Doubles Hand Signals in Tennis: Your Complete Guide (+ Steps)

Are you looking to add a new tactic to your doubles game? Learning how to use hand signals in doubles is a great way to improve communication with your partner and take advantage on the court.

We’re going to walk you through every step so you can improve your hand signals in doubles.

So, let’s take a look at how to improve your communication on the doubles court and start winning more tennis matches!

Why is it Important to Learn About Doubles Hand Signals?

Learning how to communicate properly on the doubles court is an essential part of playing better tennis with your partner. One of the ways that you can do this without giving away all of your doubles strategies to your opponents is to use hand signals. 

These signals tend to be used by the net player of the serving team, to help the server decide which direction they are going to serve. It also indicates the move the net player will make afterward the serve is in play.

Server and Net Player Working Together

The idea here is that the server and net player will work together to create a plan that takes into account the most likely place the returner will play their shot. For example, if the server chooses to serve wide, there is a bit more angle for the returner to go down the line. Therefore, the net player will usually indicate that they are going to stay where they are, so the down-the-line angle is well covered. 

The net player will use their first hand signal to point either left, right, or down (meaning middle or body serve) to indicate the direction they want their partner to serve. Then, the second hand signal indicates what the net player is going to do. This will either be stay (usually shown by a closed fist), cross (shown by an open palm), or fake (shown by wiggling the fingers).

When the net player indicates they are going to fake, this means they are going to take a step towards the middle of the court, making the returner think they are going to move across the court, which tempts them to return down the line. When the net player then stays put, they have an easy volley to put away. 

However, if the serving team decides that the server will aim down the middle, and the team anticipates that the returning player will hit their shot in a central location, the net player may decide to cross and put the ball away into the open space. This tactic is called poaching.

Doubles Strategies You’ll Want to Ace!

Using hand signals allows the serving pair to devise their plans quickly and easily, without the returning pair knowing. This means a predetermined strategy can be implemented and allow the serving pair to rattle through their service games with ease. This makes it easier for doubles pairings to know where to stand on the court. 

What’s more, hand signals can also be used when returning as well. This usually occurs when the net player of the returning pair suggests that their partner hits their return down the line or as a lob, rather than the typical cross-court shot. 

Another situation in which the serving pair may use hand signals is the “I Formation”. This tactic is used to throw returners off their rhythm by making the location of the serve and the net player very unpredictable. 

Both the server and the net player position themselves close to the center line, and will then decide where the server is going to serve, and which side of the court the net player is going to move to.

How to Improve Your Hand Signals in Doubles

As you might expect, mastering the art of communicating in doubles doesn’t happen overnight. But, with the right guidance and understanding of the game, you can add this doubles strategy to your game in no time at all!

Step 1: Look at’s Doubles Tactics Course

The first thing you can do that will make a big difference to your ability to use hand signals properly in doubles, is to check out our doubles tactics online course. Whilst there is no substitute for hard work on the tennis court, it is equally important to have a strategy and know what you’re trying to work on. There’s no point learning how to use hand signals without the right strategy to go with it. 

We have worked with ex ATP professional turned master performance coach Dave Ireland to bring you one of the most comprehensive doubles tactics courses on the internet! We’ll cover positioning, communication, teamwork, mindset and movement patterns to help you cover the net much more effectively. 

Unlike singles, doubles tennis lends itself a lot more to ‘plug and play’ tactical patterns that can be pre-determined and used at any point. This is exactly what we teach in our course and it will help you improve your game on the doubles court.  

Therefore, using our Doubles Tactics course abilities is the perfect way to feel more confident in your net play!

Step 2: Agree Your Signals with Your Partner 

The next step towards improving your use of hand signals in doubles is to agree early with your partner what means what. This may sound like a simple piece of advice, but many players have different uses for different hand signals, so to avoid any confusion, you’ll want to have a common understanding of which signals you’ll both be using throughout the match.

Step 3: Have a Plan on Every Point

Next, it is important to have a plan on every point you play, even when the going gets tough. In difficult or pressurised moments on the court, it can be easy to forget to communicate clearly with your doubles partner. However, this can lead to nerves kicking in and the lack of clarity in your game plan could spell disaster.

To avoid this from happening, be sure to stay positive, communicate clearly and decisively on every point and try to play to both of your strengths as much as possible, especially when the score is against you.

Step 4: Mix Things Up

Staying unpredictable on the doubles court is a crucial part of winning more matches. As mentioned previously, doubles points have a tendency to move a lot more quickly than singles points, since there is always someone at the net ready to swat the ball away at any given moment. 

With this in mind, staying unpredictable and keeping your opponents guessing is a great way to turn the odds in your favour. By all means use set plays to give you and your partner confidence and clarity on the court, but try to use the same patterns sparingly, always looking to take your opponent by surprise. It is a great idea to throw in a cross, I-formation or Australian formation every now and then to keep your opponents honest, even if what you’re already doing is working well.

Step 5: Focus on Positioning Between Shots

The final tip to improve your use of hand signals in doubles tennis is to actually focus on your movement and positioning when you aren’t hitting the ball. The key here is to always be facing where the ball is coming from, so you have the best chance of making contact and volleying into the open space. 

What’s more, staying on your toes and remaining alert at all times is essential. Doing this helps you take advantage of opportunities quickly, since doubles points can turn on their head in an instant. 

Focus on moving as a pair. If one player moves to the left, the partner should also move to the left. This way the middle of the court is always covered and the angles are closed down, making the court feel smaller for your opponents.

Once You’ve Mastered Your Hand Signals in Tennis, It’s Time to Improve Your Volleys! 

Improving your tactical understanding of doubles and ability to communicate with your partner are great steps towards taking your doubles to the next level. However, if you want to become more clinical, you should think about your volley technique itself. 

Having a preset plan before every point is great, but if you can’t execute the volley you want to, it will all have been for nothing! So, if you want to take your net game to the next level and improve your volleys, check out our Art of Volleying online course today! 

Simple Guide to Hand Signals in Doubles

Overall, learning how to use hand signals in doubles is a key part of improving your communication as a doubles team. Hand signals mean different things to different people, so it is important to reach a common understanding when you change to a different doubles partner. 

Communicating the right way in doubles is essential to improving your relationship with your partner, performance on court and ultimately your win streak!

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