Doubles Basics - help please

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by ProgressoR, Jun 10, 2013.

  1. ProgressoR

    ProgressoR Hall of Fame

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    OK so I have started to play some league matches and its all doubles, which I haven't played much.

    Its a men's team so no mixed doubles.

    What tends to happen with very few exceptions is there is a cross court rally with the other two players at the net watching till something happens which is one player normally misses a shot or hits a weak shot.

    When I am at the net I really want to get involved and think about poaching but feel its not really done at our rec/low club level....

    Also no server ever comes to the net after their serve - surely we CAN do this?

    And if I am in involved in the cross court rally, what options to do I have? It seems I can either carry on hitting CC or go for a lower % shot like DTL or hit straight at the net guy.

    And people stand in funny places to serve, should I consider this or just serve from where I normally do in singles?


    All help appreciated
     
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  2. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    To (heavily) simplify, doubles is about out-wide well placed serve and poaching at the net in the hole between the two returners. Not fast even it if helps, but wide slice/kick gets the job done more than often. There you go.

    Anyway, you can still watch the doubles formations videos by Y. Auzoux at 5thSet.
    https://www.youtube.com/user/FifthSetIntl/search?query=doubles+formation

    There's also the archive of Operation Doubles. The owner passed away, but the content fortunately is still there.
    http://web.archive.org/web/20071023034536/www.operationdoubles.com/od-tennis_content.htm
     
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  3. tennisturtle

    tennisturtle New User

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    I find it useful to talk to my doubles partner on when to poach when he is serving. Giving hand signals to tell your partner that you are poaching either on the first or second serve so that your partner can prepare himself for any surprise DTL shots.
     
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  4. tennis_ocd

    tennis_ocd Hall of Fame

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    Endless strategies but.... poaching is the game of doubles. Some may get a bit upset with lower level play but so be it. Typically deep, center serves in deuce court (returner's bh, net player fh). A winning doubles team will have a player applying steady pressure with CC rally balls and an active net player looking for the attackable reply.

    You can and perhaps should but this leaves, imo, the beginning double's team more vulnerable. Rushing player must be able to volley while moving up and handle a short half-volley. Lobs become deadly if you don't have good overheads. Nothing wrong with staying back as you learn doubles but mix it up.

    Ideally you should be pushing the ball deeper until depth and/or center reply gets net player involved for kill. Hit at net guy to keep him in place if he gets too active.

    As a baseline, go a couple steps wider to cover you're side of the court. Returns will be wider to avoid net player.
     
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  5. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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  6. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Very basic doubles stratagems:

    1. When your partner serves, get 1/2 way tween service line and net and always move 1 to 2 steps to follow his serve. If serve is wide, take a step toward the alley. If serve is middle take a step toward the middle. Also, move diagonally forward. This positions you better to protect the alley on wide serves and to pick off weak returns up the middle. Don't ever stand still when your partner serves - there should always be a step or 2 of movement.
    2. When you are at the net and your partner is back, ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN REACH IS YOURS. The player making contact closes to the net has the right away to the ball and don't be shy about crossing. If you miss, forget it and cross again.
    3. When you serve and stay back, try to hit deep and CC to setup your partner with a weak reply that they can pick off. If you opponent hits short, hit an approach shot to the opposing deep player and come to net. Two up puts pressure on your opponents.
    4. If an opponent has an excellent CC return, play Australian to force them to hit DTL. Also, you can use Australian to protect a weakness. Example: R handed server with a weak BH can play Australian when serving to the add court to get more returns hit to his forehand.
    5. If opponents both come him, drive it with topspin down the middle or lob over the their head.
    6. Number 5 is the "basic" strategy, but mix in an occasionally DTL to keep them honest.
    7. If opponent has a weak 2nd serve, hit a good return and come in behind it. A "good" return would be 1. a deep CC drive, 2. a deep CC slice, 3. a short CC chip with some bite on it, or 4. a CC drop shot but the dropper is a bit more advanced and a short CC chip with some bite is easier to do.
    8. Learn to serve and volley and mix it into your service games. In practice, try to come in behind all 1st serves for 2 games. Then when you need to use it in a league match, you'll have some confidence.

