it is obvious to me that it was not the most important part. It created another platform to connect with individuals in the neighbourhood and lead to creating stronger bonds with friends that I already had. Tennis was a social activity that brought my friends and I together. It acted like a glue in those dog days of summer every single year until I graduated high school.

Years later, tennis gave me the opportunity to work here at the UBC Tennis Centre. For the past three and a half years, I have been working at the Centre as a Coach and as the newsletter lead while I attended school at UBC. I have learned so much more about the game from so many incredible coaches here who I have been privileged of working alongside. We often discussed the different doubles strategies, serving techniques, and about all the different ways you can get in to your opponent’s head. I am extremely grateful.

I have also learned how to become a stronger communicator, how to lead a class and how to connect with both youth and adults alike. All of which I have become incredibly passionate about and are reasons why I have chosen to become an educator. This July I will complete my Bachelor of Education degree and be certified to teach in schools all over the Lower Mainland. This also means that my time here at the UBC Tennis Centre is coming to and end. A bitter-sweet feeling as it will be sad to move on from so many amazing clients, fellow staff members and memories.

If I was never given the opportunity to coach here, I doubt that I would ever discover that teaching is something that I wanted to do. If I never went to those summer camps as a kid every July, I would have never worked at the UBC Tennis Centre. And if I never played tennis, I would have never created those friendships and connections that I still have today.

As sad as it is to move on from the UBC Tennis Centre, I am looking forward to this next chapter. To me, tennis is not just a sport, it is so much more (Grinch reference anyone?). It has given me incredible friendships and opportunities. It has shaped me as a person and given me piece of mind. It has meant a lot to me. I have nothing but warm memories associated with this wonderful sport and I will continue to create more memories for years to come.

Thank you, tennis.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off for the last time.

Josh’s Fresh Take: November 2018 Edition

Don’t Be Afraid to Come to the Net!

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Last month I discussed the strategy to play shots deep, past the service line in order to pin your opponent back. This is important in order to keep them from approaching the net, but what happens when your opponent does give you an approach shot that lands inside the service box? After you return the ball, will you recover at the net and get ready to volley? Or will you recover back to the baseline?

If you are a player that recovers back to the baseline, ask yourself why? Many beginner players are reluctant to come to the net because they are worried that they might get hit or will react too slowly. By being reluctant of approaching the net, you are essentially neglecting a major part of the game that could be incredibly advantageous to yourself. Approaching the net and volleying is one of the fastest ways to finish off your opponent during a point. Having this strategy in your back pocket will keep your opponent on their toes. Try practicing your volleys and approaching the net with your UBC Coach or a friend the next time you play to become comfortable with this. Remember to always keep your racket head up and between your eyes! We call this “fight mode” as it is similar to boxing – to keep hands up in front of your face to protect yourself and be ready at all times for a strike.

I hear quite often that players try not to play the net because they are worried that their opponent will lob them, so they would rather stay back at the baseline. This is one reason that baffles me! First of all, if you make a successful approach shot at a tough angle or a fast and hard shot, the chances that they are going to make a perfect lob over you are pretty low. If they successfully lob the ball over you, a lob gives you enough time to turn and run to return the shot. More likely, they are going to try their best to just get the ball back over the net. This is why is it important to approach the net to pick off that defensive return shot. From there you can use your angles, as it is likely that your opponent is in a defensive position, to finish the point.

In the same situation above, if you were to return to the baseline after making a successful approach shot, then your opponent would likely return the ball and the rally would continue back and forth until someone made a mistake. This is why it is important to come to the net after a successful approach shot! If you are unsuccessful on the approach shot, meaning that you hit a weak attacking shot, then by all means return to the baseline. You do not want to be approaching the net on a shot they your opponent is going to attack! In this situation, you likely will not have a chance to return the ball and could possibly get hurt.

When it comes to doubles play, it is arguably even more important to come to the net and volley. Most of the points that are won happen at the net, so get out there with your partner and practice! You and your partner need to communicate to ensure one of you plays at the net. You should never both be at the baseline as you are likely going to get stuck or have your opponents move to an attacking position. Get out there and do not be afraid to come to the net!

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: October 2018 Edition

Top 3 Strategies for Beginner Singles Play!

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

This month I give three basic strategies to beginner tennis players that will help them win some points and hopefully a match or two!

