Although doubles tennis has a lot of things in common with singles tennis, in many ways it’s an entirely different animal. There are certain elements of doubles tennis that require a completely different approach to strategy and tactics, and many times what works well in singles tennis might not work at all on the doubles court. One of the biggest differences between singles and doubles tennis strategy is how the net is played.
While there are many singles tennis players who have achieved success without a strong serve-and-volley game, it’s almost impossible to consistently win in doubles tennis without learning how to control the net. A doubles team that is skilled at controlling the net will have far more opportunities to win points versus a duo that is sloppy or unskilled at net play. If you and your partner are ready to take your doubles game to the next level, keep the following tips in mind to help you successfully control the net.
Pay attention to serve placement.
It has often been said that the serve is the most important shot in tennis, primarily because it’s the only shot over which you have complete control. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to the placement of your serve, as it will have everything to do with whether or not your team will be able to move into a position to control the net. While serving out wide is quite effective in singles play, it can spell trouble on the doubles court. It is a much wiser tactical move to place your serves hard down the middle, as this will close off many of the angles that the returner can use. Not only does this create more poaching opportunities for your partner at the net, but, if hit hard enough, it can also result in a block-back return which is usually a slower, higher and shorter ball which makes for a great approach shot.
Be quick to join your partner at the net.
At the beginning of a point, the typical doubles arrangement is to have one player at the baseline and the other one at the net. If you’re the baseline player, be patient and wait for the approach shot, and then be quick to join your partner at the net once the ball is in play. With two players in position at the net, it makes it very difficult for the opposing team to pull off any passing shots, mainly because there are fewer open spaces for them to “sneak” the ball through. Try and force an approach shot by hitting the ball deep and with lots of topspin. This will not only pin your opponent back behind the baseline but it will also increase the distance that the opponent will have to hit the ball back over the net, often producing a shorter shot that you can attack and come in on.
Work on improving your overhead shot.
When both players are up at the net, it’s almost inevitable that the opposing team will fire off some lobs to get you out of position. This is where it becomes important to know how to hit a good, solid overhead smash. You can approach this one of two ways:
- Execute the overhead shot at a sharp angle (which often opens up the court for a follow-up overhead smash if the ball gets returned), or
- Drill it straight down the middle between the two opposing players.
**DON’T aim for your opponent’s feet with an overhead because you might actually them…and it will hurt…and that would just make you look (and feel) bad for the rest of the match.
Hit to the weaker player whenever possible.
Positioning yourself at the net already communicates the fact that you’re in attack mode, but you can take it a step further by consistently hitting to the weaker player. Not only should you play the weaker player, but you should also attack that player’s weak side as often as possible.
Some of the best doubles tennis pros in the world (think the Bryan brothers) are masters at controlling the net because they know that this one vital element is the secret to winning in doubles tennis. Remember these tips to help you and your partner boost the effectiveness of your doubles game, and win more matches!