Can playing doubles tennis really help your singles game?
Just look at the well-rounded skills of players such as John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, and Venus and Serena Williams, and you’ll see that indeed, there are quite a few advantages that can be gained by playing doubles tennis.
So, how exactly does playing doubles tennis improve your singles game? Simply put, it will improve:
The major components of your singles game.
Playing doubles tennis is a great way to sharpen the major components of your singles game: the serve, return, and volley. Your serve will improve because you’ll become more conscious of accuracy, which takes precedence over power in doubles tennis. The accuracy of your return of serve will also improve, because doubles tennis allows for a much smaller margin of error in terms of the amount of court area you have to work with. You’ll also start viewing your serve in terms of how it can help you set up for a nice attack shot on your opponent’s return. For volleys, your hand speed and instinct will improve as you learn how to respond to close-range bullet shots from your opponent.
Your net skills.
Many singles players avoid the net because, well… it’s intimidating and oftentimes, makes you doubt your net skills. With doubles tennis, net play is far more common, and it will force you to come out of your shell by requiring you to become more aggressive. The more you practice closing the net, the more confident you’ll become, and eventually you’ll approach the net with fearlessness in your volleys and overheads.
Your shot selection and placement.
Doubles tennis requires you to work within constrained spaces–after all, there are three other people on the court besides you, and this greatly diminishes the available court area for your shots. Working within these restrictive limits will force you to become much more creative with your shot selection and placement. You’ll be forced to seek out creative angles, and you’ll pay more attention to the importance of using speed and finesse at the proper times.
Your transition game.
By this, I mean those movements and shots you execute as you’re approaching the net… the approach shots. Martina Navratilova and the Williams sisters are masters (mistresses..?) of the transition game in singles, and no doubt their extensive experience in doubles tennis has played a huge part in developing this important skill set.
Most of us have seen doubles matches where rapid-fire exchanges of volleys happen between the two teams at the net, and the ball looks like it’s bouncing around inside of an imaginary pinball machine. These types of shots require ultra-quick reflexes and exceptional hand-eye coordination, and they are far more common in doubles tennis than in singles. Practicing these shots in your doubles game will sharpen your reflexes, which will help your singles game as well.
Your tactical thinking.
Playing doubles tennis will DEFINITELY improve your tennis IQ. You’ll be forced to think on your feet a lot more, because there’s a lot more happening around you in a doubles match. Just think about it: At any given time, you have to account for the movement of the ball, the movement of the three other players on the court, and your own court positioning. Looking for angles and trying to find the weak spots on your opponents’ side will be paramount. This will force you to think in terms of strategy, and it’ll improve your ability to construct points to your advantage.
If you haven’t yet tried your hand at doubles, the points outlined above should give you plenty of reasons to start now. So, consider adding doubles tennis to your repertoire, and watch your singles game go to a new level!