Many tennis players, particularly women, are often afraid to move around at the net in doubles for fear of being passed down the line. Hey–if you are not getting passed down the line occasionally, you are not doing your part at the net. It’s up to the net person to control the center, and the team that controls the center of the court will almost always win.
The center is a 4-foot area covering a portion of both service boxes. As a player you must move to that area, dominate that area. You cannot do this successfully if you are too worried about covering your alley. In fact, when watching the line, you are responsible for only half of the alley. If your opponent can put the ball in the other half repeatedly–just clap for them, good job.
The person who gets the first play at controlling the middle is the server’s partner. If the server serves well to the body or the T, her partner should move into the middle immediately looking to volley into the open court–the middle.
We have been conditioned to move left and right depending on the placement of the ball. However, a more advanced move is to watch to see if your opponent hitting her groundstroke is comfortable or uncomfortable. Comfortable means stay in place. Uncomfortable–move to the middle. Make sure to move back into position when the ball is on your side of the net. It’s up to your partner hitting groundstrokes to make the opposing groundstroker uncomfortable. This allows you, the net person, to do your job!
Our mantra at UMass is “move often, move soon.” Control the middle, and you will control the match.
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