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Got Doubles Skills? (Part 1)

Post 27 of 40

One of my tennis mentors is Chuck Kriese.  He is the winningest coach in Atlantic Coast Conference history, just to name one of his many accomplishments.  Being a college coach, he really understands the game of doubles.  With his help, I’d like to help you (and your partner) understand the great game of doubles more.  So, today, and for the next few days, I’d like to explore the various responsibilities you and your doubles partner have during a doubles match.  My inspiration for this article comes from Chuck’s book Coaching Tennis, which is one of the best coaching books I’ve ever read—not only one of the best tennis coaching books, but one of the best coaching books period!

Today we’ll look at the Server’s Jobs in doubles.

Job #1:  Make the First Serve

On the first serve the receiver usually thinks defensively, while on the second serve they think offensively.  So ensure you get your first serve in.  It’s okay to through in a “bomb” every now and then, but be careful to keep your first serve percentage high.

Job #2:  Serve to the Middle of the Deuce Court and to the Player’s Body in the Ad Court

The angle of possible return that the receiver has is critical to holding serve in doubles.  Wide serves open up the court for the receiver to hit a sharp angle or to hit the ball down the alley.  In the deuce court, serving to the backhand (that’s assuming your opponent is right handed) of the middle of the court keeps the court closed and allows the net man to poach.  In the ad court, don’t worry that you’ll possibly be serving to your opponent’s forehand; a wide serve to their backhand still makes the alley vulnerable, and it allows for a sharp cross court angle return.  Serve at the body of the receiver and their stroke will be jammed, thus keeping the angles closed.  Smart placement of the serve makes holding serve much easier.

Job #3:  The First Volley Should Go Down the Middle

For the same reasons a wide serve shouldn’t be used very often, so the first volley shouldn’t be angled unless it can be hit for a winner.  Hitting your first volley up the middle will keep the angles closed and prevent your opponents from hitting an offensive shot.  This play will usually result in a return shot up the middle or a lob which would be favored.

Job #4:  Move in as Close to the Net as Possible to Make the First Volley

The difference between hitting a defensive or offensive first volley depends on the server’s ability to get close to the net.  A high floating return can be hit for a winner, while a low return at the servers feet has to be dealt with more conservatively.

Job #5:  The Server Should Assume Responsibility for All First Volleys to Allow the Net Player to be Aggressive

Miscommunication between the server and their partner is the kiss of death.  When the server’s partner starts to poach and then changes their mind, the server is left unprepared to make the volley resulting in a weak volley or lost point.  Miscommunication can be prevented with the simple rule that unless a planned poach is called, the server is responsible for all first volleys.  Then, if the server’s partner rushes across with a swing and a miss, the server is there to back them up.  This enables the net man total freedom to move on any floating ball and makes him a significant threat.

Job #6:  Use the “I” Formation for Change-up

The “I” Formation (or the Australian Formation as it’s sometimes called) is an excellent tactic to use when a receiver is in a groove and not missing returns.  Even if this change doesn’t cause your opponent to miss returns, it may change their groove and possibly the flow of their return confidence.  At the least, it will force the returner to change the direction of the ball in order to go down the line instead of cross court and this change of direction usually causes errors on the service return.

In Part 2 of Got Doubles Skills? we’ll look at the responsibilities of the server’s partner.  Remember, there are no spectators in doubles.

Hopefully, these double strategies will help you and your partner be more successful doubles players, and you’ll enjoy this great game even more.

See you on the courts!


P.S. – Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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