We’ve always been taught that in doubles, the best strategy is to have both partners ending up at the net. This is mostly true, and I say mostly because there will be times when that strategy can actually cost you the match.
The advantages when both players are at net:
- Both players coming in to the net puts immediate pressure on your opponents. They will be forced to either hit a winning lob or passing shot, or beat you from the baseline. You and your partner, on the other hand, are in the perfect position to put away floaters and short lobs.
- Being at the net allows you to take time away from your opponents, since the distance between you and your opponents is shorter. This shorter distance means that the ball will come back to them more quickly, forcing them to think fast under pressure.
- It’s all in the math… geometry, that is. Yes, geometry does apply to tennis. The closer you are to the net, the better the angles you can hit, which increases your chances of winning the point.
Both players at the net is a great way to control the points, however, you need to to make sure you don’t rush the net too quickly or come in too close to the net or each other. Coming in too soon can get you caught in no-man’s land, struggling to return a ball that landed at your feet; coming in too close to each other (more toward the middle of the court) leaves your alleys open to passing shots, and coming in too close to the net can either make you target practice for a heavy hitter or a sitting duck for a lobber. If you find yourself getting pounded at the net, take a step or two back. You’ll still be up at net, but you’ll have more reaction time to hit a better return. And always keep an eye on your opponent as they prepare their racket to see if you can anticipate the lob. This helps you be mentally prepared to hustle back if you need to.
While taking the net is key to winning matches in doubles tennis, there will be occasions when that strategy can work against you and even cost you the match. Occasionally (especially in, but not limited to lower level leagues) you’ll come across opponents that consistently lob every time you come in; in cases like this, the staggered formation is the best option, as you won’t have to keep hustling back every point and risk hitting an error with an awkward return on the run. Typically, those players have a limited shot selection and little to no real weapons in their arsenal and therefore rely on soft shots like the lob to frustrate and wear out their opponents to help them win matches.
Now when I say “staggered”, I don’t mean one up at the net and the other back near the baseline. That would leave a huge gap up the middle for your opponents to hit cross court winners. Instead, have one player close to the net, and the other near the service line (but NOT in no-man’s land!)
The advantages when both players are staggered:
- By not being exactly next to each other at the net, you won’t hit your rackets together on balls driven up the middle.
- The player at the net can aggressively play the middle on balls to the inside.
- The player at the service line can take balls up the middle if their partner is covering the line, and can better react to both the short and deep lobs.
Playing doubles is great fun, whether your game is highly competitive or relaxed social. Use these strategies, and win more matches — and it’s always more fun when you win!
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