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How to Win at Doubles: 9 Doubles Tennis Strategies

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 3 min read

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Doubles matches have vastly different strategies than singles matches. With more room to move and more pieces in play, doubles tennis players have to rethink their use of space and figure out how to get the ball past two opponents instead of one.

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9 Doubles Tennis Strategies

When you play on a doubles team, the doubles alleys (or tramlines) on the side of the court count as inbounds, making the playing area bigger. Twice as many players on the tennis court mean more opportunities for aggressive net play, so doubles games often have shorter points than most singles games. To win more of your doubles tennis matches, check out the following tips:

  1. Aim for the opponent’s feet. If a net player receives a volley, their best bet is to aim for the opposing net player’s feet when returning the shot. Low volleys are more challenging to hit than high volleys. The closer you get to the net, the lower and harder you can aim. At the very least, you’ll force the other net player to hit a defensive shot up in the air that you can hopefully put away.
  2. Attack the middle of the court. While seamless down-the-line and wide crosscourt shots are golden in doubles, do not underestimate the power of a deep middle shot. Hitting a ball down the middle is a great tactic to create confusion, causing both opposing doubles players to rush toward the center. When that happens, you and your doubles partner can close in on the net for the next shot, hitting short, sharp angles far away from both opponents, while also reducing the chance the opposing team can hit sharp angles against you.
  3. Pressure the net. The most important doubles strategy is to get both players on the same team to the net as quickly as possible to end the point. Two players at the net is a significant advantage, as volleying makes the balls move quicker and harder, leaving less space to get around your team, and forcing the other team to play more defensively.
  4. Lob. Lobbing, especially on a first serve return, can create chaos for your opponents. Lobbing changes the speed and velocity of the serve, which is how each point starts. Lobbing the return serve can give your team a chance to push the opponents back and rush the net, turning into a possible service break.
  5. Poach. It’s not always feasible to immediately rush the net during doubles play. This is especially true for baseliners who tend to get involved in long, crosscourt rallies. When both baseline players are rallying with one another, the net players can attempt to poach—where they crossover the middle and volley the ball out of the air. This strategy requires good timing and observation, as trying too soon can psyche out your partner, and trying too late can sink the ball into the net.
  6. Fake-out your opponent. If you’re known to be a net player who poaches, your opponents will anticipate your move more often. Switch it up by faking out your opponent—when the ball bounces on their side, take a big step toward the center, like you’re about to try poaching their shot. This approach can apply pressure to the other players, or force them to change their course and try lobbing or a down-the-line shot, which—if your doubles partner is expecting it—can help you establish control of the point.
  7. Hit to their weakness. Most players have a weaker groundstroke. For the majority of players, it’s their backhand. Keeping your shots away from the other players’ forehands can help, especially if they’re returning your service. If all the players are right-handed, aim down the “T” (where the center service line and horizontal service line meet perpendicularly). If the returner is left-handed, serve out wide to their backhand.
  8. Try the I-formation. The I-formation entails the server standing close to the center mark at the baseline, while the net player stands towards the center line’s “T.” Only the server knows where the net player will move after the service, which can throw off your opponent’s return.
  9. Try the Australian formation. Similar to the I-formation, the Australian formation has both players stand on the same side of the court, leaving the other half of the court completely open. You should only use this formation when your opponent has a weak down-the-line return or keeps hitting winners on their crosscourt returns.

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