For any sportsperson, the main goal is always to get better. Nothing could be truer than that when it comes down to the strategic game of tennis.
Tennis is complex, and there are different tennis doubles strategies involved compared to playing tennis singles. A strong doubles strategy can dramatically improve your game. Below we have listed out different strategies and tactics so that you can improve your doubles strategy.
Basic Tennis Doubles Strategy
1. Attack the Middle of the Net
Attacking the middle of the net is a solid strategy when playing tennis doubles.
- Returning the ball to the center of the court can disrupt your opponent's flow by making them hesitate or confused. The more times your opponents have to communicate with each other, the more chances of them miscommunicating. The doubles player may hesitate if they are not communicating well with each other. The idea is that both opponents, at the same time, will hesitate just long enough that both players miss the ball.
- Attacking the middle of the net also reduces the angles of your opponent's returns.
- Another great benefit of attacking the middle is that it creates more opportunities for you to attack down the line. If your opponents are focused on protecting the middle of the court, it will open your doubles alley.
2. Put Pressure at the Net
If you are a tennis player that can confidently take over the net, you will put strong pressure on your opponents. It is not fun being on the receiving end of a doubles team playing well at the net. Owning the net will keep your opponents on their heels. You will eliminate easier shots for them while creating your shots.
Be careful when you position yourself as a net player. You will need quick reflexes to win at the net.
3. Attack the Players Feet with the Tennis Ball
Returning a groundstroke is difficult when the ball comes in at your feet. Hitting a ball at or near their feet is difficult because your opponent will not optimize their return. The follow-through of their groundstroke will be off; therefore, decreasing the speed of the ball. It also makes a difficult angle for the opponent's net player to return. If they don't miss the shot, they more than likely will return a pop ball.
A great way to attack your opponent's feet with a ball is with a solid topspin. A tennis ball will not bounce high if you put a heavy topspin ground on your groundstrokes.
Another strategy is hitting a soft volley that stays low as possible over the net if the opposing net player is playing close to the net. The opposing net player won't hit a hard shot back or poach the lob if executed correctly.
4. Moving Laterally at the Net
Moving side by side is a great way to create unforced errors. You don't want to be static and stand in the middle of the court.
One tactic is to move side to side when your opponent is about to hit a groundstroke. This puts a nice amount of pressure on your opponents because tennis players are coached, not hit groundstrokes at the net player. So, by doing this, your opponent might try and change direction at the last minute.
5. Lob the Opponent Back
Push your opponent back from the net by returning deep groundstrokes or lobs. If you can force them back, they will most likely be pedaling backward or running back to the service line to return your lob. This will create an off-balanced shot by your opponent. When they go back, this will give you a chance to establish your presence at the net. Always remember, in the doubles game, you can use the doubles sideline. Aim for the corner of the doubles sideline.
6. Follow the Midline Rule
You should follow the midline rule. That means, once a player crosses the middle of the court section, the other partner has to switch as well.
Do not stand behind your partner when they are poaching, and vice versa. This will always leave one side open and clear for your opponents. Always be swift on your feet and encourage your partner to reciprocate the same energy.
7. Know where to focus
It is quite natural to always glance at your partner whenever a serve is being made. However, refrain from doing so. Your eyes should be on your opponent, not on your partner, who happens to be right beside you.
Observe your opponent and calculate his every move. There is always a soft spot for every player. With enough focus and observance, you can easily spot where, when, and how your opponent loses balance or coordination. That is the moment when you can make your perfect shot.
8. Coordination between partners
Most of the time, in a doubles tennis match, the partners put too much of a gap between them. While this does make it seem like there is enough space for both players, it can actually be the reason why you lose your shot.
As a rule of thumb, if there is too much space between you and your partner, it is very predictable that your opponents will try to hit that empty space in between every time. If you and your partner are standing way too far apart, it will be harder for both of you to reach that common shot in time.
9. Fake it
Nothing could be more confusing to your fellow competitor if you fake a move. Do this when you are playing at the net. Constantly be on your toes so you can move fast and swiftly.
