Playing doubles in tennis is like country music or coffee, you either love it or you don't.
Basically, there are four things that make playing doubles challenging for some tennis players:
- There are more distractions,
- Doubles usually plays faster,
- You need (or should have) a complete game and
- Sometimes there is a fear of getting hit with a tennis ball.
Here are some suggestions to help make playing doubles more fun.
Of course, we all learned the game playing singles. We alone covered the court and decided when to play offensive, neutral or defensive tennis. With another person on our side of the net and on the other side, there are certainly more distractions and more split-second decisions that must be made.
Practicing with your partner before a match is certainly a good idea. You must communicate and make some decisions ahead of time, for example: who will serve first for your team? What side should I play on? Who will be more aggressive going for balls hit down the middle of the court? Should we try other formations, such as Australian or two up or two back? Will we use hand signals?
Making these decisions ahead of time, well before your match if possible, will let you focus more on your opponents when you meet them. During the warm-up, you and your partner must both pay attention and identify their weaker player, your opponent's stronger and weaker shots and formulate a game plan.
I feel it is always best to set the tone and be aggressive right from the start of the match. Keep points short and focus on winning your service games. Fast hands certainly helps at the net. Keep your racket up and have a firm neutral grip so that you can easily deflect, or punch back, a ball that comes into your backhand or forehand volley zone. If you are playing at the net, your target, most of the time, would be your opponent's feet. Even if your shot is not hit that hard, there is a good chance that your opponent will pop-up the ball for an easy put-away for you or your partner.
If you have some fear about getting hit by the ball, you can play farther back from the net until you get used to doubles and have more confidence in your volleys. Another thing I tell my singles and doubles students about going to the net, is to assume the ball is going to come right at your face — with that thought in mind, you will be prepared if that happens and if/when it doesn't, you can move diagonally toward the ball for your volley.
There is a common saying in tennis that "you volley with your feet," which is largely true because little to no back swing is needed to make a crisp volley. A slightly tighter grip on your racket and firm wrist will help you to meet and direct the ball where you want it to go.
Having a good, all-around game will certainly help you to be a good partner too. It is good to practice lobs and over-head smashes regularly. One sure way to get your partner mad at you is to be sending up weak or short lobs. Your lobs should be just out of your opponent's reach, so they do not have time to run around them and they should land deep in their back court.
Most players do not practice their overhead-smash shot enough. This really should be your favorite shot, but many students tell me they dread it when they see a lob coming. That is an obvious indication that you need to practice. You want your opponent's to lob, this indicates that you are playing aggressively, and since most players do not practice their lobs often enough either, your team will be presented with many point-ending opportunities —provided that you can hit a good overhead smash.
I have a top 10 list with more doubles tips for serious players. Send me an email and I will be happy to send it to you.