How to Play Doubles in Tennis: 5+ Tactics To Win More Matches

Are you looking to learn how to play doubles tennis, so you can play more regularly at your local club? Learning the rules, etiquette, tactics, and where to stand in doubles is a great way to become a more social tennis player, as well as improve your skills up at the net!

So, if you want to learn all there is to know about playing doubles in tennis, you’ve come to the right place!

Why is it Important to Learn How to Play Doubles?

Doubles have been around since the time tennis was first invented and has a rich history in the sport. In recent years, doubles tennis has become more and more popular in the public eye, getting a lot more media coverage and now even has some high-profile singles players jumping over to play!

Doubles tennis is played a lot at the recreational, club levels of tennis. This is because it is a very social way to play, places less strain on the body, and allows clubs to have more people playing on the same court. 

Therefore, learning how to play doubles, along with the rules, tactics and best places to move will help you enjoy the game you love even more!

How to Improve Your Doubles Game Today! 

As you might expect, learning the fundamentals of doubles tennis doesn’t happen overnight. However, with the right guidance, instruction, and practice, there are a number of steps you can take to improve your game and be a much better player on the doubles court!

Step 1: Look at’s Doubles Tactics Course

The first step you can take towards understanding the ins and outs of doubles tennis is to check out our Doubles Tactics online tennis course. This is a great way to learn the fundamentals of doubles rules, tactics, and communication strategies, without even having to step onto the court! 

We have put this course together using our combined expertise and playing experience, to give you the most comprehensive doubles tactics guide out there. We have also worked with ex-ATP professional tennis player turned master performance coach Dave Ireland. Dave has a wealth of tennis knowledge and experience in both playing to a very high standard, and also coaching junior and senior players to do the same! 

Dave has helped us put together a fantastic doubles course that you can use to improve your performance on the court! 

So, if you want to accelerate your learning and understand not only the rules of doubles but also how to implement doubles tactics more effectively and win more doubles matches, check out our Doubles Tactics course today! 

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Step 2: Learn Where to Stand in Doubles

The next thing to understand when you are learning how to play doubles is actually where to stand. This may sound straightforward, but so many recreational players struggle with positioning on the doubles court, and then get frustrated when their opponents pass them with ease! 

In the most basic sense, both doubles teams usually start each point with one player at the baseline and one player at the net. These players tend to stand diagonally from each other, so most of the court is covered. For example, if one doubles team is serving, the server will stand on the deuce side at the baseline (in a wider position than they would for singles), and their partner will usually stand in the service box on the advantage side of the court. 

The idea behind this is that most of the court is covered at any given time, making it more difficult for the opponents to find an easy gap to hit the ball into. 

Of course, during the point players may move around and react to the shots that their opponents hit, but in general, these positions tend to stay pretty much the same throughout the point.

Step 3: Understand Doubles Rules

Next, you will need to understand the rules of doubles tennis if you want to play the game more effectively. There are three main differences between singles tennis and doubles tennis that you need to be aware of. 

The first of these is of course the size of the court that is used in doubles. The tramlines, or doubles alleys, are in play in doubles, whereas they are not in singles. This of course makes the court wider and allows players to use more angles to win points. 

The second difference is that in most doubles that you’ll see on TV nowadays, there is ‘no ad’ scoring. This means that if a game reaches 40-40 or deuce, the returning pair can choose which side of the court they would like to receive the serve from. Then, rather than a long back-and-forth of deuce, advantage, deuce, advantage being played, one deciding point is played to determine who wins the game. 

This speeds up the match and means that both teams are under pressure straight away even when a game reaches deuce, whereas this is not always the case in a singles match! 

Thirdly, doubles tennis matches are usually decided by a championship tie-break, rather than a full third set. This again helps to speed up matches and makes them more dynamic and entertaining in the deciding moments.