1. Find Your Opponent’s Weaknesses

When playing in a tournament and before you begin your match, one of the first things you have to do is warm-up with your opponent. This includes your groundstrokes, volleys and serves. This is a great opportunity to look for strengths and weaknesses in your opponent’s game. This may seem pretty obvious, however a lot of players do not seize this opportunity! Be observant! Most of the time a tennis player’s weakness is their backhand. But this is not always the case! Some players have a monster backhand and if you only assume that is their weakness and do not pay attention in the warm-up, you would be in trouble when the match starts. Do your homework before you start your match in order to avoid losing easy points.

Guess what? Your opponent is also scouting you! Try and mask some of your strengths if you can. For example, if you have a strong serve, do not unleash it completely in the warm-up. Bring it out during the match and catch your opponent off guard! This could work in your favour. Also, do not be afraid of your weaknesses in warm-up. In other words, do not favour your forehand if you have a weak backhand. This is more obvious to your opponent than just using your weak backhand… Think about the warm-up!

2. Play Deep

Try and pin your opponent back at the baseline. Hit deep shots that go beyond the service line – even if it is not exactly the hardest shot. If you keep the ball at the baseline, your opponent will generally only have a returning angle of about 20-30 degrees. This can be covered far more easily than if you hit the ball short near the net, which can give your opponent an angle of up to 180 degrees! By keeping the ball deep at the baseline, you can recover and generally stay in the rally more consistently. Giving your opponent a short ball essentially gives them more angles to work with. From that spot, you are playing a guessing game of where they might place the ball. This is a far more difficult point to battle for. Do yourself a favour and keep the ball deep!

3. Be Predictably Unpredictable

If you are up 40-0 or 40-15, be sure to take risks! This is a perfect opportunity to try that serve and volley you have been working on, or go for that down-the-line forehand winner. By taking these risks in situations where you are already dominating the lead, it will make you unpredictable in the eyes of your opponent. To you, you are already leading the game and will, most likely, win. But by taking a risk, it will keep them on their toes and keep them second-guessing what your next shot will be. This will work in your favour when the game is tied 30-30, or when you are losing, as your opponent may think you will go for that serve and volley where in reality you are going to be more conservative. By taking these risks when you are in the lead, you are helping your game in the long-run; your opponent won’t be able to predict what you will do next.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: September 2018 Edition

Keeping Your Cool

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

The tennis world recently witnessed Serena Williams’ conflict at the US Open earlier this month with the umpire, Carlos Ramos. Whether or not you think that Serena or Carlos were in the wrong, one can agree that at times they both lost their cool. Carlos lost his cool in a sense that his punishment might have been a bit harsh, especially when you factor in Serena’s exact point that male athletes often get away with much worse behaviour. And Serena lost her cool with her reaction of calling Carlos a “liar” and “thief” and demanding an apology. (If you are reading this and do not know what I am talking about, I suggest that you stop reading and watch this conflict on YouTube). More or less, what I am exuding to is the fact that both individuals had lost their cool at times during the match. What I mean by this statement is that emotions got the better of both individuals. They had lost their focus and became frustrated. Carlos was not as obvious as he was not yelling, but by the punishment that he handed Serena, it was evident that he was shaken by the instigation.

For Serena, it meant that it cost her a game. For Carlos, it damaged his reputation as an umpire in the tennis world. In a match, as soon as you lose your focus your opponent has already won. Not only does it affect you, but it also gives your opponent an opportunity to strike; to notice they are in your head and ultimately give them the extra added confidence to win.

After Serena’s conflict with Carlos, it was clear that she would not be able to come back and win the match. To be fair, she was already down prior to the altercation with the umpire. However, any chance of coming back was completely gone.

This major conflict between a tennis superstar and a reputable tennis umpire in the final of the US Open made me think about the tools an athlete must have in order to stay composed. If we are witnessing this happen to one of the greatest athletes of all time, then the chances are it can probably happen to us as well. So what kind of strategies can one have when they become frustrated in a match? When you are down a point, a game, or they have just doubled faulted, what would you do? This week I got in touch with a couple current and retired UBC Tennis Coaches, Dana Radivojevic and Kenny Yamashita. I wanted to hear from some tennis gurus about what strategies they use to stay cool.

