RacquetWorld's Newsletter Racquetball Tip of the Month
Where Can I Stand After I Serve
After serving (in a doubles game), where can I legally and effectively position myself? I know that I have to leave the left lane clear (by how many feet?) so that the opponent is able to make a down-the-line shot. Can I position myself mid-court (where his ability to shoot the opposite corner is blocked)?
The position you can take up really depends on what serve you hit and where your opponent is most likely to attack that serve. Doubles is really no different than singles in the concepts of what is allowable. The better part with doubles is that you get help covering some of the return choices.
No matter what serve you hit, you must allow for the returning player to have a down the line shot and a cross court shot (defined as hitting the front wall at such an angle that the ball then goes into the far back corner). You can take away the cross court pinch legally. However, if your opponent has setup for that cross court pinch and holds up, it would be a replay...if you block the down the line or full cross court returns, that should result in a point hinder (no replay - you automatically lose the rally)
I wrote a detailed article about court position titled The Shadow. You should read it over.
Let's go back to your serve for a minute. When you pick out a serve, you are also picking out your court location for the return of serve before you even put the ball in play. When you're serving you are in complete control and should have a small element of surprise...but more importantly you set the initial tone of the rally. You get to pick which side of the court you'd rather play on either based on your strength or your opponent's weakness. As I've wailed away for years...it's all about the serve.
Also did you ever notice how in the beginning of a game the players seem to be playing pretty evenly and then one player seems to turn it on and race to the win. At first, you have to "probe" your opponent on various serves both drive serves and lob serves. I would "probe" for the first five points or so taking mental notes of my opponent's shot selections between down-the-line, cross court, or pinch. (remember you can usually cover two of the shots, so the game is to eliminate the third shot selection) If after five points, you haven't found a shot pattern or a weakness, play your strength. If you have found something exploit the weakness.
I'll walk through two examples of how this works with serves...
Let’s say I'm mixing up my drive serves pretty well to both the forehand and backhand sides. My opponent is a tad weaker on the backhand so he tends to lean that way because that's the side that worries him. I notice that this makes him get to my forehand drive serves a little late so he can't square off and go cross court on me. Perfect...When he gets to my forehand serve on time he goes down the line and when he's a little later he pinches. Now the question arises, if I know he can't/won't take the cross court, do I have to give up that court position...I say no. However, if he does get around on one for a cross court and it hits you, it would be his point...but we're playing percentages here. Not giving up the cross court position allows you to get the one step closer to down the line that you need and also to be able to cover that pinch. (This example is more geared singles play)
I like the lob nick serve....you know the one that hits high on the front wall and comes down 4/5th of the way back and nicks the side wall on the way down and kicks sideways along the back wall. Here's why I like it so much....there are two distinctly different attack points, with limited high percentage shots. In the first instance, a player can try and take it out of the air or short hop the initial floor bounce. This is where probing comes in...A player will typically do the same thing with the same shot...so if your opponent attacks at this location, you can bet he will continue to do so. On the short hopes or out of the air, with all the angles involved with the ball and proximity to the wall, a player’s feet will usually give him away. A player stepping into the wall is most likely going to pinch for example. If your opponent doesn't cut off this serve and allows it to take its normal course and get close to the back wall, once again it's almost impossible to hit a cross court shot. Your back to the example above, he has a pinch or go down the line and you can somewhat "cheat" a step over toward the side wall to cover because he won't be able to get behind the ball enough with the back wall there to go cross court on you (or your partner). (This example works for both singles and doubles)
So in short, what court position you can take up really comes back to what court position are you most comfortable playing from. Then hit your serve accordingly. The server is in charge…that’s why it feels so great to get the serve.
Questions or comment…Pat@Racquetworld.com