If there’s one way you can make an instant difference to your game, it’s through your tactics.
While it takes time for you to perfect your technique, you can make an instant impact on your results by working on strategy, and today we bring you some important tips for your tennis doubles strategy.
With doubles, there’s obviously the added complication of having to work as part of a team, which makes things a little more tricky, but this also means there’s an even greater chance to collaborate on your tactics.
With your singles tactics, it’s quite simple setting up points how you want them because you’ve only got you to worry about, but having a partner complicates things.
This means that communication is key to doubles, and the better you are at it, the more success you’re going to have.
So, without further ado, here are some of the most important doubles strategies you should be using.
If you want the full scoop on double tactics, then check out our official doubles tactics guide.
Always Meet with Your Partner After the Point
Doubles allows you to share the load, both mentally and physically.
You should make the most of this by meeting up with your partner after each point at the back of the court.
Not only is this great for deciding your tactics going forward, but it’s also a chance to give each other encouragement and keep building that team spirit.
The mental side of tennis is difficult, and if you’re having a bad few points, your partner is the one person who can give you encouragement.
If you miss a couple of bad balls and just walk straight to the other side ready for the next point though, the disappointment tends to fester, the teamwork breaks down, and things continue to get worse.
It’s much better to have a chat with your partner, clear your head and get ready to dominate the next point.
When you throw in the fact you get to talk about what you’re going to do on the next point, it’s a no brainer, and you should certainly make sure you’re meeting after each point.
You get 20 seconds between each point, so make the most of your time and make sure you’re working as a team.
Look to Dominate the Right Parts of the Court
The court becomes a lot more crowded when you’re playing doubles and this limits the number of safe spaces to hit the ball.
This means the vast majority of balls end up travelling through the same part of the court – a corridor that runs a few feet each side of the net strap and a few feet above it.
Most balls go through this area because it is the safest place to play, but what if you close that area off to your opponents?
Then they are in a lot of trouble!
The key here is for the net player to be very active and look to get towards the net strap as much as possible.
We’re often too concerned with covering the line, when in fact we should be looking to cut the ball out from the middle of the court.
Sometimes you’re going to get beaten down the line looking for the ball down the middle, but if you’re paying close attention to your opponents, then you give yourself a good chance of being in the right place at the right time.
Wait until your opponent is off-balance, out of position, or generally looks uncomfortable playing the shot, and just as they strike the ball, look to come across and take the middle of the court away from them.
Take Control with the Serve
When you’re serving it gives you a huge advantage.
It’s a chance to get the first strike in and get your team on the front foot, so use it wisely.
Take your time to choose where you’re going to serve, and most importantly, let your partner know.
It’s much easier for the volleyer to get involved in the point when they know where the serve is going, so allow them to do that.
For example, if you’re going to serve out wide, then your partner might want to cover the line a little more, whereas if you serve to the T, they’ve got a better chance of cutting across and taking the ball from the middle of the court.
Other great options you’ve got with the serve are implementing i formation or Aussie. You see these used a lot in the pro game, but not so much in amateur tennis.
These tactics are great ways to make life uncomfortable for your opponents though, and can really make a difference to your service games.
The serve is a massive advantage in doubles, and you want to maximize it any way you can.
Focus on Serve Percentage Over Power
Even for top players, the difference between their first serve and second serve is huge.
When you make the first serve in doubles, then you’re putting yourself in an excellent position to win the point, but when you have to rely on your second serve the odds are much more even.
When you’ve got your partner at the net covering one half of the court, it gives your opponents very little margin for error when returning your first serve.
This means you can afford to take a little pace off and focus on placements and percentages.
Once you start relying on your second serve, then your opponents can start taking bigger cuts at the ball, taking your partner out the game and putting you under pressure.
The more you get your first serve in, your odds of holding your serve are going to go up dramatically.
Work as a Team to Cover the Angles
Naturally, when you add an extra player on your side of the court, the angles are going to change drastically.
Everyone recognizes this, and splits the court accordingly, but what most people fail to account for is the fact the angles change completely after every shot.
To overcome this, your positioning needs to fluid, and adapt depending on where you are on the court, where your partner is on the court, and where your opponents are hitting from.
This means when your partner gets dragged out to one side, you’ve got to cover across a bit more to cover the open space.
It’s easy to think the best way to do this is by splitting the court down the middle, but this is not necessarily the case.
It all depends on the angles your opponent has available to them, so you want to make sure you’re splitting the court evenly based on the angles.
Make Your Opponents Uncomfortable
In our second point, we talked about dominating the right parts of the court, namely the box around the net strap, but there are going to be some occasions where that’s just not possible.
Perhaps your opponents just play too big a game and are very adept at dominating the net.
Just because this is happening though, doesn’t mean you can’t still win, it just means you’ve got to find another way of doing it.
Rather than just trying to power through them, the best way is often to go under or over them.
Most players don’t mind the ball coming at them with plenty of pace on at the net, but they do find it’s much more difficult to play a volley that’s around their feet.
If your opponents are really on top of the net, then it’s difficult to hit to their feet, but this opens up the opportunity for the lob.
If there’s one shot that causes mayhem for your opponents then it’s the lob and it’s a great equalizer.
It completely changes the dynamic of the point and allows you to take your opponents away from that dominant position on the top of the net.
When the momentum isn’t with you, then you’ve got to try something a bit different, and going under or over your opponents is a great tactic.
Practice the Return
A good return is one of the most important parts of a good doubles game.
The serve is such a big advantage, but even more so in doubles when the returner has to get it past the guy at the net.
The best way to improve your return is to keep on practicing it.
Get someone to serve from the service line at you and really make life difficult for yourself.
You’ll find you’re forced to use a short swing and almost block the ball back, but the more comfortable you are doing this, the easier you’re going to find it in the match.
A nice spot to aim for in doubles is where the service line meets the inside tram because this misses out the net player and means the server is likely to have to play a low volley.
However, consistently hitting this return isn’t easy and that’s where the practice comes in.
It’s really hard to break serve if you’re constantly giving away free points by missing the return, so one easy way to make yourself more competitive is to work hard on this area of your game.
There are a lot of small things you can do to improve your chances of winning on the doubles court, but it also starts with working as a team.
With good communication, and some simple tactics, you will see an improvement in your results and pull off victories you didn’t think were possible.
The more you practice these tips, the better you will get, but you can start to implement them today.
Article by: Will