Both Kenny and Dana stressed the importance of having a routine! This is something that I have mentioned before in previous Fresh Takes. This cannot be emphasized enough; you must have a routine! Dana mentioned that she has a routine in order to “re-focus and reset after each point, no matter what the situation (winner or losing)”. For Dana, it is as simple as bouncing a ball on her racket against the ground several times before she serves. This lets her calm down and forget the previous point before moving on to the next. Kenny only lets himself have 3-5 seconds to be frustrated after a point and then he moves on. During this time, he often adjusts his strings to calm down and re-focus before the next point. Kenny also mentioned that it is important to “not rush and to re-establish your rhythm”.

This is something that I can definitely relate to. I often get caught in the moment when playing someone who has a quick serve routine, which makes me feel like I also have to rush. I have to be ready quicker because I do not want to make my opponent wait for me. But you are just as important! Do not start the point until you are ready as well. There is nothing worse than losing a point only to quickly lose the next. Take your time! Do not rush! Re-establish your rhythm.

Another important strategy is to breathe! It might sound like common sense and incredibly obvious, but you would be surprised how often players hold their breath during and after points. Breathing lets you relax your body and mind. Make sure to take nice deep breaths before every point, if you need it. I promise you will feel more refreshed and in turn you will be fresh.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: August 2018 Edition

The Secrets to a Consistent Serve

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

This month I had the opportunity to sit down with the one and only Dana Radivojevic, a.k.a. Ms. Rad – a nickname Dana has decided to give herself since her last name is nearly impossible to pronounce. I will provides updates in the future if whether or not this nickname actually sticks.

Dana is one of our lead coaches here at the UBC Tennis Centre and has been working here for the past four years. She is also a UBC students and future teacher about to begin the Bachelor of Education program this fall. (This is probably why she gave herself that nickname… it is all starting to make sense now.)

One thing that I have noticed in Dana’s tennis abilities is her powerful and consistent serve. Whenever we hit after work or with other coaches in our free time, Dana impresses everyone and almost never misses. Serving is a skill that I am trying to work on, so I was naturally curious to pick her brain about her technique to have such consistency.

Dana not only gave me a couple of tips to help with my consistency, but was also kind enough to explain a game that you can play on your own. I thought some of you might benefit from her advice, so here it is! Below is our conversation.

Josh: What would you consider to be the most important aspect of serving?

Dana: I think it is really important to establish a routine in order to get your mind focused. A huge part of serving is being able to be focused yet relaxed at the same time. Being able to calm down after a tough point and re-focus for the next is important. Having a routine is a must to get your head in the right space for the next point before you serve. For me, I focus more on the mindset of serving rather than the physical aspects. By really taking your time and slowing it down, you can focus on the next point and gather all your thoughts.

J: If you were to choose one physical element of serving, what would you consider to be the most important?

D: The toss – having a consistent toss that you can count on and knowing how exactly to hold the ball. A toss can make or break your serve. If you toss too far out front or too far behind, that can mess up your rhythm. So I think just having a consistent toss that you can fall back on is really important.

J: Is there a way to always have a consistent toss?

D: I find it helps to always have the same starting point when you toss the ball, for example tossing from the inside of your thigh, and ending at the same point. This way the toss is more controlled and will translate to a consistent serve.

J: What would you consider to be a good serving drill for both competitive and beginner players?

D: I like to play a game where you are practically playing a match against yourself. You start at 0-0 and each time you serve in successfully that is a point for you. If you miss your first serve or it lands out, you get a second serve. If you miss your second serve, then that is a point for your imaginary opponent. A double fault would translate to 0-15. For experienced players, you can create more of a challenge by having specific targets, such as serving down the tee or out wide.

Well there you have it folds. The 4-1-1 on what it takes to have a consistent serve from one of the most consistent servers I know, Ms. Rad. Stay tuned to see if the nickname sticks.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: July 2018 Edition

The Legend, Bob Exell – Part 2

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

As previously mentioned in part 1 of the Bob Exell Story, Coach Bob is a staple here at the UBC Tennis Centre. His quiet demeanour, sense of humor, and wealth of knowledge has made a tremendous impact on players and coaches alike. He is always happy to chat about the game of tennis, give coaching advice, or simply crack a joke. Especially the latter.

On court when I am working alongside Bob, I will often entice him to tell a joke or two to the class, just to see the reactions from the kids to a punch-line that goes way over their heads… and usually over my head as well. I still get a kick out of it and so do the kids, even when we don’t quite understand it.

