Doubles strategies for partners of disparate skill levels?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by pushitgood, Jun 28, 2013.

  1. pushitgood

    pushitgood New User

    May 8, 2012
    Say you have a 3.0 and a 4.0 playing together. What formations, strategies or tactics tend to work best? Are there any simple things that the 3.0 can be taught to do in a relatively short amount of time, so that they can be an asset to the team rather than a liability? The 4.0 is fit and has good court coverage, but doesn't have superhuman speed.
  2. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Mar 31, 2008
    Depends on what they do well, but I tend to put the weaker player at net as
    much as possible unless they just really can't volley. That way they get a chance
    to do good, but shouldn't cause too much trouble. If you come to net with
    them, the other team will just hit at them or lob, but if you stay back, then
    often they have to avoid a net man who is close to net, which leads you to
    get most of the balls. By getting most of the balls to the better player, gives
    you a hitter's chance to move them around and force some errors.
    No great way to cover a weak player, but this is really the only way to have a

    Sometimes the weaker player has solid groundstrokes, so then your options open up
    more, but they still they will go for the weak player anytime they need
    points. :-?
  3. ericwong

    ericwong Rookie

    Mar 5, 2004
    Not to sound bias but it is challenging to partner players who do not know how to play the doubles' game or do not have dependable bread-and-butter strokes .

    As far as I try, I will make a conscious effort to understand what my weaker partner can do and try to setup points to his/her favour.
  4. samarai

    samarai Rookie

    Jun 23, 2011
    Not much u can do sometimes. Pinning them at the net is probably the best bet to cut out angles. When I play with an older gentleman who has limited mobility, I pin him at the net and I cover the other 3/4 of the court standing near baseline. U really cant play 2 up because they will either topspin your partner out or just lob over him.
  5. pushitgood

    pushitgood New User

    May 8, 2012
    Thanks for the replies. These are helpful, and there seems to be a general consensus that 1-up, 1-back works best in this scenario. So what do you do when the weaker player serves or has to return? Do you play double back and ask the weaker player to move to net? How do you get them to transition if a cross-court rally gets started off of the serve or the return? As the stronger partner, where do you position yourself in these particular instances?
  6. SmilinBob

    SmilinBob Rookie

    May 28, 2013
    I have a lot of trouble playing doubles with people that don't play a lot of doubles. Here's my 15-second lesson when playing doubles with somebody I don't know. Two rules:

    1) Get. To. The. Net.

    2) Volley right down the middle of the court.

    Getting both players to the net makes winning points in doubles much easier. The better player will likely have to cover more court laterally, but at the very least even a lesser player can figure out to "follow the ball" to their left and right to cover court at the net. I've seen people improve their serve substantially by serving-and-volleying (a requisite to getting to the net in doubles) simply because it forces the toss further in to the court, a common issue many have on serve. Don't play right on top of the net as you'll need to chase lobs, but a few well-placed, firm overheads will force the other team into making sure lobs get plenty deep.

    Having the weaker partner play to the center of the court lets you command the opponent's side of the court. The other team will have to play tight in response to your partner's shots which will open up angles and the alleys for you. You're also letting the 3.0 play percentage tennis and at the very least, force the other team to hit another ball while minimizing mistakes from your side of the net.

    You'll have to feel out each other a little bit when you get into more details, such as chip-and-charge returns, cross-court ground strokes, poaching, serve positioning, etc. I have found that you need playing time to figure all that stuff out. The two rules above work well right out of the gate.
  7. travlerajm

    travlerajm Hall of Fame

    Mar 14, 2006
    Most important rule for the the 3.0:

    Get to net! And when your partner is also at net, stay 6-ft closer to the net than your partner. This will give the opponents a reason not to pick on you.

    If you still find most of the balls coming to you, then either you are not close enough to the net or your partner is too close to the net.
  8. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

    Jun 24, 2009
    At Large
    One mistake to be wary of is the attitude that I see a lot around the club that the 3.0 defers every ball to the 4.0 unless it's right to him or in his alley. You still have to play as a team. If you're both at the net and it's right down the middle, yes the 4.0 should take that one - but if the 4.0 is serving (and coming in behind it) and the 3.0 is at the net, the 3.0 should be looking to take anything that comes across the middle because he still has better position to do so.

    Other common mistake you see is either player trying to do too much. The 4.0 may start overhitting to compensate for the weaker 3.0 player, or the 3.0 player may try to play up to the level of the 4.0 player. Sometimes this happens simultaneously.
  9. DirtBaller4

    DirtBaller4 Rookie

    May 30, 2013
    Norwalk, CT
    Good thread!

    I have joined a cheap club for the summer and it seems like it's mostly 3.0-3.5 players so I usually end up with a 3.0 to offset the difference and it can be VERY frustrating!

    This one guy came up and he looked impressive physically, like he could really crush the ball. Then I saw his strokes, and my sails were instantly deflated. He was having a very hard time getting ANYTHING over the net! He told me he had a stronger backhand side, which is not to be confused with actually having a backhand.

    The only games we won were on my serve and it was a sorry fest from my partner the entire night.

    I think I am going back to my old club, you get what you pay for I guess.
  10. user92626

    user92626 Legend

    Jan 27, 2008
    How do you guys deal with a guy who swings hard at everything?

    He always swings hard and inevitably goes way out of form and destroys the point. When a shot makes it in, it has 50% chance of being a winner, but it's so rare that a shot goes in it's impossible for me to win a set with him.

