Differences -- Doubles vs. Singles players

corbind

Professional
#1
Over the years I'm sure everyone has played both sides of the coin: singles and doubles. Hard to admit but I used to think that tennis is tennis (singles, doubles, whatever). Early in my life I played singles and absolutely hated doubles (who'd want to stand around half the time playing doubles?). Fast forward two decades and now I play doubles most of the time (who'd want to run constantly playing singles?).

Yet now that I've played doubles a ton it's obvious there's a pretty marked difference in the requisite skills to play either side of the coin well. Not slight -- a lot! The court is different. Strategy is different. Skills used, developed, and eventually honed to play well in either game are (at times) opposite of one another! Sure, I know, tennis is tennis and whatever. Yet to play well or be some of the top performers at singles or top doubles performer, well, to me they are most often two different players.

We all have limited time. We can't spend half the time playing doubles and half singles. Or we could and be decent at both. Or simply spend the vast majority of playing either singles or doubles and fine-tune the skills needed to win. Usually I play with guys who are 3.5 to 4.5 so here is what I see in our rec play and on the adjacent courts. Might not be what you see, but hey, your mileage may vary (insert some sort of disclaimer here).

DOUBLES

Skills
  • great net play
  • great half-volleys
  • quick action from the net to the service line
  • serving to the middle
  • hitting to the middle
  • consistently getting serves and returns in (usually at lower speed)
  • coming to the net all the time
  • lot of drop shots/lobs
  • often Eastern to SW for baseline switching to Conti from service line to net
Weaknesses (compared to singles players)
  • mediocre ground strokes
  • not big spin or loopy shots
  • not huge, powerful serves
SINGLES

Skills
  • cannon first and second serves
  • cannon baseline strokes
  • super SW FW loopy, spinny strokes
  • going for broke on serves and returns
  • power to pound it out with other baseliners
  • not a lot of drop shots/lobs
  • often using SW to Western grip for all shots (even when they come to the net)
Weaknesses (compared to doubles players)
  • mediocre lob at best
  • mediocre smash
  • rotten net skills
OTHER SIDE OF COIN

I play a lot of doubles and it's quickly revealed if there is a singles players trying to play doubles. Often I can tell in the warm-up. Similarly, taking a doubles player and putting him on a singles court can often expose him/her to a totally different game and it can be dicey. So imagine you have 3 doubles players and a guy who plays singles all the time (rarely doubles and hates doubles).

Singles guy playing doubles (with 3 doubles players), singles guy...
  • warms-up by crushing the hell out of the ball and will take only a few volleys if any
  • after his partner serves, he begins immediately retreating to the baseline (where he's comfy)
  • after his partner returns serve, he begins immediately retreating to the baseline (where he's comfy)
  • if he's actually knows he sucks at the net he'll simply play baseline the entire time (and often more effective than even trying at the net)
  • serves rocket first (and second) serves (rather than slowing the speed and getting the first serve in)
  • make no consideration to serve down the middle to capitalize on his netman's poaching prowess
  • never Serves & vollies
  • even when both opponets at net he would rather crush a ball for UE rather than simply lobbing
  • loopy service returns get smashed by opponent net man
  • way too many low-percentage shots (when other available for typical doubles player)
  • poor volley skills make him the target of every possible ball until he gets to the baseline
I know you're thinking I just dissed singles players filling in on doubles courts. Perhaps. But what I wrote is pretty accurate and there is a flip side to this coin! Yep, and it's sad. A doubles specialist plays almost exclusively doubles and has honed his craft. A singles specialist plays singles almost exclusively and has honed his skills to win on the singles courts. So what happens with Mr. Doubles specialist gets put on a court with a singles specialist and they play singles? The doubles guys is toast because his game is not polished to play singles.

Doubles guy playing singles player, doubles guy...
  • has a mediocre baseline game at best (it may even suck)
  • serves second serves like doubles (slower) only to find singles man has a field day crushing them for winners
  • used to covering half of 36' doubles = 18' but now has to cover 27'
  • that extra 9' makes the "alleys" twice as big and he gets passed a ton by the singles player smoking them DTL or CC
  • serves and comes to net but, again, with the bigger alleys the singles guy just passes Mr. Doubles guy all day long
  • baseline exchanges are short because singles guy is looping/spinning the ball like mad with nice pace and Doubles guy is not used to that
  • doubles guy can't seem to get to the net because singles guy's pinning 'em to the baseline -- so who's gonna win?
The stuff listed here may not coincide with your experience of playing singles and doubles at the rec level. Post what you normally see (or don't) in 3.5-4.5 rec singles and doubles players (and skills). Since this is a rather long post, when quoting this, be kind by editing it down to the relevant parts.
 
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Sander001

Hall of Fame
#4
I play in a couple of doubles leagues but this summer I also joined a singles league and the difference in serving was pretty large. Although I'm way out of practice for singles, I was able to win most of the time due to being able to hold serve and wear them down on their service games. My 2nd serves were better than many of my opponent's 1st serves.

