Going into the final, we thought we had an outside chance, but by mid way through the first set, I realised that our chances were a lot slimmer than I thought. Not that I gave up hope by any means, but I had to admit, we were a bit out classed.
Here are a few of the simple tactics that Paul Bourne and Julien Prosser used to beat us in the NBVA season final 2009
1. The Hubby Wife serve with a twist: Jules was obviously a bit tired… not as fit as he used to be, so jump serving wasn’t going to be a big tactic for him. He settled for a simple “into the wind” serve that won him at least two points before we cottoned on to it. Standing at the down wind end, about two thirds of the way across the baseline, he hit a side spin serve that started off heading directly to my partner (I was playing right side), then curved towards me. By the time the ball arrived it was usually landing to my side of middle. The first couple of times, it caused confusion between Milton and I, and that was enough for a couple of bad passes.
2. Controlling the net: This comes down to great technique. Every time the ball was close to the net, even though in a straight jumping competition I get a little higher than Jules ;-), his balance allows him to take off from a better position and to get more power through his jump. A big part of this is the last step in the spike approach. Let’s assume you have a standard left foot take off. When the ball is tight, if you lengthen the last step with your right foot you will jump from much closer to the net, and jump straight up to the ball. This will give you a much better chance of outreaching the block to get to the ball first. This is because you are shortening the distance between your take off point to where you actually contact the ball, and you still have the advantage of the spike approach over the block jump.
Jules did this well, and it saved them 5 or 6 points, when we had them under pressure and forced a bad set or over pass.
3. Serving downwind: This was just pure class. Paul served about 7 or 8 jump serves from the bad end, about as hard as I have ever seen him hit a server. It just goes to show that even with the wind at your back, you can still get a lot of dip on a good top spin serve, if you hit it hard enough. This serve won them about 4 or 5 points.
How did he do it? Not really sure, you’ll have to ask him, but I think the first step to learning how to hit a hard jump serve with the wind at your back is realising that it isn’t as hard as you think. You certainly need to aim lower across the top of the net, but still give it as much top spin as you can.
Catching us out of position: This one, again comes down to Jules being lazy ;-). Probably 3 or 4 times in the final we had scrambled to keep a ball in play, had an opportunity to convert a point, and got caught right out of position by a second ball from Jules. When Jules plays a second ball, he doesn’t guess that you might be out of position, he knows that you are out of position, and he makes sure he puts the ball to the spot that will win the point. I think it’s a product of having an awareness of where your opponent is on court, at all times. This comes with experience, but it’s a skill that you can develop and is particularly useful as you are moving towards the ball to make a set. This is when you have the element of surprise on your side and you might find guys are flat footed or off balance.
In just these four areas, Julien and Paul won about 15 points over the two set game. We played well in the final, but they were simply on another level. Well done guys.