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Respected tennis writer Joel Drucker answers your questions about the thrills and spills of the recreational player. Got a hole in your game or a question for Joel? Drop him an email at therovingplayer@thetennischannel.com and you may find yourself in a future column.
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Q)Dear Roving Player:
Have a disagreement with a fellow doubles player. What are the rules when a tiebreak is won, and going into the next set?

My take is that the person who follows the player who started the tiebreak starts serving on the opposite court.
-Leo Pietkiewicz

A)Dear Leo:

You've pretty much got it. Whoever starts the tie-break is considered the server for that game. Therefore, no matter who's serving, the team - not the player -- that served the second point of the tie-break starts off serving the next set. Also, a side change will occur.

Keep in mind, though, that at the beginning of the set either member of the team can start off serving. This can make a pivotal difference when you're dealing with matters related to the sun, serving effectiveness, net play, etc.  


Q)Dear Roving Player:

After playing a couple of sets of doubles with and against my friend Barry, he told me afterwards that it was hard for him to get motivated because as he see saw it, one member of our foursome, Jack, was considerably weaker than the rest of us. But the truth is that Barry's not that much better than Jack (Jack would probably beat him in singles), just another 4.0-4.5 player. I feel like telling Barry off, but I'm not sure why.
-Confused

A)Dear Confused:

One reason you're angry is that by bringing less than his best tennis, Barry lowered the quality of your own tennis experience. But on a bigger note, he was big-timing everyone, thinking that he could afford to step off the pedal, and since we'll assume that Barry's no world-class player, his behavior is reprehensible, a form of condescension that he might think is kind but actually represents supreme insincerity. Having been on the court with many ex-world class players, I can tell you that while they certainly don't often play with civilian in 5th gear, they are quite skilled at playing customer tennis in a way that lets everyone feel part of the action. But who the hell is Barry? If he's indeed hardly Jack's superior, then he should demonstrate it - and show respect to everyone by playing hard tennis. The takeaway for us recreational players is inspired by a comment I once heard from Brad Gilbert: Perfect practice makes perfect. In other words, rather than treat the match with disdain, he could have worked on parts of his game, whether it was receiving serve in a different court, poached more effectively, lobbed more or any number of technical and tactical areas. No matter who you're on the court with, look for ways to play quality tennis. 

Q)Dear Roving Player:

What's the key to learning how to chip and charge effectively?
-Nick the Netrusher


A)Dear Nick:

I applaud you. At a time when it's easy to watch how much the pros are camping out at the baseline, you're wise enough to seek added dimensions to your game.

I've always felt that while groundstroke prowess is primarily technical, net play has more to do with attitude than technique. Don't get me wrong: knowing how to volley is important. But even more important is grasping the attitude of the netrusher, an awareness that yes, you may be passed occasionally, but over the long term, by coming to net you are creating cumulative pressure that as the match wears on will work in your favor. As the great Pancho Segura once asked me, "When it's tight, would you rather make a four-footer or a 27-footer?" 

The chip-charge play requires extensive practice. You simply must will yourself to attempt it - repeatedly, even if it means you'll lose your share of practice matches. It's best to do so on second serves, and also easier to have your body in place on your backhand return than on the forehand (most people chip their backhand far more effectively). Think of it as a movement-based shot. You are literally trying to run through a short ball (after all, the serve bounces short of the service line). Don't worry so much about the racket swing, but instead work on moving your body through the ball. Get yourself into a good net position and remember - whether you win or lose the point, you have taken a positive step. For what you've done most of all is force your opponent to make a tough shot. That's a good, long-term investment that will do you well as the match continues. But again, you can't merely practice this tactic the way you would hone a groundstroke. The chip-charge is best practiced in real-life, match situations. Don't let a short-term loss - a point, a match - deter you from a long-term gain.

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Oakland-based Joel Drucker is one of the world's leading tennis writers. Author of the book, Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, Drucker's work has appeared in a wide range of print and broadcast media, including Tennis, USTA Magazine, ESPN, CBS and The Tennis Channel. For The Tennis Channel he's worked as an on-air analyst and is co-producer of the program, Center Court with Chris Myers. An avid recreational player, Drucker's lefthanded 4.5 game attempts to combine the tactical array of Brad Gilbert with the variety of John McEnroe, a style he fondly refers to as "Spinning Ugly."