There are all kinds of little one-liners in tennis, tips that are quick and easy to remember and actually work. One of my favorites one-liner tips is “Down the middle solves the riddle.” I know it sounds goofy but it's effective and something you should be doing. So in this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, we're going to talk about what that one-liner means and why down the middle actually does solve the riddle. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
Where's the best place to put the ball in doubles? If you're anything like me, you want to be up at the net, hitting a severe sharp angle off the court that not only can your opponents not return, but everyone claps when the point is over and tells you how incredible your shot was. That is usually called going for the low-percentage shot and that is the kind of tennis I find myself constantly trying to play.
It has taken me a long time and a lot of lost points to accept that the beautiful severe angle shot is not always the smart shot when I'm playing doubles. Often, just putting the ball right back down the middle, between my opponents, is the smartest and easiest way to win the point. Why is this true? Why do we need to keep reminding ourselves in our doubles matches that “down the middle solves the riddle”? Here are four good reasons why:
1. Down the middle is where the net is lowest.
I know you know the net is lower in the middle than at the net posts. But do you know how much lower? At the net posts the top of the net is 3 1/2 feet or 42 inches high. At the center, the top of the net is at 3 feet or 36 inches. That means the net is a full six inches lower in the middle. And that six inches can definitely be the difference between the ball that goes over the net and stays in play and the ball that hits the net cord and loses you the point. So put the ball down the middle and take advantage of that extra six inches.
2. Down the middle gives you lots of court to hit into.
Hitting down the middle gives you a whole lot of open court space to work with. Going for an angle off to one of the sides means you're much more likely to hit the ball out. The ball hit down the middle is not as worrisome since you really don't even have to aim to keep it inside the lines. And you certainly don't have to worry as much about your opponents perhaps not seeing the ball in and calling out that very close one that just clipped the outside of the line.
3. Down the middle can confuse your opponents.
You've seen it in doubles matches. Heck, you've probably experienced it. That ball that goes right between you and your partner with neither of you making a move to get it. Because that ball in the middle can be confusing. Sure, we all know we don't play “sides” in doubles. We work with our partners, switching as necessary to make sure that whoever is in the best position takes the next ball. Right? But sometimes, things are happening pretty quickly out on the court and it's not obvious who should take which ball. And that ball that goes right down the middle, between two partners, can be particularly confusing because no one is sure exactly who's ball that is. And you may not want to step in front of your partner and “hog” the ball. And you may not want to crash racquets with your partner. All of these are reasons why the ball down the middle, between two partners, can be so effective.
4. Down the middle can take away the angles.
Finally, by hitting down the middle, you take away the angle shots from your opponent. When the ball comes down the middle, your opponents can only create an angle on half of your court, either to your right side or your left side. When you hit an angled shot to them, however, they may be able to return it with their own angle and have your entire court to angle into. Or, and perhaps even worse, they may be able to get a shot past you going down the line. Neither of these two scenarios is very likely when you hit your ball down the middle.
So there you have it – four very good reasons why “down the middle solves the riddle.”
Do you have any tennis one-liners that you love? If so, be sure and let me know in the comments below.
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