As I was teaching a doubles class, to my surprise, one of the ladies kept backing away from the service court and retreating to the baseline. I insisted that she should come up to the net until she just told me that she did not want to play at the net. My reply was: “If you don’t come up you won’t win in doubles!”. Her reply: “If I come up, they will lob me!” I said: “So what? You’ll smash it!” She said: “I am not good at tracking balls that are high…”
Ok then, I thought… she has two options: 1. Work on her overheads (especially moving and tracking the high ball) 2. Learn the approach shots that impede opponents from hitting high balls.
I related to this lady through the fact that I also had a problem with lobs. Judging the ball speed while looking up has been an old problem of mine. This gave me the idea to improve my slice approach shots so that they stay very low over the net and after the bounce which makes it hard for opponents to get the racquet under the ball and lob it.
Quick Fix / Tip: If you don’t like getting lobbed when moving up to the net, hit your approach shots with slice / under-spin.
One of my students recently asked me: “What are my options when my opponent attacks at the net?”
The answer is not an easy one because it depends on many variables that must be taken in consideration: – your position on the court – are you on the run, stretching to the ball or in balance? – is the ball coming to your strong or weaker side?
As general rules, aside from the before-mentioned situations, you should remember the following:
1. Try to pass with a topspin cross-court shot aimed to the corner of the service line. The topspin and shallow trajectory of the ball will make it difficult for the net player to pick it up.
2. A lob is always very effective if executed properly: over the attacker’s weak side (e.g. backhand) or deep cross-court.
3. The down-the-line shot can pass the net player a lot quicker but it could be risky because of the higher net, less margin for an error and, besides, if your opponent gets the racquet behind the ball he’ll have a nice opening for a cross-court put-away.
In my opinion, to keep things simple, I’d try to stick with the first two options as my overall tactics when my opponent attacks at the net. You should though vary and surprise your opponent with a different tactic once in a while to keep him from finding you predictable.
For in-depth analysis of “How to play from the baseline against your opponent at the net” read this article.