Most of you already know that the common direction of play in doubles is cross court. The net is at its lowest point in the middle, and because you have more open court when hitting diagonally, you can hit with less errors while keeping the ball away from the net chick.
So when should you hit into the alley?
In general, players don’t feel as comfortable hitting the ball into the alley as they do hitting it crosscourt. The net is at the highest point in the alley, and the space between the net chick and the outside line seems impassable.
But with these tips, hitting into the alley can be a lot of fun – but NOT for your opponent. Go down the line when:
On your first service return
Since it’s the beginning of the match, your opponents will be expecting a crosscourt return rather than an aggressive shot, so take them by surprise and go down the line the very first time you return serve. If you hit a winner, great! If you make an error, so what? It’s early in the match, and you’ve at least At the very least you’ll keep your opponents busy worrying about your returns for the rest of the match. You’ll also know right off the bat just how good your opponent’s reflexes are at the net.
On a weak second (or first) serve
If your opponent has one of those soft, loopy second serves, don’t keep sending it back to her. Come in like you would any other approach shot, let the ball bounce up high, then hit it from high to low and into her alley, instead of up the middle. If your opponent at net is lucky to get it back, it will be an easy pop up floater — and what would you do then? Go down her line again. Your opponent is already in serious defense mode from your first passing attempt, and more than likely she will not get the ball back again.
When your opponent at net has a weak back hand
In another post, I talk about when to pick on the weakest link, and this is one such time. If one of your opponents has a noticeably weak backhand, you should exploit it whenever she’s at net by hitting down the line on her backhand side. This will fluster her to no end and make her less effective at net.
You get a short ball in a rally
Typically, the player would hit the approach shot crosscourt and come in to the net. This is a safe plan for the player, but a predictable one for the opponent. Instead, use the element of surprise and rip the ball down the line, and take away the reflex time of the net player.
When you’ve got a poacher at net
If your opponent at net is constantly looking for a crosscourt shot to poach, go down her line. She’s too busy planning her move to the middle of the court to pay much attention to her alley, and she’s probably standing close in or very near the middle the service box, which gives you more passing room down her alley.
Of course, I’m not saying that every shot should be down the line. It’s just that hitting into the alley at the right time can be so much more effective than hitting either crosscourt or up the middle. It sets a tone for the match. It shows your opponent that you’ve got choices and you’re not afraid to use them. It creates doubt in your opponent at net, and confirms that you’ve got game and you’re here to play!
So get out on the court and give this a try, and watch your confidence grow as you win more matches! Good luck!