The ABC’s of Poaching
Poaching is similar to intercepting a pass in football. It’s an aggressive move that may just be one of the scariest things you can do on a tennis court, but if you do it right, it can help you rack up a lot of easy points. Doing it right is as easy at ABC.
A is for active, which is what you need to be if you wish to poach successfully. Although your partner is serving, your very position can serve to intimidate your returning opponent and give you a great advantage. You’ll want to set yourself up about a quarter of the way to the service line, right in the middle of the service box, not too close to the alley or too close to the net. This will enable you to cover those crosscut returns.
You’ll want to widen your stance and lower your center of gravity. The ideal move you’re waiting for is to deliver your opponent’s return to the feet of the player closest to the net. Chances are they won’t be able to return it, but if they do, they’ll have to volley it up over the net, giving you and your teammate ample time to set up your score.
B is for the ball, which is what you’ll want to be tracking. The time to make your move is just before or while the returner is about to hit the ball. Your opponent’s attention will be on the ball, so you’ll be less likely to be noticed, giving you the element of surprise, as well as the focus you need to make your move.
C is for communication, which is vital to all aspects of doubles tennis. Letting your partner know your intention to poach ahead of time will clue them in as to how they can help you. If you’re serving with the knowledge that your teammate is going to poach, you’ll want to serve up the middle, making it harder for your opponents to return around your teammate, putting the return over the middle of the net within better reach of your teammate.
Poaching can be a rather daunting endeavor, but to make the most of your doubles game, it is a necessary skill. Don’t be afraid of getting into the game and making your opponents feel more fear than you do. If you’re poaching correctly, your opponents will be putting more attention on you than on the ball, which, by itself, may just be all the advantage you need.