One of the great mysteries, yet most satisfying moves in doubles, is the ability of the net player on the poach in doubles to finish a ball meant for his partner at the baseline. It inspires the pair who has successfully poached to win the point and raises their energy, while it demoralizes the confidence of their opponents. Just one good poach in doubles can change the momentum in a doubles match. On the other hand, many players are too worried about the embarrassment and blame that may be placed upon them if they “neglect” properly guarding their half of the tennis court, and opponents hit ball past them by their alley. Poaching in doubles is as much as much a science (there are certain conditions when you should absolutely go), as it is an art. In this article, multiple time Singapore Open Doubles Champion including the 2019 Pesta Sukan Singapore National Games Open Championships and one of Singapore’s best tennis players, Coach Dave Regencia, shares his keys to the art of poaching in doubles.
- Stay very alert;
- Leave for the poach at the Right Moment;
- Move Forward and Diagonally for the poach in doubles;
- Ensure your poach volley is of high quality to end the point; and
- Coach Dave’s 9 in point situations where you should seek to poach in doubles
Stay very alert to hunt poaching opportunities
Alertness and responsiveness is key in doubles. Many times you play a ball that you did not send to your opponent, but a ball that your partner did. Depending on the quality of the ball, you would need to respond by attacking, neutralizing, or defending for your team. As such, it is very important to stay on your toes and constantly maintain your alertness. Always split step as the ball bounces on the opponent’s side and be ready to hunt or defend your team depending on the quality of the shot your opponent is dealing with.
Leave for the poach at the Right Moment
One of the biggest mistake a net player commonly makes when poaching is to leave too early. If you leave too early your opponent will have time to change their target to pass you. The best time to leave for a poach on a groundstroke is when you have become a “Ghost”, ie when your opponent brings his eyes to watch his contact point at the initiation of his forward swing. At this point in their swing they can only see very little of you and are already committed to their target. The only exception to this is if you are poaching on the return of werve, when if you know from the sound of the ball leaving your partner’s racquet, you can leave earlier because of the speed and quality of the serve. When poaching off a return of serve you can try to leave just after the serve has bounced in the service box.
Move Forward and Diagonally for the Poach
As the net player, once you sense the opponent hitting a weaker cross court shot, you as the net player must move forward and DIAGONALLY across to effectively cut into your partner’s half for the poach. To do this, push off your outside leg and, and move diagonally towards the net, before ending with a deep lunge. By moving at a steep forward angle, you will be able to cut off the ball closer to the net and nearer to you from a ball moving diagonally away from you.
Ensure your poach volley is of high quality to end the point
Prior to moving for the poach, you should make a quick assessment from the level of difficulty of the ball presented to your opponent and the likely responses that you are more likely than not to be able to hit a winning or damaging volley that you or your partner can put away on the next ball. Otherwise, your court will be opponent with you moving into your partner’s court and your partner rushing into the open space you left behind and your team will be very vulnerable. To this end, a sharply angled dropshot back to the baseliner if the ball is low, a powerful spike to bounce the ball into the back fence if the ball is high, or at the net person’s feet on a medium height ball, are ideal targets.
Coach Dave Regencia’s 9 situations where you should seek to poach
- Poach early – the first game, even on the first point. Poach consistently. It will disrupt their concentration, cause the returners to be under a lot of stress such that they are unable to concentrate. Fearful of your poach, they may constantly try to change directions on the serve down the line in anticipation of your possible poach, of which they may miss many returns into the net or long or wide of the side line, or that you have an easy volley to put away because you have not moved.
- Poach when you sense the slice – slices are slower and more floating and hence unlikely to be up the line to the net person, so it is likely to be going cross court. Your partner can cover the slower ball that may go up the line or the lob.
- Poach when your partner hits a very penetrating ball that disrupts 2 out of these 3 things of your opponent: position, balance and strikezone. If your opponent hitting the shot does not have 2 out of 3 of these, you should definitely poach. Your partner can cover the slower ball that may go up the line or the lob.
- Poach when your opponent needs to hit a half volley or when the ball is deep and to the shoelaces. The reply is likely to be slower and have more air on it.
- Poach when your partner nails a first serve up the T on the deuce court into a right hander’s backhand. You are very likely to be able to catch the return.
- Poach when the scoreboard is in your favour in a pressure situation like 15-30 or 30-40 on the ad court opponent has to hit a backhand down the line to pass you. The ball is likely to be going crosscourt.
- Martina Navratilova advises to poach off a “Newt” ball. Which is a ball in the very low, well inside the court, and the opponent is lunging forward to hit up and unable to drive the ball effectively. An awkward neither here nor there ball low, short and in the middle of the court.
- Poach when you are the stronger player and your opponent is slightly defensive, because the opponent will usually choose to direct the ball to the weaker of the two players.
- Gigi Fernandez advises to poach off an inside ground stroke that your opponent has to move towards the middle to hit, for it is very difficult to hit “off” into the alleys with a sharp angle effectively.
The Poach in Doubles is a very effective style of play but one that requires a lot of hard work each match. However, if you master this style of play, you will be the favourite doubles player in your club team or on social nights that everyone wants to partner. You will also win a lot more matches and be the player that everyone wants to partner but fears to face.
The Poach in Doubles requires a lot of instruction, repetition and practice to perfect the above tennis patterns of play. Master this style of play with the best private tennis coaches such as TAG Coach Dave Regencia from the best tennis academy in Singapore, TAG International Tennis Academy by taking private tennis lessons. We can be contacted at +6598395232, or contact us HERE.
We hope you have found this article on doubles tips on how to poach in doubles informative and helpful. This article is part of the TAG Definitive Guide Series which encompasses the best tennis tips available online. If you enjoyed this article, some other interesting tennis instruction articles you may like:
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