This is a guest post by our monthly contributor, Will Boucek, a former college tennis player from Austin, with over 20 years of experience playing and coaching. Will specializes in doubles and was 4.5 men’s and mixed doubles champion in Texas in 2017. Fascinated by the strategy of doubles, Will shares his valuable insights on his website The Tennis Tribe. Since beating the lobber is a VERY common topic that women’s doubles players ask him about, he is summing up his best techniques not to get in the trap of being lobbed.
After a biting slice serve out wide to the deuce court, your opponent lunges out to hit a short forehand crosscourt return back at you. You step in to hit it with the footwork your coach taught you. After hitting it back crosscourt with good depth, but closer to the middle this time, you come to the net behind it. You’ve played the perfect point up to now. You deserve to win this. Then… they lob you 🙁 It’s the most hated shot in tennis, and possible the most talked about at the club level.
Today, I’m going to show you how to finally beat the dreaded lob.
To beat the lobber, first we have to understand what makes their strategy so effective, and why they win matches. After that, I’ll show you exactly how to counter it.
The lobber’s secret weapon
To traditional style tennis players, the ball that most lobbers hit to us is like a big slice of chocolate cake. You know you probably shouldn’t go for it, but you just can’t help yourself.
They give us what appear to be the easiest shots. The ball sits up nicely for us to hit out and take a crack at it. The problem is, while we can make 4 out of 5 of these shots, the lobber will make 5 out of 5 of their lobs, so eventually, they win.
The lobber’s secret weapon is actually us. It’s our power, our pace, our lack of self-control and patience.
Most players will keep hitting the same ball against a lobber. I personally used to run around every shot and try to overpower them with forehands. Don’t do this! It was fun to practice crushing 5 forehands in a row every single point, but, like chocolate cake, I didn’t feel great afterwards.
Why lobbers win: The rhythm
Tennis players love to get into a rhythm. If we can hit the same shot over and over, it’s easier to get into this rhythm. This is why you look so good when you hit against the ball machine, but it doesn’t always translate to the court in matches.
For a doubles (or singles) player who lobs, this is even more true. So, if you’re using one of these strategies against a lobber…
- Overpower them;
- Hit deep heavy spin;
- Slice to bring them to the net;
- Smash overheads down the middle;
- Slice overheads off the court.
You actually need to use all of them.
You have to overpower them, AND hit deep heavy spin, AND hit a slice to bring them in, AND hit a wide angle to get them off the court, AND hit a variety of overheads.
Sometimes, you have to do this all in one point.
How to counter the lob with variety
There’s actually only one strategy that can work against a good player or doubles team who lobs. That is to change it up & use variety with your shot selection.
Remember, they like to be in a rhythm. If you’re hitting them the same ball in the same spot every time, they’ll never miss. They’ll also keep you pinned way back in the court on the baseline.
- Change the depth of your shots;
- Change the spins you’re using;
- Change the direction you’re hitting to – give them forehands and backhands;
- Change the height your hitting with – make them hit from their ankles and their shoulder.
When I watch tournament and league players try to beat a lobber, they never use all of these options. Try it in your next match against a lobber to break their rhythm.
The final step to beating the lobber
Most importantly, be patient! Most tennis players try to attack too early against a lobber. That’s when they miss.
You have to keep changing it up during the point until you find the right ball to attack. You may have to wait until you have a ball within five feet of the net.
Over the course of the match, you should also find a weakness in the lobber. At that point you can attack it. I call this the Seek & Destroy Method (video lesson).
However, you may need to still use variety depending on the lobber’s skill-level.
To recap, next time you play a lobber, do this:
- Break their rhythm – change up how & where you’re hitting with a variety of shots;
- Look for their weakness, and attack it;
- Be patient! Don’t go for the winner too early.
**Try it out in your next match and comment below with your results. I’d love to hear them.**