If you can’t start the point, there is no point!

That’s right, If you can’t start the point, there is no point! The probability of success in doubles play at the competitive amateur level of play (4.0 and 4.5) goes up dramatically, if you can keep your return of serve success % at around 80% or over.

One of the main things I have been working on since my return from Tennis Congress 2016, has been the ‘S.A.L’ (Short, Angled and low) service return in doubles that I learnt from Coach Billy Previdi and Matt Previdi ‘s session (The Previdi System) at the Congress. This is a powerful weapon to have in your arsenal in many match situations (discussed more below) and helps with high percentage play when your drive returns aren’t working or when you just want to keep your opponents guessing!

Keys for Success – What I learnt after using it for around half a year now in competitive amateur (4.0 & 4.5 levels) level play….

  1. Objective:
    1. Take away angle, time and opportunity from opponent.
    2. Play high percentage tennis.
  2. Preparation: Before the Point of Contact:
    1. If you know you are going to play S.A.L, keep the continental grip ready.
    2. Set your 2 target points and Visualize it
      1. Where it is going to pass over the net: Target the middle of the net or a bit farther away from the opponent net player depending on the opponent net player’s ability and frequency to poach.
      2. Where it will land on the opponent’s side of the net: An ideal target is usually around the intersection of service line and the inside alley line
    3. Split step as the server tosses and contacts the ball.
    4. Be aggressive with your feet and get to the ball fast
  3. Execution:
    1. Always meet the ball in front and lean into the return.
    2. Before you start the swing, make sure the racquet head is above the point of contact.
    3. The ideal contact point is to meet the ball somewhere at mid-point between the service line and baseline.
    4. At the point of contact,  execute like you are playing a volley.
    5. Drive through the ball with confidence, don’t try to guide and hold the shot
    6. Finish up high, don’t let your hands drop down on the finish (avoid chopping action or slicing down on the ball)
  4. When to use it:
    1. At the start of the match, gauge the opponents with S.A.L.
    2. Convert S.A.L into a lob over the net player occasionally to mix things up. Use this in non-critical match situations only since this is a low percentage play.
    3. Second serve is a great candidate for the S.A.L.
    4. Critical points such as 30-30, break points, match points are great times to use, to keep the return high percentage and get the point started.
    5. More effective against a player who tends to stay at the baseline after service or doesn’t move fast into the court or doesn’t bend down well to reach for the low shot.
    6. Also very effective when hitting into the wind since the ball will tend to hold back.
  5. Additional Tips:
    1. Play the piano on the grip until the last moment, helps to keep hands loose and not tighten up.
    2. Focus on the impact point, that is more important than the swing. It is key is to meet in front of the body.
    3. More effective when you can create more angle and hit as close to net as possible
    4. Hit as soon as you can, to take time away from server, take the serve early
    5. Vary the target position, find out what makes the opponent uncomfortable
    6. Don’t try to return back at same speed as serve, visualize and think soft hands
    7. On a hard first serve, stay back a little bit to give yourself time
    8. Talk with partner and let them know your plan
    9. Be aggressive with your feet, not with your arm

S.A.L Drills:

Chip & Charge:

S.A.L Strategies:

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