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Marina & Dave Ohlmuller
2003 Husband and Wife National Champions


"The Tao of Mixed"
Just as the Yin Yang symbolizes the complimentary nature and interdependence of opposites ie; male/female, dominant/non dominant- We can (amazingly enough) find harmony in mixed doubles when we understand our roles.

This article will focus primarily on the Womens role (Yin for the record). While the womens role in mixed is not the dominant one, it is anything but passive. You cannot take a passive/defensive role when most balls will be hit to you! The ultimate objective is to create opportunities for your partner to put the ball away.

The Backcourt:
Returning the Man's serve:
The cardinal rule is to get it in play! If his serve is manageable, drive it but make sure it goes over (give yourself room for error). Often the man has a powerful serve and can also put spin on the ball. There is nothing more frustrating than when your opponent's ball kicks hard into the ad court for an ace! Or worse, missing the return because the ball is too hard to control off the deck! To counteract this, a good strategy is to recieve serve close to the center line- you'll be closer if the serve kicks to the ad court and will still have time to take it off the screen if he serves wide. Prepare to lob unless the ball and your feet are clearly in the green. Remember once you get the return in play anything can happen!
Returning the Womans serve:
Try to drive the womans serve as much as possible. Keep in mind your goal of not missing a return so "measure" your shot and leave room for error. If your male opponent is poaching alot, fire one down the line occaisionally to keep him honest.
Deferring the middle ball:
No matter how talented you are or how big your backhand is, defer the short middle ball to your partner. He will usually(hopefully ) have a plan. If it is understood that it is ALWAYS his ball, there will be no confusion and missed opportunity. You never want to back into the ad court to hit a forehand unless it's on a return. Make sure to communicate with your partner and he can help you on the middle screens as well! His forehand lob (instead of your backhand lob) may better set him up as well and let you better guard your corner.
Lobbing down the line:
We know that lobbing cross court usually brings the ball back to us and lobbing down the line usually brings the ball to our partner.
Keeping in mind our ultimate objective :Creating opportunities for our partner, the lob down the line makes it difficut for your opponents to "carve" the ball back to you and essentially takes your screen out of play(they cannot create that angle). So they will most likely hit the overhead to your partner or take great risk hitting it back to you. This is the most valuable offense you can create.
Measured Offense:
If we lob every ball, our opponents will eventually play off the net and not have to work as hard to hit overheads. Use variety and alternate your deep lobs down the line with drives. NOT WINNERS just make them make a volley. You will soon have your opponents on a puppet string!

Guarding the "Nick":
Anytime a ball looks like it may go into or near the corner or your partner alerts you to this- immediately move to the side screen! You are only responsible for the ball that travels up the side screen. If the ball pops out to the middle or even behind you, your partner should be prepared to handle this. He should now be positioned close enough to the center to react. Trust your partner will be there and don't spin and swing wildly at the ball or he might think twice about coming over to help the next time!

At Net:
Serving to the Man:
Often your male opponent will have a stong return off your serve. If you find you have trouble making the first volley, consider playing Australian. Your partner will stand in the middle and you will come in down the line on the ad-side. This achieves 3 purposes:
1. You only have to worry about the return down the line. Your partner's got everything else covered.
2. You take away his big crosscourt return. The return down the line is a more difficult/lower percentage shot for him.
3. Your best net position in mixed is to have your partner in the deuce and you in the ad court (his forehand in the middle); coming in down the line means you start the point this way.

"Going Under":
Your partner can control the court the best when he is hitting the most overheads and making the most volleys. So in order to put his forehand(overhead) and backhand(volley) in the middle sometimes a team has to switch sides. This is done ONLY on a overhead that will reach 2 screens(to allow time for the switch) The Ball striker will call the switch as only he/she knows best whether it will make it to 2 screens. Try not to yell out and brodcast your intentions as your opponents may take advantage of any momentary confusion.

Placement of overheads:
As a general rule, try to hit your overheads to the woman (straight at her or to her screen). Be careful of the soft overhead to the middle as your male opponent may see an opportunity to drive! If he comes over and drives often, don't be afraid to go behind him to his screen. Many men play further out of their corner in mixed so their screen can be a vulnerable spot!

In General:
Successful mixed teams always find a balance of strength and consistency. You will be the ideal partner if you limit your risk, provide a measured offense and create opportunities for your partner.



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