Doubles Tactics: Approach Short with Slice!
Here is Part 3 of 4 in this series on doubles strategy for players of all levels. I'm spending a second article on approaching short because I think this tactic helps solve the biggest headache a vast majority of recreational doubles players face: the lob. Hitting the Topspin Angle was one way to reduce lob effectiveness. Another way is the use the short angled slice approach shot.
Whether it be forehand or backhand, using an underspin or “slice” approach shot the lands at deepest on the opposing team's service line (cross court from the approach shot hitter), is a very effective way to take the lob out of the point. Here's why:
- It forces the lobber to lob into only half the court space they're used to
- Because the slice bounces low to the ground (or even moves backwards if hit well), the lobber has less time than ever before to set up for their lob
- Receiving a short slice means the ball will bounce very low in front of the lobber. Without much space between the ball and the lobber's racquet, it's hard to build up much racquet speed to hit a deep, offensive topspin lob. At best, they'll be relegated to a defensive lob travels much farther upward than forward over the approaching team.
- Even if the lobber is successful in tracking down the slice and hitting a lob, they are now in very defensive position: right around the service line. This isn't the area of the court lobbers like to play from. Unless they actually got the lob past the approaching team (unlikely), the lobber has little or no time to recover back to their preferred baseline. So both the lobber and partner are targets for an overhead smash.
Here's ATP #2 Roger Federer hitting both forehand and backhand slice shots:
In doubles, this shot must be hit cross court to the side of the deeper playing opponent...the one with the farthest distance to run for the slice approach shot that will be skidding away from them! As Roger has shown, this shot can be done with forehand or backhand (in the forehand clip, it's also referred to as a “fake dropshot” because it's more common in singles to hit the dropshot than a deep slice forehand approach shot). Just be sure you follow this shot into the service line. Hitting a short slice shot cross court and staying back at the baseline leaves the initial hitter open to the same attack they unleashed on the lobber (a.k.a. “re-slice the slice”). If a steady mix of both topspin and slice angles are thrown at a lobbing doubles opponent, the lobbing problem should be reduced to a lot of opportunities to hit easy overhead smashes!