The rules of tennis doubles are the same as they are for singles. The differences are the sidelines, service order and certain restrictions on where you can stand on the court when you are a receiver. The other differences between singles and doubles are mostly strategic. People who play tennis in the United States follow the rules of the United States Tennis Association, and that organization follows the International Tennis Federation rules.
Tennis is scored “love,” “15,” “30” and “40.” Once you win four points, you win a game, unless you tie the score at 40. In that case, the score would be "deuce." You would need to win by two points. If you are serving and win the next point, the score would be “ad-in.” If you lose the next point, the score would be “ad-out.” If you win the point after ad-in, you win the game. If you lose the point after ad-in, the game goes back to deuce.
Winning a Set and Match
You need to win six games by a margin of two to win a set. If the score becomes 6 to 5, you play another game. If it becomes 7 to 5, the team with seven games wins the set. If the score goes to 6 to 6, you play a tiebreaker. The first team to get seven points with a margin of two wins the tiebreaker. If the tiebreaker goes to 7 to 6, play another point. If the score becomes 8 to 6, the team with eight points wins the tiebreaker and the set, which is scored 7 to 6. If the tiebreaker is 7 to 6 and the score becomes 7 to 7, you would continue play until one team wins by two points. You win a match by winning two out of three sets.
Sides and Boundaries
Before you begin play, you and your partner need to decide which of you will play the deuce, or right, side of the court and which will play the ad, or left, side. Your opponents must also do this. You must receive the serve on your designated side throughout the set. You may change sides at the beginning of the next set. During the point, however, you may cross over the center line to hit a ball. Your partner would typically switch sides with you as you cross over. When the point ends, you must begin the next point on your designated side. Doubles tennis uses the doubles sidelines and ignores the singles sidelines. The doubles court is 4.5 feet wider on each side than the singles court. If a ball hits anywhere inside the court, on any part of the line or outside of the line, the ball is good.
Toss a coin or spin a racket to determine who serves first. If your team opts to serve first, discuss with your doubles partner which one of you will serve the first game. You need to keep that order for the entire set. So, if you serve the first game, one member from the opposing team serves the second game. Your partner serves the third game, and the person from the opposing team who has not yet served serves the fourth game. If anyone makes a mistake during the set and serves out of order, as soon as anyone recognizes the mistake, the correct server must resume serving the rest of the game. You may change the service order at the beginning of each set.
Playing Out Points
The server starts from the deuce side and gets two chances to serve a ball into the deuce service box on the other end. If the ball hits the net, however, and bounces into the correct service box, a let is called, which means that serve doesn’t count. The opponent on the deuce side is the only player who can return the ball, and she must do so after one bounce. The next point is played with the server serving from the ad court. Players change ends at the end of the first game and after every odd-numbered game throughout the match.
The main difference between doubles and singles is net play. Doubles is often played mainly at the net. After a ball has been served and returned, either partner can hit the next ball. Successful doubles teams have active net players who like to poach, cross over to the other side. When you poach, you cut off a ball that is going crosscourt to your partner. This can effectively put the ball away, ending the point.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.