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Trouble Moving to the Net in Doubles Question: I playa lot of doubles and everyone keeps telling me to move to the net. But, when I do, I always get stuck hitting balls in the mid-court. The balls often land low at my feet, and I hit far too many into the net.

Answer: We all know the two main objectives of tennis: Hit the ball over the net and hit it within the lines. Sounds simple, but it isn't always easy; and it gets more difficult when you try moving to the net and regularly find yourself hitting balls at your feet. Here are some suggestions to help you overcome common pitfalls of moving to the net, and thus, taking your game to the next level.

Recognize Reality If you are able to move quickly and take a split step just as your opponent hits the ball, I have two words of advice. "Do it" -each and every time. But keep in mind that if you are moving forward after your serve or your return of serve, you will generally be able to take just three steps after each shot before splitting for the next one. In other words,

moving in from the baseline to an aggressive volley position halfway between the service line and the net will be impossible. So don't try it. Your split step will most probably be behind the service line. Then, depending on the incoming ball, take some smaller adjusting steps to optimize your court position to hit your volley. Or, if the ball lands

ence in Hilton Head Island about moving to the net. She said, "You know what, as I get older, my half volley keeps getting better and better." King's point is that if you end up hitting more balls between the service line and the baseline, your shots there can't help but improve, and you can't help but become a stronger player in the mid-court area.

As you age, you'll also find that chipping requires a lot less effort than hitting topspin groundstrokes. short, move forward and hit an aggressive groundstroke. After that mid-court shot, move farther in to the more ideal volley position. If you are a senior player or have an injury that prevents you from moving quickly and taking a split step, I have just one word of advice: "Don't." You can still play effective tennis, and you can still move toward the net; it just may be more gradual. Here's how two tennis legends addressed their compromised mobility in getting to the net. A few years ago, Billie Jean King, well known for her aggressive net-rushing playing style and tremendous doubles skills, spoke at a tennis teachers' confer-

The second example is Roy Emerson, holder of twelve Grand Slam singles titles-a record only recently surpassed by Pete Sampras. As an older player, Roy has his share of physical limitations, including bad knees that don't allow him to run well but he still plays effective doubles. Yet, in a doubles exhibition in Phoenix a few years ago, I saw him do something that makes total sense for players who need to lower the stress on their knees. He doesn't split step anymore; instead, he bends slightly and "un-weights" to change direction in a way similar to skiing or snowboarding. It's a great technique to help players get to balls that they otherwise probably would not reach.


Practice Playing in "Normal Land" I'd like to rename "No Man's Land," the area between the baseline and service boxes, to "Normal Land," since statistics show that a high percentage of shots are hit from that area at all levels of play. Accept the fact that you will hit many balls from this part of the court and practice playing various types of shots hit there. There are typically six categories of shots to practice hitting from "Normal Land":

Mid-range

groundstrokes: These the shots that you can hit inside baseline, and they should be hit on rise when you are inside the baseline well behind the service line.

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High bouncing groundstrokes: These are the short "sitters" that need to be attacked and put away. High volleys: Use more swing than you would if you were closer to the net, but still emphasize control and direction. Low volleys: These shot are handled best with a short crisp swing and a con-

tinental grip that opens the racket face slightly to arc the ball over the net.

Half volleys: These shots are perhaps the most difficult to time. Try to avoid having to hit them by moving forward or back. Still, practice these shots in case you get stuck. Overhead: A solid overhead also is a key part of your doubles arsenal. Practice hitting overheads both out of the air and after a bounce. Practice each of these shots individually and then integrate them into point situation drills. For doubles, remember to drill crosscourt in the doubles half court and practice hitting in both directions.

Champions Can Chip We all know that world-class champions can chip, or hit backspin, on both forehand and backhand sides, and you should learn these shots as well. The benefits of being able to chip or hit a short swinging ground stroke with a modest amount of backspin are significant, particularly if you use the same grip (general-

ly the continental or hammer). With one grip you will be able to chip balls on both sides of your body and also be able to volley without changing your grip. To get a feel for the chip shot, play one-bounce mini-tennis in the service boxes using a slightly open racket face and short level swing (like guiding your racket face along a table top). Once you acquire a basic feel for the chip, you'll gain control over drop shots and short angles with backspin, and you will improve your volleys-all benefits of better ball control. As you age, you'll also find that chipping requires a lot less effort than hitting topspin groundstrokes, since you will not be changing the direction of the rotation of the incoming ball. Plus, chipping doesn't require a large backswing. By eliminating big backswings you will gain more control over your racket, and you'll probably eliminate a ton of errors at the same time. Have fun taking your game to the next level! 0 You can pose yOUT tennis question to Dinoffer by visiting www.tennislifemagazine.com and clicking "Ask Joe."

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