As the number one junior player in Canada on my way to joining Florida’s Flagler College tennis team, which had just won the National Championship, I was full of excitement and expectations. College matches are comprised of both singles and doubles matches with the same players eligible for both matches. I was shocked and dismayed after a few doubles matches to have the coach pull me from doubles play because I “didn’t know how to play doubles.” By this the coach meant that there was a system of doubles plays and skills such as those he coined chip and charging, rolling and rip, poaching signals, offensive and defensive schemes and my favorite, the “two-on-one situation” that must be mastered to compete effectively. The two-on-one situation is an effective strategy where two players attack and keep the ball on one player to overwhelm them.
You may create a two-on-one situation in different ways. An obvious way is to poach to the net player’s feet, reducing the opponents’ time and space. If the opponent happens to return this ball, the poacher’s partner should have moved up to join the poacher and now the two net players will keep the ball on the player nearest the net at all costs. Do not volley back to the deep player who would have an easy lob over your head while allowing the net player time to recover. Keep the ball on the close player. Lobs are virtually impossible for this player so close to the net! The classic two-on-one has been executed. Driving the return of serve down the line to promote a weak return is a perfect time for the return team to take over the net and continue to hit the ball at the net player. The net player is too close to recover and will succumb to the pressure of the other team working together. Playing the majority of balls to the weaker player is also an obvious two-on-one situation. The weak player will often break down and, if their partner is not as supporting as they should be, it will be a quick exit to the showers.
Thankfully I reacted to being pulled from doubles matches by working on my volley (which was way behind my ground game), my serve (that set my partner up at the net), the return (that set the tone of the point), the communication with my partner including poaching signals and service position, and the all-time greatest doubles point getter, the two-on-one situation. I am grateful to Flagler College’s Peter Scott who coached me and instilled doubles strategies and tactics into my game that allowed me to leave college playing doubles full time, winning a National doubles title, achieving All-American status, as well as an ATP ranking. It was well worth the effort.
Mike Puc has been the Director of Tennis at Gleneagles Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla. since 1998. A winner of 15 national titles and an ATP world ranking, Mike directs 25 teams with 350 players in nine leagues, while offering the most extensive Calendar of Events in South Florida that includes tournaments, lectures and social round-robins.