What’s The Right Shot? Episode #42 – The Question

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I’ve got another serve & volley transitional shot situation in doubles for you.

Similar to last week’s episode, but a different shot is played.

Knowing that, what do you think is the right shot for the server in this situation?

Let me know in the Comments section below.  Thanks in advance …

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Like last week’s situation, is the correct shot to hit to the receiver’s feet?

    • Morning Anon. Might be.

      The “Answer” will come out Thursday.

      Stay tuned.


    • Patrick K says:

      Best you can do to get the ball low to the returners feet or anywhere down the middle if you can’t control the ball well.

  2. Down the middle and low if possible.

  3. Is the right shot just to try and roll it back over at the returners feet who is coming into the net. Hopefully this will make him pop up his next shot for the servers partner to put away.

    • Hi Simon.

      That’s ALWAYS a great choice.

      And easier to execute if you’re on balance like Larry is here.

      However, that’s not what happened here 😉


  4. Kevin B says:

    Seeing that his backswing is down low, I’m wondering if he’s maybe going to hit lob off that half volley. It would be tricky to change directions with such a shot so as to make it go to the backhand corner, but practicing such a shot for this situation would not be a total waste of time. 🙂 Going anywhere else with such a shot would seem less likely to keep things “neutral”, unless it were absolutely perfect.

    *My* best option here would be an exaggeratedly *high* backswing so as to hit a knifing slice either down the middle, or, if the returner is one of those Kamikaze, non-split-stepper types, angle it crosscourt in front of him. (Not recommended for normal folks).

    • Morning KB.

      The lob is a possibility.

      And the other thing you mentioned is important – we NEED to practice those rarely used shots often enough so that we’re confident when we play them …

      Hoping to see you and your lovely bride in Charlotte at the end of this month!


  5. Lex Waters says:

    Since the server has forced himself in the untenable position of having to half-volley, I’d think he’d try to keep his shot low down the middle. However, it seems that it would have been better to split step and hit the shot as a normal approach shot where he can hit the ball from above the net and take a fuller swing.

    • Hi Lex.

      The 1/2 volley is not untenable.

      In fact, if you can play an on-balance 1/2 volley rather than a closer into the net off-balanced volley, I go with the 1/2 volley all day.

      Your transitional shot is all about choosing whatever shot allows you to be on-balance.


      • Brent, if you had not said that about the 1/2 volley, I was going to. I practice that shot and play it whenever it is there to play — in my case I somehow concentrate on it better and often can get nice deft touch on it therefore, don’t know why. Your remark about choosing the play that allows you to remain well balanced is very important!

        • We have to be clear a little a bit about the 1/2 volley in terms of the level of players. So this is mainly senior doubles where movement is compromised in terms of speed and agility when charging to the net. On the other hand the returns are usually sliced and not very hard. Under these conditions the 1/2 volley is surely an acceptable option. If this was e.g a good over 40’s doubles then there would be a different set of parameters such as harder hit topspin returns etc which are much more difficult to 1/2 volley effectively.

  6. Quentin says:

    In this case, I might try and half-volley the return down the line. The opposing net player is leaning and beginning to move toward the middle of the court to poach the return. I am not too worried about keeping my shot low because my return will be to his backhand side and he will be off balance on his return. If he happens to hit a winner off my shot, that is ok because I am keeping him honest by letting him know I will go down the line.

    • Like this option and keeping him honest.

    • Warren Turner says:

      Agree with Simon. Put your half-volley in or toward the Ad (backhand corner). The alternative, step back and wait for the bounce to hit a regular stroke has been ruled out by Brent, and maybe it would not bounce high enough anyway. That would have to be determined on-court.

  7. Down the alley to the net man’s backhand forcing him to move out wide which will open upbthebincestor of the court for the server to put it away assuming the net guy is not able to lob it over him which would be hard to do if server hits it wide enough and/or deep enough

    • Hi Scott.

      Down the line past the returner’s partner is a possibility if you can improve your court position after playing that shot. If you hit it too hard, and it gets up, you won’t have enough time to get into a better court position.

      I’d think low and controlled rather than winner.


  8. Hi Brent,
    I would hit deep, down the middle.

    • Hi Nan.

      Down the middle might be OK, but if you think deep, your shot will probably go past your opponents too high and give them a chance.

      The middle is fine, but think low. Don’t worry if it’s low and slow …


  9. Joel Drucker says:

    Carve it right through the middle like a Pam Shriver slithery approach shot. That’s unquestionably what to do with a backhand in that situation, so why not same on forehand? Incoming server needs to get nicely sideways for spacing and quality swing.

    • JD.

      Pam Shriver! Oh man, are you the only guy out there that would reference the great partner of Martina that won a gazillion doubles titles? 😉

      You’re right about the need for footwork for creating spacing to be able to play a controlled low slice, BUT, a forehand in this situation into the middle risks playing it in front of and traveling across the area of the returner’s partner, especially if that player is closing.


