Doubles: Helping on the opposite backcourt after teammate smashes
Hi, when my teammate in doubles smash, usually I stand towards the middle to either finish the shot, or defend against the short return, however, I now realize that if my partner smashes for example on the backhand backcourt, and my opponent clears to the forehand backcourt and my partner cannot recover, I should go to that side.
My question is, what should cue me to move back? I'm afraid that I might read wrong and my partner actually is able to get to that side, and I hit my partner. Is it reading my opponent? Reading my partner's recovery? Am I suppose to realize my partner got to the backhand late and can't recover? The combination of both? What are your views? Thanks.
Well it is difficult decision. However if you believe your partner can cover the shot, then leave it to your partner. If not start moving to cover him... However I will only do this if I am 100% sure he can't cover the shot (Usually playing long enough with your partner to understand your partner's capability).
Usually the forward person should only be ready to hit from the opposite back corner if your partner is pushed out wide- with little time to hit his shot and little time to recover to the next one.
If he has time to move and hit, he should be hitting a good enough shot that it limits the options (crosscourt drive should not be a shot that should get past you in this instance) and you should only expect to hit a forecourt/ midcourt shot.
This is especially important when your partner is smashing at his forehand side and opponent drive to his backhand (back court). This is how I read the situation. If I feel that my partner is smashing from deep back court, I turned my body toward the empty backcourt and sliding 1 step toward that corner. This is because a smash from deep corner is not as effective as 3/4 court, and the opponent is waiting to drive to the opposite corner at the back court. When you come up against a good pair, and when they are set to defense, 8 out of 10 times, your opponent would drive to the opposite/backhand corner when you or your partner smashes.
There are two situations I would be interested to consider. The first, is when your partner decides they are "in trouble", or I suppose you decide they are in trouble.
In this situation, how do you know what to do. If you have a regular partner, your partner should TELL you that they are struggling. A call of "wide" is a useful one, meaning I am only going to cover this one corner that I a in (works at the back and at the front when wide at the net and can't cover the other tramline). Your partner (who is at the back) will know WAAAAAAAAY before he hits the shot that he is in trouble. How? Because he is having to move a lot to get there. So he should call wide long before he hits the shot. This is your signal that you need to cover 3 corners, not 2 - so now you can be ready, with no confusion.
If your partner is not a regular partner and will not call (I hate people who will not communicate...), then simply make a judgement based on his movement and his shot choice. Firstly, his movement will alert you as to whether he is in balance or not. Someone who is in a deep corner, is either moving a lot to get there, or is there with plenty of time. If they have time, don't worry about them, they should be able to handle it (unless they are coming forwards off their own attacking shot - different discussion!). If they are moving, judge how wide it is - if its on one side, but not in the tramlines, they are ok, don't worry about them. If they are in going to reach the tramlines, then you know that you could help them out. Thus, if they are having to move and the shuttle is very wide, then you may have to help, otherwise, they should be ok. However, they will only need help if they hit a smash (or 1/2 smash). If they hit a fast drop or slower drop, then they will be ok - they have actually realised that they are struggling and have given themselves time to regroup. Thus, if they are moving, and are very wide, and use an attacking power shot, then you may need to help them, otherwise, they are on their own. Please note that all of the above is assuming that they haven't called "wide", thus asking for help!
So, thats when you cover the back corners to "help out" your partner. However, there is one more situation in which you may do this, and thats if you are set up in a particular way when they hit a power shot. Note: if they hit a drop shot, you must move forwards to cover the net. If they smash, you have choices.
Basically, you should either tell your partner (or they are good and know what to do), that when they smash, you are covering the straight or the cross court. Remember, that our partner will smash straight - he is not a moron (stupid uncalled for cross court smashes...).
If you agree "straight" with your partner, this means that when your partner smashes you will be standing on the same side as him, covering all straight drives and drives to the centre and cross court blocks and pushes (NOT CROSS COURT DRIVES). If the opponent cross court drives, the smasher will have to leg it over to the other side and get that (its their own fault for that bad smash). If it comes straight, the net player is going to destroy anything that comes!
If you agree "cross court", it means that when your partner smashes, you are going to set yourself up on the opposite side to your partner, with one foot on the centre line (like you would if you are defending). This is a clear sign to your partner - that they will need to deal with any straight shots themselves. However, anything that goes down the middle or cross court (driven, pushed, blocked, OR LIFTED) will be yours - because you are already there waiting for it. In this way, you are achieving a kind of "sides attacking" formation, where both players cover a half a court, rather than front and back, but it is offensive, not defensive. Both players are ready to go forwards or backwards. In this way, you might prepare to take a lift to the opposite corner, but not to "help out" your opponent, but more of a tactical choice between you.
Note: you and your partner have everything covered between you in both scenarios, and it is a gamble which one you chose. However, changing where you stand, cross on some points, straight on others (maybe let your partner know what you will cover) is a good way to tactically confuse your opposition, as they will need to focus a lot harder on their defensive shots. Please remember: the above is only applicable to smashes, not drop shots.
The above "sides attack" is often used in a partnership where there is a preferred formation for the pair e.g. Cai and Fu: when Fu smashes, Cai normally stands "straight" to continue the "channel attack". When Cai smashes, Fu often covers "cross court" so that Cai can get to the front. Sides attacking is also used a lot by Koo and Tan (when they can be bothered to play), because the whole "left hander right hander" thing confuses people with this kind of positioning.