Step 4: Poaching and Moving in Doubles

Once you understand how the scoring system works and where to stand in doubles, you can now start thinking about moving more effectively to win more points. From a tactical point of view, the aim of the baseline player is to remain solid and rally cross-court with their opponent, whereas the aim of the net player is to seize their opportunity to attack and put the ball away into space. 

With this in mind, the net player should look to ‘poach’ as much as they can, to win points more efficiently and quickly. Poaching in doubles refers to the net player recognizing when one of their opponent’s shots is a little softer and more central, and then moving over toward the middle of the court to volley the ball into the open space. 

The key to poaching is for the net player to always remain on their toes, looking for opportunities to pounce and put their opponents under pressure. This is an essential part of doubles tactics that can help you win more matches!

Step 5: Nailing Doubles Strategy

The next step to understanding how to play doubles more effectively is to nail doubles strategy. Unlike singles, doubles lends itself a little more to pre-planned strategies. Because there are two players on the court, it is easier to decide where the baseline player will hit their serve or return, and then the net player to move into position to pick off the volley. 

This requires great communication and a common understanding of both players’ strengths and weaknesses, but with the right strategy in place, doubles points can be won in a pretty predictable way.

Doubles strategy comes down to predicting where your opponents are most likely to hit their shots, using different formations to keep them on their toes, and playing to your strengths as a doubles pair. The focus should be on playing the percentages, covering the middle of the court, and forcing your opponents to hit the most difficult shots possible. 

A great way to do this is to serve and volley, and come into the net after you have hit a return. Use set plays like serving down the T and crossing, and using the lob return to keep your opponents guessing. 

If you implement these doubles strategies well, you’ll have a lot more success on the doubles court!

Step 6: Doubles Formations

Finally, a great way to take your doubles game to the next level is to use doubles formations to make your decision-making clearer and confuse your opponents. Doubles formations like the ‘I formation’ are set plays that see a pair use an alternative position before the point even starts. 

The I formation is a great example of this, as to the untrained eye it looks like the doubles pair using it are putting themselves at a disadvantage before the point has even begun. 

The serving pair both stand towards the center of the court, with the server standing close to the center line, and the net player crouching down in front of the net, again close to the center line. This of course leaves gaps on both sides of the court for the returning pair to hit into, but don’t worry, because the serving pair have a plan! 

When using the I formation, the serving pair decides before the point starts, which direction the server will serve, and which side the net player will move to once the serve has landed. 

This means the serving team has an advantage over their opponents since the returners have no idea where either the server or the net player will move to. For example, if the server goes to the returner’s forehand, and they predict correctly that the returner will hit cross-court, the net player can move directly to that side of the court and have an easy volley right to them that they can put away. 

Other doubles formations that can be used to give you an advantage on the court before the point even begins include:

  • Both back: The returning pair both stand at the baseline.
  • Australian: The net player and the server both stand on the same side of the court.
  • Crossing: The serving pair switch sides of the court after the serve has landed. 

Using doubles formations helps keep your opponent guessing and makes decision-making easier on the court, which is especially useful when the pressure is on!

Once You’ve Mastered The Game of Doubles, It’s Time to Improve Your Volleys!

Improving your court positioning, doubles tactics and understanding of the game will definitely help improve your performance on the doubles court. 

However, if you don’t have the proper volley technique to go with it, all of that tactical knowledge can go to waste! 

That’s why we put together our Art of Volleying online course to teach you how to control your volleys more effectively. You’ll learn how to hit volleys with the correct technique, where to stand, how to close down angles at the net, and much, much more! 

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!

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Simple Guide to Playing Doubles Tennis

Overall, learning how to play doubles tennis is a great way to enjoy the game more as a whole. Doubles is a very social version of tennis and is played a lot at the recreational level. 

We hope this guide has given you all the tools you need to step onto the doubles court with confidence, and you use these tips to improve your game! 

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Now it’s time to take the first step to win more tennis matches as a doubles player!

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