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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Basic Overall Strategy of Doubles - Phase 2

A previous post mentioned that this is a theme week focused on understanding what is happening on the court. The centerpiece is a video, Doubles Pickleball - The Basic Overall Strategy. That initial post introduced and emphasized the overriding strategy of getting to the net. The next post moved on to the first phase of most points which the video calls "The Formality Phase". This post advances to phase 2 of most points - "The Service Team Struggle to the Net".

Phase 2 is when the service team tries to advance to the net in order to level the playing field. Remember that phase 1 concluded with the non-serving team positioned at the net. They have a tactical advantage because the service team had to stay back waiting for the return of serve to bounce. The service team must overcome their disadvantage by gaining the net through a third shot strategy.

What is the best third-shot strategy? Many players assume that the best shot is just to hit back and run forward as fast you can. But the video has made clear that hitting to the players already at the net can be a risky endeavor. This was discussed in my article The Third Shot. Also, it is important that a player be set when when the opponent makes a return. A reckless charge to the net adds another layer of risk. This was discussed in my articles The Ready Position from Mid-Court and Split Step.

The best third-shot option is the drop shot, a soft shot that lands in the no-volley zone in front of the players at the net. 

This is often the single most critical shot in any game. A properly executed drop shot will allow the serving team to get to the net before their opponents can return the ball. With this shot, phase 2 could be concluded quickly. But, a poorly executed shot - one that is too high or long - can make the effort to get to the net a real struggle. My post The Third Shot describes how to hit the drop shot.

While a good drop shot virtually ensures that the goal of getting to the net is achieved, another strategy is to hit a hard low shot down the middle or to the opponent's weakness. The hope is that the return will be poor or will allow some progress to the net, at a minimum. The problem is that good players can handle a hard-hit ball struck from as far away as the baseline. The ball is likely to be returned at least as hard as the return. 

There may be times when a hard shot is the better option, though, as described in my post Third Shot Drive. Also, the advances in equipment have led to an evolving strategy where the hard third-shot is more prevalent due to increased ability to add topspin. This allows the player to advance toward the net and makes the drop shot easier to execute when closer to the net. This evolution was discussed in my post A Different Third Shot Strategy.

Regardless of the strategy employed, most tournament teams manage to get the serving team players to the net. This ends phase 2.

The video is shown below. This post covers about 4 1/2 minutes starting at 8:47. I will include the video each day as we move through it section by section.

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