If you are going for a shot on the right, jab your shoulder or entire body in a way that will make your opponent assume you are going to hit on the left. Naturally, they will be more on guard on that particular side, leaving you or your partner with the perfect opportunity to hit the opposite side.
If you are going for a super low shot, pretend to go for a high one. However, it would help if you kept your eyes on your opponent's feet while doing this to make sure you do not make a shot they are expecting.
10. Defense for defense; offense for offense
When you are playing doubles, it can be a little hard to refrain from hitting hard on every shot. But with a partner around, you need to trust them as well. Hence, if you are being met with a defensive shot, respond to it with a defensive shot as well. There is not always the need to hit the ball hard. Do not go all out and play an offensive shot. Chances are your partner has the offensive part covered for you.
For our eleventh strategy for Tennis Doubles, we have pinching. This tactic is a great one if you want to make your opponent frustrated and confused.
To implement pinching, you or your partner will need to move diagonally down the center line on your side of the tennis court. Even though with this move, you will be leaving some alleyway, but at the same time, you will also take away some crosscourt shots.
When you are on the centerline, your opponent will try to return a shot to you down the alley. Hence, they will need to create groundstrokes, but this will also be within a few feet of your sideline.
You should know when to implement pinching and when not to. Any time you are not faking or poaching, it is wiser to go for pinching.
Obviously, this gives your opponent more chances to make double alley shots, but that is exactly what you should be going for.
As your opponent goes for lower shots, it will increase your chances of closing the point out by the net as you will be more involved in the return shot that way.
12. Serve to Benefit Your Return
For most tennis players, the backhand is weaker than the forehand. If this is the case for your opponent, when you are on the deuce side, serve upon the T. When you are on the ad side, serve wide.
Tennis Doubles Positioning & Formation Strategies
When playing tennis doubles, being in the right position, at the right time, is key to any tennis doubles strategy. That is why we have dedicated this section to educate our readers on different positioning tactics and beliefs for you to have in your playbook.
Strategies When Your Side is Serving
- When you are serving, you want to place yourself at the corner of the serving box. This allows you to have a solid angle. Unlike when playing tennis singles, you do not have to worry about exposing your weak side because your tennis partner has that area covered.
- When your partner is serving or returning, locate yourself between the center line and the doubles alley. It may seem too close at first, but this will allow you to cut off any shots from the returner down the doubles alley, allowing you and your partner to cover the line.
- Once the volleys commence, as your partner smacks groundstrokes, place yourself halfway between the net and service line. Remember, earlier in the article, we talk about easy lobs at your opponent's feet that pass clear the net. You don't want to stand too far back from the net because your opponent can toss these easy lobs at your feet, and that will make it difficult to return. Do your best to attack balls at your waste or higher. That way, you can optimize your power.
- When you're playing at the net, make sure to keep moving. You should be moving backward and forward. Stay closer to the service line when your partner is hitting to avoid being hit and forcing an error. Move closer to the net once the ball crosses the net.
The Advantages, Disadvantages, and Strategies of the Best Doubles Serving Tactics:
Standard Doubles Formation
The most common tennis strategy is the standard doubles formation. The standard doubles formation is when one partner is at the net, and the other partner is back. Ideally, the net players on each team are from each other.
The advantages of the doubles formation is that you can cover the whole court very well. It allows great defense against your opponents lobs and great positioning for attacking the net when necessary.
Depending on how good your opponent is, this formation may expose easy crosscourt shots from your opponent. Also, if you or your partner are a frightened net player, then this formation could be difficult.
When to play the Standard Formation
It is recommended to play this standard doubles formation most of the time. At a minimum, we recommend to play this formation 75% of the time. It is good to mix your positioning to find your opponents' weaknesses by throwing them off their rhythm or focus.
If you haven't tried yet, a great position to try is called the I Formation.
A fun and unique tennis doubles strategy is the I Formation. It is relatively easy to form, but one of the hardest to execute properly. Just imagine trying to form an "I" with your partner. The net player will position themselves on the center service line, a few feet from the net in a crouching position. The server will be on the center of the baseline.
The net player will need to crouch so that they do not interfere with the serve. Now, the net player is at the center because he can bounce up to either to the right or left of the net. Before the serve, the net player and server will need to communicate which direction the net player will go. Often, this is done by hand signaling or code words.
