Playing doubles tennis is significantly different than singles tennis, not just having to consider a parter but there are a different set of skills you need to learn for doubles play.
Firstly a decision has to be made who takes the lead side of the court and who is more comfortable in returning the first serve. Perhaps a statistic that may help towards this decision is that at the social level of doubles play, the majority of serves are hit to the outside of the service boxes. This percentage changes quite dramatically at the top levels with the majority of serves being hit directly down the middle.
Two Right Handed Players
If you and your partner are both right handed then it is a good idea that the player with the stronger forehand returns service from the deuce side of court and the better backhanded player takes the advantage side.
Most tennis coaches advise that the stronger player of the pair takes the advantage side of the court, as most of the important points happen on that side of the court. You can’t really win points from the deuce side of the court, and so therefore it makes sense.
Basically though, the players must agree which side of the court they are most comfortable with. Once you have made the call do not worry as you can change it after a set.
The strongest server should definitely serve first, get ahead at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully the other partner has a knack at playing at the net, as this is crucial for putting the opposition under pressure on their return.
Understand both these factors fully before making a decision, who has a stronger serve and who is more of a threat at the net. If both of the players strengths fit in with this plan then all well and good. If not you must decide which player is going to be more valuable to the team and play him in his best position.
Who Looks After The Middle
Basic doubles play states that whichever player is facing the forehand court will handle the down-the-middle return. If the return is a high or slow then this would let in the other player to poach the shot. The player must make a call that he intends to poach so that his partner knows he intends to go for the ball.
If the ball goes into the opponent’s advantage court, both players should move to the right and then the advantage court player covers the middle of the court.
What About The Lob
To make the correct calls regarding playing lobs must be decided at the start, a decision which player goes for the high shots should be agreed. Quite often if this is not agreed at the beginning then there will be confusion who goes for the lob and often mistakes will follow.
Just in case, when a lob goes up then both players should take a couple of steps backward in preparation. This will give both players time should either have to play the shot.
The biggest problem in doubles is confusion, both players must be very clear to each other just who is taking the shot. They key to this is conversation, you must constantly talk to your opponent in between points and during changeovers.
It is important you are coached to play doubles, you and your partner need to talk to a tennis coach on a regular basis to understand all nuances concerned of playing with a partner.
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