Last night (8 pm) I had a doubles match…
I knew two of them very well but the third player was a new guy, very tall (I’d say about 6’6″ at least), very powerful serve, ground-strokes and overall… intimidating to play against.
But as an experienced player I knew not to get impressed by him and just wait to see how he handles the competition.
Needless to say that the other two players (we were playing doubles) were all trying to show off from the warm-up by overhitting every ball.
I thought the whole scene was just silly.

Then the match began…

The new tall player even though had impressive strokes, as I expected, he had some flaws that pretty much cost him all the 5 sets that he lost (it took us two hours and a half to complete the five sets).

His major flaw as a doubles player was for him not to recognise the advantage he had being tall – instead of coming up to the net when his partner served, he’d stay just behind the service line; sometimes even at the baseline. That was a huge mistake.
I was assuming he did not feel comfortable at the net; probably not trusting his reactions, reflexes… who knows?

Another problem he had was being over confident on his powerful strokes. For most of the players who grow up to be tall among their peers, they like to impress them with the power they can generate and therefore build their game around hitting it hard. Basically if the ball goes in, it is a winner; if not…

Ultimately, being tall and staying on the baseline, he would not run up to the short balls most of the time.

So here are my thoughts:

– If you are a tall player… go up to the net. Even if your opponents manage to pass the ball by you, at least you’ll be a major obstacle for them to work around – thus putting pressure on your opponents.
– Hitting big and powerful serves should be backed up by a finishing shot. Let your partner know you expect him to pick up the blocked return or you can move up to finish the point behind your powerful serve.
– Also, don’t play so far back even if you don’t have time to get up to the net; stay inside the baseline and find any opportunity to advance.
You are a lot more threat for your opponents closer to the net than away from it.

Have fun and play smart!

Cosmin Miholca
Certified Tennis Teaching Professional