This has been one of the themes that I’ve noticed about Coach Bob. Not necessarily the “great jokes”, but his love of the sport and his passion for coaching kids. As a tennis coach with only three years of experience, I am inspired to see someone who has been coaching for years and still has the passion and excitement on a daily basis.

“It keeps me young! First off, I am one of the oldest coaches, as a matter of fact I think I am the oldest coach here, and I enjoy working with young people. They keep me feeling young. I obviously love the game and I want to inspire kids to have the same enjoyment.”

Aside from coaching, Bob has also kept in touch with his competitive edge in tennis, as he has been invited to play for the national team on several occasions.

“The last couple of years I have been lucky enough to be selected on the national team. This year I was again selected to go to Germany, unfortunately through family obligations and a minor health issue I have decided to not participate… but I am hoping to train again for next year and hopefully make the team. It is always exciting to play for your country and it is a thrill to get asked. You have to be in the top four-to-six players in the country to get an invitation, so it is not easy, and you have to play a couple tournaments to get ranking points to potentially make a team. It is very competitive across the country and there are a lot of talented players so it is always exciting when you get asked. As you get older it gets harder and harder because you’ve got to maintain your health and your skills, as well as needing to play a lot. As a coach and player, it is hard doing both because you are on the court a lot and then you obviously have to find time to train too.”

Only time will tell if Coach Bob will play on another national team. Until then the jokes will keep coming and the legend will keep building. For now, here are some parting words about working at the UBC Tennis Centre from the man himself;

“I love our staff, I love the Centre and I love the clientele. I can’t think of a better place to not only work, but to also play.”

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: June 2018 Edition

Mental Practice is Just as Important

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

It is unbelievable what can happen when one has an audience. An athlete playing in a tennis match with one person watching, three people, 50 people, 100 people – it can either make you crack under pressure or, on the contrary, you can rise like a phoenix and embrace it. Usually it is the former for beginners. It takes practice in order to stay calm when others are watching, block the unnecessary out and only focus on what is important.

I remember playing in one of my first tournaments as a kid at the New West Tennis Club in the summer. I was around 12 years old and I was playing someone at least twice my age. My family was watching in the balcony along with a couple of friends, which in turn ended up being a colossal mistake. I was no longer worried about what my opponent was as was not doing, but I was worried about looking good in front of my audience. Rather than playing a smart and methodical game, I was taking risky shots, trying to ace all my serves, and as a result got incredibly frustrated and ultimately lost. It was a downward spiral that I could not dig myself out of. The worst part was that my opponent was not particularly strong and on a good day it is likely I would have been able to defeat him. On this occasion, I was blown out of the water. Mistake after mistake, I was embarrassed.

The next tournament I played I made sure not to invite family or friends. I did not win by any means, but I made it past the first round and played a lot better. Without the pressure of trying to impress an audience, I found that I could focus on my game.

The morale of my story is that it is tough to play in front of others, especially people you know. But if you want to play in tournaments, you have to get used to it. It is part of the game. The best way to get used to it is to practice having an audience.

This past week in our Green and Orange Competitive programs, we held our own in-class tournaments. Athletes competed against one another in several rounds until there was a final match. This match had all participants and parents on the side watching the two finalists battle it out on court. The nervous looks on their faces said it all. For some of them this was their first time playing in front of such a large group of people. Mistakes were made, great points were played and ultimately there was a tournament winner and a runner-up.

One of the biggest things that we want to encourage in our programs is for players and athletes to feel comfortable when they enter a tournament. By simulating what it is like, they can avoid the growing pains like the ones I went through as a young child. Giving them the full experience in a safe environment will only make them more prepared for when they play in an actual tournament. A tennis match is not only a battle against your opponent, it is also a mental battle. Playing in front of an audience, whether it is 50 or 1 person, will only help you train your focus so you can block out the unnecessary and concentrate on what is important – the match itself.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Stay tuned next month for Part 2 of my sit-down with the legend himself, Bob Exell. It will be a continuation of the previous month’s blog post.

Josh’s Fresh Take: May 2018 Edition

The Legend, Bob Exell – Part 1

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the legendary coaches here at the UBC Tennis Centre, Bob Exell. Bob has personally been a tremendous influence on my own coaching development and has provided an incredible wealth of knowledge and support in my three years of working at UBC. Naturally, I was interested in learning about his beginnings to the sport of tennis as well as his approach to playing in matches, both physically and mentally.

