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Monday, January 18, 2016

Moving as a Team Part 3 - Defending the Lob

Defending the lob was briefly mentioned in Communicating with a Partner - During a Rally where I stated:

The rule of thumb is that the player on the opposite side of the court should run back on an angle for a lob over his partner’s head. Of course, the pre-match discussion should include the specific tactics used for this shot based on partners’ relative strengths. But the rule of thumb doesn’t always apply anyhow. If the lob is short, for example, then the player on the same side of the court should call “mine” as soon as possible to preclude his partner from running to the backcourt and allowing him to keep his position on the court.

Let's dive a little deeper into what this means for player movement by looking at an example as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

This example shows Opponent A lobbing over Player A. Both Players A and B should immediately turn sideways in order to move toward the back of the court. The first option is that Player A judges that he can return the lob in the air with an overhead smash or high volley. He should call his partner off the ball and make the play. Player B should move back to the same depth as Player A as shown in Figure 2.  

Figure 2

The second option is that Player B must play the ball. Player A should not make the play unless he is able to hit the ball with a high paddle in the air. He cannot get his body properly positioned for a strong groundstroke or low volley when running straight back. Player B approaches the ball from the side and is much better positioned to take the shot on the bounce.  Player B should circle behind the ball if possible. Player A should switch courts and replace Player B after he vacates the area. The movement is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

In both cases, Players A and B should be in similar positions on the court relative to the kitchen. After the return is made, both players should move together toward the kitchen line when it is safe to do so. The best way to accomplish this is when a lob is returned with either a third-shot drop or a defensive lob.

I have included a video called Running Down a Lob below that shows the technique for running down a lob. Deb Harrison is a proponent of a player taking a lob directly over their head.  I prefer the partner take those balls as I discussed above. Regardless of the strategy chosen, Deb's techniques apply to either player.

Any discussion of running toward the back of the must include a safety message. Never back up for a ball.  Backing up to hit a lob is the single biggest cause of injuries.  Falls are frequent and cannot be broken by extending the arms.  A fall when moving backwards often ends with a head striking the floor.  Don't be that person!

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