But I started out in tennis in singles and even after switching mostly to doubles, I remain an all courter and feel even more comfortable at baseline so that helped too.
 
#6
This is what I have seen from players I have played with/against or seen at tournaments.

Doubles
Skills
  • Great punch volleys, from many different areas on the court
  • Great pickups/half volleys even when jammed
  • Great kick/slice body serves
  • Big returns
  • Big flat groundstrokes
  • Great smashes
Weaknesses (compared to singles players)
  • Inconsistent groundstrokes
  • Mediocre lateral movement
  • Not many different game plans

Singles
Skills
  • Variety of serving ability, usually consistent kickers to the backhand and big flat bombs up the T
  • Great use of angles to put pressure on opponents
  • Consistent, spinny groundstrokes
  • Consistent, but weaker returns
  • Decent drop volleys
  • Variety of strategies employed
Weaknesses
  • Weak approach shots
  • Mediocre smash
  • Mediocre footwork moving forward
 
#7
also in doubles it is important to keep the ball low, depth is not as important.


in singles you hit the ball 2-4 feet over the net to get the ball deep, in doubles that wil lead to easy volley winners.

return is also very important in doubles.
 
#8
Over the years I'm sure everyone has played both sides of the coin: singles and doubles. Hard to admit but I used to tennis is tennis. Singles. Doubles. Whatever. Early in my life I played singles and absolutely hated doubles (who'd want to stand around half the time playing doubles?). Fast forward two decades and now I play doubles most of the time (who'd want to run constantly playing singles?).

Yet now that I've played doubles a ton it's obvious there's a pretty marked difference in the requisite skills to play either side of the coin well. Not slight -- a lot! The court is different. Strategy is different. Skills used, developed, and eventually honed to play well in either game are (at times) opposite of one another! Sure, I know, tennis is tennis and whatever. Yet to play well or be some of the top performers at singles or top doubles performer, well, to me they are most often two different players.

We all have limited time. We can't spend half the time playing doubles and half singles. Or we could and be decent at both. Or simply spend the vast majority of playing either singles or doubles and fine-tune the skills needed to win. Usually I play with guys who are 3.5 to 4.5 so here is what I see in our rec play and on the adjacent courts. Might not be what you see, but hey, your mileage may vary (insert some sort of disclaimer here).

DOUBLES

Skills
  • great net play
  • great half-volleys
  • quick action from the net to the service line
  • serving to the middle
  • hitting to the middle
  • consistently getting serves and returns in (usually at lower speed)
  • coming to the net all the time
  • lot of drop shots/lobs
  • often Eastern to SW for baseline switching to Conti from service line to net
Weaknesses (compared to singles players)
  • mediocre ground strokes
  • not big spin or loopy shots
  • not huge, powerful serves
SINGLES

Skills
  • cannon first and second serves
  • cannon baseline strokes
  • super SW FW loopy, spinny strokes
  • going for broke on serves and returns
  • power to pound it out with other baseliners
  • not a lot of drop shots/lobs
  • often using SW to Western grip for all shots (even when they come to the net)
Weaknesses (compared to doubles players)
  • mediocre lob at best
  • mediocre smash
  • rotten net skills
OTHER SIDE OF COIN

I play a lot of doubles and it's quickly revealed if there is a singles players trying to play doubles. Often I can tell in the warm-up. Similarly, taking a doubles player and putting him on a singles court can often expose him/her to a totally different game and it can be dicey. So imagine you have 3 doubles players and a guy who plays singles all the time (rarely doubles and hates doubles).

Singles guy playing doubles (with 3 doubles players), singles guy...
  • warms-up by crushing the hell out of the ball and will take only a few volleys if any
  • after his partner serves, he begins immediately retreating to the baseline (where he's comfy)
  • after his partner returns serve, he begins immediately retreating to the baseline (where he's comfy)
  • if he's actually knows he sucks at the net he'll simply play baseline the entire time (and often more effective than even trying at the net)
  • serves rocket first (and second) serves (rather than slowing the speed and getting the first serve in)
  • make no consideration to serve down the middle to capitalize on his netman's poaching prowess
  • never Serves & vollies
  • even when both opponets at net he would rather crush a ball for UE rather than simply lobbing
  • loopy service returns get smashed by opponent net man
  • way too many low-percentage shots (when other available for typical doubles player)
  • poor volley skills make him the target of every possible ball until he gets to the baseline
I know you're thinking I just dissed singles players filling in on doubles courts. Perhaps. But what I wrote is pretty accurate and there is a flip side to this coin! Yep, and it's sad. A doubles specialist plays almost exclusively doubles and has honed his craft. A singles specialist plays singles almost exclusively and has honed his skills to win on the singles courts. So what happens with Mr. Doubles specialist gets put on a court with a singles specialist and they play singles? The doubles guys is toast because his game is not polished to play singles.