To my surprise, Bob began playing tennis at a fairly late age, around 16 years old, at his old stomping ground at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. “I kind of fell in love with it. I would play after work. I was a student going to University and I got a job at the Ministry of Environment. After work I would head down to beacon Hill Park. I hadn’t really played before but I kind of fell in love with the game and started playing there.”

Two years later, Bob moved to Vancouver and began training at the North Shore Winter Club alongside former No. 1 ATP doubles player, Grant Connell. “Grant was 13 and I was 18 and we would meet after school. I was going to SFU at the time and we would just play for two hours every day except for the weekends. He was my neighbor too, relatively close, a few blocks away.” This training with Grant was where Bob really hones his tennis skills. He referred to himself as a ‘court rat’ as he was constantly hanging around the tennis courts trying to work on his game or play other athletes. This passion for tennis led Bob to coaching summers at the Lonsdale Rec Centre, to becoming an Assistant Pro at the West Vancouver Tennis Club, and at 23 years old he was the Concessionaire and Head Pro at Stanley Park. In the span of seven years, Bob started playing tennis for the first time, trained with Grant Connell, and finally became a head pro tennis player, giving advice and coaching feedback to athletes all over Vancouver.

Over the years, Bob has not been shy of participating in his fair share of tournaments. If you can’t find Bob coaching on court at the UBC Tennis Centre, it is likely that he is on court elsewhere playing in a match. His biggest piece of advice for players preparing for a tournament is to really know your opponent, both their weaknesses and strengths, so you have a better idea of what to expect before the game. “You have to think about what has worked in the past and try to exploit that style if it was working. If you are finding that you are being challenged by that player and you have not done well, then you are going to find some other way to try to win. Try different tactics.” For Bob, he loves to grind down his opponents and is well known as a ‘retriever-style’ player. Someone who loves to run and track down the ball across the court, which in turn can tire out and irritate a lot of players. “I frustrated a lot of people. They used to draw straws to play me in league matches because they did not want to play me. They realized the match was going to be super long. I think I had the longest match in Nationals one year, it went on for five hours and it was only a 3-set match.” Do not try and tire out Bob, he will simply play all day if he has to. Hours, days, nights – the Retriever lives on.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my sit-down with the legend himself, Bob Exell.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: April 2018 Edition

Respect the Game

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Tennis can be one of the most frustrating sports to play. It is incredibly technical. We often do not see someone walk on to a tennis court without ever having played the sport, pick up a racket, and hit a 10-ball rally from the service line. It just does not happen. Even if you are one of the most talented athletes in the world, it is still incredibly difficult to get immediate success.

In other sports, if you are generally athletic you can get away with stepping on to the pitch and having a varying level of success pretty quickly. Soccer, football and softball, for example, all arguably fall in this category. I recently joined a soccer team with Urban Rec that is made up of generally-athletic individuals that have both played and never played before. Personally, I have not played a soccer game in over 12 years. As a team, we have a long way to go. Sure, we have lost all three of our matches and have only scored twice, but we don’t look completely hopeless out there. From my wealth of soccer knowledge, which is incredibly insignificant, the lack of success has more to do with our tactics rather than individual skill level. We have to learn not to scramble, to stick to our positions and to move up the field as a unit. My point is, in soccer if you are generally athletic, you should be a decent or semi-decent player relatively quickly. Some of you may disagree, but personally from my experiences in team sports this is how I feel.

Now back to tennis. Sure, having hand-eye coordination and being athletic is a BIG advantage, but that does not make the sport any easier to grasp. I have seen junior and adult beginner players come in and expect to start playing from the baseline, immediately thinking that they will be able to have cross-court, down-the-line, drop-shots and volley rallies, when in reality they can barely have a 5-ball rally from the service line. This is where the frustration begins.

To gain success at the fastest rate, it is often recommended for athletes to leave their rackets on the bench and to play “throw tennis”; using two hands to send the ball over the net, getting sideways before the ball bounces, following the toss through over the shoulder, and to be constantly moving by bouncing on the toes. These fundamentals that are instilled from “throw tennis” then carry over incredibly well to tennis. You give the athlete their racket back and all of a sudden they know they should be getting sideways, following through, getting set before the bounce, and so on.

