The Dreaded lob

Rod Hayward

On the Cottonwood courts, three tennis instructors met to discuss the lob. They all agreed—the best way to combat one is move under it and punish your opponents with a blistering overhead.

“Where do I get one of those?”

“Try practicing more than just your ground strokes and volleys,” suggested Bob Pivec.

“And concentrate on transferring your weight to your back foot,” added Al Wagner. “Raising the non-hitting arm or at least its elbow in preparation for impact might help you do that and put you on the road to that blistering overhead.”

“But if you have to back up,” Don Neu reminded me,” turn your body to the side and shuffle back with good footwork. Backing up while facing the net leads to falls. A concussion won’t improve your overheads.”

“On the other hand,” added Al, “You can avoid all that unbecoming protective headgear by hitting your returns with more pace. Soft returns encourage lobbing.”

“If a blistering overhead is the best response to a lob, what’s the worst?”

Taking up residency on the baseline, they all agreed.

Bob told of students who were glued to the baseline by a single lob; Don of students who started there in anticipation of a lob. Once a lob is returned, move forward to where you can hit your blistering overhead.

“Whenever a lob comes over the net, I just yell ‘Yours!’ It seems to work and avoids potential head injuries.”

“You can do that if you’re positioned more forward in the service box than your partner,” Bob agreed. “In that case, your partner would be responsible for the deep lobs.”

“Great! Then I can just hug the net for the entire match.”

“No., you also need to move to cover the side of the court abandoned by your partner when he or she is retrieving the lob.”

“I’m willing to do that, but don’t make me chase down a lob on my backhand.”

“No problem. If your partner is a left-hander, position yourselves with both forehands in the center, and retrieve the lobs that fall on the opposite side of the court. Otherwise, the right-handed player on the ad side can take the deep lob on either side of the court.”

“So I should pick a right-hander and put him or her on the ad side. Then, I only have to yell ‘Yours’. What a great strategy!”

“Unfortunately, if your partner covers a lob on the deuce side, you’ll need to cross to the ad side, and you’ll become the player with his forehand in the center. Now, you’ll be responsible for all the lobs.”

“On the other hand,” added Al, always on the lookout for more flexible strategies, “one player on a team may be more mobile than the other and more able to reach lobs.”

“Then if I rented a wheelchair . . .”

“In that case, just yelling ‘Yours!’ would work,” nodded Al, “but good luck finding partners.”