Successful Doubles Tennis Tips
Welcome to Successful Doubles Tennis Tips, a quick and easy online resource for improving your doubles game. Learning the techniques and strategies of Successful Doubles and putting them into practice will maximize your potential as a doubles player!
Based on the Successful Doubles instruction method, the following tips will improve your performance as a doubles player — regardless of your skill level!
Doubles Tennis Tip #1: The Forbidden Shot
Never let a ball go down the middle of the court without someone putting a racquet on it. Anytime the ball is hit wide, I instruct my teams that both tennis players must flow in the direction of the ball, with the player on the ball side of the court covering the alley and the partner overplaying the middle.
Do not let your opponents have an open shot down the middle! If they win the point with a great cross-court angled shot, that’s fine, but my teams are in big trouble with me if the winning shot goes down the middle unmolested.
Doubles Tennis Tip #2: Split for Mobility
Are you having a hard time getting to the ball or hitting a lot of difficult shots? These problems usually result from too much movement, not too little.
Doubles players have been told to get to the net above all else. This is good advice, but often they are still on the move when the ball is hit, when they should be establishing a balanced, dynamic position that allows for movement in any direction. The term I coined for this is the “Split- Spring” position.
Get into a balanced position (split) before the ball is hit and then spring into action as soon as you see the shot. Moving correctly will get you to the ball with an easier shot, or put you in the best position to attack or defend your opponent’s shot.
Doubles Tennis Tip #3: The Non-Hitter's Role
Did you know that what you do while your partner is hitting the ball determines which team is going to win in doubles?
If you are standing and watching your tennis partner hit the shot, you aren’t doing anything to help your team will the game. On the other hand, while the ball is traveling to your tennis partner, if you are correctly moving to attack or defend your tennis partner’s weakest shot, you will greatly improve your team’s chances of winning the match. Which role do you want to play?
The non-hitter’s role is the subject of my Successful Doubles DVD, Volume 3.
Doubles Tennis Tip #4: Partner's Position Varies
One question that comes up often in my clinics is, “I was taught to always be side by side with my tennis partner. Is this correct?” In some circumstances, it is correct to be side by side, but there are many times that you shouldn’t be. Here’s one example.
You and your tennis partner are both at the net and the opponents are back. They return with a lob and your tennis partner goes back to return it. You look at the opponents and see that they are staying back. You would be in big trouble with me if you left the most powerful position on the court — the net — when you didn’t have to. You should be attacking or defending constantly, and doing so effectively often requires that you and your partner not be side by side.
Time and opponents are the two factors that determine your position relative to your tennis partner, and they vary constantly. Don’t worry if you are not alongside your tennis partner all the time. The question you should ask yourself is to determine your positions relative to each other is, “Am I in the correct position to attack or defend the opponent’s shot?”
Doubles Tennis Tip #5: Hot Seat Preparation
Your tennis partner is ready to return serve and you are correctly positioned in the hot seat (ie, on the service line next to the “T”). Are your hips facing the server or are they facing the net man?
If you are facing the net man, you understand an essential element in doubles — control of time. Hips and eyes directed at the net man prepare you for the worst return from your partner (ie, at the net man). If that shot occurs, you will have time to defend that return. If he hits a good return (crosscourt or lob), you will have ample time to attack.
Time is short on the doubles court, and players who understand how to make the most of it have a huge advantage over their opponents.
Doubles Tennis Tip #6: Positive Poaching
A good poacher disrupts and puts tremendous pressure on the returner of serve. If you are not poaching enough because you have made mistakes in the past or feel it is too difficult, check your distance from the net. Most league netmen tend to stand too far back from the net to start the point because they feel they must cover the lob. From this distance, it is too hard to put that poach away.
Don’t be concerned about whether you can cover a lob. Unless it’s a short lob, it’s the server’s responsibility — not yours — to cover a lob. Your job is to terrorize the returners and get them worried about you might do.
I teach my students to stand close to the net so that when they poach, if they get their racquet on it, the point is over. I ask them, “Who do you hate to play against?” Invariably they say, “That aggressive net man” Well, then, isn’t about time that you become one?
Doubles Tennis Tip #7: The Service Line
I see many tennis players trying to get too close to the net after they serve, thinking that they must get inside the service line to hit the opponent’s return. This is a problem if they continue rushing the net as the ball is hit instead of getting into a split and balanced position before the ball is hit. This is because players on the move cannot quickly change direction and adequately cover the court. Getting in a split, balanced position before the ball is hit enables players to immediately spring at whatever shot the opponent hits.
The obsession to get in close after the serve leaves players open to a wide-angle shot, a lob, and a low return. Speed with balance before the ball is hit is terrific, but speed for speed’s sake may be your downfall. Get in a split, balanced position before the ball is hit and you’ll be able to move quickly in any direction for a successful return shot.
Doubles Tennis Tip #8: Don't Look Back
Do you know why you should not look back when your tennis partner is hitting the shot? It seems like the thing to do because you need to know where the ball is at all times, don’t you? The answer is yes, but you must know not only where the ball is at all times but also where your opponents are at all times.