  10. Half volley down the middle.

  11. wish I had something for you on ths one Brent, I don’t see anything that’s neutral, all I see is going for something or giving them the edge.

    for me, I go for something, now the server is on his back foot, he’s not going to be able to hit anything with controllable pace, it also looks like both opponents are committing to a volley, I therefore hit the lob deep to the returner’s corner as the safest shot that gives me an edge if I execute, them the point if I hit a week one


    WHAT is UP with the forehand chip returns when the ball is over the net which is ripe for a forehand rip?

    to me, a TERRIBLE choice in dubs, it gives you a change to move up in singles, but only against a week opponent who can’t pass, if you have a drive I say take the drive, in dubs I just don’t get it on the forehand side at all, the same thing happened in last weeks right shot too.

    is this a seniors dubs thing or something?

    • Pman. As always, thought provoking stuff from you. Thanks …

      Good question on the why for a forehand slice return of serve in doubles.

      Primarily, the returner gets more value for playing an approach shot return of serve so that the server has to deal with both opponents up at net.

      A grip and rip topper forehand isn’t as big a challenge for the incoming server knowing that the returner is staying back.

      And even if the returner tries to play the topper and move in, the stroke mechanics of the topper force the returner to not have the same “approach” footwork as a slice.

      Make sense? The grip and rip topper looks great on the 11pm ESPN top 10 highlights, but just the stroke, not the result, while the low slice approach return gets your partner more involved and puts way more pressure on the incoming server.


      • Totally agree Brent the return with a chip here was a great return, and a lob from here is about as low a percentage play as you can get. I am assuming pman is young. If he was our age he would have played with wood and developed wood shots and still use some of them. Played 4.5 league open and over 40. Both good tennis but totally different. The over 40s the players were better at different things. The open division had more huge returns more back court rocket shots and more misses. Pissed them off when I took those huge returns and just volleyed or half volleyed them back and made them hit another one. The ones that were trouble were the ones that could use a short back swing topper with approach footwork and get it down. Then you had to worry about volleying up to the returner.

  12. Into the alleys cross court or down the line. Net man knows it will be more of an offensive shot and will be looking to cross so you might surprise them with the down the line alley shot.

    • SRC.

      You’re right about the returner’s partner looking to cross off of that tough low return.

      So, yes, the server needs to be thinking about what that opponent directly in front of him might be thinking.

      It’s called anticipation. It’s a best guess guessing game …


  13. make that defensive shot.

  14. rich jaffe says:

    I would half volley the ball over the center net strap so the ball would travel cross court low to to the returners backhand. Your not going to change direction of the ball and go down the line you want to keep the ball centered so your partner has a good chance of picking off the next ball. Taking the ball wide cross court would open up the down the line volley or half volley and also give your opponent more angle to work with. So the best shot in my opinion is low at the opponents feet and over the center net strap.

    • Morning Rich.

      Well thought out.

      Changing the direction of the incoming return would be tough in this situation.


  15. Bob Feldman says:

    The right shot is a low return at the returners feet, away from the returner’s partner, but hopefully to the returner’s backhand.

    • Morning Bob.

      A low and slow flat or slice forehand where the server relaxes and takes his time can work here.

      But that’s not what happened. Stay tuned for Thursday’s “Answer” video 😉


  16. Tough one!

    I would love to say that he could hit a nice half volley back toward the returner or up the middle but it looks like he may get it right at his feet. If he is moving backward to get the half volley, I would say go for a lob toward the deuce corner. Degree of difficulty 9.0!!

    • Morning David.

      Degree of difficulty would be a 9! We should get bonus points in tennis for degree of difficulty 😉


  17. Joe Oriti says:

    Volley back to the server’s side of the court, preferably low and maybe out wide, as he may or should be in the moving forward transition also, making it a difficult shot for him.


    • Hi Joe.

      Going out wide to the returner’s alley is super risky IF you don’t hit a winner because now your partner has to cover their alley and then you’ve got a ton of court to cover yourself from your alley all the way into the middle.

      Careful 😉


  18. In response to the question, what’s the right shot, I would try a “touch lob based on the positioning of my opponents

  19. There are a few shots that can be hit. The lob is good if the returner is a charger that gets inside the serves line. Or the down the line if the returners partner has a tendency to lean to the center line. I would say the default would be low down the middle. This is one point but you can be setting them up for the rest of the match. Make them think, down the line, lob, short, hard at them. Don’t be predictable.

    • Good call Robert about using this point as a possible set up for later down the road in this match.

      Win or lose this point, the server’s transitional shot choice can have a residual effect later on …


  20. I love a half volley but often mess ’em up. With my limited abilities, it’s best to try to send it back nearly the same direction from which it came – and over the lowest part of the net – up the middle/slightly cross court. Hopefully that puts it either between the players and deep or at returner’s feet or backhand.

    • Morning Woody.

      Take much more time executing your 1/2 volley and not being concerned about getting out of that court position too early.

      A 1/2 volley in this situation is the right shot choice because you get to be on balance when you play it.

      A lunge forward volley is ripe for an unforced error.


  21. Half volley down the middle.

    • Hi Glen.

