- Split-Step Tactical Cover

After stroking a deep pass or ceiling ball, dash forward to the dashed line. Step on the line with one foot, and spread your feet to a balanced, on your toes, split-step ready position. Partially face the competitor and read his shot. Get ready to take off toward any one of the 4 quadrants (4 corners). Adjust. If your competitor must retreat to a back corner, you may split-step again to angle off and partially face the competitor.

- Block the Reverse

Move and split-step ON the imaginary diagonal line between the ball in deep court and the opposite front corner. On the diagonal you have a good view of the competitor, while you face the front corner on that side of the court. You get to legally block the reverse by the competitor when you get there before he can set up to shoot. On the diagonal you're ready to cover first the down the line, then the front court, then the crosscourt, and always a ball back through the middle. If instead you were to just face the front wall, widest DTL balls may be just tantalizingly out of your reach.

• Crisscross, a Football and Basketball Feet-work Staple

When you move sideways along the sidewall and you can see the shuffle step is just not gonna cut it and you need to get further, faster, the crossover step with the trail foot BEHIND your lead foot, the "crisscross" gets you there on balance, quickly. As you crisscross, the foot that's being crisscrossed acts as the post. That post foot is your temporary balance point supporting you until the other shoe lands. The crisscrossing foot lands just past the posting foot. Then the posting foot flashes ahead to complete the crisscross. Crisscrossing is sort of a skipping maneuver behind your back. The object of moving about the court is to go as efficiently as possible. The crisscross allows you more options when you need to move sideways lickity-split. As an example, many top flight players serve and then crisscross with their lead or plant foot behind their trail or back foot as they retreat out of the box. It's all about the way to most quickly move and clear the box to cover the receiver's options by being a “littler” further back. A crisscross is much faster than the shuffle step out of the box. A full crossover step commits you more toward the side where you crossover leaving you more vulnerable to the crosscourt return angle. So the crisscross-over is often the crossover of choice to escape the box. The crisscross is an example of a transition to tactical feet-work. Now let's look at more tactical feet-work examples.

II. Tactical Feet-work

• Banana In Approach

Ideally stroke the ball from a light, springy, slightly closed stance, with your front, plant foot half a sneaker closer to the sidewall than the back, push off foot. The partially closed stance allows you to turn your body into a forehand or backhand. How do you get into that ideal stance off BOTH wings? Once you've moved behind and to the side of the ball so that it's about an arm's distance away, you're ready to take on the *banana in approach*. Set the big end of your imaginary banana as the back of your stance. It'll be the push off leg. Then step in with a curved stride with your plant, front foot. This is the "banana in approach", stem in. Stem in means your weight pulls "in" toward the stem or in toward your body. This flow of force and body weight in toward your center gets your legs involved. Force then works up through your hips, turning your torso and finally catapulting your upper body as it synergistically connects to your lower body for greater summed forces.

• Jab and Cross

When the serve is not rocketed into a corner, use the time to jab step with the foot closer to the ball. Then crossover with the trail foot to both close your stance and apply better force and weight into your return. The crossover offers the best balance, while ideally allowing you the receiver to take the ball out in front or ahead of your stroking shoulder.

• Crossover Lunge For Photon Serves

When you pick up a super-fast "photon" serve as it rebounds off the front wall or worse case, as it rockets by the server, crossover with the far leg and lunge low. Be purely focused and doggedly determined to get the ball back to the front wall. Know that you may make contact BEFORE your lunging leg lands, but fear not; you WILL land! The crossover step also serves to coil your shoulders and your racquet naturally flares back with them. Use that natural prep and look to go down the line with your ROS or even DTL to the ceiling to push the competitor sideways and back. Know the main object is to get the ball back to the front wall. The secondary objective is to get the competitor out of the middle. Even a crosscourt pass or ceiling may work because the server will many times be moving your way pursuing the flight of his serve and blanketing the line which is the most dangerous return. Often making good string contact will be enough because you may use the server's power against him to bunt the ball away from him before he may react.

• 2-step Serve Footwork

Paint the edges of the very back line of the box with your sneakers. The foot that will be the plant, lead foot in serving stance starts ahead of the other. The feet are slightly apart and you're in a slight crouch or balanced bend while not squatting down. The racquet is out in front of you in a threatening position. The ball in your offhand resting against, let's say the grip of the racquet. Step up with the back foot toward the front foot. Land inside the front foot and just behind it with both sets of toes pointed at the sidewall.

*Rec: as you step up, draw your racquet back and use and your other arm like a tightrope walker holding his balancing bar.

- Immediately crossover with the front foot toward the front of the box, even landing with the arch of your foot on the front line. Then work your plant leg against your push leg to power your drive serve.

• Get Out of the Box

AFTER you serve and complete your full follow-through your next step is to get out of the box. When you stay in the box you make yourself vulnerable to the pass you can't reach or the ceiling you can't short-hop. Sure you're closer to the attempted kill, but "he", the receiver *sees* you and his pass may rocket by you. So clearing the box, even by just a step, improves your chances considerably.

- How to Get Out of the Box

The way to get out of the box is to first regain your balance. Most of your weight is ideally on your front foot after you serve or stroke. So backshift your weight from your front to your back foot. Take a crossover step with your front foot toward the middle and partially spin toward the ball to flow out of ”no mans' land" in the service zone. Only body spin enough to get a view of the receiver over your shoulder. For protection use your racquet head to look through your strings as you cover your head.

- Retreat with a Crossover or Crisscross

The crossover step is the fastest way to retreat out of the service box. The crossover step may be in front of your back foot or it may be a crisscross-over behind your back foot, which will be covered later. The main point is to avoid a stretch back step with your back, trail foot. A step with your back foot spreads you out, slows you down, exposes you to a loss of balance and an inability to quickly reverse your field should you need to dash back into the front court for a possible low return. Pivot on your back foot and crossover. After the first “crossover” step do another crossover to cover ground even faster. You may shuffle, side-to-side to flow back for serves you read the receiver will return way back in deep court. However, compared to the crossover, the shuffle is in slow motion, as you retreat out of the service box.

- Practice Getting Out of the Box

As part of practicing your serves, practice the crossover (or crisscross-over) step to get into center court. The ultimate objective is to straddle the dashed line with both feet. At a minimum, make your goal to touch the dashed line with your back foot. ALWAYS BLOCK REVERSE pinch angle. From there you can cover most all ROS's. Finish by angling off and face the sidewall in the front court and be ready to blanket the line, your primary and most vulnerable cover.



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