    I'm sure he's very aware of his partners' disdain for his "style" but he hasn't changed one bit. One time one guy just quietly picked up his bag and walked away in the middle of a game.
  11. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    Have him hit with topspin.
  12. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

    Nov 19, 2010
    Just have fun.
  13. ericwong

    ericwong Rookie

    Mar 5, 2004
    Wow...I can relate most of later posts. It is hard to play a good game of doubles when your partner is not up to par or at least be aware of the game point. I have partnered players who tried to be somebody but end up nobody, do things ONLY THEY feel is right and self-righteous with their choice of technique or form, which , most of the time , is wrong or inappropriate. Often, I do not demand much from my partner but I felt they must be aware of the situation and play the point.
  14. Nostradamus

    Nostradamus G.O.A.T.

    Nov 30, 2011
    In the future
    You have to dominate your service games by serving big and lights out. and on the return games, you have to play smart and have your partner put everything in play even if it is ALL Lob returns and make opponents play every point hard.
    and on your partner's serve, be distruptive and don't worry about getting passed in your alley. You just have to accept few clean passes into your alley. Stretegy is your poach and fake poaches will win more points and help your partner hold than getting passed clean into your alley.

    No matter how you look at it, you are going to work 3 times more than your partner. so come ready to work hard on every point and fresh legs. That is why it isn't fair to play with partner that is much weaker than you.
  15. millardus

    millardus Rookie

    May 20, 2011
    @goran_ace and everyone, I had a 4.5 level doubles on Tuesday in my Summer league. I play 2nd team at my club, and my partner for the day is someone I used to play with in the 3rd team couple years ago. It was a painful experience :-(

    My Spanish friend and regular hitting partner played with our strongest player, I set the pairs up because my Spanish friend has not played any doubles this season so I thought he might need carrying. They won both their matches, one in 3 sets and one in straight sets. My partner may not have much practise, but he hits good shots and is forceful.

    The guy I played with, has a reputation for being very good at the net, but that is a misrepresentation:

    - he is only 40, very fit, runs marathons, is reasonably strong.......but he chips everything. He has never, in all the time I have known him these 3 years, dared to drive a backhand in a match.
    - his forehand and backhand return are chipped, 75% of forehands were chipped!
    - His serve is atrocious, he recognises this.
    - His volleys are good, but ONLY his defensive ones. He NEVER punches a volley away, he just taps it back. After 2 or 3 goes, the opposition hit through us. He has very good reflexes, but I suspect this is because he is ALWAYS in defence mode.
    - He has an awesome smash, best in our club probably... ....but only gets given 5 or 6 chances to use it all night at this level. We had a strong 4.5 15 year old against us in the second pair, and he hit soo many excellent backhand topspin lobs OVER my partner. At this level, a tapped volley with no pace on it, just gets dealt with.

    Essentially, we got absolutely bullied. If I hit a forceful return to the toes of the oppo, and they pop it up, my partner taps it back and the point starts over. Even EASY EASY EASY put away volleys, he taps it back.

    He is the most ultra conservative player and person, and it seems he will walk off court happy if he can say *I didn't miss many*....but the point is he gets the first volley ball back and at the same time sets the oppo up to have yet another crack. They wont miss these things whereas at the third team level he can just about get by against half of those teams.

    it's almost as if he passes ALL responsibility onto his partner to finish points. It was soo frustrating.

    I think I lost my serve twice all night out of 9. He won his serve twice out of 9.

    I understand his serving problems, but to be soo ultra conservative on the volley, which is apparently his best weapon, is baffling.

    We did not have a chance.

    I don't have to play with him much, so it's not a problem, but I just cannot get my head around someone who CAN be soo much more forceful, and chooses not to.
  16. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    Most doubles sets, I'm paired with the slowest moving, weakest hitter of the foursome. That's life.
    You have to hit YOUR best shots, hoping your opponent's, while picking on your partner, don't hit a lucky good reply to your partner.
    When partner is bunting soft sitters to the middle of opponent's court, you have to try to take away the middle, while covering your own alley somewhat. Since you partner is feeding softies to the middle (lacking depth) of opponent's court, you cannot just poach with aplomb.
    And when your partner cannot put away an overhead from 5' behind the net, you have to cover 3/4 of the court to fetch the replies.
    More patience, more work, less fun, until it's over, and by some lucky, unusual planatary alignment, your team somehow managed to escape defeat.
    Paired with a weak hitting, worse of the foursome, your only goal is to get a few games, as losing is a foregone conclusion against any pair of middling players.
  17. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

    Sep 27, 2011
    I guess it's cathartic to vent, but I have to say my doubles got a lot better when I realized I could only control what I did. It's pointless to allow yourself to become annoyed or distracted during a match by what your partner does. Let's face it, you aren't that much better, or you wouldn't be playing with them.

    It's poisonous to a team if one member takes on the role of on-court coach or critic, unless they are clearly a full level or more better, and even then, the less said, the better. It's particularly offensive if one member starts eye rolling or sighing or worse after their partner misses easy shots. I just watched the Wimbledon doubles semi's with the Bryan borthers and you know what? Both teams missed their share of relatively easy shots, yet I saw nothing but positive encouragement. That's what leads to winning, not fault finding.
  18. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    Well, you lose or win as a team, so almost any critique is not a good thing.
    Post 17 is right on, and whether you enjoy it or not, it's part of tennis that most of us eventually have to go through.

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