Doubles guy playing singles player, doubles guy...
  • has a mediocre baseline game at best (it may even suck)
  • serves second serves like doubles (slower) only to find singles man has a field day crushing them for winners
  • used to covering half of 36' doubles = 18' but now has to cover 27'
  • that extra 9' makes the "alleys" twice as big and he gets passed a ton by the singles player smoking them DTL or CC
  • serves and comes to net but, again, with the bigger alleys the singles guy just passes Mr. Doubles guy all day long
  • baseline exchanges are short because singles guy is looping/spinning the ball like mad with nice pace and Doubles guy is not used to that
  • doubles guy can't seem to get to the net because singles guy's pinning 'em to the baseline -- so who's gonna win?
The stuff listed here may not coincide with your experience of playing singles and doubles at the rec level. Post what you normally see (or don't) in 3.5-4.5 rec singles and doubles players (and skills). Since this is a rather long post, when quoting this, be kind by editing it down to the relevant parts.
Thank God you finished with "rec level", otherwise everything would be wrong.

There's also the fact that there is a huge variety of singles players. The serve and volleyer feels more at home in doubles once you tell him where to position. The baseliner feels pretty alienated, but can still easily make things work for the most part. The all court player sort of crushes.

Then from singles to doubles, a lot of the skills are easily usable to win, it's just more a matter of fitness and adapting to the different conditions in a way that suits you best (whether you choose to play control from the baseline or serve and volley).

But this all varies based on the skill level. The higher the level, the more seamless the transition given a bit of practice and explanation of the different tactics at use. The lower the level, the more atrocious the transition, if any.
 
#10
I agree with the general idea, but think you way underestimated the valued of doubles skills in singles. Dubs players usually are quite strong on groundstokes, having to avoid a net poacher all the time...if not 2 of them! Way better returners for the same reason. Don't forget the #1 JMac used mostly dubs for his tennis practice.

I agree good dubs players serve a bit more kick and spin vs power. I also agree dubs players often can't or don't want to run alot.... and that is part of why they mostly play doubles, but they often may enjoy the more involved angles, tactics and strategy of dubs.
 
#11
You can get away with poor serves in singles. You can't in doubles as you partner is going to get killed.

The return must be better as well as I can block a good serve and float it back deep in singles. If I hit the same return in doubles, the net man will kill it.
 
#12
What is the point that you're making? Or are you just telling us what you feel that these differences are? I personally don't believe in these kind of generalisations. There's loads of players (dare I say most of em) that play singles and doubles on a comparable level.

True, to each his own and usually there are specific parts of one's game that would suit either singles/doubles better, but to say that the singles player that hardly ever plays doubles would have "rotten" (really?!) volleys, is just a bold statement without reasoning. Some obviously will but this is usually not due to them playing no doubles but because they know not to play doubles for that same reason.

I don't see what you're getting at.
 

Bud

Bionic Poster
#13
also in doubles it is important to keep the ball low, depth is not as important.


in singles you hit the ball 2-4 feet over the net to get the ball deep, in doubles that wil lead to easy volley winners.

return is also very important in doubles.
Agreed.

As a doubles player, this is the most difficult transition for me when playing singles. In doubles, it's important to keep the ball low and drop it short... so the net person can't volley down. They have to half-volley or pop the ball up - as the ball is coming to their feet. In singles, that is suicide when someone has a good mid-court/transition game as they step in and hit a winner either by power, angle or both.

In doubles it's important to hit with nice spin to drop the ball 4-5 feet beyond the net (at either net player) and then have it kick up. This is not a good shot in singles as it's basically a mid-court sitter.

I disgree with the OP about doubles players having poor baseline games. That may have been true in the past - but most good doubles players are very strong from the baseline. They can hit with power, spin, angles, etc. I find that old school doubles players rely more on craftiness, dropshots, slicing, etc. Their baseline games are a bit weak.

I find doubles players have difficulty transitioning to the narrower court width (hit many shots wide) and singles players not utilizing all the extra doubles court for hitting occasional angled winners.

In doubles, topspin lobs are very important... not so much in singles.

Doubles is primarily about keeping the ball centered, low and/or short. Singles is about keeping the ball out of the center, higher and deeper.

Slice serves are very effective in doubles. It's also important to serve down the middle of the court - rather than out wide as that opens up too many angles.

As the OP points out, they are really two different games with completely different strategies.

What is the point that you're making? Or are you just telling us what you feel that these differences are? I personally don't believe in these kind of generalisations. There's loads of players (dare I say most of em) that play singles and doubles on a comparable level.
I play quite a bit of doubles and do not find this to be true. I can immediately pick out a singles player on a doubles court and immediately start hitting toward them. I also enjoy beating people that can trash me in singles. In my experience, it is rare to find a great singles and doubles player as most players prefer one or the other.
 
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