      OK. Just make sure your forehand 1/2 volley, which in this case is the “outside” shot, doesn’t travel too close to the incoming returner’s partner …


  22. Eric carlson says:

    high up the middle, lame duck, it confuses both players, puts both off balance forcing a difficult return shot and an easy put away for the serving team

    • Morning Eric. Stay dry over there today 😉

      If you’re my partner, and you go high up the middle, and the returner’s partner closes and drills me, you’re getting the hairy eyeball from me!

      If you’re going middle to confuse them, think low my man and all will be good …


  23. Low /center is again the correct shot. With a half volley server may be able to generate more pace and roll over the ball, Any shot that needs to be hit higher over the net, down the line, lob, cross court is high risk/low reward.

    • You’re right Marco, anything other than low and slow back to the returner’s feet is awkward.

      However …

      Stay tuned for Thursday’s “Answer” video 😉


  24. Major Dan says:

    Play a half-volley to the T or just behind it – make it an awkward low ball for the opposing net man but within reach if he wants it AND if the net man lets it go, a ball that ends up wide and a bit behind the receiver as he comes in.
    Often right down the middle can cause confusion between partners, but in this case, tempting the netman to play a tough shot OR let it go can cause just as much confusion between partners.

    Despite my mediocrity as a player, I have used this shot a few times (successfully!!!).
    the net man is reluctant to let it go if it is closer to him, but if he takes it, he is playing the more defensive shot. Maybe these players are better and know a good counter to this strategy, but the players I play usually don’t.

  25. Richard says:

    Down the middle is probably “the right shot”. But the alley looks awfully tempting!

    • And there’s the rub Richard – temptation …

      If you were to always play the high percentage shot (lowest part of the net, shot lands at an opponent’s feet, etc.) despite what appears to be a wide opening for a brilliant winner, I’m betting you’d automatically go up a skill level.


  26. Closing returner, so,.. lob over net man

  27. [There is a Robert at 4/1 7:02 am, but my two later are not him]
    I put a response on the youtube page so I need not repeat it here, but I am glad I joined the party over here to see what your other ‘fans’ and you were up to! Thanks for having this.

    • Morning Robert.

      Glad to have you join in.

      Hope you glean a tip or two or more from these “What’s The Right Shot?” episodes.


  28. Nicolas says:

    I have the suspicion he is going for lob which is a possible play in this situation as the returner is charging full speed to the net and he does not seem ready to split step in time and go back for a smash behind him. Otherwise the classic middle ball with the T as ideal target would be a safe play.

  29. Popping the ball up is the problem, it takes so much control to take that ground stroke return and again drop it at the receivers feet. This is a high level 4.5+ shot at best.
    Lobbing off this return is inviting disaster as it needs to be perfect weight, too light your eating it, too hard its out.
    Changing direction is where most errors occur so going down the line is high risk.

    I might be tempted to drive it at the receivers body so he has less time to react and adjust. Were not playing for a winner with this shot but trying to setup the winning shot by either my partner or myself.

  30. Down the middle would be the norm. Hopefully something to push them back a bit; get them both going for it. Create some confusion.
    Would reckon hard to get lob off. Net guy’s alley to keep them honest yes. But usually only get one per set until they catch on you can do and start covering better.

  31. Backspin lob over the net player, more towards the far right corner of the court to reduce the chance of an overhead coming back.

  32. being a serve an volley player in the 70’s with a good serve and slow feet but good balance. I came proficient at half volleys. My only worry here would be the opposing net man getting middle happy. I would go soft and low back to the returner but maybe to his a little to his right to keep the opposing net player from getting involved. Anotherpossibility is the returner looks like he is leaving court to his right ( I need a few more frames) but if this is the case again because I own half volleys I might try to make him change direction and get him a low off balance shot out wide. Knowing that my favorite partner would cover the line.

  33. If you are no there, in the moment, it is hard to make a good decision. From past experience, I think 90% of us would try to keep the ball low as possible and keep it in the middle, hoping the ball would rise above the net, giving you or your partner a chance to win the point.

  34. Other than a miracle lob over the returner — I would sugget hitting cross-court wide to the doubles alley of the returner. The returner is closing in and worried about the middle (his backhand) going out wide could surprise him and set up your partner.

  35. In my opinion the server’s best option is to hit a low volley in the middle of the court.

  36. The server seems to stop and move backwards to make a negative half volley. What do you think about continuing to move in quickly and make a positive volley, that might never be returned?

  37. Hi Brent,
    Old School doubles would be to slice it back low to the returner’s feet. Modern doubles for a short slow ball in mid-court to the forehand would be for the server to set up and rip one with a lot of spin either right at the returner’s partner or into the middle. My shot? Depends on if the returner’s partner has been active in the middle. If so, up the line would be good, especially with a look-away fake. But I have been playing with that new forehand and RPM Blast and hitting the forehand hard is a lot of fun.

    You going to AM55 9.0 Sectionals with Berkeley this year?

    Dave Scott

  38. I would go down the middle, which might create a little confusion.

  39. You are not going to show us between the leg shot, aren’t you Brent? I guess, not. I’ll go with chip lob over the net player

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