We all know that “no man’s land” (between the baseline and service line) is the worst place to get caught when playing tennis.
Why is no man’s land a deadly spot? When you get caught there the ball is more likely to land at your feet, causing you to hit up on the ball. When your team hits up, the other team can hit down. Ultimately, in doubles, you want to be hitting the ball down and not hitting the ball up to your opponents.
Why do a lot of players get caught in no man’s land? A lot of recreational players will hit the ball, raise up on their tip-toes (and look like a prairie dog) to see if the ball is in (or where the ball is going to land) and then they decide to move.
The problem with this is that you have wasted up to three seconds to move to a better position. Now, you are reacting to where your opponent is hitting the ball and not being proactive to where your opponent is most likely to hit the ball. If he or she happens to reply with a strong shot, you will be caught in a bad position and end up hitting a defensive ball.
A great drill to practice not “prairie dogging” is to pick a spot on the court where you want to be by the time the ball hits your opponent’s racquet. If you are not standing in that spot when the ball hits your opponent’s racquet, you lose the point.
As you get better, you will notice yourself hitting the ball and moving as you are watching where your shots land, rather than hitting, watching, and then moving. In the long run, you will hit better quality shots and be able to cover the court more efficiently.
While some species of prairie dogs are on the endangered and protected list, on the tennis court we want all prairie dogs to be extinct.