Winning Doubles

As a coach I spend the vast majority of my time teaching mechanics of the shots rather than actually how to play the game. Drill after drill, demonstration after demonstration. I am a strong believer that it doesn’t matter what your stroke looks like as long as it is efficient and effective.

In most tennis clubs , doubles is the game that is by far the most popular and for the most part it is a game quite badly played. How many of us have seen mixed doubles as singles with obstacles and the men batter their counterparts as their lady partners dodge out of the way. I have seen other doubles matches where the players take a corner and batter away for 3 hours as they attempt to exhaust their opponents or bore them whichever comes first.
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It goes without saying Doubles is all about team work and using both players to play together to win. It is common practice in club tennis to mix and match partners and frequently we can end up playing with players who we have never played with. You don’t know their game, they don’t know your game and frequently we are too polite to shout ‘yours’ or ‘’mine’. When the ball is played up the middle we leave it for them and both players end up leaving a perfectly gettable ball.

The first and most important thing to winning doubles is communication which as we know can take many forms. First and foremost introducing yourself to your partner, ask them what side they prefer on return and would they like to serve first. This initial communication can make all the difference. It would also be wise to work out in advance of the game starting who takes those nasty centre court balls which dissect the court up the middle.
I like to tell my partner where I am going to serve but I keep it simple, usually its ‘first will be hard down the middle, second will be a kicker to the body or out wide.’ Hopefully my partner can then relax and not have to continuously look over their shoulders to see where the serve is coming from. Once you have an idea where the serve is going the net player can then plan to raid the net for the put away volley.

Although big ground strokes winners are possible in doubles, much more likely is that the base line player carves up the court for the net player to put away a delicate volley or smash. If you were to watch the pros play you would see that most of the time the players are parallel on court and move into the net and move back to the baseline together. Now your legs or fitness may not be that of a pro but keeping the communication going and saying ‘in’ when you want your opponent to follow in their shot or back when you both chase back to the lob.

If you are going through a rocky patch in your match, remember keep communicating and tell your partner to go back to basics. Keep it high over the net and deep on court up the middle. Play the percentages as when luck isn’t on your side resist the temptation to go for broke on shots play it safe keep the ball in court. If at the end of the match you lose then hold your hands up and say too good. It happens all of us do not worry!

Be prepared to mix up your game on the doubles court, add spin , slice depth and disguise to your shots to buy yourself extra time. Play the shot that is required in the point never the shot you want to play because your good at it.

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