Four Up? Let Them Hit!
We learn to attack the net based on a simple idea. If the fraidy-cat server stays back and we come in, we can angle the volley for a winner, cross-court in front of her. And this stays true even at A-1, even if the reason the server has stayed back is that she's some unforgivably young, just-out-of-college, thin thing, with groundies like rockets. If the space in front of her is exposed, there's a put-away for us. Over the years, though, this means that there's an implied measure of offensive performance when we take the net: we should be putting the ball away. Is the same measure true in a four-up situation? Usually not.
When the opposing baseliner comes in to meet your forward attack, part of her motivation is defensive. She knows the front of her court is exposed, and she moves in to protect it. If she's in, you can no longer hit just in front of the intersection of the service line and singles side line, a clean put-away if she's back. If she's in, she'll reach that placement. So you have to aim within an inch of the doubles sideline, and just one inch over the next instead of six inches. The result? Instead of a winner, you make an unforced error. Or, you get the ball back, but because you've offered your opponent a shot at the side of her court, you've provided winning angles down your partner's alley and cross-court in front of you. Ouch.
Instead, in four-up tennis, your offensive productivity is met in allowing your opponents to hit. Aim to the T or to their feet. Keep the ball low and make them hit up to you. If they do, you get to hit the ball to the T or to their feet gain, but harder! Still, it's easier said than done. Four-up tennis is the exception not the rule. And after so many years of coming in to make put-aways, we try to hit the ball where our opponents can't play, blasting the ball past them (usually into the fence), hitting it wide, or even trying to lob over their heads when we're ten feet away from an overhead! Instead, let them hit, but off their shoe-tops, while you, grinning, wait.
c Keith Shein