When I was first learning tennis and taking a lot of lessons, one of the things I would often do was try to finish off a point with a low-percentage shot. And my pro would say to me, “Why are you doing that? Why are you making your life hard? Why are you not hitting the high-percentage shot? Why are you going for that incredibly sharp angle that is incredibly hard to make when you did not need to go for that much?”
And here's my little confession – I thought, “I wish I knew the high-percentage shot. I wish I knew what there were. I'm too embarrassed to ask him what the high-percentage shots are.” I was pretty sure there was no official list of high-percentage shots, but I knew that somewhere out there somebody knew what they were and if they would just tell me what they were, I would try to use them!
It took me a while to realize that there are no “official” high-percentage shots in tennis that you can apply in every situation. There are just shots that, depending on the circumstances that you're in, they are the ones that will usually work. They will usually be easy to hit and will often result in giving you some kind of advantage. Those are your high-percentage shots. They change from situation to situation. And you learn those over time, with experience and with learning what your own game is and with learning about the types of players you're coming up against.
Now, having said all of that, there are some very obvious high-percentage shots that will usually work in almost any situation in doubles. I'm going to let you know what three of the best high-percentage shots in doubles are and I'm going to tell you why they qualify as high-percentage shots so that you will realize why you may need to use them. If you have these three shots that you know you can pull out, you're going to go a long way towards being a successful doubles player.
And that's the good news. You don't need to have an arsenal of 82 different shots to be a good tennis player. You need just a few dependable ones. So here is my list of the three best high-percentage shots in doubles.
1. The Volley at the Opposing Net Player's Feet
A lot of times, if you have an opponent playing up at the net, the best thing you can do is hit a shot right at their feet. Now, it may not be a clean winner and this is, as I said, the problem I have. I want to go for the low-percentage, sharp angle clean winner. But many times, that's not the way to go and it's not the high-percentage shot because it's difficult to make. The volley right at the net player's feet is a high-percentage shot because they're standing closer in the inside of the court and away from the net. Hitting at the net player's feet means you're hitting into an open area and you have a big safety margin when you hit your shot.
It's also a great shot because it gives you a clear target. You can focus on a target and try to hit it – your opponent's feet. That's much better than having a vague target of some spot on the court that you're trying to hit.
Finally, it's a high-percentage shot because, even if it doesn't result in a winner, even if your net-playing opponent somehow gets his racket on that shot, most likely if it's at his feet, his return shot to you will be a popped up ball, something that's going to go high. And that's the shot that you're going to put away. That will be an easier volley that you really can hit a clean winner with.
2. The Lob Over Your Opponent's Head
If you have a net player or a team that is crowding the net, hit over their heads. This not only puts them on the defensive, it buys some time for you and your partner to get in a better position, to reset and to come up with an even better reply when the ball comes back to you.
If your opponents are playing one up, one back, you may think, “Well, if I lob over the net player's head, there's still the other opponent back at the baseline who's going to deal with that lob.” But let that happen. A lot of people aren't going to be able to do something offensive when they get the lob. In fact, they may just lob it right back to you and set your team up for an overhead. If that's how they want to play it, one up, one back, be happy. Get your team up to the net and get ready to be offensive. You can do that if you're lobbing because that lob is giving you a little extra time to get in that offensive position.
3. The Shot Down the Middle and Between Your Opponents
Your third high-percentage shot is the shot down the middle. This is a great shot to hit if you are on the baseline. If you can hit a low, hard shot down the middle, between your two opponents, it will often confuse them and produce on error on their part. And by error, I mean it may be that they get the ball back but the error is that they hit an easy shot for you or your partner that you can attack. Hitting down the middle is a great shot because it's a safe shot for you. You're not going for that sharp angle and coming into danger of hitting off the court. And it can be confusing for your opponents who may not be sure who should get the ball. I'm sure you're seen this, you've probably experienced it yourself, that shot down the middle where you and your partner are left looking at each other, thinking, “Oh, I thought you were going to get that one.” If that happens enough, it can not only be confusing, it can be demoralizing.
So those are the three high-percentage shots for doubles that I recommend. Again, it's:
- the volley at their feet,
- the lob over their heads, and
- the shot down the middle.
Don't spend a lot of time worrying about what all of the high-percentage shots for doubles are. Just know that these three are great and they work in a lot of different situations and are shots that you can pull out in almost any doubles match that you play.
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