Doubles tennis incorporates all the basics of singles, such as serving, volleying and hitting ground strokes, but it emphasizes different aspects of strategy because two people share the court, with at least one almost always at or near the net. You can improve your doubles game by improving your technique, strategy or both.
Find a tennis pro and take some lessons on doubles play, along with your partner. A pro can teach you effective doubles strategy and technique, and can run you and your partner through common match scenarios so you'll be ready for anything when you hit the court. If in doubt, choose a pro who's certified by the U.S. Professional Tennis Association.
Communicate with your partner before the match, to set your general strategy, and before each point when you’re serving. Your partner should know where you’re going to serve the ball so she can anticipate where it’s likely to be returned. Also prepare concise signals for use during rallies. If you’re going to play a shot that’s hit between you and your partner, for example, you might yell “mine.”
Take the proper position for the serve. Players typically serve from a wider position in doubles than in singles, since they’ll only have to cover about half the court when the serve is returned. The returner should likewise position herself to cover a wide serve. The server’s partner should position herself according to where the serve will be hit. For example, if your partner plans to serve wide from the deuce court, set up closer to the sideline to your left. If the serve is going up the middle, shade more toward the middle of the court.
Work as a team, with each individual playing to her strengths. If one player has a better overhand smash, for example, let her handle high lobs hit in the middle of the court, between the two players.
Focus more on precise ball placement and less on raw power, since it’s more difficult to hit successful passing shots when you’re trying to beat two players. Use the extra width of the doubles court to hit sharp-angle shots. Try to hit at an opponent’s feet, forcing her to hit a shorter, softer return.
Be aware of the opponents’ positioning. For example, when one opponent is at the net while the other is playing deeper in the court, hit the ball toward the deeper player whenever possible.
Move up to the net as quickly as possible. Having two well-positioned players at the net typically doesn’t give the opposing team much room to hit a winner. Remember to take advantage of the wider court and angle your volleys sharply whenever possible.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.