The ball and your opponents together tell you where to go on the court. If you do not know where the opponents are, how do you know whether you can attack or defend? Let me give you a couple of examples:
- You are at the net, the ball is hit deep to your tennis partner at the baseline, and the opponents rush net. You should back up and play defense.
- You are at the net and the ball is hit deep to your tennis partner at the baseline, but your opponents stay back at the baseline. In this circumstance, you should stay at the net and keep your powerful attack position.
It is important to know where your opponents are because they partially determine where you should move while the ball is traveling to your partner. However, watching your partner hit the ball and ignoring the opponents will not allow you to be in the correct position every time. It’s a hard habit to break, but trust me, once you do, you will be amazed at how much better you play!
Doubles Tennis Tip #9: Use Your Air Time
The time in doubles to improve your position on the court is when the ball is in the air. If your team is receiving the ball, you should be either moving to hit the shot or moving to attack or defend your partner’s worst shot.
Once your tennis partner has hit the ball, you are free to move again, depending on how much time you have before the ball is hit and where your opponents are. It is important to remember that it is impossible to move correctly if you turn to watch your partner hit the ball (ie, just don’t do it!)
The only way to be an effective doubles player is to maximize your time on the court, and that means always making the most of air time.
Doubles Tennis Tip #10: Hitting the Lob
Who is responsible for a lob when you and your partner are both at the net? If you can hit the lob in the air, call “mine” and hit the overhead. If the lob is going to bounce behind you, call “yours” and let your tennis partner take it. He will have an easier shot because he will be angling toward it and will be able to see the other side. You, on the other hand, would have to turn your back, find the ball, and get to it but be far enough away so you would have a swing. Even if you are able to do all this, you would probably still have a blind shot. Remember, if you call “yours,” immediately switch to cover your partner’s side of the court.
Doubles Tennis Tip #11: Flow with the Ball
A very simple way of figuring where to go if the ball is hit with an angle is to flow in the direction of the ball. In other words, if the ball is hit left, go left. If it is hit to the right, go right.
To demonstrate this in my classes, I divide the court into three equal sections from baseline to baseline. Since the doubles court is 36 feet across, each part is 12 feet wide. If the ball is hit to one of the outer thirds, that section is designated the ball third.
My tennis students know that they both must flow with the ball, with one player covering the ball third and the partner covering the middle third. This correct movement will place you in the middle of your opponents’ return angle, taking away all the easy shots and leaving them with only the most difficult options. Now you are making life difficult for your opponents, and isn’t that fun?
Doubles Tennis Tip #12: Where Should I Look?
You know not to watch your partner while he is hitting the ball, but where should you be looking? The closest opponent, regardless of where he is standing, is the player you should be watching.
Both opponents by either their action or their non-action will tell you who is going to hit your tennis partner’s shot, but by zeroing in on the closest opponent, you will have time to react to whatever happens.
If you are watching the closest opponent and the ball goes to him, you’re ready! However, if you are watching the more distant opponent and the ball goes to the closer one, you’ll have no time to adjust and react.
What happens if you’re watching the closest opponent and the ball goes to his partner? No problem. Because of the greater distance the ball has to travel, you will have ample time to redirect your focus to the more distant opponent and improve your position.
I have stopped using the phrase “No Man’s Land” in my doubles presentations and clinics because it implies that you should never be in that zone. Not true! Many times you need to be attacking or defending somewhere around the service line (ie, the area of the court formerly known as “No Man’s Land”).
Instead, I call this area the most difficult place on the court to play. It takes a great deal of skill to play there, so you need to leave that area and improve your position as soon as possible, but it’s important to know how to play in that area if you’re going to be competitive.
I always teach my students how to play in around the service area because they will sometimes have to, but they know not to camp out there but rather to improve their position as soon as possible!
Doubles Tennis Tip #14: What You Do Before the Ball Is Hit Is Key
Did you know you have a job to do even before the ball is hit? Every shot creates a situation you need to be ready for. If you learn to react to the situation created by that shot instead of waiting for the ball to be hit and then reacting, you will raise your game immediately.
Let me give you an example. You hit a lob over the netman deep into the corner. What do you do? If you both move to the net because of the time allowed by your lob, a good return lob will put your team in trouble. Now, let’s consider what happens when you react to the situation instead. Your return created a lob situation. In other words, your opponents’ best return shot is a lob. Realizing this, whichever of you is on the ball side should attack the net, so she can put away any poor lob and can also poach a poor return. Her partner should position herself in the middle third of the court just behind the service line, before the ball is hit. Now your team can destroy a poor shot and still successfully cover any great lob return.
Make the most of the time you have by assessing the situation created by your shot and reacting and being ready before your opponents’ return shot!
Doubles Tennis Tip #15: Where Are You When the Point Is Finished?
The area around the service line requires the most tennis skill to play effectively. In fact, it is often called No Man’s Land, suggesting that you should never be there. While this is not true, because many times attacking or defending you should be there, you should leave that area as soon as possible.
It is easier to defend at the baseline and much easier to win at the net, so why not move out of that difficult area at your earliest opportunity? Many league tennis players get to the service line and then spend the rest of the point there. In fact, I see it so often, that in my clinics, I refer to that area as “home,” because so many tennis players do not attack further once the get to that area and seem contented to finish the point there. Home to me is the net. Where is it to you?