The game of tennis becomes more of a battle of strategy than technique once a certain skill level is reached. It is critical for an advanced tennis player to incorporate specific strategies that maximize their strengths while at the same time minimizing their weaknesses. Doubles teams will also have a collective strength and weakness skill set. The following tips should be added to any serious doubles player’s repertoire.
TIP 1: Serve and Volley
At any level, serving is the most important stroke in a tennis player’s game. Now most players can not hit a serve 140 mph; however, speed is not nearly as important as placement is in doubles. Doubles players should be focused on where their serve goes and not how fast it goes. Once a player has command of service placement, they can now and a new wrinkle to their serve, which is the volley. Coming in and charging the net after a well placed served will add more pressure on the returner to hit an effective low return while at the same time protecting their partner. Serving down the middle will allow your partner the opportunity to poach (discussed later in this article), while serving out wide will allow your partner to really hug the line. Another key to an effective serve and volley is developing a solid and consistent half volley. Remember when serving and volleying, you will get passed some. The key is to keep the pressure on and make the returner pass you every time. This is extremely difficult to accomplish. So keep pressing forward!
TIP 2: Chip and Charge
In response to the serve and volley, returners can also add pressure to the server by chipping and charging. To be an effective chipper, a player needs to be sure to practice not only their slices but also moving forward and attacking the serve as it comes into the box. Movement is the key when chipping and charging. Another good tactic when using this play is to chip low and crosscourt. Keeping the ball low will force the server to hit the ball up. This should force a weak and high return, which should allow your partner to pounce and end the point. Chipping the return crosscourt will also keep the server’s partner at home since this is a difficult ball to poach.
TIP 3: Poaching
Poaching is another great tactic for the advanced doubles team to bring into play. The goal here is to get the server’s partner involved in the point immediately so that they can end it. Serving placement is vital for this tactic to work successfully! Letting your partner know where the serve will be placed gives them that extra bit of time to move and intercept a return. Again it is crucial to be committed to this play. Go if you are supposed to go. Any hesitation on the poacher’s part will undoubtedly cost that team the point. This play will also force the returner to mix up their returns and have to think more about their return placement.
TIP 4: Lob Return
Probably the most hated of shots, the lob can be a truly effective weapon in the returner’s arsenal. Hitting a lob on the return of serve is a very effective way to not only stop poaching but it also has the potential to move the net person back to the baseline even before the serve is hit! Any time a player can take their opponent out of their comfort zone, the advantage clearly lies with that player. Practicing the lob is so very important. Remember also that you want this lob to land near the baseline. It is far better to hit this lob long than to leave it short and get your partner killed with the subsequent overhead! This shot is also great to come in behind (only if it is deep lob). If you do charge the net off of this shot, keep in mind not to close in to tight because a lob back will most likely be your opponent’s response.
Practicing and using these tactics are fun and will certainly provide more variety to the advanced tennis player’s doubles game. Don’t be afraid to miss a few shots or get passed a few times. Again tennis is basically a game of statistics. You are playing the odds that you will win more points than you lose. So hit the courts and have fun!