    These are just a few. Doubles requires a lot more variety with the ability to hit a lot of shots.
     
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  7. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Serving: I like to stand just inside the singles sideline in a doubles setting, so that I'm more or less right in the middle of that cross-court lane where a typical return would come back across the net.

    It's not too smart to hug the center of the court for serving because is gives away a big chunk of open court out toward the sideline - which has an extra 4.5 feet tacked on in the form of the alley. Think about defending the width of the court with your partner and you'll do a better job of denying your opponents many openings.

    Learning to get to the net behind your serve will make you a much more capable doubles fiend. This includes developing a deep volley that you hit from back around your own service line along with a solid half-volley that you control off a short hop. Place either of these shots deep in the far end and you'll be able to move forward in better control of the action.

    You'll also give yourself more time to get forward behind your serve if you hit a somewhat slower spin serve instead of a heater. That will afford you time to get an extra step toward the net before the ball is on the way back to you.

    Poaching: The only reason it's not really done at your level is because you don't do it. As long as you and your partner understand the value (and necessity) of poaching, you should be able to cover each other just fine without even having to call "switch". When the player up at the net crosses over to go after a ball, the partner who is further back should know enough to get over to the other side and cover that open side. Talk this over so that you're on the same page - you'll be able to make a lot more trouble for the other guys.

    If you want to get out of that one-up/one-back cross court rally, there are a couple of options to consider. You can lob the net man in front of you and move forward as long as your lob is deep and forces either a retreat or a switch on their part.

    My preference though, is the low cross court slice that lands up near their service line. That shot forces the deep opponent to scramble forward and scoop that low ball up. As long as you move in behind your short slice, you and your partner will be in prime position to drive this ball down through their socks. Don't overcommit forward or it will be too easy for opponents to lob over you.

    The low ball is generally a very good thing in doubles. Even when an opposing team is together at the net, a low ball (waist height or lower) will deny them much of a drive, especially compared with a singles "rally ball" that's up around shoulder or head height. Learn to keep your shots low until you force the other guys to hit up and serve your team a free lunch.

    Oops - hope I didn't echo too many of CJC's tips...
     
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  8. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Professional

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    One thing that helps me is to conciously target my opponents' weaknesses when serving. I don't think about hitting my favorite serve. I think about making them hit their least favorite return.

    The more you target their weaknesses, the more weak returns you get to put away.
     
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  9. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    One up and one back tennis generally works until you play a team that plays two up. So try coming in off the serve or return. When you are moving in, don't think that you are trying to get to the net. Instead, think of getting to the service line and looking for a high/slow ball that you can hit forcefully at the net playing opponent. Being at the service line makes in really hard for the opponents to lob over your head and sets you up close enough to run down lobs over your partner's head.

    Also, there will be a lot of space between the opponents, and you should try to aim between this space for winners, if possible.

    With poaching, you are either waiting for a good ball to hit (the ball hit down the middle) or you have to leave a little earlier (such as after the ball bounces on the other side but right before the opponent hits). Try this second type of poaching when you see a ball that will be hard for the opponent to return (your partner hit a good shot!) or the ball is in the middle of the court and got passed the netman (because it will be difficult for the opponent to pass down the line). Do not poach when the ball is hit very wide because you are leaving too much space for a passing shot.

    Well, those are you directional options, but you can also vary height/depth of the ball (such as using lobs or short ball). Overall, I find that it is often best to think of keeping the ball low as possible, so I hit lower, shorter shots. If I can force a ball to be hit up and over the net, that is a shot my partner or I can slam.

    You should go down the line every few points to keep the netmen honest, and I often hit at netmen who poach a lot (basically, I hit at them becaause they never stay at their original position).

    The real purpose of standing wide for the serve (about halfway between the center and the corner) is to cover the angle of returns. If you start too close to the center, you won't be able to get to many crosscourt returns. If you are standing too far wide, your opponents may hit winners down the middle.
     
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  10. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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  11. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Yep, that's a fact...