Not many people realize how technical tennis is and within each fundamental there is a lot of work to be done, for example set-up, grip, impact point, recovery, and hitting-zone. Having realistic goals will get you where you want to be. If you are a beginner, start with a 5-ball rally from the service line, then advance to a 10-ball rally, and slowly progress to the baseline. Work on setting up from each shot before the ball bounces, recovering to your position, and making sure impact on your ground-strokes is at waist-level for every shot. By slowly working and practicing each fundamental, you will be at your goal in no time. And then you will want to improve something else by continuing to develop your skills and techniques to the best they can be.

But, by jumping these steps and not paying attention to close details within your game, you will further hinder your development. So my advice to you is to respect the game, focus on those fundamentals, and stick to realistic goals to avoid frustration.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: March 2018 Edition

The Art of Doubles

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Doubles is almost a completely different game – that is from singles tennis. There are so many complex layers that make it fun, intricate and did I mention fun? Often when I first introduce the format to beginner players, both adults and youth alike, they play in stationary positions; one up and one back for the entire point, game or set. Although this positioning might be effective in starting a point, to many people’s surprise, it is actually the weakest doubles position in the game. Do I have your attention yet? Yes, you read that right. All these years of playing one up and one back and you were doing it wrong. Well not wrong, but not exactly right. The main theme in doubles is to work as a team and move as a unit. You are a wall. Nothing can or will get past you, ideally. Whether you are serving or receiving, the number one thing that you want to do as a doubles unit is to approach the net. Obviously this has to be done at strategic times. Approaching the net is not always the answer, especially if you hit a weak shot to your opponents, the last thing you want to do would be to approach the net because they will pounce. If you are playing smart opponents, that is.

So now you are asking yourself, when do I approach the net? Well, it is simple. If you expect your opponents to make a weak shot or your opponents have already made a weak shot, this is the ideal time to approach and have two net players rather than one. This is where you can pounce on your opponents instead. So why is this the strongest position? As a net player you take away something from your opponents, and that is TIME. This may be one of the most important aspects in tennis as you need time to set up and prepare for each shot. By taking away time and volleying a shot rather than waiting for it to bounce and hitting it at the baseline, you put pressure on your opponents to quickly set up and prepare for the next shot. Even if you do not have the strongest volley, after a number of volleys your opponents are going to get tired as they do not have enough TIME to set up for the next shot. The next question that I get 99.99% of the time is “wouldn’t they just lob over us?” Yes, yes they will try. However, a perfect lob is one of the hardest shots to make in tennis. Most of the time they will try and lob and either hit it out of the court or not put enough power or height on to the it and that is exactly what you want while at the net as you can simply overhead smash it home. The perfect lob is a tough shot and if it does happen when you and your partner are at the net, make sure to give your opponents props as that probably will not happen again in your match. Do not let a lob deter you from staying at the net! Approach, approach, approach!

The second strongest position in doubles is the Spanish position, with both doubles players back at the baseline. This is where you would want to be if you are defending at any point or if you and your partner are particularly weak net players. At the baseline, you have the time and space to react to attacking balls and to defend more effectively than if you were both at the net. Remember when I mentioned you do not want to approach if you hit a weak short shot? This is exactly where you would want to go in that situation. Although this is the second strongest position, I still recommend coming to the net as you will have a higher chance of winning the point at the net rather than grinding it out at the baseline.

The weakest position, as mentioned earlier, is one up and one back. This formation, if you have not noticed, is not a wall. There are many pockets and gaps, particularly in the middle, that leave you and your partner vulnerable that are otherwise closed off if you are either both at the net or both at the baseline.

My final tip of the month is to not get stuck in your positions. Whether it is any of the formations that I have mentioned or different variations, for example Australian (look this one up), be mobile and communicate with your partner. If a ball goes over your partner’s head and you have to run to their side in order to retrieve it, be sure to yell “switch”. This way your net player, if they know what to do, will cut across to the other side to cover the side you left vacant. This is so simple yet rarely gets done with beginners. Use this tool to make life easier for you. And finally, to all the net players out there – poach! Cut across to intercept a cross-court ball, have your racket up and be ready to volley. I can’t stress enough that you can move out there. You are not stuck in mud. Jump around, run, side shuffle, cross-over, dive, battle! Leave it all out there. It is a great game and one that has many different layers. Get after it.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.