Doubles tactics – Part 3

Other useful doubles rules and tactics

● Vary direction and height of returns: Most returns will be cross court.  It’s the easiest return because it doesn’t involve changing the direction of the ball plus it’s over the lowest part of the net.  However, if players hit the same return every time, their opponents will soon pick up on this and look to intercept as often they can.  The returner therefore needs to vary his return to keep the net player (server’s partner) on his toes.  He can try passing down the line. Another option is to lob over the net player’s head.  This will cause a “yours”, “mine” situation that’s likely to confuse the opposition.  What’s more, club players generally aren’t very good at smashing because they don’t practice it enough plus as mentioned earlier, they tend to stand too close to the net.   Another option is the short angled return, useful if opponents don’t move very well.  Even if the opponent gets to the ball, there’s a good chance he will hit it up giving the returning team a chance to hit down. 

Vary pace and spins of returns: Another tactic is to take some pace off the return.  Players at this level don’t like softer shots.  The more time people have the more likely they are to make mistakes! When returning a very soft second serve, I tend to encourage people to hit a drop shot.   If they try to hit it hard they tend to over shoot or hit in bottom of the net.  A soft low one with a little bit of angle and a bit of top spin or slice for control is often all it needs.

 ● Intercept when you can hit down:  Ideally you want to intercept when the ball is above the height of the net and you can hit down on it.  However, sometimes intercepting is going to be something of a gamble.  If you’re playing against someone who whacks the ball you may have to make your move before or just as they’re hitting it.  If they’re not a big hitter you can afford to wait until he has made contact.  When you move is dependent on the pace of play.

 ● Avoid confusion down the middle:  I like to say the last person who hit the ball takes the one down the middle. 

● Communicate with your partner: Doubles is a team effort so it’s important to talk with each other between points – discuss tactics, encourage and console.  Communicate during points too with calls such as “me”, “mine”, “yours” or “switch”.

 ● Switch sides after the lob:  If the lob goes over the net player’s head, ideally he should get it on the smash.  If he has a partner at the back of the court and can’t reach it himself, he should call “yours” and then “switch”.  This tells his partner he is going to move to cover the other side.  If he doesn’t move over they’ll be left with both covering the same side of the court!  He should move over and back if the opponents have moved to net after their lob.  He should move over and forwards if the opponents haven’t.

 ● Take pace off the serve:  On the serve direction, depth and getting the first serve in are far more important than pace in doubles.  Having two serves of similar pace is an advantage.  A three quarter pace serve is better than having a big first serve that rarely goes in followed by a push dolly second serve, which you see mainly with the blokes!

Change tactics if necessary: Don’t be afraid to change tactics if you’re losing.  For example, even if you’re not great at volleying, try coming in as it will force your opponents to do something different.

  Move with the ball: As a pair you should move with the ball especially at the net.  For example, if you hit the ball goes wide move over to cover the line.  It’s also important to realise that you and your partner can only cover two thirds of the court – you can’t do it all. Always try to leave the hardest third of the court for your opponents to hit.

  Don’t stand still – move! Don’t stand in the same position for the whole of the rally. Even if you move the wrong way, move.  Change the scenery.  Give your opponents something to think about so that they take their eye off the ball.

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