The I Formation is an excellent way to create uncertainty among your opponents. It allows you and your doubles partner to be more unpredictable in your double's strategies. It forces your opponents to hit down the line and allows the net player on the serving side to place himself in a good defensive position or try and poach the ball.
It can expose a line shot that can be difficult to defend if hit well.
When to play the I Formation
Form the I Formation if you have a strong opponent who has an excellent return and puts a lot of pressure on your first serve.
This formation is a great one to force your opponents into making shots down the line. To create the Australian formation, both the net player and server stand on the same side of the court, close to the center line. This highly confuses the opponents with the return shot.
It creates a lot of errors for your opponent by forcing low percentage shots. If the returner is right-handed, and you use this on the ad side, the server will have groundstrokes on their forehand.
You and your partner leave half the court open for your opponent.
When to Play the Australian Formation
If your opponent has a weak return or is having a hard time locating the return, this is a great time to use the Australian Formation. Also, if your opponents are not mentally focused, this formation can put a lot of pressure on them since they know their opponent is leaving half the court open for them. It may seem easy to hit half the court, but you're forcing your opponent to return down the line, which is not an easy shot.
As mentioned before, if the returner is right-handed, use his formation on the ad side to get returns on your forehand.
Volley Styles for Playing Tennis Doubles
This shot takes a very compact and short swing of the racquet. To make this volleying shot, the racquet is required to be moved forward and slightly downwards to give the ball a backspin. Implement this volley style when the ball is moving at a medium pace.
As the name already suggests, this volleying style is to put a block on the incoming shot. To create this move, you do not need to move your body at all. Just stand there and place the racquet in a position that will intercept with the ball and reflect it back. This move is used when the incoming ball is struck at a high speed.
Basically, for the overhead "volley,” the point is to hit the ball before it even bounces. This means you have to strike the incoming ball while making sure it does not touch the ground below at all.
Now this volley style requires the ball to be moving at a gentle pace. Ideally, this volley style uses the longest shot/swing for soft shots made a few feet above the net line.
Using this volley style with a soft stroke will allow you to go for really long. However, know that this shot takes a bit of practice to master, so it is not recommended if you are still in the beginner stages of tennis doubles.
We are going to end the volley style list with this last one. The swinging volley requires players to have incredible hand-eye coordination. Typically used against soft shots, this move can also be used against medium-paced low balls.
If this shot is made correctly, you can expect zero return from the opponent. This is a great shot if you have a strong backhand and forehand technique and coordination. However, refrain from using it if you or your partner are not confident yet as the chances for making errors are also pretty high with this volleying style.
Things to keep in mind while playing tennis doubles
A sport like tennis is unpredictable, but it can also tick a person off way too easily. And when you are playing doubles with a partner, things can be difficult and complicated for both players. However, with proper methodology and attitude, you can easily turn your frustrating tennis experience into a pleasant one.
Do not overthink: The worst thing you can do during a double tennis match is overthink your moves. Trust in yourself and your tennis racquet of choice. Not only will you be stressing yourself out, but you will also frustrate your partner with your indecisiveness. If there is a shot you have in mind, make it. You never know if the move you thought was a wrong one could be the game turner instead.
Eyes on your opponent: After you make your serve, do not linger your focus on the flying ball. It will go where it is supposed to go. Instead, focus on your opponent and how they react to it. With enough patience and observance, you can easily figure out your opponent's moves before they even take a shot.
Be supportive: We are going to mention this again. Always be supportive of your partner in a doubles tennis match. Do not belittle them for losing a shot. Everyone makes mistakes. Instead, confront them with healthy and constructive criticism, tell them where you think they went wrong and how to fix that.
We hope you had a fun time reading our article on the best tennis doubles strategies you could pull off during a heated match.
If you are an beginner tennis player, do not fret as with enough practice, you can easily do what pro players pull off in a competitive environment. Put in time and determination into playing tennis, and sooner or later, you will be on your way to improving yourself. If you are ever looking to improve specific shots in double tennis then consider a tennis ball machine that can give you consistent practice shots.