    ...but isn't that a cue to improve your volley skills? A doubles team (or player) can be temporarily restricted in tactics due to current skills or the lack thereof. If you're a 3.5ish doubles team and you want to get better, work on your serve and return, the two most important shots in tennis, in that order. Improvement in those two areas is generally going to lead to new possibilities, such as but not limited to the ability to get to the net and finish points there...
     
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  12. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    ... which is true enough but the OP was not "what should we work on moving forward to improve our future doubles?"

    Two back is a legit strategy in the Modern game, especially given the overall better than average groundstroke prowess (compared to overall volley skills) in the greater tennis community. This is amplified among youthful players.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
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  13. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Lots of good advice here, so I'll mention what you can do when partner and opponent are in an endless crosscourt rally.

    You have to observe what kind of ball your partner hit. If your partner hit a crap ball (short, nothing on it), don't take off to poach.

    What you are looking for is a ball your partner hits that is likely to elicit a defensive reply. Depth is a good thing to watch for. If your partner blasts a ball to the baseline, splitstep and then go. Your opponent is likely just hoping to keep the rally going and is unlikely to try a DTL winner off of that ball.

    Also good is when an opponent is running to their BH side.

    Also good is when an opponent is hitting up on a ball because your partner drilled it to their shoes.

    DO NOT turn and watch your partner during these crosscourt rallies!!! The reason is that you have to be paying close attention to what is going on with your opponents to gauge when they are in trouble.

    If you turn your head and look at your partner, then you will need to swivel back around to gauge the strength of his shot. By the time you do this and decide to poach, you will be late.

    Load your legs, watch, pick your time and go. You will be surprised how many balls you can reach.
     
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  14. athiker

    athiker Hall of Fame

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    Lots of tips so I'll just add one I didn't see, may have missed it, re: the value of poaching.

    Even if you flub a few volleys at the net, being active will get your opponent paying attention to you instead of the ball. That little glance up to see if you are making a move means he/she will make more unforced errors. Even a little fake poach may make him/her try to change ball direction and try a low % shot down the line.

    Watch the Bryan Brothers...they are non-stop motion. Sometimes they poach, sometimes they fake poach, but they are always moving.

    Oh, and as fuzz nation mentioned, don't poach and hop back to your original spot...usually best to poach and "switch"...so keep going to take the other half of the court. Your partner should see you go and flow to the side of the court you vacated. If you don't do this consistently you will likely end up w/ a confused partner and 2 players on one side with the other side open!
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
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  15. corbind

    corbind Professional

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    I know there is debate about serving wide or down the middle. Arguments can be made both ways. As a doubles net man I prefer my partner to serve almost all balls down the middle so I can poach a lot more. But at lower levels serve to their weakness (typically returner's BH).

    FIRST SERVE. Don't bring your Roddick 140mph fire ball -- get the darn thing in. You don't want to be hitting second serves all that often. Get that serve in with some spin giving you margin for error and get your body closer to the net.

    Returns. I don't care what stroke you use -- just get it by that net player! In singles you'll typically bash the fur off the ball with your godly topspin prowess. In doubles you can slice it just fine as long as it gets past that pesky net person waiting to poach anything you screw up.

    Doubles is a slower, thinking game NOT about power and bashing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
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  16. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Interesting.

    I would have said doubles is a thinking game that rewards aggression.

    To me, doubles is anything but slow. After all, it does take singles players much longer to finish a match.
     
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  17. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Professional

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    Same here. I always refer to it as intelligent aggression. Try to either hit a shot or move into a position that forces your opponent to hit a difficult shot, then pounce on anything weak and put it away at the net.
     
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  18. ProgressoR

    ProgressoR Hall of Fame

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    thanks guys some excellent advice!

    I am making notes of it and will be looking to bring it into my game.

    I am determined to come to net after my first serves and try to make the whole thing more fun and also its my strength (the serve). And I just enjoy coming to the net, it feels right.

    Thanks again all.
     
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  19. corbind

    corbind Professional

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    I did a poor job of wording it (doubles being slow). For the most part players don't hit nearly as hard (hit more slowly) in doubles compared to singles. We can attribute it to there being a heck of a lot more volleys or half-volleys or that there are two people guarding the other side so shots need to be more precise. Agreed singles players take longer as they sit back and bash from the baseline.
     
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