Poaching in Tennis: How to Poach in Doubles & Boost Net Play

Are you looking to add a new tactic to your doubles game? Poaching in tennis is a great way to keep your opponent’s guessing and mix things up at the net

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

So, let’s take a look at how to improve your poaching in doubles so you can start winning more matches!

Why is it Important to Learn How to Poach in Doubles?

Being able to move across the net and take the ball early is a crucial part of improving your doubles game. Tennis is a game of anticipation and throwing your opponent off balance as often as possible, and particularly in doubles, there is no better way to do this than poaching! 

First things first, let’s actually define what poaching is. 

When playing doubles, the point starts with two players at the net, and two at the back of the court (one serving and one returning). A poach is when a net player moves across to the middle, or even over to their partner’s side of the court, and puts away a volley. 

This is an effective tactic if your opponents have a tendency to hit a higher and softer ball around the middle of the court, as the net player can take the initiative and put the ball away quickly and efficiently. Not only does this win the point with fewer shots, but it also casts a seed of doubt in the opponent’s head. 

That is because in the main, doubles is played on the cross-court. However, if an opponent knows that if they don’t hit a high-quality ball then there is a chance the net player will cut across and put away an easy volley, the opponent is immediately under pressure.

How to Improve Your Poaching in Doubles 

As you might expect, mastering the art of poaching 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 TheTennisBros.com’s Doubles Tactics Course

The first thing you can do that will make a big difference to your ability to poach 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. 

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, 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 to improve your poaching abilities is the perfect way to feel more confident in your net play!

Step 2: Recognize the Right Ball to Poach

The next step towards improving your ability to poach is to recognize the right time to do it. Not every ball in the rally will be the right opportunity to move across and knock off the volley, so understanding when to poach and when not to is important. 

Being on your toes and always moving will help you stay alert as a net player. This ensures you are primed and ready to pounce when a higher, slower ball is hit. 

If your opponent opens up their racket face to hit a slice, is off balance, or is moved outside of the doubles team lines, then this is a good time to think about moving across to poach. 

Any opportunity to exploit a slower, higher ball should be taken. The idea here is to punish your opponents for dropping their intensity, so you put extra pressure on them to come up with the goods all the time.

Step 3: Move Forwards, Not Just Sideways

The next part of poaching in doubles that needs to be considered is the movement itself. Whilst the aim is to move across the middle of the court to cover more real estate, it is also important to move forward at the same time. Moving forward as well as sideways (in a diagonal direction), ensures that you are closing the net down, cutting off the angles, and adding more power to your volley through forward momentum. 

What’s more, moving forward is also subconsciously intimidating for your opponents, particularly the opposing net player. This is because out of the corner of their eye, they will see you moving towards them, looking to put away a volley aggressively. Naturally, most players will then move back for self-preservation purposes, giving you even more space to volley into.

Step 4: Hit into Space

Next, once you are in position and have the right ball on your racket, you have got to hit into space. This may sound like a simple tip, but given how many other elements go into timing the right poach, it can sometimes escape the net player’s mind to actually place the volley away from the opponents. 

Hitting to the feet of, or behind the opposing net player can be a great tactic, as there is plenty of court to hit into, and it will be a very difficult shot for your opponent to return if they get a racket on it at all.

Step 5: Don’t Become Predictable

The final tip that will help you improve your poaching in doubles is to use this tactic when appropriate, but not all the time. Similar to the second point, it is important to recognize the right times to poach, and the right times to stay put. 

If you start poaching every point, your opponents will likely spot this and start passing you down the line. Poaching is a great way to close down the net and stay aggressive, but it is important to not use this tactic so much that your opponents can read you like a book.

Once You’ve Mastered Poaching in Doubles, It’s Time to Improve Your Volleys! 

Improving your tactical understanding of doubles is a great step forward toward taking your doubles to the next level. However, if you want to become more efficient and effective at the net, you should think about your volleying technique itself. 

Being in the right position at the right time 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!

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Simple Guide to Poaching in Doubles

Overall, moving across the court to intercept a volley in doubles doesn’t have to be intimidating! Following the simple steps above will help to improve your confidence at the net, whilst making the game of doubles easier to master.

Learning how to poach in doubles is a great way to improve your game in a positive way, by being aggressive, efficient, and effective at the net. Not only does poaching at the right time improve your chances of winning a doubles point more quickly, but it also keeps your opponent off balance too!

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